"Whether the feeling is warmth or drama, you need to be hit kind of emotionally upon entering a room," Leslie Sinclair says.
And she should know. Sinclair is the owner of Segreto Finishes, a successful decorative painting and finishing company, whose work has been featured in a number of publications. She runs a studio, she writes a blog and she has just published a book.
CultureMap spoke with Sinclair about what completes a room—but the answer can't be put in simple black and white terms, since there are as many solutions as there are problems.
However, Sinclair does stick to the same formula whenever a client approaches her: "They should start with the fabrics, the tile, the furniture, the concepts. We will add the finishes later," she says. "The paint should be a backdrop—not the focal point.
"With paint, your options are limitless. It allows you to pick any color, any designer. And it's not as expensive to change in the long run."
But it can make a big difference in a room. Basic blue-white walls will make everything else—artwork, furniture—stand out as individual pieces. A softer finish, incorporating or contrasting colors from the room, makes for a coherent design. Some spaces deserve drama, and paint can shift the focus to that as well.
"I love all elements of design—architecture, furniture, fabrics. I look at the architecture of a space, and by using certain techniques, I can enhance the good parts and detract from the negative. This is possible in both new constructions and in renovations."
Sinclair also suggests that paint shouldn't be limited to the walls of a home: Repainting cabinets with a subtle finish can make an enormous difference in a room, allowing the built-ins to appear a part of the space.
Decorative ceilings, so popular in architecture of the past, has been pushed aside in recent years for a simpler slate. But Sinclair and Segreto have shifted the focus upwards again, with detailed paintings and decorative accents around fixtures.
Furniture should also be considered a canvas. A few coats of paint and finishing touches can breathe life into any table, armoire or chair, as long as the piece itself has good bones.
"There are so many ways to update a piece," Sinclair says.
Sinclair once ended up with a family heirloom that didn't necessarily fit her personal aesthetic or her home's decor, so she refinished it. "It ended up being my favorite thing in the house."