How to Choose Between Style and Substance

how to chose between style and substance

Lockdown 2020, which forced most of us to stay at home, has helped us think carefully about how we live. We had to think about how to choose between style and substance: painting and luxuries were less important than sitting comfortably at the kitchen table.

Weeks on end sitting by the kitchen table working from home helped focus our minds.

The stunning Gustavian sofa – a collectors item – which drew gasps of admiration from friends and family has probably gone up in value. And the gorgeous daybed by the large studio window is perfectly on trend. But, as we counted the days and weeks indoors without a single visitor to admire our home decor, were these super stylish pieces actually nice to sit on?

Paul Smith retro green velvet sofa

Dilemmas of buying big ticket furniture pieces

That’s the dilemma we have to deal with every time we buy a piece of furniture or just decorative for our home. It is aesthetically pleasing or just useful, or ideally both? Often we can’t have both. We have to chose between comfort and style and how we chose is often a lifestyle choice. Aesthetes will almost always choose style, because it is what gives them comfort. Pleasing the eye and the mind is paramount. Physical comfort is less important. In fact, aesthetes sometimes turn their noses as the very base idea.

Cosy vs. Chic: Combining unfussy with chic and clever design

Those whose lifestyle is based around people, community, laughter, food or with special needs or traditions may have other priorities. They’ll favour a sofa based on how they feel when leaning back rather than its colour and whether it fits in with the rest of the room. This is where the Scandis have excelled in interior design and become a world leader.

Somehow, Nordic designers and architects have managed to blend the two and created iconic pieces of furniture and buildings which are both stylish and comfortable. Unfussy, stylish and clever – that’s the secret to Scandi design pieces.

Gustavian hall bench, 19th century, box base

Style vs Substance – making the final decision

So how do you choose between style and substance – or how do you get the best of both worlds? Here’s how: Assuming you’re not a seasoned designer with a wealth of contacts and and experience to draw on – or have an unlimited budget, it comes back to lifestyle choices.

Ask at least these three questions:

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you do when staying at home?
  • What’s more important to you – how you like or how your guests like it?

If comfort and easy living are your priorities, it’s an easier task. Here are some ideas to help you create the perfect living space:

  • Always “try on” a sofa or chair – ie. never buy on appearance alone – sit in, go away and think about it, and then try it again in store
  • You can always change the cover – as and when….
  • What purpose does the piece serve – is it a sofa/chair to relax in, watch TV, read, or any other recreational activity?
  • Guarantee, safety and any other practicalities
  • Is it easy to clean if you spill food or wine on it?
  • Healthy and long
  • Size: Would the item take up too much space and make it difficult to move around?
  • Can you get it through the door and hall?

If you’re style conscious and aesthetic enjoyment is as important as comfort, here are a few tips on how to choose between style and substance and how to push boundaries, Scandi style:

  • How does the piece fit in with the rest of the room?
  • The significance of the piece – what’s the backstory and how does it relate to you lifestyle
  • Colour scheme – does it complement the rest of the furniture in the room?
  • Is it a statement piece – are you looking for a statement piece of complementary?
  • The material – is it authentic, natural
  • Is it an investment piece – is there a future for it?
  • Easy to get through the front door – or cherry picker?

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