Straight, Level and Square: Decorating with Larry West Jr.

News & Press

By: About You

I’m currently sitting at U-Haul waiting for a hitch to be installed on my car. It’s a two-hour process so I might as well write about it and see if I can come up with a simile to what I do for a living.

The waiting room, consisting of two hard plastic chairs flanked by an oversized side table holding a Keurig coffee machine and some random reading periodicals, is lacking in visual beauty. Uhaul’s sitting area has nothing to do with this story, but it does give me a front-row seat to view their displays of moving boxes, which to me are screaming “HELP ME!”

Luckily, I’m wearing a puffy jacket and, because the heat is turned up to the max in this store, I remove my jacket and repurpose it for a comfortable seat cushion for my hard plastic chair. It is going to be a long two hours.

My chair is completely aligned with a row of perfectly laid 12-inch tiles. A display of moving boxes is positioned approximately 10 tiles in front of me. Instead of taking a moment to align the box displays with the angles of the tiles, it appears an employee decided to take a shortcut. It was like he was walking, thinking about lunch, and his brain said, “STOP and drop.” Wherever the boxes landed, they landed.

While some say I suffer from O.C.D., I like to think I was born to design. Whatever it’s called, I know I can quickly detect objects that are randomly placed and usually askew with a 45-degree angle or a straight line. I also know I have no patience for allowing things to remain that way.

So it’s no surprise that I manage to quietly get all of the displays in my surrounding area straight, leveled and square. Yes, I am at the front door and at least a half dozen of you come in and want information about truck rentals. I point you in the right direction and also get most of the displays in order. For now, all is aligned.

What does this have to do with design? Absolutely EVERYTHING. If you think of design as looking clean and organized, you are correct. When I walk into a home and see accessories placed at a weak angle, upholstery not placed and aligned with a wall in the room, it feels unorganized and cluttered, even though it may be clean.

All spaces are built containing a radius edge or an edge with a 45-degree angle. In construction it begins with the architect. The architect designs the room and once the space is built, it is the homeowner or their design representative who places the furnishings. Most upholstery, surfaces, lamps, etc., are designed with bases complete with a radius or an angle. Our job is to insure that all of these interior pieces are placed and then aligned with the surroundings.

The placement of furnishings and accessories is a simple but important task that is often underrated. Maybe it is because we don’t care, or maybe it is because we don’t know. But if you find yourself wondering why something does not look right, it’s usually not because of the item itself but how the item is placed in its surroundings. It’s critical to take the extra step and align that item with the stationary structure of the room.