First Rule of Design: Boring Now Equals Timeless Later

In June 2013 when I was working on my landscape transformation, I was at the Nursery and I called Mary Anne White (my Landscape Designer) because I was shopping for Hostas and this was how our conversation went:

What do Hostas and Subway Tile have in Common?

“Mary Anne, I’m here and there are so many beautiful Hostas, I can’t decide! There’s yellow ones, I love those, then there’s these green and white ones, green and creamy ones, should I get some of each?”


“Get 12 Yellow ones.”

“Oh, Okay” I said. “You’re right.”

I’ve probably told this story to most of my clients since then when we talk about finishes for the house.

Here’s a sample of an email I get almost every day in some shape or form:

Loved your backsplash article. I am at the point of our kitchen remodel where it is the moment to choose a backsplash to compliment Neptuno Bordeaux aka river Bordeaux granite counter tops.
One thing I have already realized is that I need to wait a day or two until the LED under counter lighting is installed.  I realized this when I used an LED flashlight to look at the granite and saw quite a bit of golden hues I never knew were there with regular or daytime lighting.
I love the movement in this granite, and know I want it to shine as the focal point.
My husband and I are going bonkers trying to decide…. He is wanting, I think the size is 1×3 split faced rough marble that has different thicknesses in a beige/ ivory. While I love it on the sheet 12×12, I fear it will be too much. Based on your article – you will probably agree.
I will be thrilled to send you photos of my granite and cabinetry if you like. I would appreciate your thoughts and/ or suggestions.”

Here was my response:

“Yes absolutely the choices you are considering are WAAAAY too busy. Cream subway tile is the most timeless choice and will allow your granite to be the most important element in your kitchen as it should be.

The end.
Stop Looking.
I mean it.
Are you still reading this?
You will hate everything else very soon.
Okay that’s it, haha.” Maria

My reader was a great sport and replied:

“Haha!!!! We loved your response email…  Tell us how you REALLY feel!! Ha!

Bottom line – after reading your email, my husband said, “I think she might be right.”

I can’t wait to get some samples now instead of my previous floundering.”

I have written so many posts on keeping your finishes simple I’m always kind of amazed when I get yet another email like this, Secretly I’m thinking “Do you really think I’ll say something different from subway tile?”

However, since landscape design is not my area of expertise I notice that I’m behaving in the same way my clients do!

I love everything, I’m so happy to have the luxury and privilege of designing my yard so it looks exactly the way I want, I think it should all be there (within reason, you know what I mean).

And over to you my lovelies. How many kitchens in our lifetime do we get to renovate and then choose exactly what we want? For some of us one, if we’re lucky.

So then we think EVERYTHING THAT WE LOVE has to go into it.

That’s when it gets crazy and we end up with a look that we don’t love because we did not follow the simple and boring rule.

Read on and you’ll see where my Hostas were planted.

What do Hostas and Subway Tile have in Common

Remember this (above)? This was what we inherited beside the house towards my design studio, I can’t wait to show you what it looks like now, it’s so incredible, every day I can hardly believe this is our house! I’m waiting until some more flowers bloom before I show you the after picture.

I owe it all to Mary Anne’s vision of course, she’s spectacular. If you can even do a consultation with a drawing and a plant list with her you will be sooooo happy like me.

What do Hostas and Subway Tile have in Common?

Here’s the after I posted last year after I cleaned it up, but I had to look at this for a whole year.

Funny story, after the demolition of our yard, we were having a chat with our neighbour who said:

“If you’re not going to maintain it, you should hire someone!!!!”

Later I said to Terreeia “Do we look like people who would not maintain our yard? They have seen the inside of our house right???”

Then of course I realized it’s because we did not even pull weeds at all last summer. The only thing we did to maintain our yard was cut the grass. The dandelions would grow along the side of the driveway beside the bed that sat there and only if there was a really large one in front of me when I stepped onto the walk did I stop to pull it out.

First Rule of Design: Boring Now Equals Timeless Later

I mean truly, was it going to look any better pulling the weeds out considering it was soooo ugly? No.

So we left it as is. Understandable that our neighbour would be worried. No one needs more dandelion seeds blowing on their grass. I get it now, haha.

Boring Now Equals Classic Later

So here are my 12 beautiful yellow hostas along with white Astible and bleeding hearts. Oh and white hydrangeas towards the front of the house on the left.

My entire garden is white flowers with the exception of the yellow knock-out roses that will grow long my white decorative fence in front of the vegetable garden in the backyard.

It’s so exciting to watch it come together!

Related posts:

Danger: Free Advice will Sabotage your Expensive Renovation

Sneak Peek of my Boxwood: Before & After

Professionals Know When to Avoid the Obvious

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  1. I did timeless in my kitchen thanks to you (well, when I finally paint the cabinets, it will be). Wish I’d read “timeless in the garden” too, before I installed a gazillion shrubs and perennials in a riot of colors. Thanks for another great post and your sidewalk there looks awesome!

  2. Yes, yes, yes! I tell my clients this ALL the time, but not nearly as eloquently as you. 🙂 When renovating or building new, nearly all my clients want *every* element in the room to take center stage and that is always a recipe for disaster. Disaster with a capital “D” long before a stitch of furniture or accessories are moved in!

    I love your blog, your tools, your wisdom, your humor, Maria. I’d like to share a story with you and your readers…

    I met a sweet woman in a fabric store about two months ago. When she found out through casual conversation that I am a local designer, I wound up spending about 45 minutes helping her pick fabric for her new guest bedding. I had the extra time that particular day and she was such a sweet lady. In our conversation, she mentioned you. So of course, being the color addict that I am, I immediately googled you when I got in my car. Within a week, I read tons of your past blogs, purchased your White is Complicated ebook, and purchased a set of your Sherwin Williams paint samples. Within two weeks of receiving them, I used them for four jobs and OMG – those sample boards have made my life so much easier!!! It was an *investment*, but worth every. single. penny. I even found some great art portfolios to slip the samples into – making it much easier to find the colors I want, while protecting my precious boards. 🙂

    Overall, I feel very comfortable selecting the correct paint colors for my clients and I do understand undertones, but I have definitely learned more in the last couple of months from you, Maria, and am looking forward to learning even more! Your *process* for selecting colors is amazing. I am a process girl because processes make my business easier and more efficient. And with your resources and color selection process, my business has become easier, more efficient and more confident than ever.

    So spending time with a sweet lady and giving away lots of design advice has paid out in spades. Though I will likely never see her again, I will be forever grateful for her sharing your information with me. I am now sharing you with every designer and decorator, and DIYer I know!