Maybe you’ve watched HGTV’s Lee Snijders build a waterfall coffee table or deconstruct a room divider and repurpose it into a sleek wall treatment. As host and designer on “Design on a Dime,” Snijders shows the rest of us how smart accessories and the right furniture can transform a space.
“In college, I was a classic starving artist, and that actually forced me to stumble across the design philosophies that I use to this day,” he says.
Snijders will present “Illusion of Design” seminars at the Home & Garden Show Feb. 2 and 3. Here, he offers some insight on his break-the-rules philosophy.
Q: What is the inspiration behind your break-the-rules approach to design?
A: I learned a lot of design philosophies that were the opposite of what I was taught at school while working for Walt Disney as an imagineer. Theme-park design is fantasy. We create the illusion that we are somewhere else — Europe, the Amazon jungle, New Orleans. At home, we want our rooms to look larger, warm and to create an illusion we are somewhere we are not. You accomplish that through paint, accessories and furniture.
Q: When did you learn how to “design on a dime”?
A: I knew I needed to build a portfolio to get a job at an architecture office, so I called my friends and family and asked them if I could design their homes and take pictures. They said yes, but I couldn’t use paint. That was a bit of a setback. But I took my one credit card that hadn’t been canceled yet and went to discount stores and bought as much as I could: lamps, artwork, throw pillows, anything to fill two shopping carts. I brought it back to their houses, photographed the new look and returned everything to the store. Then I got more accessories from a different store, and I did that literally 10 times. By the end of a weekend, I had a portfolio that looked like I had been designing for five years. That is when I stumbled upon my first philosophy: Accessories are the fastest way to change a space.
Q: What are common don’ts you confront on “Design on a Dime”?
A: The No. 1 problem we find in homes are sofas that are too oversize. People tend to buy furniture that is too large for the room — it’s out of scale. Or, they hang artwork too high. You should try to never place artwork beyond the highest point of your doors.
Q: What’s the highlight of your own home?
A: My house would definitely not be “Design on a Dime.” I lived that life for so long — I wanted to go crazy. The most unique part is my wine bar. It’s 8 feet long and 10 feet tall, and the backsplash is mosaic glass that lights up from behind. I’m in the process of going one step further and surrounding it by an 18-foot slate stacked wall.