Noticing The Details

April 27, 2011

I’m a huge Lyn Gardner fan so naturally, I love browsing her decorating portfolio over at Gardener & Marks. Their business is so intriguing to me, Gardener & Marks, because it’s a full service decorating and props firm in Australia and I think their work comes across as very relaxed and personal yet also with such care over the details that you want to examine everything you see.

Noticing The Details

What I admire so much about Lyn, aside from her wild and very big hair and quirky personal style is her decorating work — she is a very detail-oriented person and I love that. I delight in the details, I can get so hung up on them though! Are you keen on the little bits and pieces? The photos throughout this post are from Gardener & Marks and show homes that they’ve decorated, Lyn and her partner Amanda Hendersen-Marks (please read their bio here). So pretty!

Noticing The Details

By the way, have you heard of The White House Daylesford? It’s Lyn’s amazing property that you can use as a location home OR you can vacation there — it’s quite drool inducing — you simply must check it out here. As you are browsing, notice bedroom two with that gorgeous black and white toile wallpaper and hints of emerald green around the room – so pretty.

Noticing The Details

It’s funny, because I’m very big picture which is why I was once a project manager. But I’m also creative and imaginative — I’m big on details and I notice every little corner and creation whether I’m shopping, staying in a hotel, riding on a train… I see it all. My friends often say that this is the writer in me – to notice things that most people breeze right by. And it’s true. I can be with friends and they’ll be chatting or zoning out on their iPods and I’m chatting and on the iPod too yet I’m also scanning the room, noticing every detail of what each person there is wearing – stripey socks, cuffed jeans, man who looks bored, woman who has lost an earring, boy with a chipped tooth.

You’ll laugh at this, but do you remember that scene with adorable Matt Damon in the first Bourne film when he is in a roadside diner in France with German supporting actress Franka Potenta and he tries to “prove” that he isn’t normal so he immediately starts to recite each detail about their environment while looking straight into her eyes – and he gets all of the facts right – he had memorized everything including how many people were in the room? Okay so he’s an assassin, I’m not (ha ha), but I can relate to that scene so well as I can do the same thing when it comes to noticing everything around me. I don’t always remember things that were said, I’m more visual I think, but I do remember things that I see or words that I can see on paper… In fact, that is what is helping me to learn German — not to hear it but to see it on signs and in textbooks.

Noticing The Details

When I shop, it’s the same. I think lots of us creatives notice the details, from the Lyn Gardeners of the world to everyday people like me who love to decorate and write for a living. Perhaps you too? I see everything and often can scan an entire section, zoom in on what I’m interested in and disregard the rest — I’m not one to waste time as I know right away whether or not I’m attracted to something. I often got annoyed with this personality trait, to see everything, to notice the good and the bad, to be able to “weed out” things that I don’t like or need almost instantly. In some ways, I had to get it under control in order to live a productive life. What I mean is that by noticing everything I’d often return home feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer stimulation of it all. Or I’d be so overwhelmed by what I’m looking at in a store that I’d leave empty handed.

Noticing The Details

It took me years to modify my behavior so that I could use this sensitivity of mine to my own advantage, and now that I’m older I definitely can see a huge improvement and my life is so much better now that I can edit and sort ideas, sensations, emotions, external data, all of it — quite efficiently without draining myself. I have noticed that one of the best ways to curb over-sensitivity is to simply acknowledge it first of all and then use it only in situations when you really need it. I use it when it comes to projects, work-related tasks, etc. I’ve learned to ignore it (sometimes to forcefully ignore it) when I’m in the train and everyone around me seems to be drunk or acting obnoxious which I find often on the train when I’m riding at night. I have to forcefully flip the “off” switch whenever I see things that cause me pain, annoyance or anger – those are the details in life that I’d rather not pay attention to.

A darker side to this though is that I pay attention to details but I also miss other things as I’m so intently focused on something else that the other important thing slips off my radar. My husband laughs, I have a short attention span, I am like a golden retriever in some ways — I can be running after a stick and the moment I notice a cat off in the distance, I start running towards the cat forgetting all about what I was retrieving in the first place.

Noticing The Details

I wonder, do any of you notice the details, even to a fault, and how have you managed this? Luckily, I’ve managed well over the years and now I feel very confident to speak about it publicly and to use it in areas of my life where paying attention to details matters, like decorating and writing. Please share your views, I’d love to learn more about you and creatives out there in general who are very detail-oriented and how you edit, sort, disregard some date, absorb others, etc. It’s a fascinating topic I think!

(images: gardener & marks)


  • Reply Angel@ | 77inspire | April 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I tend to notice stuff other dont either. I love looking at what other people wear! i do that thing where i imagine what kind of person they are.

  • Reply Lisa Maria April 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I love how well you know yourself – being young, thats definitely something to look forward to. I tend to get very caught up and details and find relief in looking at the big picture. The balance between editing/focusing on detail is something I have yet to achieve (I write). I understand about noticing things that others simply don’t see. When I’m going with someone to a restaurant, I always try to face the wall so I don’t get distracted by the design, decor, relationships of the other people there, what they’re wearing, etc. Whatever works, right??

  • Reply Hazel April 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. The photos and spaces were lovely, but the testimony of a highly-sensitive designer was inspirational. I have the same issue with scanning and evaluating every detail of a room. It’s all about communication: I sat at a Hibachi bar last night with two other families. As we waited for the chef, I was evaluating the lighting design of the restaurant and what it was saying about their brand, the music, the shiny tile floor. Then, of course, why is the teenage girl rolling her eyes at her father? Where would she rather be? How long has that couple been married; he’s eating right off of her plate. People who notice things are often people who create things!


    • Reply decor8 April 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      @Hazel – OMGosh I do that too – I think about everyone on the train or in a cafe and wonder what they do for a living, what their story is, I often want to interview people on the spot whom I find fascinating in some way. How funny!

  • Reply kathryn April 27, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    sounds like we’re birds of a feather!! i am very visual too and take it all in but more so in nature than anywhere else…every nuance, even every smell. I also remember every face i see but definitely not names. creatives have a very different and unique take on the world i think!!

  • Reply cutelittlething April 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    i am mommy to a super creative 9 yr old with this very trait…i try to create most of her daily happenings in a quiet, peaceful, serene environment + keep overstimulating situations to short + sweet. i love hearing of your experience + the advice of one of your readers, i will try that seat placement at noisy places :) can you remember being like that at an early age?

    • Reply decor8 April 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      @cutelittlething: Yes I was always distracting classmates in school and trying to run the class ha ha — I noticed a lot of things that I didn’t like early on about the way my teacher taught lessons and I’d try to invent alternate ways to learn/absorb or teach it to myself and my friends who couldn’t grasp the topic. At home, I didn’t like the books my mother bought so I wrote my own — I wrote songs that went inside of my books so I could sing them – I had book signings in my room and each night for years and years I’d come home, line up my stuffed animals on the bed with their name tags on, and get out my lesson book, do the roll call, then proceed to “teach” them my homework so that I could motivate myself to actually do it. I had a hard time learning in traditional ways, I was both big picture and extremely detail-oriented, black or white, but I always lacked the “middle” ground that everyone else seemed to master. I think that’s why my career path ultimately led me where I am today but I often wonder what I’d be like if I were a bit more centered but then I think that I bet I’d be a bit unhappy that way….

  • Reply meenal @ maison marigold April 27, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I am a very detail-oriented person and a very severe editor..not just when decorating..even while i write i check the feel and flow of a piece ..trimming the superfluous..until i arrive at something that really pleases me!
    it is a lovely post, holly..that living room shot is beyond gorgeous! thanks for sharing! xx meenal

  • Reply sally April 27, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Hi I know what you mean about getting absorbed in the details. When I am sewing or in inspiration mode nothing else gets done not a clean cup in the place! I find this area a great challenge but I really do love the small little details which is probably why I like embroidery so much. :)

  • Reply Jules April 27, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    You know, for me it varies! I know this sounds silly, but if I am well rested and eating healthy, I notice the details and function better, more balanced. If I am tired or eating poorly (or both!) I am scattered, or obsessive, or rigid, or out of control with my environment. There is never a happy medium, and it never goes just one way.

    When I behave in a balanced manner, and act in a balanced manner. Except when it comes to designing rooms in my house. I will forever and ever get stuck in the details, which is why my rooms are never finished. I know (and now accept) this about myself, which is why I fully take advantage of the talent online to help see me through to the end of a design project.

  • Reply Ana April 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I’m with you! Love her!

  • Reply Trish April 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Ok, so there should be a group somewhere for all of us with issues like these….and I personally believe Matt Damon should be a member…don’t you? ;D I love this glimpse into your life as a “noticer”…I am VERY similar…and find it a curse and a blessing all at the same time. I agree that we need to learn to control it, and that getting older has helped me too. Tunnel Vision has taken my life in great directions through work…but not so great in relationships…it’s been a hard lesson to learn, but worth it. I’m beginning to control my noticings and thoughts when conversing/listening to others…I give myself permission to indulge when shopping and during movies and the like. This was an awesome post which made me take another look at “how I’m doing” in this department. Thanks Holly…great post! :)

  • Reply annie April 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm


    I’m exactly the same this was so great to read, I don’t feel such a freak!

    My boyfriend took me to a beautiful hotel for my birthday and said to me ‘all I’m thinking about is romantic things and all you’re thinking about is why they chose those curtains, that sofa and so on’. He was really cross!

    Also I’m in San Francisco at the moment on vacation and am so caught up in the detail of every beautiful Art Deco door way that I keep forgetting to look at and take in the awesome views over the bay.

    And finally…. this is why I can’t cook. As soon as I put something on the stove I get distracted and go off and do something else. No surprise then that I burn everything!


  • Reply Tanja April 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    WOW ..die Bilder sind wahnsinnig schön ;) lg tani

  • Reply Camelia April 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Oh goodness!!! You so read my mind Holly :-) and actually managed to put in words what I’ve only been able to grasp emotionally. I am so glad we live in this day and age where we can find our little own creative niche and turn the “curse” into a “gift”. I consider the blogging period we are in to be a sort of modern “renaissance” where people can focus again on the little details of life and change the world around them for the better. And that’s when people like you can use your gifts to point our attention to the beautiful things that actually bring more joy than the big material stuff. I like to think that everything in life happens for a reason and every person is a link that helps the big picture come alive.

    • Reply decor8 April 28, 2011 at 10:05 am

      @Camelia – You said that so well – I agree 100%!

  • Reply Liz April 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Love the post :)

  • Reply Tracey April 27, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I find that an occupational hazard of being a ‘rehabber’ of vintage chairs is that I can’t look at any single piece of furniture, new or old, without dissecting it from every angle. From a paint job, to the fabric match on an upholstered piece, I’m always looking for ways to improve my own work, and validate that I am, in fact, good at what I do.
    I spent 10 years in the corporate world, where my mantra was “Do you want it to be fast, or do you want it to be right?” I have been so fortunate in my life that I could leave that behind and pursue a career that enables me to create beautiful things. Rather than learn to ‘manage’ my obsessiveness, I have been able to build a new career around it. Everyone should be so lucky!

  • Reply chairyblossoms April 28, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I find that an occupational hazard of being a ‘rehabber’ of vintage chairs is that I can’t look at any single piece of furniture, new or old, without dissecting it from every angle. From a paint job, to the fabric match on an upholstered piece, I’m always looking for ways to improve my own work, and validate that I am, in fact, good at what I do.
    I spent 10 years in the corporate world, where my mantra was “Do you want it to be fast, or do you want it to be right?” I have been so fortunate in my life that I could leave that behind and pursue a career that enables me to create beautiful things. Rather than learn to ‘manage’ my obsessiveness, I have been able to build a new career around it. Everyone should be so lucky!

  • Reply Tash April 28, 2011 at 1:09 am

    If you love the White House then check out Red Brick Barn in Chewton Victoria Australia. Talk about attention to detail!

    • Reply decor8 April 28, 2011 at 10:05 am

      @Tash – I have to google that, thank you for the tip!

  • Reply Melissa April 28, 2011 at 1:58 am

    WOW!! You sound like my twin! I’ve never met anyone else who was so much like me in this way. I am totally new to your blog (about 2 days in) and I feel like it was meant to be for me to get here!

    I was a special events manager before I became a mom (yes, many details) and I always notice EVERYTHING about most places that I go. For example, sitting in a friend’s living room I find myself looking around and moving furniture and adding accessories in my mind!!! It has slowed me down a bit because I can get hung up on the details but I have also figured out a way to put blinders on when I need to. However, I can’t go into an Anthropologie (or any other really cool shop) without looking at every new display and trying to figure out how they made it (my husband gets very bored by this behavior) and I never feel like anyone else ever feels that overwhelming sense of passion for the details like I do.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply decor8 April 28, 2011 at 10:05 am

      @Melissa – Me too – I’m always moving furniture in my mind. Ha, funny to learn I’m not alone in all of this!!!!

  • Reply Marcy April 28, 2011 at 2:35 am

    I am in LOVE with these photos! I can relate to your post…I am big picture first and foremost, but then crazy when seeing the details. I think it’s been useful in my design career, but I’ve definitely had to learn to listen more to other’s ideas and what they see in the details…I get very focused on what I see as a solution :) It’s a good lesson in life in general…be open to all views, not just your own! Fun topic…thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Greta Sutherland April 28, 2011 at 3:03 am

    My imperfection must be perfect! -ha I prefer to think of it as creating an environment where people feel, as they’ve entered a room, that they are a part of something lovely…but can’t seem to exactly pinpoint why. That’s the gift I offer guests: attention to the details so that they can enjoy the beauty of the whole.

  • Reply kalanicut April 28, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Ah, Holly, you would be very fun to people watch with! I can’t sit on a train, airplane or in a restaurant without wondering or conjuring up stories of all the other people around me – watching for little subtleties in communication, eye contact, touching. We should all get together and start an international detective & investigation company. We would probably do quite well financially using our powers of observation and story building. :) Although we would probably get bored on the stake out, waiting for things to happen and wander off after some shiny object – haa-haa.

    I can relate to what you are saying in quite a few ways, but I must say that you have really taught me to slow down and feel the details – not just to know I like something but to slow down enough to know why and how I can apply that to my personal design evolutions. I still have so much work to do to master that talent.

  • Reply Marie @ Sally Lee by the Sea April 28, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I have always noticed things that no one does – so glad to hear that I’m not alone. Thank goodness, I’ve taught myself to mellow out – or it could just be the fact that I’m middle aged now LOL!

  • Reply cecilia April 28, 2011 at 5:22 am

    I join the creative forces here – as I too am constantly focused on details – down to stitching on clothing, the quality of buttons, the hints of pink on the interior binding of an otherwise all-turquoise “Decorate” book (I take book jackets off to look at the details – is that a neurosis?). Probably why I loved my job in Product Development 10-years ago. I can relate to Holly & Hazel – riding on subway trains, airplanes esp. people-watching in airports – wondering where they are going, noticing the type of luggage they have, or what newspaper, magazine, book they are reading. My friends often say, “how do you remember that?” when I recount the details of a story or can visually describe a room or a house. My downfall is the fact that I TELL very detailed stories – which annoys my husband on occaision – he’ll give me the “wrap-it-up” hand motion – or the “where are you going with this?”-look. It’s not just a “my trip to New York was great!” I like to tell (and also want to hear – when I’m on the receiving end) every detail, action, stop, thought – about a day or a trip (not just “what restaurant did you go to?” but also, “what did you order to eat?”) And thank goodness for text messaging. My voice mails to friends usually make it to the point where the “beep” cuts me off.

  • Reply Malin April 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

    GREAT inspiration – thanks =O)


  • Reply Elina April 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

    lovely inspiration!

  • Reply meagan April 28, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Oh i adore the picture of the couch with the twiggy/branch vase! I actually saw it on Pinterest this morning but didn’t realize it was from this article. So lovely and cozy. I too have an extremely short attention span these days – honestly it has gotten worse as I have gotten older, that or I am not very good at controlling it anymore! And I use to work with children! Ha ha – and now I am suffering from the same attentional difficulties they usually had!
    xo meagan

  • Reply Shari April 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I agree that it’s the writer and creator in you that notices the details. I’m learning to be a writer, too, of fiction, and I’m training myself to see those little things that make something stand out; make it interesting; make it real. Don’t they say “God is in the details”? I heard that somewhere.

    Lovely rooms, lovely photos!! I think that seeing beauty expands our souls and stretches our imaginations, whether it’s in a beautiful room, an awesome tree, or amazing landscape…. God is in the details!

  • Reply Very Merry Vintage Style April 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Details are my strength and my weakness as well! I love them… they make a room, a party or a table setting, in my opinion. And the attention thing… yes, I have that too. Perhaps they go hand in hand! These rooms are gorgeous–I love the tree thing in the living room–the dark color really sets itself off against all the beautiful light neutrals in that room. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Reply Carla Sonheim April 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    This was great for me to read today.

    I read something once that has always stuck with me… It was about a contemporary artist from India (I can’t remember his name, sorry!). One of his clients said about him: “His weaknesses are his strengths.”

    I just find that so true — in art, life, everything!!!!

    (Not that I think paying attention to details is a “weakness”; it’s not!! But sometimes it does take awhile to make our particular quirks work for us.)

  • Reply Iris April 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Oh yes, I am all about the details… Combine that with a little order-obesession and you see my going through the house frequently rearranging books, china, clothes, food, accessories, flowers, the food in the fridge until it is lined the way I like it… It helpes having children around, they do not know order, so I allow them turning their toy boxes upside down and building lego cities in the room (whilst the colors mismatch my interior intensely… I know… I am crazy…), as long as they put everything in the box again by the time they go to bed. In other people’s homes I also see all the small things, the pretty and the less pretty. The latter do not bother me there though, thank goodness, probably as they are not mine.

    As to shopping, I instantly see what I like and what I don’t. My husband actually loves to come with me as I am such an efficient and quick shopper (and I like shopping with him!). The shop should not be too big though, then I can become overwhelmed. French supermarkets for instance, although I like them a lot, they always tire me out the first time I get there during a holiday, as there are so many (lovely) products screaming at me. The same goes for museums. In the Louvre, I have to set a specific goal to go to and visually block all the things I encounter on the way there, as otherwise my head will be full by the time I arrive at the wing I want to visit. So I guess that is what I do too; ignore things I do not want to see and focus on the details I like. Because those are the ones we want to enjoy, don’t we?
    x Iris

  • Reply Haust April 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I just have to say that I love, love, love these images!!!

    Wishing you a lovely weekend…

  • Reply Star Hughes April 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I LOVE those floor-to-ceiling class doors with the white framing around the glass. I have to have those!

  • Reply Diane April 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm


    I really enjoy your blog. This post is great..I can relate and keeping some balance while understanding how you work are key!

  • Reply Susan April 29, 2011 at 2:38 am

    What is it about knowing that others share your personality traits that is so comforting?

    I, too, find myself observing to no end. When I travel, I would rather go to one spot and know it well than do standard touristy things. I would rather sit in a cafe all day, taking in all the nuances of the objects and people, etc, than go to a famous monument. When I go to the park with my kids, I see other parents chatting away about there days, while I prefer to simply observe.

    Thank you so much for sharing this Holly, I so enjoyed hearing this trait described!

  • Reply Christina Diaz April 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I believe exquisite is the right word here!

  • Reply Rose McClement May 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    I had a good chuckle as I read your blog article. While watching the Royally wedded couple last Friday ( on Telly) as they stepped out onto the palace balcony, I got terribly fascinated by the details of other royal family members as each took up their positions and stood there. I noticed that the little flower girl was having difficulty seeing over the balcony wall. Behind her the Duchess of Cornwall had also seen it and was starting to fret a bit. Standing chatting next to her in a very relaxed manner ( yet caught up in his conversation) was Prince Charles. Next thing, Camilla was nudging her husband, pointing to the little flower girl. ( I later found out it was her granddaughter). I noticed the puzzled look on his face as he looked down at the little girl and her predicament. At that point the camera swung back to the Wedded couple, but to my utter amusement, when it returned to the Prince and Camilla, there was the Prince clutching the flower girl in a position where she could see everything below and beyond. He did not look at all comfortable in doing ‘ this grand-fatherly thing”. But, his wife looked very happy indeed, even managing to pop a rather clumsy wave to the crowd. Mission accomplished – she had clearly pressurized Prince Charles into being a good grandpa. Those details stick with me so clearly. I loved that I caught that scene, as it brought an element of family intimacy and spontaneousness ( albeit awkward) to an otherwise orchestrated event.

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