As an interior designer I am frequently asked for advice. These are some of the most asked questions.
I’ve purchased a new home; how do I furnish it?
Purchasing a new home can be both exhilarating and frightening. Furnishing all those empty spaces can be really daunting. The first step in furnishing a new home is to get an accurate idea of its size. An empty room always looks large until you start putting things in it. I believe it is always a good idea to measure the rooms and make notes on how you would like each room to function, even if you are working with a designer.
My husband and I disagree about everything; how do we decorate a room?
I have found that husbands and wives have more in common than they think. An exercise that I frequently use is to have each party go through some decorating magazines choosing room pictures that appeal to them. I keep this exercise very loose telling them not to worry if the room that appeals to them is not the room they will be furnishing. For instance, they may be doing a master bedroom, but the husband may see a living room he likes. When they have completed this project by themselves, I ask them to go through magazines together choosing rooms they both like.
We then take the pictures and go through them together. A pattern will emerge of things that appeal to both of them, giving us a common ground to begin decorating their room.
How can I reuse my old furniture in my new home?
It is important to have room measurements when starting any decorating project. One of the most exciting things happening today is the thinking outside the box when decorating, this can be especially fun when you’re decorating a new home.
Draw your room’s dimensions on graph paper in quarter inch scale. Measure your furniture, and then make cutouts also at a quarter inch scale to represent the various furniture pieces. Take pictures of the furniture if possible as well, include any arm covers or color samples that you might have. Move the furniture around on paper as if you were a child playing house, forget preconceived ideas. Maybe the loveseat in your present living room would fit beautifully into your extra large master bedroom. The small dining table might take on a new life as a desk in the alcove of the family room. The end result will be rooms that feel totally new while utilizing your old furniture.
What colors should I choose?
Some people thrive on vibrant colors while others would go spastic. Color affects all of us differently and is probably one of the worst areas to follow the crowd using current fads. When I work with a client who is not sure what colors they want to work with, we first discuss what colors they wear. A woman who has a closet full of muted colors is not a good candidate for a brilliant yellow room, but may be very happy with touches of yellow in a more muted setting. Another important thing here is always take colors whether paint chips or fabrics and live with them a couple days in your home. The light coming into your home, and other colors such as flooring will make a big difference on how colors appear.
Should my room have a theme?
This is kind of a touchy area. Many times people go to the extreme when using a theme. For instance, a light house theme in a family room might have a light house lamp, light house pictures on the wall and even light house upholstery on the furniture, and then of course there may be an area rug to match. The effect of this could put your company, if not yourself in a daze. A more interesting room might use a painting with a light house over the sofa, with maybe a couple light house sculptures in other areas, along with a small seascape, possibly on another wall a grouping with a ship in a shadowbox and a board with sailing knots as part of a grouping. The fabrics on the furniture would reflect the colors in the painting, while the floor might have a wood plank look and the walls might be the pale blue of the sky. Keep in mind less is frequently more.
How do I accessorize?
Accessories should be the jewelry of your room. As with choosing beautiful jewelry don’t plan on choosing your accessories in a day, instead be on the lookout for things that “speak” to you. I suggest my clients first raid their home looking for items that may have been stored away for safe keeping. It could be a painting that an Uncle did, antique dishes that belonged to your grandmother, or even something you bought and put away. I always suggest keeping a folder with room sizes, any fabric and paint samples, along with pictures of the room. This folder always needs to be available since one never knows when the perfect piece will appear.
How do I update the look of my room?
Often trading furniture from one room to another can give you the feel of a totally different home. Another way to update your room is to take advantage of the slip covers now available in many department stores, as well as changing accessories. Again, look to things you already have to use in a new way. Maybe you have a collection of platters that are stored away. Grouping them on a dining room wall can add interest and let you enjoy your collection.
How large should my furniture be?
Too often people shop for furniture with no thought to the size room they’re working with. They may have measured the wall a sofa will sit on but not have taken into consideration that the wall is in a small room. There are very few instances where a very large sofa looks good in a very small room and that look usually needs a very good Decorator to pull it off. A rule of thumb is to proportion your furniture to the size of your room. There is comfortable furniture made in all sizes but if you really want a more massive look one option might be to use a loveseat rather than a sofa. Even though the piece is more massive the loveseat’s shorter length will give the room better balance. Keep in mind that it can also go the opposite way, small furniture in a large room with high ceilings can give the impression of a man wearing pants that are too short.
How can my room fit more than one function?
While not always easy it is possible for a room to function in more than one way, again think outside the box. A family room that needs to function as a guest room as well as office might have a row of wall units down one wall to store a desk, office storage, and entertainment center, while a trunk that serves as a coffee table might hold bed linens for the sleeper sofa. A hideaway bed might be placed in a corner behind a decorative screen, and an end table commode could hold bed linens. Look around your home first for possible ideas and keep in mind there is a wide selection of furniture on the market designed to do double duty.
What could I do to make my child’s room special?
Kids rooms are where you can let both you and your child’s imagination wander. Here is a room where a theme can be used in larger amounts, especially for younger children. What is your child’s interest? Make a list of things they would like in the room, keep in mind the dreaming about it is half the fun.
Faced with a small bedroom in a model home I was doing I used a bed shaped like a car angled into the corner away from the door and painted a small town scene on the walls behind the bed. For storage I purchased a chest at a second hand store and painted it to look like a mailbox. The mural made the room feel bigger and by angling the bed I was able to create a large play area.
Is there a way to brighten my kitchen without a total redo?
Kitchens are another room that lend themselves to thinking outside the box. If you have enough area in the center of the kitchen you might add an island work area. This doesn’t have to be a large area; even a chopping block two foot square can give you extra space. An idea I used in my own kitchen was enclosing the sides of a lazy susan base cabinet and adding a tile top. The cabinet then became an island. Since I placed it on top of the kitchen flooring I was also able to move it if I needed and could also do away with it if I choose. At just over two feet square it was a great size for decorating cakes.
Another way to update a kitchen is to change the finish. Many people still have the Formica cabinets popular in the 70’s that used a strip of oak across the bottom of the door. Painting the entire door can give a totally new look. Check with your local paint store for paints that can be used on Formica. Another way of totally changing the kitchen’s appearance is to take doors off of some of your cabinets. In many cases it is possible to get a finished look by just filling in the screw holes of the cabinet and painting, if your cabinet does not look finished that way, frame it with some interesting molding.
The most important thing whether you go it alone or use a Decorator is that you have fun with decorating your home and that it expresses your personality.