Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 411 on Design

When my husband and I first moved to the Charlotte area fresh out of law school, we had little money and hardly any furniture. The furniture we did own was either handed down to us from my older sister or inherited from my grandmother, who had passed away only months before.

The anxious side of me wanted to go out and buy everything we needed to furnish our brand new, beautiful home, but the practical side of me decided to decorate one room at a time. We picked a room, and when that room was complete, we moved on to the next. It was a process. By the time we were ready to sell that home seven years later, we had just finished decorating the last room of the house. The master bedroom. Don't know why it took us so long to get to the best room in the house, but creating a sanctuary and haven for myself was a rewarding and much needed treat.

So, it's a process. Don't think you have to go out and buy everything you need all at once. We've been in our new home for a year now, and I still have rooms that aren't complete. I still cringe when I walk into our very haphazard and disorganized playroom. It's okay. I'll get to it...eventually.

I'm not a trained interior designer, but I do enjoy creating a beautiful space. Whether you are decorating a small apartment or an oversized home, I can provide you with a few tips to help you tackle your next decorating challenge. Although I'm not a stickler about rules when it comes to decorating, there are a few things you can do that will help turn your space into a well-thought-out design instead of a haphazard collage of anything you could find on discount.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good discounted piece, in fact, most of the decorations I've bought for my own home have come from my favorite discounted decorating store, Home Goods. If you don't have a Home Goods near you, then I apologize that you haven't had the opportunity to experience the realm of decorating possibilities this store has to offer.

 Here are a few tips for creating a beautiful space:

1) Figure Out Function.  Before you even begin decorating a room, you need to figure out how you want the room to be used. How do you want it to function? Maybe you have a living room that you would love to use as a sitting room/reading room/game room. If that is the case you probably want at least one cozy chair to read in with either a standing lamp or a small table and lamp, a small sofa or conversation chairs for when company comes, and either a large trunk that stores games and doubles as a game table or a small round table in the corner perfect for a quick game of chess. You have to decide how you want to use the space, and from there, figure out which furniture you think you'll need.

2) Always Measure. Before you go out and buy a new sofa or dining room table, I suggest you measure the space it's intended for. There's nothing worse than walking into a room that feels like it is overloaded with furniture that is too big and too bulky. If you're really ambitious, you can draw the space on a piece of graph paper, which will help you visualize the furniture arrangement and placement in the room.

3) Choose Your Paint. I think this is one many people struggle with--how to choose the right paint color for the space they want to decorate. My suggestion? Find a print you love, whether it be on a rug, pillow, drape, swath of fabric, and let that become the color palette for your room. Take it with you to the paint store (or if it's a rug, maybe just a picture) and look for a paint that would complement your starting piece. Buy a sample of the paint you choose. Go home and paint the sample either directly on the wall to be painted or on a small sheet of posterboard and hang the posterboard on that wall. You want to do this to see what the paint color will look like at all times during the day and night. Amazingly enough, your paint color will change depending on the time of day and amount of light shining into the room.

4) Don't Be Afraid to Mix and Match. Times are changing, and it is totally acceptable to mix styles as well as different color woods. It helps give the space character and keeps it from appearing too routine or boring. You might have an antique armoire you love paired with a more contemporary high backed, fabric-covered headboard. And that's okay! You just need to be careful. I wouldn't necessarily put a stylish mirrored dresser in a room with deer heads on the wall. But to each their own. As far as wood colors, an assortment of three woods in a room would probably be my max.

5) Fill Your Cart. In my opinion, accessories are what can make or break your space. You want to add just the right amount of accessories to a room without it feeling cluttered. Too little accessories and your room still feels empty, even if it is overflowing with furniture. Accessories can range from vases, to lamps, to picture frames, to knick knacks, anything that defines your space.

When you are ready to add accessories (my favorite part!), I suggest you take this advice my good friend who is an interior designer gave me--fill your cart. Pick a store (hopefully you have a Home Goods, Hobby Lobby, or Target near you) and go shopping! Sounds simple, right? Basically, you want to fill your cart with whatever catches your eye or fits the color palette you've already established for your space. As you go around the store, you will begin to see a pattern of what you're putting into your cart. You might realize you are drawn to cool and eclectic, or items that are absolutely Asian, or maybe you really like glitz and glam. Whatever that style is, it will come out as you shop for your space, keeping in mind the use for your room. You might not want to use glitz and glam in a space meant for the whole fam, but it would be great in a bedroom, hobby room, or powder room. Just make sure the store you're shopping in has a return policy--if you get it home and hate it, you need to be able to return it.

6) Pillows. I'm not going to say too much here because I want to do an entire post about pillows, but I think pillows are a great way to spruce up a space. Is your room in need of a facelift? Change out the pillows. I'll elaborate more soon!

7) Refurbish Old Furniture. Just because you have a scratched table or scuffed up dresser doesn't mean you have to throw them out. As long as they still work, you can paint them, distress them, or stain them to create an entirely new look. My interior designer friend recently bought an old table from Habitat for Humanity, painted it white, and now this beautiful piece sits in her family room. It takes time and effort, but with a little vision, you can create a piece that is beautiful and unique.

8) Don't Forget the Walls. The walls are the backdrop to your room, so you want what you put on them to echo the feeling of your space. You want to try to pull colors from your color palette, so choose pictures that will either match or complement the colors you've already chosen. If you have a large blank wall, then you want to look for a large picture, painting, mirror, etc. to hang there. Or you can have a grouping of several pictures that will nicely fill the space. You just want to avoid hanging a small picture on an oversized wall, and too large of a picture on a small wall. As far as height, a good rule of thumb is to hang your pictures at eye level, although with me being vertically challenged, I tend to hang things at my husband's eye level.

9) Add A Rug. A rug, whether you need one or not, anchors the room. It defines your space and creates a cozy feel in a large room, and adds color and texture to a small one. The rug you choose can reflect your overall color palette, or it can be a neutral complement that adds texture more than color. All in all, I think a rug is an essential for a room to feel "complete".

10) To Drape or Not to Drape. I love long drapes, ones that puddle on the floor and give the illusion that the ceiling is taller than it really is. So, when it comes time to choose window treatments, you have a tough decision to make. Valances, faux roman shades, swags are all fun alternatives to drapes. You just have to choose what is right for your space and the look you want. Although, if you do go the drape route, may I suggest Pottery Barn drapes, they are fully-lined and great quality. Interested in a discount? I'd check Ebay--many times they have Pottery Barn drapes at a significant price reduction. Here's a tip--If you want your drapes to puddle on the floor, then you want to buy ones that are at least 92". Another tip--The higher you hang them on your wall, the larger your window will appear.

All in all, the best design tip I can give you--if you love it and you think it looks good, in the end that's all that matters. You are the one living with the rug or paint color, or that particular piece of furniture, and if you're happy, does it really matter if you've broken several design rules along the way? Probably not. 

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