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Category:  Decorating

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Decorating Decisions

By Nikki Willhite

Our homes are important to us. For most of us, it is our biggest investment, and the only property we own. Most of us donít have vacation homes or yachts.

We want to be comfortable and feel good about what we do have, but we donít want to spend a lot of money doing it. That is why it is so important for us to make good buying and decorating decisions. We canít afford to make a lot of mistakes.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the choices available to us. We aren't even sure what we like today, let alone if we will still like it ten years from now.

It is important to research when decorating decisions the same as you do when buying a car or house. You need to discover, among other things, your style and the colors that you prefer.

Some things we do instinctively. Others aren't so easy, and we often have to live with out mistakes.

We made a big mistake last summer when we painted our home. I got the color wrong. I thought I was doing everything right. I wanted a nice soft yellow, but with a little bit of punch.

I got a sample of the paint and put it on the house to see how I like it. The color was labeled "Colonial Cream". I also knew that when it covered the whole house it would look stronger than the 3x5 square foot area I applied it to.

However, I was surprised, and embarrassed. The yellow came out so bright you can see our house across the valley! Itís beautiful, but itís bright. Thankfully time has dulled it some, but Iíve had to live with it, and it has made me feel embarrassed and ostentatious.

Where I made my mistake was in not considering the houses around me. They are all anemic looking in color. It doesn't matter if they are gray, beige, or white. They all look the same color.

The houses itself is actually very pretty, it just doesn't fit in with the neighborhood. I should have picked a bland color.

Having admitted my most embarrassing decorating mistake, here is some advice to help you do better!


It takes a little time, but you can determine your style by looking at pictures of interiors, whether it be in books, magazines, or on decorating shows on television.

You need to be exposed to a lot of different colors and looks. Eventually you will notice the similarities in the things that you are drawn to.

When you look at pictures in magazines, do you like curved wood, or do you like straight contemporary lines? Do you like large floral prints on a sofa, or something very neutral and subdued?

The Shabby Chic style has been a great boon to the frugal decorator. For more info, Shabby Chic

Even in a shabby chic room, you will have other elements that will bring in other styles, such as contemporary, country, traditional, oriental or art deco.


Color is one of the first things to pin down. I know a friend who considers herself an Autumn person, and as a result, she not only does not own a single piece of black clothing, but nothing in her home is black.

When you take classes in Interior Design you are taught that every decorating scheme needs some black, for impact, and to anchor down the room. This usually happens without even trying with all of the electronics we have in our homes.

Most of the time we are deciding if we like bold primary colors, jewel tones, pastels, or very neutral beiges and earth tones. I think a lot of us buy the most inexpensive sofa we can find, and then try and decorate around it. Sometimes it may be best to look a little longer.

Wood Types

You also will have to decide what kind of wood you like.

Do you like the deep rich tones of mahogany, or do you prefer rustic looking pine? You should blend different types of wood for interest and character, but not all woods look good together.

If you've ever been to IKEA you know how specialized their furniture and wood are. Most of it is very light. It has its own look.

As a general rule, too strong of a contrast is not good, and blending should be done with the same degree of formality. The light wood of IKEA furniture does not blend well with rich mahogany tones.

When you are first starting out, or during the first years of your marriage, it is hard to afford furniture.

One alternative is to buy a good grade of patio furniture. Then when you can afford something better, you can move it outside.


Your colors and style may be influenced by what you collect or the treasures that have been passed down to you by your ancestors. Use them to full advantage. You can usually work your taste around them.

If you have your own collectibles, decorate with them in mind. Be sure and display them all together. They make much more of an impact, and are interesting for people to look at.

My husband and I were visiting with a man the other day who was an artist. When we first walked in, he showed us one of his oil paintings in his living room. It wasn't until we were about to leave that he took us around his house, and pointed out his different pictures all around his house. Some of them were very good. He had one on each wall, however, and the large walls swallowed up the pictures. What a knockout they would have been all place together on one wall, perhaps the entry, with each picture having a display light.

Another decision is deciding the kind of plants you like. Do you like the broad leafed plants with more bulk, or the lighter, spider type plants. Every home looks better with plants, whether they are real, dried, or made of silk. Make sure when you do spend the money to buy one that it is one that you will enjoy.

Suitability and Versatility

It doesn't matter how nice a piece of furniture is if it doesn't fit in your home and your lifestyle. Always take measurements when you go shopping.

Most of us have smaller homes, so scaled down furniture is usually best. It is also easier to place in a new home if you move.

Extremely large pieces of wood furniture, and large L-shaped sofas can be hard to deal with if you move. They may not fit your new house.

I go into a lot of houses where people have sectionals that are separated because they do not fit their house. Try and think ahead.

Keep your bookcases and other tables and wood pieces as versatile as possible. This is also handy when you decide to move furniture from room to room. The more flexible the piece, the easier to place it.

Make sure that your furniture is suitable to the size of your bodies. This is something most people donít think about, but it is easy to make a mistake. One example of this would be when you buy a chair. If both husband and wife go shopping together for the chair, and both try it out by sitting in it, they will probably buy a good chair for them. However, if just one person goes shopping for the chair, they may buy one that is both uncomfortable and unsuitable for the other person.

Chairs have different heights. If you sit in a chair and it is to high for you, your legs will dangle uncomfortably. If it is to low, you knees will be in your face.

Some seats are soft, other firm. The same is true for the height of the backrest and armrests, and the width of the cushions. We donít think about these things, but they are all factors in the comfort of our furniture.


One of the most overlooked, yet important, design elements in a room is the lighting. It sets the mood for your room. Be sure and have good sources of lighting that both softens the room, and allows for reading and other tasks.


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