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
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,
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.
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
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
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