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Working With What You Have

General Principals
      Are you suffering from Decoraphobia? The New York Times defines this as, "A panicky state resulting from the inability to make a single decorating decision." About Decorating can help.

The following article will help you employ simple, inexpensive, techniques that can cure "Decoraphobia," and enable you to make decorating decisions you can be happy with for years.

How to Determine What You Really Like
      To begin with, a lot of costly mistakes could be avoided by determining likes and dislikes, before you start shopping. How do you determine your preferences? Well, you have to do some homework. Begin by creating ideas folders and a decorating file. Instructions follow.

You will create two ideas folders one for items you like, and the other for items you dislike. The folders should is consist of photos, samples, etc. Wherever you see a picture of a room or piece of furniture you like or dislike, tear it out and put it into the appropriate folder. (Of course, I am not suggesting that you tear photos out of a magazine that doesn’t belong to you, i.e.: doctor’s office or library. Don’t you just hate it when you are in the doctor’s office, and you are about to get to the best part of an article, only to discover someone has torn out the page?) In addition of photos, collect samples of materials you prefer or loathe, such as paint chips, fabrics, etc. Once you have a sufficient collection, lay each pile out and look for the similarities. Perhaps you’ll discover that all the "like" photos have oriental area rugs, or yellow walls, or mahogany furniture, etc. Maybe all your dislike samples will include sea foam green, or Louis the XVI gilded furniture, etc. Now, make written and mental notes of the above. Keep the notes and samples with you whenever you go shopping.

In addition to the idea folders, you will need a decorating file when you shop. A decorating file is a collection of existing materials, such as bedroom carpet, or swatches of drapery, etc., and room and furniture measurements. (Hint: When I can’t take a cutting, I find a spool of thread that represents the color.) This is also good place to store names, phone numbers, and business cards of installers, suppliers, etc.

Now that you know your likes and dislikes, and have all you background materials in your decorating file, you need to ask yourself one question before you purchase an item over $100. That question is "How long do I think I will want to keep this?" If the answer is less than 3-5 years, forego the purchase. (Unfortunately, this is a society which promotes instant gratification. But, what you love may be just around the corner, at the next store, available at the next flea market, or in the today’s mail order catalog. New products surface constantly, so please be patient.)

In addition, if you are renting, don’t spend money on anything you can’t take with you. You’ll be happy to have the money you saved when you commit to a permanent residence.

Thawing Out a Frozen Space
      It is astonishing how much better you can feel about a room, just by rearranging the furniture. Even moving a plant from one corner to another can have a significant impact. Don’t cast your rooms in stone and close your mind to the idea of shifting things around occasionally. There isn’t one correct way to arrange a room. (I should have known I would be a designer. When I was young, I use to shift the furniture around in my room around every time I got bored. I still do this on occasion with my children’s rooms and my office. It is a wonder I haven’t gotten hurt!)

Maintain a Consistent Scale
      Keep the overall scale of the room, and its furnishings, in mind when making selections. Although the size of items can vary from one room to the next (if you don’t have an open plan), pieces in one room should relate in size.

This reminds me think of the gigantic lamp on my daughter’s dinky nightstand. (Yes, even designer’s homes are imperfect, and restricted by a budget.) This combination is clearly out of proportion, but try explaining this to a seven-year-old!

Second Opinions
      If you aren’t sure, get a second pair of eyes. Ask a friend’s opinion, or hire a designer for one session. (A designer won’t be happy about this, but you have every right to do it.)

Also, take photographs of your rooms, and analyze them. Think about how differently you feel about an outfit you’ve purchased when you see someone else wearing it. Similarly, a photo can give you a new perspective, and will be a logical addition to your ideas and decorating files.

Have you ever seen the movie "Clueless?" Alicia Silverstone, plays a hip teenage who has a Polaroid shot taken of her in an outfit before she decides if she should where it. You can apply this same technique to decorating. Take photos of different layouts, pillows, pictures, etc., then determine which one you like best.

Concealing Imperfections
      Do you have a wall that is less that perfect condition? An inexpensive way to conceal imperfections is to apply a wash. Mix latex paint with water, until it is a translucent tint, then stroke it, or dab it, on with a sponge. If you don’t feel confident about diluting you own paint, buy a pre-mixed wash kit. (See Below.)

You can create the feeling of an Italian Villa with this technique. And, by applying the mix in a "C" shape, you produce a French wash, also know as parchment.

- Pottery Barn: Color Washing Kit, link to catalog request page: http://www.potterybarn.com/catalog/catalog.ehtml

Feeling Insecure About Color Selection?
      When you are feeling tentative about a color, try painting a small room first. (By small, I mean a powder room, a laundry room, or a hallway.) "Trying-out" a color this way will save time and expense.

Another way to increase your confidence is to use designer color scheme cards. You can find mix and match pre-coordinated sets at Home Depot (Ralph Lauren) or Kmart (Martha Stewart). These cards are a great way to introduce color with confidence. Each paint card has approximately four colors. You can do an entire home with one set. Choose one color for all your trim, then go from there, making changes from room to room, or wall to wall. These are guaranteed not to fail.

View Martha Stewart paint colors online: http://www.finepaints.com/html/martha_stewart.html

Trade Secrets

      The following are inexpensive trade secrets that apply to color and paint. They will help bring your interior together, or provide a special effect.

~ A home feels coordinated when the trim, i.e.: base, crown, window and door frames, are painted the same color. You should also apply this principal to your ceilings. (Trim and ceiling colors do not have to be the same.) This approach reduces the number of cans of paint, and therefore costs.

~ Painting the ceiling and the walls the same color pulls the ceiling down. If you want to heighten a room, then use a different, lighter color than you plan to use on the walls. Sky blue and sunlight yellow are especially uplifting because of the natural elements they emulate. In addition, vertical stripes (painted or in wall covering) make a ceiling appear higher

~ High gloss paint, on the ceiling, will bounce light and add gleam.

Creative Wall Finishes and Borders
      Here are some unique ideas, and applications, for wall finishes and borders.

~ Have you every thought about stenciling your favorite saying across a wall in one room? How about a quote from Shakespeare?

A continuos saying, around the perimeter of a room at chair rail or crown molding height is also a beautiful and inexpensive embellishment. Perhaps a nursery rhyme, or lullaby, could decorate your child’s room?

~ Another creative idea for a blooming (or closet) artist is a wall finished in blackboard paint. Terrific for a child’s room (they can get out their doodling obsessions), a recreation room (Bill Madden’s play-by-play), or in a niche in a kitchen (for phone messages and schedules).

Blackboard paints: http://www.benjaminmoore.com/h/crayola/cray-intro.html

~ Have you ever thought of cutting away the void spaces in a wallpaper border to create a 3-D affect before applying it? This technique creates a dimensional quality that the regular boarder can not achieve. (Best done with a very exact utility knife.)

~ Rather than a wood molding at chair rail height, try a wall paper border. Other unusual and effective uses for borders are: surrounding a window or a door, and using a border to create vertical stripes spaced at regular intervals across an entire wall or around an entire room.

Article Courtesy of the Catherine McGivern Website


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