10 Ageless Pieces of Decorating Advice
These tried-and-true rules will prepare you for any decor situation. Simply follow the sensible steps laid out to create the home you want.
1. Discover Your Style
If you’re lacking confidence in your decorating abilities, that can lead to indecision, which ultimately leads to timid choices. The last thing you want is to end up with decor so middle-of-the-road that it says nothing about you. Instead, stand tall and express yourself. The comfort zone you’ve been hiding in could actually be stifling the real you.
While it’s true that exploring more daring design options can be daunting, don’t be afraid to step into the design ring and see what’s happening. Who knows? You just might enjoy it. That being said, if you find yourself losing trust in your instincts or feeling immobilized by indecision, it might be time to call for help. Decorators and interior designers are trained professionals who will look at your home with new eyes and help steer you toward options that clarify your vision.
2. Choose Artwork You Love
Simply put, never purchase artwork just because it matches your furniture or fills a wall. Art is meant to touch your spirit, provoke thought, take you to other places, or give you a reason to pause. It is very personal, and you should seek out what speaks to you. Build your art collection individually, not in job lots. They don’t have to be museum-worthy, either. There’s a huge range of choice when it comes to quality prints, wall hangings, family photographs, children’s art, gifts from creative friends and your own creations.
As far as hanging artwork goes, one accepted way is for the halfway point of the image to be at eye level, which on average is about 5 feet from the floor. This works well in spaces where viewers will typically be standing, like hallways or entrances. In a room where guests will most likely be sitting, the artwork can be lowered.
When hanging a gorgeous piece of art above a surface where you also want to show off items, the art of the vignette comes into play. A simple strategy is to hang the art low enough so that it is a cohesive part of the display, rather than coming off as an unrelated extra that hovers above it.
3. Take a Widescreen View
While a distinctive wallpaper with an intricate pattern makes a strong impact, there’s also the possibility of it throwing off the balance in a room. That’s why it’s important for you to find out before investing.
To that end, try to locate images on websites of rooms using the same pattern to determine its dominant lines and colors, see how it repeats, and how it reacts to various lighting situations. Then, get the largest sample you can — you may even be able to purchase a roll or half roll and have the cost credited if you buy more. Regardless, consider it an investment in a regret-free decision.
Big, bold pattern brings vitality to a room. If you find a wallpaper that you love, make it the touchstone for the room’s decor. Pair bold wallpaper with a more restrained palette and simple furniture to help bring the intricacies of the wallpaper into focus.
When using a metallic wallpaper, be sure to get the lighting right. Low-lighting tends to make them lose impact and look dull, while in a light-filled space they can look dazzling.
The rules for wallpaper also apply to distinctively patterned fabrics — especially when using them to cover large areas. Bring sizable swatches home with you and study them with other colors and finishes, in all different lighting situations. Tip: Keep a file of swatches from all the fabrics you use in your home. It comes in very handy when shopping for other decorative items that will share the same space.
4. Always Test Paint Colors
Although testing a paint color can sometimes take longer than the actual application of the paint, don’t cut this corner because it will pay off. Always test on the intended walls in the intended room. Apply two coats of paint, and use a primer when dealing with strong colors. Do test patches on every wall that is to be painted.
5. Find a Price and Quality Balance
Expensive furniture will not automatically make a room beautiful. However, you often get what you pay for, meaning an inexpensive piece of furniture might not hold up as well as you’d like. A good rule of thumb is to always buy the best you can afford.
If you’re on the fence about whether to splurge on a higher-end item or not, try calculating the cost of an unremarkable bargain-priced item plus the replacement cost for when it peters out. Then decide if buying one quality standout piece that you’ll love and use for years is a better option.
6. Loosen Up Style Lines
You may love a particular design style, but copying it down to every last detail shows a lack of imagination. Instead, go for a more natural, eclectic look that isn’t afraid to incorporate different styles and eras. Don’t be afraid to cross style boundaries. After all, you want your home to look welcoming and interesting, not dauntingly styled.
7. Measurements Count
When decorating, you’ll be surprised how often measurements come into play. For instance, when purchasing dining chairs, you have to know the required arm height for your table. You want your chairs to be able to tuck under the table when not in use. Also, if investing in vintage chairs, be sure to check the seat height since some are lower than modern ones. Consider keeping a tape measure on hand when shopping; you never know when it will come in handy.
In many cases, a single inch can be the difference between a perfect fit and disaster. That’s why it’s important to keep any architectural plans available for later reference, since their measurements are precise.
8. Know Your DIY Limitations
A common ailment many homeowners come down with is “DIY delusion.” Be realistic about what you are capable of, and whether a DIY project is something that will actually get done. Too often a project sits in the garage because the homeowner either doesn’t have the skills, tools, or time for the job. Unless you are handy at serious alterations and have a proven track record of finishing projects, take a pass on any DIY projects and hold out for your ideal piece.
9. Get the Lighting Right
Too often a fabulous pendant light or chandelier is undermined by an awkward hanging height — especially over a dining table. To get it right, allow a minimum of 32 inches between the tabletop and the light base or it will visually come between diners. A general rule is about 5 feet between the floor and the base of the light. If you have any confusion about more complex lighting situations involving factors like ceiling height, strength of the lighting sources, shade sizes and chain length, consult a lighting designer.
When purchasing lights, ask to have the light turned on in a dark room so you are able to see how it looks at night and what kind of light it gives off.
10. Keep Important Papers
We’ve all mistakenly discarded warranty details and important receipts on big-ticket items and regretted it. That’s why it’s important to keep a warranty and receipt file for new appliances, pieces of furniture and other large purchases. Also be sure to clarify warranty details before you buy. Are there special conditions? Is the construction and the fabric covered? What is the procedure for filing a claim?