Our Country Home

Decorating workshop

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Anyone can make a home look like a million—if you have a million dollars.

The reality is that most homeowners tend more toward a beer, rather than a champagne, budget.

Here are some professional interior design tips to help you fix up and refresh your home cheaply and easily.

Start by choosing one room in your house.

Make a list of everything you like and dislike about this room. This exercise is designed to help you decide what changes you want to make.

With your list in hand consider the following possible ways to change the look of the room:

  1. How much can I actually spend on redecorating this room?
  2. Name three things in this room that can be easily changed.
  3. What is preventing you from making these changes?
  4. Is the furniture comfortable? If not, can any pieces be eliminated or replaced?
  5. Would the room benefit by adding architectural features such as decorative molding, new doors, new hardware or a chair rail?
  6. Measure the room using graph paper (1/4” = 1’) . It’s easier to move furniture around on paper than to move the actual pieces. This will also prevent purchasing items that may not fit in the room.

Decorating tips:  

The color scheme of the room should convey the mood you want to create: bright and lively, mellow and relaxing or you can choose a color scheme from a favorite painting or fabric. Look through books, magazines and the internet for rooms that draw your attention.

Take as much time as you need to plan out the colors and patterns you want to use. People tend to have a sense of urgency about decorating, and wind up making quick decisions that can be costly.

For maximum flexibility, consider keeping walls, flooring and upholstery colors neutral. This will leave you free to add colorful patterns in an affordable way, by using artwork, window treatment, pillows and area rugs.

Next, think about where you can add storage pieces, either freestanding or built-ins. Consider buying multipurpose furniture: a coffee table with drawers or shelves, upholstered cubes that open for storage. or decorative screens to hide stuff.

After deciding what can be done, pretend you are moving and start by boxing up three types of items. Don’t forget to clean out closets and drawers.

Label boxes as follows: things that can be thrown out, items to keep and  items to sell or give away. (Items in the last box can be stored in a basement, attic, or storage facility.)

Place boxes and furniture in the middle of the room—this also makes it easier when you start painting. Remove window dressing and roll up area rugs. Leave shades or blinds, if in good condition.

Mix, don’t match. Your room doesn’t have to match perfectly or have a theme. Nor do you have to go out and buy all-new things. Check out your other rooms for furnishings, photos and accessories that can be swapped.

Decorating a room doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There is no reason to rush, because then it’s more likely that mistakes—which could be expensive or practically permanent—will be made. Take your time. Then the result is more likely to be what you want.

Barbara Winfield is an artist and writer specializing in art and interior design. Her experience includes full-time editorial positions at several national home furnishings magazines.  She is the recipient of  the Dallas Market Center Editorial Award,  as well as the author of two home design books, “The Complete Book of Home Details” and “Dream Log Homes and Plans.” She has taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.

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