Around the House

Home Decorating – My Theory

Is it a place you want to spend a weekend or where you want to actually live?

I was blessed to have a mom who was a wiz at home design and decorating. Really. I learned more from her in a few short years, than I have in decades of watching the experts. For example:

  • Find a style that works for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
  • Don’t be afraid of color.
  • Use what you have.
  • Explore = play a bit.
  • Don’t fret what the neighbors might think.

Long before Pinterest was even a dream of a dream, people were designing rooms. Depending upon the location of the home, the era, the ideals of the time, those rooms would evolve based on a lot of factors.

Fear has also been a constant. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of change. Fear of the opinion of others. Fear of color.

I get it. I really do. Even with my background of the Fearless Decorator (Mom), I know that to be truly adventurous and daring when designing a room, let alone a home, one must be thoughtful, patient, and possibly most important of all, comfortable with choices.

I’ve lived in my home for 20 years and am only now starting to be … comfortable with design choices and options. My home was fully designed when I bought it. The color choices for walls and floors were already in place. I’m just lucky that my sofa actually works with the design. 🙂

I love to see pictures of homes. The variety of design is amazing and inspiring. I have found, however, that some of the homes I’ve seen that belong to famous or wealthy folks tend to look more like a magazine spread of a furniture showroom than a place where you feel comfortable enough to walk around barefoot and put a cup of coffee down while you read the paper.

I have been enjoying “Escape To The Country” from the U.K. One thing that caught my attention was the use of color when tiles are used in the kitchen. Rarely have I found a tiled area that was all one color, usually it is a collection of colors in a random pattern. I find it very interesting and adds interest to the room.

Personally, I prefer a place where I can relax and enjoy the space – even if I’m not 100% thrilled by the space itself. Pinterest ready? No thanks.

The last home my mom decorated was built in the 1920’s. It had 3 bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and a large kitchen/diner. All needed work. By the time she was finished, the home was totally transformed. There were actual closets in the bedrooms. My room had a study area. The kitchen had a new bar area that was a combination of extra counter, storage for linens and the all important <cough> appliance garage. My mom had acquired a lot of appliances and needed a place to store them, but have them at hand.

Decor was a combination of color and texture that flowed. My first thought is “autumn colors” but when I think further, the palette was a touch broader.

The kitchen had white counters and cabinets with a floral wallpaper that was comprised of yellow, orange and green. The inside of the cabinets and the shelving were painted a daffodil yellow that brought the room together and provided a pop of unexpected color.

The living room was a combination of brown and red chairs that were offset with a gold carpet (used throughout the home) and matching drapes with sheers.

Gold is a bit of a misnomer – it was more of a deep, rich color rather than anything bright. This worked to our advantage as the walls were painted a neutral color named “champagne” that was a bit of a pinky beige. Sounds awful, right? However, when you had the afternoon sun coming through the windows covered with those gold sheers, the room glowed. Actually glowed.

The guest room had a soft pink floral wallpaper that worked with the blonde bedroom suite. The windows had Austrian Puff sheers (Australian?) that softened the light and made the room more relaxed.

The master bedroom had a cedar bedroom suite, so the colors were chosen to work with the red tones of the wood. The room had a blue wallpaper with a matching drape and bedspread in a blue floral print.

My room had one wall with a blue tufted patterned wallpaper and the rest was a wood paneling patterned wallpaper.

The kitchen was carpeted with indoor/outdoor carpet – no mopping the floor – which also kept the room warmer and was easier on the feet. I don’t need to mention that most folks were a bit surprised at this oddity. 🙂

Every nook and cranny in the home was thought about. What do we need? Where is the most efficient placement?

All of this is well and good and I’m sure that most of you are wondering what the point is. Well, here you go:

The point is that the home took time and thought before anything was done. Colors and fabrics were chosen with care. There was not going to be a redo later on just because. To say the budget was tight would be an understatement. It squeaked.

Fast forward a few years. While in college, one of my mentors was a woman who had worked in the interior design business for a few years. One Saturday we headed off to a design center that catered to designers who catered to the occupants of Beverly Hills.

As we walked toward the car after many hours of exploration, my mentor looked at me and shook her head. “You are a designer’s dream and nightmare.” she said. “You like everything.”

Not quite.

I want furniture that is comfortable to sit in. High enough off the floor to be easy to get in and out of without needing assistance, deep enough to be easy on the back while my feet don’t dangle.

I want furniture that provides storage. My home is less than 1,000 square feet – I don’t have the luxury of extra rooms to stash things in. I need pieces that work.

I want a color palette that is restful and interesting. I spent too many years in apartments with beige or white walls and boring brown carpet.

I want surfaces that are easy to maintain. While I might like the idea of a stone counter top I don’t want the maintenance and, more importantly, I have a tendency to be a bit rough with things. Banging things on stone can occasionally cause chips, dents or other issues that I avoid by not using stone or faux stone. And it is less expensive.

So, where do you begin if this is your first time at bat? I suggest you start by collecting pictures of rooms you like – and make notes about why you like them.

Head off to your local hardware store and take a long look at paint samples. The chip strips, if you will. What do you gravitate towards? Take a look at those choices. Are they warm or cool colors? Warm colors have a yellow background while cool colors are more blue. You can pull, for example, two different reds and see the difference.

Yes, you can audition colors online, but the only way to really know if a color will work in a room is to have it on the wall. Don’t panic, you don’t need to paint the entire wall, just put up a sample in an area that gets the full exposure of light in the room.

What does it look like in the morning? How about at mid afternoon? What is it like after dark? Do you like it or do you avoid it? How does it look with the other colors in the room? This is especially important if you are not recovering or replacing large pieces like a sofa or chair.

And don’t think this bit is unimportant if your choice is, say, white. You might be shocked to discover how many variations of white there are.

As you work your way through all of this, you will start to get a sense of what you like, what you don’t and how it might become a part of your living space.

Matt Fox and Shari Hiller developed a great methodology for designing a room by looking for an inspiration piece and working from it. The designer had already done most of the work when the piece was created – the colors were matched and worked together. You can pull your colors from the piece, develop a plan to accessorize the room based on the theme of the piece.

One last suggestion; start a binder or organizer to keep your idea in. Put in sections that work for you (color, style, design). Add your chips, fabric samples, and magazine clippings. You can set up an idea board, too.

Take your time, have fun with the process and enjoy the results. You worked hard to get the home you enjoy living in!

Footnote: This may evolve into a multiple part series. There is a lot of material, after all. LOL! I do want to hear from you about your decorating adventures.

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