Tricks of the Trade

s an interior designer I am always asked what can be done to make your home more stylish, beautiful, hip and current — often by complete strangers.

Over the years, you learn some tricks of the trade that can be applied to your home, putting it on the path toward a welcoming personal environment. Working with clients, I set my goal at listening and understanding their lifestyles and how their homes need to work for them. Here are some tips to get you started:

Paint — I know this has been said before, but there is nothing that can achieve so much for so little. Color can enhance a mood — even a focal wall can change the feeling of a room — so don’t be afraid to experiment with color. Many spaces have awkward ceiling angles. My suggestion: Paint walls and ceilings the same color. It softens the angles and helps them blend in.

Painting the trim the same color as the walls is also a nice idea to make the rooms feel larger, calmer and more modern.

Dark colors can make the walls recede, making a small room feel larger or alternatively warm and cozy.

Artwork — Many people are so afraid of buying art. Buy what you love. Frame children’s paintings and your own photographs, grouping artwork together in the same frames to create a gallery wall. If you are looking to collect art seriously, then hire an art adviser. For many of us, though, buying what we love can begin to make our rooms personal.

If you are still afraid to commit to artwork, then wallpaper. It gives rooms lots of visual interest with no commitment to artwork. If you become tired  of the wallpaper, you can change it and instantly create a whole new room. 

One of my favorite wallpapers is a grasscloth. It instantly gives timeless style to both traditional or modern rooms.

Lighting — I love lamps. Three-way lamps offer levels of mood lighting that can create an instant sense of warmth in a room. Plus, they come in so many varieties. To highlight your room, add a lamp in an accent color. Changing your lamps often can instantly update a tired room. Even changing to modern drum shades will instantly modernize your room.

It’s all in the mix — Combine both old and new pieces to make a home feel collected and timeless. This is usually best left to an expert in the field, because he or she will have a better understanding of what combinations work well together. A professional can also be impartial and will be unsentimental enough to get rid of pieces that just don’t work in your new rooms.

Scale — Scale is a huge component to successful decorating. Measure, measure and measure again. Many people purchase the wrong size appointments — sofas that are too deep, rugs that are too small for a room and furniture that doesn’t fit the space properly. Unless a room is very large, I try to keep my area rugs with the sofa and chairs half on and half off the rugs. It makes a room feel more comfortable and less static. I also like to combine both skirted, upholstered pieces and ones with legs in the same room. It tends to make the room more animated.

Paint or lacquer your furniture — Give old “brown” furniture a fresh update in a painted finish or a high-gloss lacquer in a gorgeous color.

Update kitchen hardware — Not ready to completely redo your kitchen? Replace old hardware with new hardware. Try an unlacquered brass for a current update.

Do one or two rooms at a time — Build on your design aesthetic. If you purchase a couple of pieces scattered about in different rooms, your home will never come together. If your space is small, try to purchase furniture pieces that all contain storage. Organize your closets and keep small spaces neat. This will make your space feel larger.

Indoor/outdoor fabrics — Collections of these fabrics have really come a long way and are a stylish addition to rooms with kids and pets. Many fabrics can be very fragile for an active household. Indoor/outdoor fabrics resist wear and tear and are easy to launder. Many are both fade- and stain-resistant.

“Buy quality and only cry once” — There has never been a truer statement. Purchase classic quality items whether they are modern or traditional and they will stand the test of time. I love beautiful craftsmanship and furnishings. And quality pieces can be mixed easily with other quality pieces whether they are traditional or modern.

Written for: WAG Magazine

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