Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Decorate, Part One, for Frances who asked...

When I was a young bride in 1997 I had no idea how to decorate our small apartment. Not only did I have no idea how to do it, I had no money to do it with.

I knew that our home felt like a dorm room and that this was not a look I was interested in maintaining. I was bemoaning my lack of any decorating direction when a friend told me how to start.

She told me to go to a bookstore and grab a stack of home decorating magazines. Her advice was to look through them all and buy the ones with pictures that I liked. Right away I noticed that the pictures in magazines like Romantic Homes and Country Living were the ones I most liked.

For the next few months I bought and then ripped apart every decorating magazine that had pictures I liked. I pulled pictures for their colors, their textures, and most importantly, their moods. After a while certain themes emerged.

The colors yellow, green and red were the colors which appeared most often. Glossy white woodwork, gleaming hardwood floors, cozy spaces and light all created a warm and inviting feel which I just loved.  The rooms looked lived in and loved and had a vintage cottage style that was exactly what I wanted.

Once you know what you like, the fun begins.

First, take a look around your house. Does it look like your fantasy house? Are there things you hate, but you have because they were a gift or worked great in your last house or just got put there and now you don't remember why?

Take out the things you hate. Put them in the garage or the basement, but just get them the hell out of there while you are trying to figure it out. It will be so nice to not have to look at things you hate. Don't get rid of them yet because they may still have a use, but for now, get them out of there.

Once your rooms are empty of the ugly get a pad of paper. This will be your home notebook. Sit in the room which you are working on and brainstorm. Imagine different colors. Ask yourself what already works in the house and what needs to be filled in. If the couch is great but you hate the color, consider a slipcover. Throw pillows are a great way to test different colors. Another option is to go to a fabric store and get some swatches of fabric in the colors you love. Lay them around the furniture. See what inspires you.

Write your ideas in your notebook. It breaks down the room into manageable pieces and will hopefully keep you from being overwhelmed.

Paint is your friend. Paint is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to completely change your home. Thinking you need a change? Go to the Home Depot and fill your purse with paint swatches. Then take them home and tape them to the walls. See how they look in the light of your home.

Once you think you've found a color you like pick up a quart of your color. Paint a few spots on the wall. Paint it in the middle. Paint against the moldings.

Some colors I knew immediately were my one true love. Other colors seemed like my one true love for about an hour until I got about half a wall painted and then, well, it became obvious that the color which had seemed perfect over a one foot swatch was Entirely Wrong over an entire wall.

In decorating, mistakes are made and it is part of the process.

The single most important thing about decorating your home is this. No one needs to love it except for you and your family. It doesn't need to be magazine perfect or reflect the latest trends. It just has to be the place that reflects you and the people you love.

Part Two coming soon...


Julie said...

Now I just need a clone to do it all. Never enough time.

Anonymous said...


Left-Handed Housewife said...

Thank you! Thank you! I have a stack of magazines I'm going to go through and a bunch of ugly stuff ready to go out the door (and into the garage). It's good to have some basic operating instructions, as I am a very basic and slow learner. Keep it coming!

Have you ever thought about writing a book? There are a lot of people out there like me, who want fabulous, funky homes, but don't quite know how to go about it. You do really have a great sense of style and a great sense of humor. Just a thought ...


Anonymous said...

Period Style is a great book. It contains color palettes and samples of fabrics along with other design aspects from different eras. If your clueless on how to put together a room, the book is a great place to start.

And don't trash the ugly furniture. I've come across many pieces over the years that were head to the trash heap, and once refinished, contained beautiful inlays and exotic woods. If you're not sure about refinishing, this guy seems to know what he's doing.

Cheryl said...

Ugh! You and your genes, those genes I don't have, those damn painting genes. Memere, your mother, and you. Dammit! Why did they miss all 6 of us completely? Could it be the general contractor's children who lived in never-ending renovation mode just can't stand the disruption? Oy! Why did it have to be all about the damn paint?

We still haven't gotten rid of all the ugly unmatched furniture because we don't have a "look."

Should I continue to piss and moan or have you had enough?

Cheryl said...

Now that I've had a chance to vent, I'm going to leave a really nice comment. Are you ready? Brace yourself.

That video rocked! I'm now beating my head against a hard surface because your ideas and suggestions are so simple. I love the way you wrote this so gently to those of us who have big question marks all over our faces when we read about your redecorating. You absolutely rocked this post!

Gumbo Lily said...

Frances sent me, and I'm glad she did. Love your Shiny Red House and I'm staying tuned for more decorating stuff.