12 Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better
1. Pick the paint color last. I get calls all the time from homeowners who want to pick a paint color before they move in. I get the logic. Why not arrive to walls with a fresh coat of paint? Of course you can do it this way, but in my opinion it’s not ideal.
2. Give your furniture some breathing room. Resist overcrowding a room. Gracious living means space to maneuver with ease. This is really great news if you are working with a tight budget. You don’t need to fill up a space with lots of furniture. Spend more of your budget on fewer but better-quality pieces, and your room will look better than if it’s stuffed to the gills with flea market finds. The high-backed chairs shown here, for example, stand out because they don’t have to fight for attention.
3. Hang artwork at the right height. Galleries and museums hang artwork so that the midline (center) of each piece is 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor. (The average human eye level is 57 inches.) And you should do the same.
4. Know how to arrange furniture on a rug. There are basically three ways you can arrange furniture on your rug.
All on: The rug is large enough to place all of the furniture legs on top of it. This creates a more luxurious feel. For this, bigger is better. Just be sure to leave at least 12 to 18 inches of floor surface on all four sides of the rug’s borders.
All off: If you have a small room, keeping all legs off the rug is a great cost-effective choice. You don’t want to pick too small a rug, though, or it may look insignificant, like an afterthought. The rug should appear as though it could touch the front legs of each of the seating pieces. This approach is best suited when you’re layering a pattern over a larger solid or textured rug.
Front on: Put just the front feet of all your seating pieces on the rug to tie the arrangement together visually and create a well-defined space while lending a feeling of openness.
5. Resist the urge to be too theme-y. For example, the Cape Cod look is a very popular request. You know the hallmarks: beadboard, a blue and white nautical palette, some sailboat paintings. But this has been done so many times, it lacks individuality. In this room the coastal vibe was achieved through a palette, artwork and materials that give the effect without drawing on the obvious clichés.
6. Create a focal point. There are leading roles and supporting cast members in any production. The same holds true in design. Choose your star and make it the focal point to anchor a room. Allow other items to take a secondary role. Don’t ask everything to have a leading role; it will just result in visual noise.
7. Consider sight lines. Your focal point should be free and clear from one room to the next, so that it feels like you’re being drawn between them. That’s why the best spot for a focal point is usually directly across from the entrance to the room.
8. Edit your collectibles. Don’t hang on to a piece that just doesn’t fit. I don’t care if your great-aunt Sally gave it to you. If it’s not working for you, then find a new home for it (maybe in a different room).
9. Vary the scale. What looks good in the store may look like an elephant in the room when you bring it home. Or it’s too tiny to be of any significance. So always vary scale and proportion.
10. Add layers of lighting. In this kitchen seating area, the backsplash is lit, the artwork is highlighted and the cabinet interiors are filled with light. One central lighting fixture would not have had nearly the same dramatic result.
11. Be bold. Personality is what makes a space great. Make your own statement and have fun. The more you try, the more you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t.
Incorporate unexpected elements for drama. The unconventional ottoman seats, library-style bookshelves and oversize chandelier here are all unexpected in a conventional living room, but the result has charisma. Eschew expected pieces and interpretations if you want a room that will really wow.
12. Ignore all principles in favor of creativity. Having some guidelines gives people a good starting point for furnishing and decorating their home, even if some of them aren’t practical for a particular space.
Go with something personal that makes you smile and, above all, is comfortable. Overly designed rooms don’t really translate in modern life. A pillow collection and an art arrangement that are seemingly haphazard, as shown here, create a dressed-down look with plenty of style.