New Decorating Project - Start with the Basics

The most frequently asked question I receive from clients that are getting ready to move into a new home or about to start a redecorating project on an existing home is almost always the same, “where do I start”? Admit-tingly, its a challenging process for even the most experienced interior designers, and for those without experience in design it can be down-right daunting. Whether it be a new client or a new designer, my advise is always the same, start with the basics and work from there!

These basic decorating principles are simple enough that most anyone can apply them. No matter your budget, your home will be presentable.

Find The Focal Point of Your Room

Every room has a focal point which recognized as its most emphasized or prominent feature. It's the space that your eyes are naturally drawn to when you walk into the room. The goal is to compliment everything around the focal point. The focal point could be a large window, a spacious high wall or a prominently placed fireplace. If your room doesn't have a built-in focal point, here are some ideas for creating one:

  • First decide how you plan on using the room, then create a focal point around that. For example, if you want to use a room for reading, you'd make a bookshelf your focal point. If the room is going to be where the family gathers to watch TV, than the area surrounding the TV will be your focal point.

  • Paint one wall a different color, then accessorize with it with artwork or shelves to display evenly spaced family photos and mementos. Be sure to keep it free of clutter.

  • If space permits, I sometimes use a large piece of furniture as a focal point is such as an interesting cocktail table, console table or media center.

  • Very often I will use a large piece of artwork or a large mirror as a focal point.

Once you find the focal point 'Frame It', which means decorating around it and using its main color elements throughout the rest of the room.

If a fireplace is your focal point, you can frame it by adding decor on or above the mantle. If your focal point is a large window with a view, try arranging your furniture to frame it. If it's a large mirror or an interesting piece of artwork, you might frame it with two smaller elements on either side. Once you have a focal point (or anchor) you can now balance the rest of the room.

In the example below, I chose to make the cocktail table the focal point of this beautiful room.

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Basic Rule of Measurement Requires a Ruler

When arranging furniture or hanging curtains most people just employ the oldest tool in the toolbox, the 'human eyeball'. But actually there are specific measurements that interior designers employ for decorating that make a room look better. Get your tape measure and keep this mind:

  • How far your TV should be from your sofa will depend on its size. The easiest rule of thumb is to multiply the diagonal size of your TV by two. That's about how many inches your TV should be from your seating area.

  • For coffee tables, I maintain a strict rule of at least 15" between coffee tables and sofas, and going as far as 18" between them when space permits.

  • When it comes to hanging curtains most people employ a 1-3" overlap on either side of their windows and 4” from the curtain rods to the top of the window. The trick I use to make windows look wider or taller is simple. I create the illusion of height by going beyond the standard 4" while being careful not exceed 8". If you do it could look awkward. The same applies top the width, which can go as far as 12" on either side without looking awkward.

  •  When hanging art, I try and keep its center at eye level, which is generally 56" to 60" from the floor. If you're hanging multiple pieces of art, keep the center point of the whole arrangement at this level. When hanging art above the sofa, I make sure it's no more than 2/3 the width of the sofa with a 5-9" of space between the art and the furniture. This ensures your art doesn't over power your sofa, making it look too small.

  • Most overlooked are rugs and for these I follow three basic rules.

  1. ALL ON - If a rug is big enough and you can put all legs of your furniture on top of it, leave 12-18" of floor surface on all four sides.

  2. ALL OFF - If you have a smaller space, choose a smaller rug and leave all four feet of your furniture off of it. Be cautious not to pick too small a rug, or it may look insignificant, like an afterthought.

  3. FRONT ON- Many designers choose to just put the two front feet on the rug. This can tie everything together and create a feeling of openness.

The image below is an example of 'front on' as well as the proper distance of the sofa from the TV and the cocktail table.

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Negative Space Equals More

We have all heard the old adage about 'sometimes less is more'. In modern contemporary homes, this rule is especially true. In this case the negative space is the area that's not taken up by any subject, such as the white area on your walls. Its tempting to fill every space with a subject, but sometimes, the negative space speaks for itself.

Decorating with negative space can be a bit tricky, but there are a few ways anyone can do it:

  • Avoiding clutter is probably the best and most common way to make the most of negative space. Because you have space on your table doesn't mean it all needs to go there. Leave some room, create negative space.

  • Make sure the negative space serves a purpose such as purposely leaving a space empty to highlight a decorated area nearby.

  • Utilize contrasting shapes can create an odd—or interesting—negative space. For example a curved coffee table can soften the harsh negative space lines created by angular sofas and chairs in a square room.

Employing negative space is not just about looking for places where you can remove things, it's about looking for spots that look great even when they're empty.  The image below is an excellant example of the use of negitive space.

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Follow The Rule of Odd Numbers

If your a photographer, than you already familiar with the rule of thirds, for its an essential part of framing a photograph or subject. In photography the rule of thirds means that 'the subject isn't centered in the image, which is how many new photographers frame their shots. Instead, the main focal point is a bit off to one side. Using the rule of thirds draws the viewer's eye into the composition, instead of just glancing at the center'. In interior design, using odd numbers as a foundation is a way of creating harmony and visual interest.

For example, it helps to have groupings of objects in varying heights, shapes and textures, while at the same time maintaining something similar about them. This advice seems to contradict itself, but the point is, there should be something that groups your items together, but also something about each of them that is slightly different.

In the image below you will see an example of the rule of thirds in the selection of the vase's in the corner.  It also a great example of what we discussed earlier regarding the use of larger curtians to create the illusion of a larger window.

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Layer Your Lighting

I have written entire posts about the proper use of light. It's a vital and integral part of interior design and should not be taken lightly. But for this post I'll keep it brief by listing just the basics.

  • Ambient lighting, also know as general lighting is usually overhead lighting meant to evenly illuminate an entire room.

  • Task lighting is meant to light a specific area or task such as a reading area or under-cabinet lights in a kitchen that serve as task lights for counter tops.

  • Accent lights are meant to highlight a particular object, such as a painting or sculpture.

  • By adding different types lighting it gives a room dimension. I usually start with ambient lighting in each room, then consider the use of task and accent lighting.

Below we see all lighting examples employed in one room.

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Start in one room, follow these basics, then move on to the next. By doing so you'll make your home look like your own, one that highlights your style, tastes and preferences. My first and foremost suggestion is to take your time and not rush the creative process. Once your satisified with one room and it feels right, then move on to the next. In the end you'll have a home that looks as if it was decorated by a professional.

 

Create Your Own Home Theater

Take that small spare room you don't use or that family room that everyone seems to congregate in to watch TV and turn it into a full fledged Home Theater . You'll find it will bring the family together and building a space for bonding and fun. Here are some helpful tips for turning a small room into a home theater.

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1. Choose the Right Room

If possible, choose a room that has the fewest windows and doors. More wall space means more shelving space and more options for where to hang the screen. Be careful to consider whose room the new theater room abuts. Placing it next to or above the babies room might not be the best place.

2. Incorporate Plenty of Shelving

If you're limited on how wide you can go with furniture, than go tall. Select wall units that go high that will accommodate your videos, speakers, and books while still maintaining a sparse neatness to the room. Less is better!

3. Clear the Area

Get organized and give-up on using this room as the catch-all storage room. Think about the last time you went to the movies. Were there end tables, lamps, magazine stands and other family related items about the theater? Of course not! It contained seating and a screen, which is after all why your there.

 

4. Create Theater Seating

Seating should be set up to create enough seating for the whole family while allowing everyone a clear view of the screen. A carpenter can easily build a two or three level platform for relatively little money. The platform would be secured to the floor or a wall to prevent it from moving and covered in simple carpeting. Depending on the space available, reclining sofas can be installed on each level to make a cozy yet inexpensive seating environment. Otherwise, individual theater seating can be installed allowing each viewer their own chair complete with cup holders and snack trays.

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5. Stow the Gear Away

Exposed and tangled wires will make any room feel cluttered, disorganized and cramped. Use wire-ties to keep them neat and hide them from view behind the shelving unit. This will give the sense of having a larger room.

6. Break Out the Paint

Instead of a dark room, consider small wall mounted sconce lighting that can be controlled with a single dimmer switch. This will be easier on the eyes and avoid anyone falling in the dark. Next, paint the room a rich dark color such as burgundy, brown or dark blue. When combined with controlled lighting, you’ll be able to create the sensation of a much larger theater.

7. Get in The Mood

In a theater movie posters sells tickets! In your home theater they will create the illusion of being at the theater while setting the mood for a fun night of family viewing. Select a few of your favorite films and mount them in inexpensive frames to be secured to the wall. Select posters that are sized in proportion to the room, not too small or too large.

8. Hang-em High

Instead of using shelves or a media console for your television, mount the television on the wall to truly create a theater environment. Space it evenly on the wall so those seated in bottom row will only have to look-up slightly, while those in the last (higher) row will look horizontally even across the room. This will allow everyone to comfortably view the screen from any seat. Speakers should be hung either high on the front wall, or mounted high within the shelving unit for an unobstructed sound no matter where your seated. Sub-woofers work best when mounted low, closest to the floor. These can even be stored in the rear of the room.

The home theater doesn’t have to be gigantic to be a fun part of your family’s life. In fact, a small room, if painted well and set up strategically, can feel cozy and inviting.
It can also sound louder with stronger acoustics.

Creating a Friend and Family Living Space

 

I am often tasked with designing a family-living area that is both stylish, functional and friendly and very often those goals will conflict with one another. A purely stylish family-living room can sometimes appear cold and uninviting, where as a truly functional family room can sometimes step outside the boundaries of sleek and stylish. The trick is to create a comfortable family living room that works for everyone.

The family-living room in my opinion is the center piece of the home, second only to the kitchen, where friends and family come together to share experiences, entertainment and generally enjoy each others company. It's essential for a peaceful and loving home. The family room has to work for everyone in that everyone in the family has to find this room an inviting space to relax in.

I start by providing enough seating for the whole family, plus a few guests. If there is not enough space for extra chairs, a comfortable upholstered or leather footstool will do the job and can still be used as a footstool when not needed as a seat. If space is an issue, I often substitute a loveseat in place of an armchair that can seat two people who can than snuggle up together.

Above all, the key element to a great family room is comfort! If the room leaves you and quests feeling cold, than something is missing. I overcome this by simply adding soft and pleasing textures. Plush carpets or area rugs can easily transform the look of a room, instantly making it feel warm and welcoming.

Deep sofas with soft plump seats adorned with a line of squashy cushions will invite your family and friends to settle in and spend the time together, rather than in separate rooms. A good family room also has to be durable which is why I always choose hard-wearing flooring and loose-covered sofas with removable and washable covers that can stand up to a few spills.

Here are a few decorating rules I love by.

Making it yours

I like to personalize the family-living room with an arrangement of favorite family photographs and mementos that helps create a sense of history or tells a family story. It turns an otherwise cold hotel lobby into a warm family space. A bare expanse of wall above the sofa or a sideboard is an ideal spot. I suggest using frames that are identical in size and color, and arrange them in a grid formation to make a clean, modern visual impact.

Technology is our friend

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There is no getting away from the fact that technology has crept into every aspect of modern life. You can't fight it, so you may as well make it your friend by making a media-friendly arrangement in a family living room. I like low modern units that are sleek and clean, pieces that won’t overwhelm the room by keeping wall space above it feeling open. Rather than heavy dark wall units, I will often opt for simple floating shelves for mementos, framed photos or simple greenery. As for color schemes I suggest pale colors for walls and furniture to give a unified look.

Clutter be gone

I like a clutter-free living room by keeping shelves orderly and free from lots of objects. Keep small items and techno items stored in small wooden storage boxes or baskets, and store books and magazines in neat box files. For a more contemporary look, use the space above the sofa a for single picture shelf to display black and white family photos.

Long-life durable furniture

I believe its possible to have a stylish and sleek family-living room in a busy family home. Paint walls a fresh off-white and update fussy curtains with clean-lined white shutters. Choose durable leather sofas for an easy-clean option or fabrics that can be removed from the cushions and cleaned. Then add modern glamour with a show-stopping ceiling chandelier or designer ceiling fan.

Socialize space

Modern families are always on the go, so I like to create a living room that encourages people to stop, slow down and enjoy some quality family time together. I often create an intimate space by adding comfortable chairs and sofas in a communal-type group environment. Shades of fresh white wall with gray or pale blue accents will keep the room bright and friendly, while dark or medium-hue wood flooring introduces warmth.

Activity-friendly flooring

I suggest wooden floors for a classic look that is easy to clean. There is an endless selection of laminate flooring on the market today in a myriad of colors, textures and patterns. They are relatively inexpensive compared to real hard-wood flooring, although I suggest staying away from the low-priced products as they will most likely not stand-up to time and traffic very well. Keep the room feeling snug with one large or several area rugs in colors that lightly contrast with the flooring.

Room for everyone

I suggest putting a large high quality sofa at the top of your decorating list. It plays vital role in family life and will need to accommodate everyone and still save space. A neutral scheme allows plenty of scope to add color and pattern, which makes for a fun room.

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Have a space plan

When designing a living room and I always incorporate space into the open floor plan to encourage social gatherings and family interaction. Allocated zones for lounging, dining and yes, standing. A good social gathering is one that encourages mobility about the room that in-turn stimulates conversation. Take advantage of large windows or French doors that invite natural light and outdoor scenery into the room.

Store-it

Lets face it, humans are gatherers and collectors of just about everything. The hard part is learning how to effective store it all to keep a room clean, light and clutter free. I like to use basic free-standing units to create a storage-bank that will fit the space and then fill them with colorful objects of interest. Decorative chests and foot rests that open are perfect places to keep items out of view and yet still in reach when you need them.

 

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Lets get cozy

I can think of nothing more inviting that a large squashy sofa with plump feather-filled cushions to provide all the temptation needed for a relaxing living room. Bring your room to life with a built-in or free-standing fire place that will add warmth and atmosphere. Furniture Market offers several models and designs of the latest digital free-standing holographic fireplace-consoles in a wide variety of colors and temperature setting to suit any room or social setting.

Toss it aside

To add both texture and real creature-comfort to a room, I like woolen or linen throws folded over sofa arms which will visually soften the room as well as providing warmth when needed. Every one loves a blanket so make sure there are plenty to go around.

Stay true to the idea that the family room is for fun, functionality and social interaction of friends and family and regardless what concepts you introduce into the room, it will be a place of warmth and love.

Creating a Bedroom Sanctuary

Considering how much time we spend in our bedrooms, it always made sense to me that it should be a place for peace and reflection. In other words, our own private sanctuary. It's not so much a place for self-indulgence, but rather a place to nurture our sense of well-being. As an interior designer I am aware of how the use of certain colors, the arrangement of furniture, the placement of photos, and even the light of a space can affect how we feel in a room. I take all these factors into account when designing a bedroom sanctuary for a client.

GO PLUSH

There's nothing like sinking into a plush mattress and getting enveloped in super soft bedding to make you feel comforted and protected at the end of a long day. Depending on the style of the room I will sometimes opt for a thick down comforter or soft man-made animal fur to add a plush feel to the room.

NEUTRAL COLORS

Many people go for bold colors and heavy patterned styles to decorate their bedrooms, especially when it comes to large pieces like their bedspread, wall color or wall paper pattern. Although this trend is popular in many modern-contemporary designs, it does not work well if you're building a bedroom sanctuary. In this case I stick with more neutral and calming colors and instead add small pops of color in smaller items such as pillows or throw blankets.

 

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SOFT CARPET

Sanctuary therapy starts with the sense of touch, and nothing accomplishes this better than a soft or luxurious carpet or throw rug. After spending all day in uncomfortable work or dress shoes, the very idea of a soft rug under bare feet will increase your 'I'm home feeling'.

BED STARTS AT THE HEADBOARD

Its sounds simple, yet it's true. A large headboard, adorned with soft tufted neutral materials will instantly set the mood the second you walk into the room. This is apparent in many of the bedrooms I design and furnish, as well as the style of beds we stock and display in the showroom. Heavy traditional dark wood headboards always gave me the impression of a medieval castle or being on board a sailing ship, not the image you want to create in a peaceful sanctuary space.

ORGANIZED AND UNLCUTTERED

A clean, organized and uncluttered bedroom is absolutely key to a peaceful and restful space, as clutter is a reminder of things undone. Same goes for disorganized closets and drawers, and although it may sound silly, I always felt that clutter under the bed has its own negative energy, especially if it's work-related clutter. Creating a peaceful sanctuary starts with getting rid of unnecessary objects, especially things that reminds you of negative or stressful times in your life.

GO GREEN

Get some plants which adds life to a room and generally makes us feel good. Studies have shown that potted plants in our space help with lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and generally increase the feeling of satisfaction.

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OUT THE WINDOW

That is where your mini-blinds or Venetian blinds should go if your building a bedroom sanctuary. Window treatments should not only block light and provide privacy, but are an important part of the look and feel of the space. I suggest going with with two-layer curtains that go from window to floor, in light and neutral colors.

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LIGHTING, LIGHTING AND LIGHTING

Lighting is an extremely important part of creating ambiance in a space. I always avoid bright fluorescent overhead lighting and instead focus on floor and table lamps that feature dimmers or some sort. Think of a dimmer as a volume knob on your sound system, all the way to '10' is not always the way to go. Interesting shapes and materials tend to add a little texture to the room, in addition to other items in the room.