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Decorate Like a Pro: A Guide to Home Decor

by Judy Leiser

Home decorating can seem like a daunting task. Often we go to one extreme or the other, trying to redecorate the entire house at once, or we buy one item at a time, which don't necessarily give a unified look. By following these simple steps, you can change your home decor, be happy with the result, and increase the value of your home in the process.

1. Identify your budget
Most of your decorating decisions will hinge on how much you have to spend, so figure that out first. Remember to allow for all the purchases you will need, including accessories, which are critical to finishing out your design.

How extensive your remodeling should be depends on how long you plan to stay in your home. If you don't plan to move for three to five years, you may want to consider more extensive renovations, like updating the kitchen, finishing the basement or adding a room or deck.

Keep in mind how your home rates with others in the neighborhood. If you own the best house in the neighborhood already, major renovations won't do much to increase its value. But if your house is on the other end of the scale, you could recoup every dollar you spend or more.

The best returns on your investment come from kitchen and bath remodels, interior facelifts, deck additions, installing siding, landscaping, and fireplace additions. If you do the work yourself, you will often save about 2/3 the cost or more.

The worst return on investment usually comes from inground pools and hot tubs, which require a great deal of maintenance, and sliding glass doors where safety if a factor. Skylights also aren't known for a good return.

2. Make a plan
Decide where you want to redecorate first. Don't try to take on the whole house at once. Start with the room you or your family use the most. Determine what you need the space for. List the members of the family who will use the space, and what they will do there.

Consider the ages of children who use the space, your own plus any visiting friends or relatives. Keep them in mind when decorating. Just how much do you like white carpeting? Would a multicolored carpet make more sense? Do you entertain a lot? Do your guests like to visit in the kitchen while you cook, but never have a place to sit? Do you have a formal dining room table, but rarely use it for eating, but as a desk instead? Do your kids or pets often track dirt onto your carpet when they enter through the back door? Would a door somewhere else or a tiled floor make more sense?

Spend some time considering your family's habits, and try to make your home fit your current lifestyle.

Once you have chosen which room is the highest priority, measure the room, and use graph paper to show it to scale. Identify windows, doors, and anything permanent, like a fireplace or radiator. If you will be using current furniture, measure it, and cut out scaled drawings of the furniture, to be moved different ways on the floor plan. Be sure to consider traffic flow when positioning furniture, as well as ceiling height.

Set a target date for completion, and decide on the outset, before buying anything, whether you will be doing any major home improvements, like tearing down walls. That's not a decision to make after putting in new carpeting!

Make notes about the room you are redecorating. What problems does it have? Does it lack a focal point? Is it hard to fit the necessary furniture into it? Does it have an odd shape? Does it lack electrical outlets in critical places? These are things you may want to consider fixing before you get too far.
Make a list of the room's assets, so you can capitalize on them. Does it have a great view or a spectacular fireplace, for example? Does it already have a sense of style, illustrated in the moldings or French doors?


3. Choose a style
Go to a library or bookstore for magazines on home decorating, and begin by getting a sense of what you like and don't like. If you have bought the magazines, cut out the pictures you like the most and create a file or scrap book. If not, try to copy them or make notes as you go.
Styles are typically grouped into the following basic categories:
• Traditional (formal, with rich fabrics)
• Country (antiques, collectibles, cozy and warm)
• Contemporary (dramatic, with clean lines)
• Romantic (elegant, soft, with ruffles, lace)
• Oriental
• Southwestern (earth tones, textures, artifacts)
• Transitional or Eclectic (mixes of various styles)

To determine which style you like best, ask yourself how you would like a person to describe being in the room. Do you want the room to invite you to curl up with a good book, or to feel romantic and sensual? Do you want the room to invoke a sense of elegance, creativity, or a warm, country charm?

If your room already has a particular style, and it doesn't agree with your ideas, you may want to consider knocking down walls or tearing out woodwork or windows. Likewise, molding and other accents can be added to enhance your chosen style.



4. Choose colors
Color can dramatically change a room, for better or worse. When you decide on a color scheme, it's usually safest to keep the walls fairly neutral, and use accessories for your most outlandish or trendy ideas. If your tastes change, you can easily change your style later on by just changing the accessories, and you won't have to repaint.

Studies have shown that different colors affect us in different ways. Red, for example, gives us energy, enthusiasm and warmth. It isn't necessarily a good color for the bedroom, because it might hinder sleep, but it can be wonderful in a front entry way or dining room, where it could stimulate conversation.

Pink is terrific for bathrooms, and is complimentary to skin tones. It denotes happiness and youth.

Yellow expresses optimism, and is best used in rooms that don't receive enough natural light, since it can be too bright and overwhelming at times.

Green is a soothing color, offering relaxation and growth, and is symbolic of nature.

Blue signifies a restful, relaxing environment, and is a very popular decorating color, especially in bedrooms.

Purple is a noble color, and conveys dignity and luxury. Its deepest hues are quite popular today.

Brown provides comfort and masculinity, and is often used in a home office.

Try to harmonize three colors in a room, mixing them in various ways. A bouquet of flowers, for example, usually has three main colors to give it balance. Keep to similar shades of each, and reflect the same color scheme in wall hangings, throw pillows, throw rugs and other accessories. You don't have to use all three colors in each place, but always keep them in the back of your mind.

You can update your walls either by painting, wallpapering (border or entire room), adding wainscotting or trim, or using the new faux techniques. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

5. Decide on specifics
First, list all the activities that the room will be used for, and try to keep them in mind as you go. If your kids will play games here, for example, you will want a cabinet to hold the games when not in use.

Decide what items you already have that will go in the redecorated room. If you will reuse your living room set, you will need to keep it in mind when buying everything else. Make sure the items you are keeping go with your chosen style and color scheme. If not, consider reupholstery, furniture covers, or replacement.

When purchasing items, consider dual uses, which can save money and space. Instead of just buying end tables, for example, you may want to buy the type with built-in storage for newspapers, books and games.

Review your list of the room's assets and advantages. Try to capitalize on the advantages. If the room is too large, you could consider painting with darker colors (which make a room seem smaller) and assemble more than one cozy grouping of furniture, to partitian off separate areas. If the room is too small, you could use less furniture and paint with brighter colors.

Decide on a few spectacular items for the room. Consider where the eye falls when entering and leaving the room, when sitting or walking through. Place your best pieces there, or move the furniture to emphasize them. Don't clutter your focal points. If the view from a window is terrific, keep the curtains or blinds light and airy to emphasize it, rather than detract from it.

Keep the walkways free and comfortable. Don't overpower the room by adding too much to it.

Try to give the room a balanced look, without being too formal (unless that is your chosen style).


Decorating your home takes a little research and planning. A great reference book is the The Ultimate Book of Decorating and Do-It-Yourself , which has over 500 pages of large photos and step by step instructions of nearly any type of home decor project.

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Judy Leiser is a writer for http://www.paradoxpro.com . Read more articles on home and garden topics in the Home Style News email newsletter. Subscribe free at http://www.ParadoxPro.com/ezine.html

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If you would like to use this article in your newsletter or website, permission is granted, as long as the entire article, including the author bio at the bottom and all links, are intact. Notification is desired, but not required, at info@paradoxpro.com.


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