Editor’s note: This post was last updated July 30, 2021
“This room design doesn’t work, but I can’t put my finger on why, exactly.”
When it comes to aiding your ailing home decor, selective inattention is not your friend.
Home design is baffling to most people. Because of not knowing what to do or what to do first, most people tend to do nothing. This is especially true if your frame of mind is to “spruce up the joint” rather than plan a major overhaul.
If this is the case, then keeping a firm grip on the obvious will help A LOT in your decision on how far you want to take your sprucing.
First, how do your rooms measure up, or not? Be clear about your habits and preferences. Are they supported by the existing conditions?
The most basic question is “how do you actually live in the space?”, in sheer practical term.
- Use your home as a daily convenience center for the most part? You aren’t there much other than to “rinse, rest and repeat the following day.”
- Regard your home as your haven. It’s sanctuary for you to recharge, regroup, relax as well as be with friends and loved ones to share meals and entertainment.
Decide what to attend to first, later, or not at all. You can develop an organized plan of attack with these decisions, along with a budget and a time-line for purchases that’s guaranteed to raise your spirits as well as your standard of living.
Timing is everything. If you rent or otherwise are planning to move within the next year or so, forget about major renovations. Equally, you won’t need to do much with the kitchen if all you make are reservations.
See what you are looking at and be truthful about the actual condition of your environment and furnishings. Your answers won’t be graded by a jury of your peers, but you will have a solid set of guidelines from which to proceed to design a home that works especially well just for you.
This is what I mean by Keeping A Firm Grip On The Obvious…
- This place is a mess. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a great slogan for clutter free living. However, this ideal state rarely happens naturally.
You have to do something…
In truth, The Clutter Problem happens less often because you are inherently messy and more often because no space has been designated for the things you want and need.
- Is it time to paint the walls? Landlord White By Default is hardly inspiring.
When it comes to home design, as well as maintenance, it’s a given that a fresh coat of paint does wonders to give a new lease on looks in the most cost effective way possible. In addition, the right paint color can raise your spirits considerably every time you walk through your front door.
- Is the furniture arrangement non-functioning? A furniture arrangement that supports your needs and activities will improve your life, and it won’t cost you a thing. Assume form follows function and start by giving your furniture something to do. Think through what you’ll need for comfort, practicality and attractiveness.
For example, in your living room, (multi-purpose or not), if you want to talk with someone besides yourself, you’ll want a conversation area. Comfortable seating close enough to speak without raising your voice or craning your neck plus convenient surfaces (coffee/end tables) to set down drinks or food are essential. Extra credit for thoughtful lighting.
- Does the furniture itself looks “tired”? Are the upholstered pieces still serviceable or do they need to be slip covered, reupholstered or simply thrown out and replaced? Does any of your other furniture need an upgrade? If you are the do it yourself type, would a coat of paint help?
If you’ve been hauling around those milk crates since college, then it’s time for an upgrade.
- Is it dark in there? Rooms without enough light are depressing. Most of us, for lack of a better experience, under-light our homes with either too few light sources, or even worse, “over-light” a room with a couple of light sources at very high wattage. What you want is a range of lighting options that meet your needs for the tasks at hand and fill your rooms with light, without dark corners.
The overall effect will be welcoming, comfortable, interesting and beautiful.
- Do you have a room with a view, or a view of security bars and a brick wall? Great windows with a wonderful view need no decoration. However, most windows need some sort of covering, if only for privacy or to block out sunlight. Another advantage of drapery is that it can add softness, color and texture to a room, while camouflaging “unfortunate” architecture as needed.
Continue to cross examine the usual suspects (as noted above) and don’t overlook any area of your interior affairs. Keep refining your “repair/to do list” down to the nuts and bolts of what you need to be more comfortable and satisfied.
Everyone wants a designer look without hiring one.
A “designer look” is actually quite specific. That “pulled together” quality comes from an astute assessment of:
- the necessary
- the unwanted
- and the perfect addition of just the right amount of “Fabulous”.
The design goal is beauty, comfort and pizzazz with a minimum of the stuff in-between. While interior design is the most layered and complicated of all art forms, it’s rooted by necessity in practical application.
In truth, you don’t have to make a major design statement to live well. Developing a clear perspective of what you have and how it serves you (or not) insures that home design happiness can be found at any price point.
You can do this…..
Featured Photo from Sergio Sulliotti on Flickr
The original version of this article was published in the Rooms With a View, lifestyle section on Hamptons.com, Summer, 2008.
There have, of course, been many updates and revisions since.
I love your comments and do feel free to share!
These articles are written as guides with general advice to help you, help yourself find the best design solutions for your home. Please understand however, that it isn’t possible to give specific answers to your design and/or paint questions.
Thank you for the opportunity help where I can.