22 July 2009

Tabula Rasa pt 1: Decorating tips for when you have no clue how to start

Emailing a friend about getting together next week, I jokingly threatened to redecorate her new place while she slept (she's working nights at the moment). But when she replied that she could use the help since she has no idea where to start, I got to thinking: how many people don't bother trying to decorate because they simply don't know where to begin?

I'm no professional but I've always loved decorating. I pursue my interest via books, magazines, a few TV shows, visits to historic buildings and museums, and by constantly experimenting with my own house. And maybe occasionally stealing peeks (ahem, from the street) into people's windows as I walk by (hey--if they didn't want me looking, they'd invest in some curtains!) The amount of time I've devoted to what is essentially a hobby has been worth it, though. The SO and I are happy with the results, and the compliments I receive from visitors aren't too shabby, either!

So in the interest of helping out my friend (and anyone else who might be interested), I've come up with a list of tips on decorating from scratch. Feel free to comment with questions; I'll do my best to answer...

1. First and foremost, start by looking through decor magazines and books, not only for inspiration, but also so you can figure out what styles appeal to you and which don't. For that matter, take a look at your friends' places and even stores you shop at, as well. You should make note of anything you strongly like or dislike. Pay attention to things like colour, materials, shapes, ornamentation (or lack thereof), rustic vs high tech, and so on. This research might seem daunting at first, but it will pay off (and can be a lot of fun to boot). Once you narrow it down, it'll be much easier to form a cohesive look in your home.

2. Don't be afraid to mix and match different looks/styles. If you think something looks good together, then that's what matters. At the same time, though, too many styles can lead to a cluttered, disorganized feeling. A good guideline is to either stick within one time period (e.g., all antique OR mid-century retro OR contemporary) or ignore periods but limit yourself to no more than three different disparate styles (e.g. Urban country with a side of retro, or mid-century modern with Moroccan elements).

3. Once you actually get started decorating, remember to avoid anything trendy when it comes to the long-term fixtures in your home. Anything that won't be replaced within the next five years (kitchens, bathrooms, built-ins, appliances, furniture) should be limited to classic designs and colours. Not just neutrals necessarily, but if you're buying that fuchshia couch just because it's THE colour this year, be prepared for it to be THE colour for several more years as well. Changing a house is not like changing a shirt--you can't do it every time the fashions shift. Instead, satisfy your lemming urges by buying trendy accessories like cushions and towels--they're much easier (and cheaper) to replace when you inevitably get bored of them.

4. Don't sacrifice comfort for style...
No matter how good it looks, you'll end up hating it if it's not pleasant to use.

5. ...and don't sacrifice style for price.
Sure, you can get basic, utilitarian furnishings and you'll save a bundle, but you'll also end up with an ugly home you'll probably hate spending time in. The good news is that attractive bargains do exist! It might involve some extra effort, but it's so worth seeking out comfortable, stylish--affordable--items for your home.

To be continued in "Tabula Rasa pt 2"!

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