Decorating & Design - Design Lesson

Design lesson: Back to basics

Kimberley Seldon

Designer Kimberley Seldon offers tips for decorating your living room like a pro.

OK, I've seen Trading Spaces. It's fun, it's zany, you never know what will happen when the homeowners return, and most often the results are good-looking, considering the budget. However, when it comes to decorating a real room (one in your own house) with a more realistic budget (one that includes labour costs), following tried-and-true decorating ideas is real smart. Here are some good basics for redesigning your living room decor.

Ever wonder how the pros get each corner of a room looking picture perfect? Practice, practice and more practice! Here are some tips to help you hone your home-styling skills.

• Determine what mood you intend to create. Formal rooms require rich elements and a strict symmetry; exotic rooms benefit from spicy colours and plenty of seductive textures; modern rooms require little pattern.

• Start with a small vignette -– a sofa table or mantel is a good option. Take a photo of the space and examine it. What's wrong? Is it too cluttered? Not interesting? Is there an awkward gap or not enough variation?

• Reposition the desired objects, making sure to vary heights, shapes and textures for interest. For example, a pewter candlestick is more striking beside glossy porcelain than a matte tin or wooden bucket.

• Create visual impact. The most successful groupings offer an element of surprise. A collection of red glassware is arresting because of its mass of colour; a stack of leather books is dull without the addition of objets d'art, such as porcelain figures.

• Experiment with everyday objects you already own: a watering can can look great near the hearth, Grandma's teapots can be charming displayed on the mantel, or a collection of seashells can be cleverly composed in a powder room.

• Once you've created a composition you like, take a second photo and examine it. Does the grouping look like it stepped out of the pages of a magazine? If not, repeat the process until you create a vignette that's pleasing.


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