Design Lesson

Design lesson: Back to basics

Style at Home
Design Lesson

Design lesson: Back to basics

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.

Dos and don'ts of living room design
DO fantasize. Begin with a vision; a dream destination, a favourite look from STYLE AT HOME, or even a brilliantly designed restaurant can provide inspiration. Consider how your dream room makes you feel. What mood does it evoke?

DO analyse. Which elements are worthy of attention? Emphasize elegant architecture – doors, windows, crown mouldings, baseboards – with contrasting paint colours. Minimize an ill-placed column by painting it the same colour as the walls; frame a gorgeous view with draperies in a colour similar to the walls.

DO actualize. Don't be content to just dream about your desired space: roll up your sleeves and begin to decorate. Carry your inspiration photo with you when making purchases and when in doubt ask for professional guidance.

DON'T agonize. There's always more than one right answer in decorating. For example, you may prefer your TV in plain sight on modern shelving, or tucked inside an armoire.

DON'T economize. When it comes to major purchases like a sofa, draperies and flooring, always opt for the best your budget will allow. Skimping on those items will cost you more in the long run. Look for bargains when shopping for trendy accessories.

DON'T criticize. Decorating is a process and mistakes can happen. When they do, look for creative solutions. Designers know mistakes can turn out to be pleasant surprises.


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Design Lesson

Design lesson: Back to basics