How to Make the Most
of What You've Got
you don't have the time or money to hire an interior decorator to redo
your whole home, or even one room. At the same time, you're not completely
comfortable with the way your home looks. You need help making the most
of what you've already got.
first step is to get some graph paper, measure your rooms and graph
them. Remember to include doors, windows, electric outlets, phone jacks
and cable outlets, fireplaces, radiators or heat vents and other permanent
fixtures that affect where you place your furniture. All you need to
do this is a ruler, pencil, eraser and calculator. The next step is
to graph your furniture and cut it out. This is a big job, but it's
a valuable exercise. It helps you to rearrange furniture now, without
heavy lifting. It's immensely valuable if you move - you'll be able
to tell the movers exactly where everything goes, and you'll know that
everything fits. And it only has to be done once. Once you've done this,
you can rearrange your furniture in your graphed rooms in any number
of combinations. Be creative - move items from room to room and mix
things up. Try combinations even if you don't think they'll work. You
will be amazed at the creative ways you can improve your living space
with this method alone. Pay attention to door swings and to walkway
space. So often we put furniture in traditional arrangements, or we
do it the way we've always done it. This step also helps you to figure
out if you need new pieces, or conversely, if you have too many pieces
of furniture. Once you've got a combination you like, move your furniture
into the new locations.
your furniture is where you want it. Does it make you happy, or does
it feel like it still needs work? This is a good time to figure out
what decorating styles you like. Take the time to flip through some
architectural and decorating magazines at the library. Get a sense of
what appeals to you. Don't worry about what you can afford, since most
styles can be replicated at different price levels. At any rate, you
probably have items that already fit in with the styles you like.
like to make a pitch here to consider a rustic decorating style. I'm
not talking about "country kitchen" with lots of ducks and
geese and gingham all over. Imagine instead a well-appointed cabin in
the woods - warm light, bright colors, comfort. Think of pine plank
floors and Navajo rugs thrown over the rafters (though you need neither
to achieve the effect). Some of the advantages of a rustic decor are:
- It can be quite inexpensive to have the real thing. You
can buy real Americana less expensively than you can authentically
decorate in almost any other style
- Rustic is indestructible. That sturdy round oak kitchen
table looks better if it's lovingly worn. Consequently, rustic is
convenient if you have children.
- Rustic is low maintenance - good if you happen to let the
cleaning slide every so often. Rag rugs and natural, low gloss wood
surfaces don't show every handprint.
- To my mind, rustic is a very comfortable and comforting
style. No one will be afraid to sit in your chairs. You won't have
to cordon off entire rooms in your home "for guests only".
Rustic pieces are sturdy and built to last.
- Rustic is informal. Everything doesn't match, making it
easier to incorporate your current furniture and any new random finds
- A rustic interior lends itself to simple living. Think of
- Rustic works with all color preferences. You can make it
as neutral or colorful, dark or bright as you like. Its not going
out of style anytime soon. It's traditional without being stuffy,
and you won't find yourself pitching that Mission chair in two years
because it looks dated.
the other hand, I can't make you love rustic interiors if you don't
already have an affinity for them. I'm just making a suggestion.
With a Critical Eye
you know what you like, I want you to go through your home and look
at your furniture and decoration more critically. Is it really you?
Do you like the item? Is it doing what it's there to do? If you don't
like the item, can it be salvaged through reupholstering, refinishing
or painting? Take an especially careful look at small items and fabrics.
These are two things that can quickly and inexpensively change the way
a room looks. Wastebaskets, pictures, lamps and other small items can
be easily and inexpensively changed. Furniture can be reupholstered
and you can significantly alter the mood of the room using the color
and style in curtains, throw rugs, cushions, pillows, dish towels and
other linens, bedspreads, shower curtains or afghans.
removing all of the small and decorative items in a room (including
plants) and bring them back one by one. Sometimes the lack of clutter
will give you a new perspective.
is often overlooked when you're considering how to improve the look
of your home. You don't want your home to feel like an airport, but
one sixty-watt bulb is not going to suffice unless it's in a closet.
Make sure there is warm, bright light in the spaces you work and in
spaces where people congregate naturally (or where you want them to
gather). Halogen lighting can now be purchased very inexpensively, and
can change the whole look of a room. And don't forget to direct some
light toward the beautiful objects in your home!
Few Final Tips
- Whenever you buy a new piece of furniture, go for low-maintenance.
This makes it easier to keep your home feeling well-organized and
- Remember to keep a few "halfway house" storage
areas around your home. A basket here and there and a shelf on a bookshelf
reserved for paper clutter really help keep things looking neat.
- Don't put too many precious objects in one space - it diminishes
the value of each of them. Simpler is better! Less is more! The exception
to this rule is when you have a collection of small items, in which
case they often look better grouped together in one place.