For as long as I can remember, I've loved decorating, designing and organizing spaces. I was the little girl who would go to my friends house and talk them into re-arranging their bedroom. I love that I have the opportunity to do what I'm passionate about. When I hear people say they wish they could have their dream job, I'm happy to say that I do!
I visited many homes and listened to many clients talk about their decorating dilemmas. In my experience, there are 6 key things to look for when considering whether your space is all that it can be. I've compiled a list of the most common decorating mistakes that I see. Whether you live in a sprawling mansion, a studio apartment or anything in between, these concepts can make a big difference in how you feel about your home.
Note: Most of the photos in this article were taken off of a website called "Ugly House Photos." Yes, there is such a thing! It doesn't mean the rooms are really ugly - the site uses them to show examples for improvements for Home Staging. They work great to prove my points though!
#1 Poor Lighting -
There are several things I could mention about this photo such as the over-sized furniture, but what bothers me most is the poor use of lighting. The overhead light is on and the lamp in the corner is off. Even if it was on it still wouldn't be sufficient for this room. Overhead lighting (except in a kitchen or dining room) can make a room feel cold and dreary. Since the light fixture reflects downward, it gives an awkward glow to the room and leaves corners dark. A good rule of thumb for adequate lighting in a room is to have no less than three lamps. A lamp should be placed next to each seating area and in dark corners. Try this experiment. Go into a room that has both overhead lighting and lamps. Turn on only the overhead light and note how the room looks and feels to you. Pay attention to the color it makes the walls. Then turn on only the lamps (you may need to bring a lamp in from another room to create enough light). Now look around and see if the room looks warmer and more inviting. The wall color will look different because the lamps reflect off of the walls and overhead lights cast shadows.
In the picture above, there's plenty of natural light during the day from the windows. With good sized lamps, the atmosphere in the evening will also be bright and inviting.
#2 Furniture layout -
Too often people line the walls with furniture to make the middle of the room open and spacious. In this picture, imagine sitting on one of these sofas to have a conversation with someone on the other one. You certainly couldn't talk about anything private! Consider how you use your room when deciding the layout of your furniture. Do you watch TV, visit, or both? Who uses it most - adults, kids, both? This will help you decide whether your furniture needs to face a focal point (like a TV) or be arranged in a way where you can primarily relax and have conversations. If kids play in the room, think about using a large sofa to separate the space and create a play area. You can view examples of adding a play area in a living room here, here and here.
Don't hide your fireplace! It's a natural focal point and most people love to view a roaring fire in the winter. There's always other ways to arrange your furniture. A problem might be that you have too much furniture or that your pieces are too large for the space. Consider scaling down to give you more options for layout and a larger feel to the room.
Pulling furniture closer together doesn't lose usable space - you actually create walkways behind the furniture instead of through it! The arrangement in the room above is a great example of how placing furniture closer together allows comfortable conversation while still allowing the fireplace to be the focal point.
When pictures are small, group them together to create a large gallery display.
#4 Paint -
Bold colors can look nice but without a lot of natural light they can appear dark and dreary. This same room would look much larger and more open with a lighter color that would warm the walls and not overpower them.
I found this picture and had to add it for fun. Remember when everyone sponge painted? I did some sponging myself but it's been out of style for some time now (80's!)
Consider how much natural light comes into the room. If the room only has one window, a dark color on the walls may not be the best choice. If you want to add a dark, bold color, think about painting one wall as an accent. Since color on walls reflects off of each other, painting only one wall won't darken the room. In the picture above, darker colors are combined with lighter ones for greater contrast.
#5 Window coverings -
I assume the curtain panels above are for "decorative" purposes only unless the homeowner unties the knots each night for more privacy. Looking at this great wall of windows, it's hard to notice anything except these knotted beauties! When deciding on window coverings, ask yourself whether they need to close in order to provide privacy. If they don't, then it doesn't matter if they span the whole window when closed. Add a drapery panel on each side of the window to add a splash of color or hang solid neutral ones to warm up the space.
I'm not fond of short drapery panels. Window coverings look more custom if they hang long enough to touch the floor. Anything shorter and they look like they were reused from a different home and not made for this space.
Simple window panels are used in this sweet nursery. Notice that they are mounted high on the wall and extend down to the floor. This makes the ceiling seem taller, and draws your eye upward. Another great trick for as much light as possible is to hang the rod where it extends further then the window so the panel covers only a couple of inches of the window. This will create the illusion that the window is larger then it actually is.
6. - Collections and Accessorizing -
Collections are great! They tell a lot about who a person is and what they enjoy. They can also take over and create a junky, cluttered feel. Remember the saying, "Too much of a good thing, isn't good?" If there's too much going on, no-one (yourself included) can really appreciate it all. On a positive note, I do like how the collections are grouped in the photo above. Often times people who collect items disperse them all around the room. Grouping makes a bigger statement and draws attention to them. Remember to have enough to showcase but not so much that it is cluttered. Besides, who wants to think about dusting those shelves?
This collection of white vases and dishes looks beautiful and interesting and are a great example of how well like-items can compliment each other.
If you're planning to make some changes in your home, look around to see if you can accomplish your desired look by following these 6 simple steps. Most of these ideas don't require much money, if any at all. They can, however, help your space feel new again!