Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Living Rich in a Readymade World

Copyright 2006 Melissa Galt

These days decorating doesn’t have to be about custom design. It can be about where to find it now and how to make it work for you.  There is such a wealth of readymade elements both at retailers, online, and in mail order catalogues. You can do it yourself or get the knowledge and expertise of a professional decorator, transforming your house into a home without ever leaving your chair. Best of all you can have it all immediately. No waiting, no anticipation, just take it home today.  The trick is in knowing what to buy and how to make it not look like everyone else’s.  Read on for the real scoop on living rich in a readymade world.

Firstly, it’s not what you have that gives you style, but what you do with it that really counts.  Using the big box retailers for decorating is a real time saver, but it's up to you to personalize.  Certainly photo frames are easy to make yours. Consider theming the groupings; a family wall is usually a real favorite. Another option is to do a travel wall with collage matting so you can display multiple photos within one frame. You can have one frame dedicated to each trip.  You can also do groupings of individual frames united by a theme.  Think about forming a collection or two, displaying the frames en masse for greatest effect.

Layer your rooms to create maximum character. Start with the floor adding rugs, even over wall to wall carpet. Rugs are artwork for the floor and anchor furniture arrangements. To add depth to your upholstery, layer pillows and the occasional throw for softness. On your tables be sure to include practical ideas like a coasters along with room for a book or even a plate of food.  (I always make sure there is enough space on the coffee table to put up your feet.  Life is about comfort!) Lamps are another opportunity to build layers and can really add personality and punch.  Don’t match them unless you have matching tables (boring and formal).  Have fun with the variety of shapes and sizes available, not to mention the host of shade variations, including beaded or feathered. Once you’ve got the basics of rugs, upholstery, tables, and lamps you are ready to add drapery. This is often an overlooked element and really necessary to finish a room.  Whether your goal is to frame the view, control light or gain privacy, draperies are important in bringing softness and color vertically in a room. Last but not least are the artwork and accessories. Find pieces you really enjoy rather than just adding elements to take up space. Remember it’s your home, so make it count.

Go for comfort, not just good looks! I know you saw that really cool chair in that catalogue and had to have it, only to find that no one, including you, will sit in it, because it is woefully uncomfortable. Remember it needs to function as well as look good.  Upholstery in particular is for sitting on, not looking at, so be sure you either are familiar with the maker or can sit test it. Tables need to be the right height. For a coffee table 17-18” is usually optimal, end tables need to be at a comfortable height coming from the arm of the seating piece next to it. Too low and they are awkward.  Too high and you’ll knock things over when you reach. On many elements you can check them out on approval before making a decision, which is very helpful because seeing them in context is important. This is often the case with rugs, lamps, artwork, and even some tables.

Little changes make a big difference.  Consider changing the hardware on your kitchen cabinets. It is a seemingly little change that has a big impact.  Changing a light fixture over a breakfast table can make a dramatic and often very cost effective improvement to a room. Save your old chandelier to put back up when you sell your house so that you can take your favorite light fixture with you. This stretches your decorating dollar and becomes a flexible and lasting investment.  Changing plate glass mirrors to framed mirrors also really finishes off a bathroom.  (Do any of us really want to see ourselves reflected so much anyway?)

To avoid boredom with your interiors change your accents with the season.  Think hot colors for the winter and fall months with reds, oranges, golds and persimmons.  For the summer and spring try cool blues, fresh greens, crisp whites and soothing lavenders. By changing out your pillows, an art piece or two, a couple of accents or even a rug, you can transform and re-energize a room.

Need to add life to your spaces?  Add greenery.  Whether you've got a green thumb or do better with silk plants, greenery in every room really brings the room to life. This isn't a license to run wild with flowers, though.  Absolutely no plastic and no dried arrangements please (they look dead and are!).  Buying good silks and taking care of them is easy and cost effective. They will last indefinitely and require only a once a month spritz of floral cleaner (no wiping, it dissolves dust on contact.) Real plants need a good deal more care, and you have to consider light, temperature, and water needs. Living plants are often not ideal for those that travel frequently or have pets who tend to dig in the soil or bite the leaves.

Readymade doesn’t necessarily mean cheap.  Consider your sources, and instead of being locked into bargain basement and everyman looks, try the more exclusive catalogues like Horchow, Gumps, Frontgate and Chambers. Whatever you can imagine is likely already there for the ordering.  Certainly there are also many online sites with goods from all over the world.  You can purchase mementos from trips you haven’t even yet taken.

Perhaps you haven’t a clue about decorating or don’t have the time or interest to make this transformation a reality.  That’s alright. All you need to do is know who to call to make it happen.  Even if you aren't going custom it still makes sense to call in a professional decorator or designer and have them work with you to create a master plan to avoid expensive mistakes and lost time in returns.  Often if you explain you want it all immediately and are willing to go with off the rack goods, readymade couture for the home, they will work with you exclusively on that basis.

Make a road map of the changes and improvements you want to make in each room. This can be a list by room or even a sketch if you are feeling artistic. Keep a file by room of favorite finds in catalogues and magazines. (Be sure to look up the resource in the back of the publication.)  Bookmark favorite online sites for quick and easy future reference.

Lastly, plan a celebration, a housewarming for each room or the whole house. This gives you added incentive to get the project off the ground and move forward. Remember too that people are coming to your house to visit you, not your stuff, so relax and let them bring something to contribute.  Consider registering at some of your favorite retailers for some finishing touches. This sure beats getting bath goodies or another tie that you really won’t use!

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