In the few years that I’ve spent in and out of homes in the DC area, I’ve encountered a lot of the same issues and concerns from clients. Some are headaches, and others are really easy fixes. Here are a few of the simpler issues that people often deal with when decorating, and how to combat them cheaply and painlessly.
If you’re overwhelmed with colors learn a little bit about them, especially in terms of warm versus cool hues. There’s no rule that you need to match your art to your rug to your draperies, but a red sofa that’s more like red-orange next to a red wall that’s more of a dark magenta isn’t going to look coordinated or good. Pick up a paint fan and flip through it, noticing subtle differences. Or grab some watercolors and mix them yourself; it’s a lot more clear WHY that blue looks out of place when you see what’s it made of…and that it isn’t all just blue pigment.
Don’t use flat paint. Just don’t. Painters like it because it covers easily, cheaply, and with fewer coats. But it shows every single fingerprint, scrape, and oil spot…and unlike eggshell or semigloss paint, you can’t just wipe the flaws away. Unless you’re one of those people who lives alone and is home only two hours a day, I guarantee you won’t be happy with a flat finish.
Lighting is often overlooked but it’s actually a huge factor in how you feel when you’re in a space. If you’re not in the market for installing better lighting or purchasing expensive fixtures the best thing you can do is install dimmers. They’re not expensive and you can usually do it yourself. Not only will it feel cozier and fancier, but dimming your lights will cut your energy bill.
For all of your row house and condo dwellers: dark colors aren’t off limits at all. Your space is what it is, and if it’s small there’s really no reason not to embrace that. Small is comfortable, intimate, and warm. So you want to paint it a deep eggplant but are worried that will close up the walls? Balance with some light colored furniture and a neutral rug and be on your way. Think that you can only fit a sofa and a chair in your living area? Try two smaller sofas facing each other for a great conversation arrangement that maximizes space. You can do it just like those folks in the burbs do, but with smaller pieces.
If you are planning to have children in the future, you actually don’t need to avoid all things glass and white and expensive. It’s entirely possible to make informed choices and take precautionary measures with your beloved pieces, and you’ll end up a lot more satisfied in the long run. Three of my favorite magic materials are acrylic, leather, and microfiber (and microfiber is much more interesting than it used to be…check out Room and Board’s options).
If you’re going to end up consulting a decorator or designer, don’t paint first unless you’re willing to potentially repaint or limit your options. We appreciate the ambition, but it’s not very helpful toward the end goal.
Hopefully these are useful tips to you. If you remember nothing else, just stay away from flat paint!