Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - September 27, 2013

A Fresh Look

Ten common decorating errors and how to avoid them

by Kit Davey

Decorating errors can easily blemish the charm of a lovely room. By recognizing these errors and using your creativity you can transform any room in your home from "not quite it" to "just right."

Here are 10 common decorating errors and tips for avoiding them:

Too much clutter. When every surface is covered with knickknacks the eye bounces from object to object and can't find visual peace. Try to reserve a special area in your home for clutter. Use your den to display family memorabilia; pick one drawer in the kitchen for papers, recipes, etc.; put an etagere in the living room and exile all porcelain pieces or collections to it. Leave the remaining surfaces as clutter-free as possible. Your home will look more open and elegant.

Too many colors or not enough color. When the eye encounters a rainbow of colors it can be distracting and inharmonious. Try to keep the major furnishings in neutrals and use your accessories to create splashes of color. Balance the color in the room by placing items in each of the planes you can see from each part of the room. Balancing the color will make your eye move fluidly across the room.

In contrast, a monochromatic color scheme can be dull and oppressive. Make a piece of artwork in bold colors the focal point of the room. Add unexpected color by putting a contrasting pillow on a couch or a bowl of bright fruit on a table, or place a colorful placemat under a potted plant.

Lining up art. A series of two-dimensional art pieces placed too close together, too far apart, too high or lined up in a row detracts from the art and appears monotonous. Try grouping pieces in a triangle or in odd numbered groupings. Group several pieces with the same theme together and place a larger, unrelated piece a little further away. Remember to place pictures at a height so that they can be viewed while seated.

Too many styles. Some people can pull off the eclectic look, but it usually appears jumbled. If you want to mix styles, try to keep one element constant in all of them: the same wood, same color, same scale or same style. If you can't afford to buy new pieces to do this, remove the most inappropriate piece, or conceal it with a throw or tablecloth that ties it in with the other pieces.

Worn out furnishings. After living in the same home for years we stop seeing the obvious wear-and-tear on our furniture. If you can't discard an old piece, conceal it by placing it in an obscure part of the room. Conceal stains or worn spots with pillows, antique doilies or a soft lap blanket. Consider slipcovering or reupholstering, if your budget allows.

Attachment to a piece that is inappropriate for the room. We all have a bowling trophy we won in third grade or the chair Aunt Martha presented as a wedding gift. These things can be moved to a less prominent part of the house, stored or given to charity.

No personality. Have you ever walked into a beautifully decorated room that felt impersonal? A room like this needs a personal touch. Mount your old trumpet or a Claxton guitar on the wall. Display an exceptional piece of art done by a family member (only one!). Display a unique collection of seashells, lunch boxes, hats or keys on the wall. Stack up all your coffee-table books and use them as an end table. Real antiques or heirlooms can add a nice feel to a "Bruner's ad"-type home.

Lining furniture against the walls. This may create more space in the middle of a room but tends to give a dance-hall look. Try angling a chair in the corner of the room. A large sofa can be placed at a slight angle into the room as well. Break up the boxy look of a living room by placing the sofa almost in the middle of the room with its back toward the entryway and a sofa table behind it. Instead of placing the desk against the wall of your den, have it facing the door, like a receptionist's in an office.

Separating collections. A collection has far greater impact when it is intact. Put your old buttons in a bowl on the coffee table so your guests can run their fingers through them. Cluster or mount your spoons or political buttons on one wall in the den. Put all your brass items together on one shelf. Place your travel memorabilia next to a globe in a corner of the living room. Reserve a whole bookshelf for your demitasse collection.

Poor lighting. It's annoying to be unable to see a lovely room or to be blasted by an interrogation-like spotlight. Don't rely on standard ceiling lights to provide all your needs. Make sure that you have adequate soft light that fills the room with a warm, diffuse glow. Wall sconces are great for this. One or two floor or table lamps can also provide adequate ambient light.

Floor or table lamps can also serve as task lighting by being placed near a reading chair or sofa. Don't use glaring track/spotlights for ambient or task purposes. They are ideal for highlighting a sculpture piece, wall art or hallway. Have your electrician install a dimmer switch so you can modulate the intensity of the light.

Try to spot some of these decorating challenges in your home. And have fun using

your creativity to deal with them!

Kit Davey specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.

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