Very recently, a friend of mine moved out of her city apartment into a spacious home in the suburbs, complete with white picket fences, play swings in the back, and all things that make for a great holiday card snapshot.
With a basket of store-bought muffins, I arrived at her abode on a Sunday afternoon for what was touted to be the housewarming party of the season. A keen observer, I took notice of what she had done with the place, and couldn't help but make mental notes of how I would do things differently. What makes me an expert, you may ask? Well, nothing really. Like any hopeful homeowner, I've been reading up interior magazines and talking to some friends in the biz because I'm looking to buy a place of my own soon, and the one comment that stuck with me is, "Work backwards. We all have a long list of things we like, so it's easy to lose sight and turn your house into a hoarding ground."
Here's what that means in practice:
Take A Step Back & Review
The most important thing you need to do is stop and give your surroundings a good look. You could live in a four-bedroom house or one-room apartment, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you make the most of the space you have.
Confined to a small space? You really don’t need too much furniture and should perhaps opt for functional units, lightweight pieces, and ones that lay low and close to the ground to keep the eye level clear of clutter. On the other hand, if you have a spacious living room, strategically placed lamps, armchairs and coffee tables might work in your favor and lend character to the big empty area.
The idea is to never make impulse purchases. Stand at the door and visualize everything you want to put in the room. Done? Now, take three things out and reasses. Still works, and maybe even looks better, doesn't it?
Color It In
According to color authority Pantone, the colors of 2016 are Rose Quartz (pale pink) and Serenity (baby blue). If you choose to comply with the trends, buy decor accessories and statement pieces that work with these colors; just remember, trends are short-lived so be prepared for a do-over.
A safer way is to first take stock of the furniture and decor you want to put in a room, and then pick the wall color you think will help tie it all together. It's about aesthetic appeal:
- Beiges and whites may appear boring, but with shades of bronze and gold in different textures, they can create a royal space that looks sophisticated and chic.
- Painting one wall a bright color has for long been trending, but in smaller apartments, they minimize depth of field and make the space look cramped.
- A myriad of colors work well for rooms with cultural themes, and also in play spaces because they enliven your senses and uplift the mood.
- Deeper tones and customized hues in a matte finish are a great way of lending the illusion of luxury to a room.
- Earthy browns are better suited for areas that naturally extend into the outside surroundings (balconies, porches, patios), because they don't spoil easy and seamlessly vibe with green scapes and blue skies.
The Less Is More Approach
You need to make the most of what you have—whether it's with the decor pieces you've accumulated over the years, knick-knacks with fond memories, or accesories that you yourself fancy. Remember, there isn't space for everything unless you have a huge house. So first things first, don't buy more decor accessories if you're already loaded with old ones.
Secondly, read the space you are in. Hardwood floors are too pretty to be covered by rugs. A chandelier may be too much (and too tacky) for a room with low ceilings. Throw pillows are out of place on sofas with small laps. And yes, you love your family but overdoing a wall or side tables with pictures is really unnecessary and visually jarring. Love collecting art? Maybe a wall painting is better than a 3ft tribal statue. Get the drift?
Ambitiously White & Overwhelmingly Inspired?
Oh, so pretty, are the all-white rooms in editorial pages, but let's get real. If you've got kids, are even a little clumsy, hope to entertain often, or use your living room as a bedroom on too many days then the ambitiously white statement sofa or decor needs to go. The amount you'll be paying for professional cleaning will far surpass the money you've spent on buying the pieces.
This voice of reason holds true for all sources of inspiration, be it a decor magazine, your Pinterest board, a friend's home, or even a mock set-up you see in a furniture store. Don't get lost in translation and when setting up your room, assess how it vibes with who you are as a person, your habits, your space, other occupants and users, and your budget, of course.