Before the mountain house closes, this is probably the best time for me to explain my decorating philosophy. Once the real work on the house begins, I will describe my design choices (i.e., paint colors, etc.) and why I made them; but by then, you will understand the underlying principles upon which those decisions were based.
Great design doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Some of my favorite furniture and accessory pieces have come from consignment shops..and Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and Salvation Army retail stores! If a piece has classic lines, who cares where it came from? For example: In my foyer I had a Queen Anne style console table; it was no longer compatible with the rest of our décor, and most importantly, it provided no storage (a prerequisite in a house with only 2 closets!) I sold it at a consignment shop, where I also found a table in the famous “bargain room in the back”. It was marked down to $37 and was pretty depressing, with a wood-look plastic laminate top, and Early-American hardware. It did, however, have several things going for it: the remainder of the table was wood, it had 2 drawers, and also a lower shelf that would accommodate baskets for even more storage. Sold!
Here’s what I did to transform the table. First, I grabbed my iron, turned off the steam, and dialed it to a cotton/linen setting (you may have to play with the correct heat setting on your iron to find the one that works best). I ran the iron over the plastic laminate top, to loosen the glue that was used to adhere it to the wood, using slow, even motions. When it started to lift, I was able pry it off in chunks. This is not a job for the impatient, but it definitely doesn’t require special skill or strength! I then sanded the table, painted it, and polyurethaned the piece. The final touch was new hardware. Below are the results:
Color is essential; it sets a mood and a tone. My favorite quote from a decorating source is: “There are moments when plain white walls might seem a relief. Those moments should be discouraged.” All-white décor is antiseptic, and reminiscent of hospitals. But have you noticed that even hospitals rooms sport color now, because not doing so would make the patients even more depressed?
White is brilliant for trim, however. It highlights a room’s special architectural features like no other color (er, non-color?) can.
Shop at home. Before spending money on new furniture, accessories, or wall art, try this trick. If you have moved lately, you may have noticed that your stuff looks different, often better, in a new setting. That’s because items that have been in the same place for too long no longer catch your attention.
Sometimes the trick is to pretend you are moving, by emptying a room or rooms, and piling all of the contents of that room(s) in another area. Next go shopping from that “store” of stuff, pretending you are just seeing it for the first time. I think you’ll gain a new appreciation for your belongings, and see them in a new way.
At the same time, you can eliminate that which you no longer like, or that doesn’t serve a purpose in your décor. Haul those unwanted item so a consignment shop. Be assured that what seems old and tired in your space, is just what someone else is looking for in theirs! Plus, doing so will earn you more money to spend on new stuff, guilt-free!
Paint fixes a multitude of sins. A new coat of paint on your walls will give them a new lease on life; it will make everything look and smell new. And it’s inexpensive. Some people fear paint: “What if I hate the color???” It’s simple: buy some more paint and paint over it! Nowadays, it’s hard to make a mistake with color, because most paint companies allow you to purchase generous paint samples, before committing to gallons. When choosing a color from a paint chip, look at the chip in different kinds of light (including artificial) in the room you want to paint. Many colors take on different tones, depending on time of day and type of light. Also, I strongly recommend using a satin or eggshell finish on walls. It makes them so much more durable (i.e., for scrubbings with a “magic eraser pad”), and gives the walls more depth than a flat finish.
To my daughter’s chagrin, I believe that everything can, and many things should, be painted! Don’t get me wrong. I love wood. The mountain home has a lot of wood (trim, many walls, doors, and even ceilings!) which will add an additional challenge when selecting wall colors (but that will be the subject of a future blog). I just think that painted pieces add interest when used with wood furniture, and breaks up the same-ness of a room’s landscape. Also, perfectly fine wood furniture that is the wrong tone should be painted instead of tossed. My Dad has a console table that we plan on using in the mountain house. I like the style, but not the finish on the wood, so my plan is to paint it black. (That might not go over so well with him; I may need to ease him into the idea!)
Below is a picture of a mahogany china cabinet that I bought at my favorite consignment shop. It is made of mahogany, but did not have the wonderful reddish black finish that some of my other mahogany pieces have. It was, in fact, dingy brown. So I painted and glazed it to match my second-hand dining room chairs and server; I think the results are remarkable!
Decorate for who you are and the way you live. This is the most important subject of all. If you have 3 children and 2 dogs*, you are going to make different decorating choices than those of a childless or empty-nester couple with no pets. “Dogs are people, too”, and their needs and habits must be considered when you buy a sofa, or choose floor coverings. White sofas and kids don’t mix, even if they are slipcovered! There are so many fabrics (like microfibers) available now that hold up to heavy usage, are easily cleaned, and always look good. It may cost a little more up front, but paying for those fabrics, and the optional stain prevention treatments offered at time of sale, by furniture stores like Haverty’s, will more than pay for themselves in the future.
Ultimately, your goal should be to fashion a style for your home that looks good most of the time, and doesn’t curtail the activities of those that reside within its walls. Most of us would say we strive for a sort of casual, comfortable, everday elegance, and with some planning and forethought, that is certainly do-able on every budget, and for every family composition.
Most importantly, decorate in a way that reflects who you are. Decorating to impress is a sure-fire way to create a stunning house that will never feel like home. Avoid buying things that are so rare or expensive that you will constantly worry about their survival. Don’t fester over every spill, stain, or broken piece. Nothing is irreplaceable. If you find yourself constantly worrying about your stuff, you’ll totally miss out on the reasons for having a home.
*Coming up next, my blog entry “Life with Dogs”, which details strategies for coping with muddy paws. Sorry…I haven’t found a way to deal with shedding fur. :>(