Home Decorating For Dummies
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Just what accessories do you really need? Accessories that have a function have a competitive edge. For example, pillows can cushion as well as add color and pattern. An ego wall of your diplomas and awards in your home office lets your clients know how accomplished and professional you are. Here are some other possibilities:

  • Pillows: Pillows have become a major decorating tool because they’re an easy source of color and pattern. You can find them covered in every conceivable fabric, color, pattern, and shape, to suit any decor.

  • Mirrors: Place a mirror where you want to see your own reflection, create an interesting view or strong focal point, or light up a dark area. Regardless, make sure it reflects something interesting. Selecting framed mirrors that echo the shape of other furniture is always a safe bet.

  • Colored glassware: Colored glassware, popular in Victorian times, adds excitement to table settings that use colored goblets and serving pieces. Venetian or Murano glass, blown in exciting color combinations and extraordinary shapes, looks beautiful in Traditional and Contemporary decor. Little wonder that it’s more popular than ever, and not just for use at the table.

  • Stained glass: Old stained glass windows have been favorite decorative accessories for years. If they’re in good shape, these old windows can easily be hung from hooks inside an existing window. Another way to display a stained glass window is to put it inside a custom-made back-lit frame. You can then hang it in any room or space where everyone can admire it.

  • Ceramics: Ceramics is a general-category name for fired-clay decorative objects (such as vases and ashtrays) and functional objects (including dinnerware). Ceramic dinnerware is made from a variety of ceramic or fired-clay materials. Because of distinctive differences in quality and price, it’s good to know the names of specific kinds of ceramic materials used for dinnerware (and some decorative objects).

    When you buy functional ceramic items — especially glazed and painted pottery and glass — check to see whether they’re safe to use for eating and drinking and that you can clean them in your dishwasher.

  • Blooming beauty: Nothing is more decorative than flowers — fresh when they’re available and advisable. Show off both silk and dried flowers out of season.

  • Collections: Collectors eager to show off their spoils have led the way in using collections of all sorts as decorations. Old toys, rusted iron farm objects, baskets, pottery, sculpture, thimbles, dolls, doll houses, samplers, matchbooks, antique evening purses — the list of possibilities is endless.

  • Quilts: Collectible textiles in the form of quilts, tapestries, and handcrafted area rugs make impressive wall hangings. They’re especially good for use in rooms with cathedral ceilings and in stairwells where large pieces are needed to fill two-story wall spaces.

  • Throws: Throws, afghans, and giant shawls, kept handy as cover-ups during a quick snooze on the sofa or to snuggle in while you watch TV, are now decorative mainstays. Fortunately, throws and afghans are readily available in a growing variety of fabrics, including wool, synthetics, and woven cotton. Throws are instant decorating at its best.

  • Screens: Select a screen that is compatible with your furniture style and the mood of your room. An undulating screen with a sculptural Contemporary look, for example, doesn’t mix well with Traditional furniture.

  • Hardware: Add a smashing bit of style with decorative hardware. Metals — wrought iron, antique and hammered bronze, brass, gold, silver, pewter, and aluminum — all have distinct characteristics that lend themselves to designs of particular styles and periods. Select the ones that add to your plan.

  • Found objects: Think outside the box; consider new ways to use old things. For example, check your attics for old suitcases that you can stack and use as tables, as well as for trunks that can double as coffee tables. Drums no longer in use as musical instruments may strike just the right note as end tables in the den. Children’s wooden toys outgrown and cast aside may be perfect for the mantel in the den or great room.


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Katharine Kaye McMillan, former senior editor of a New York City-based national magazine, is a writer whose work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers. She is a contributing writer to internationally circulated Florida Design Magazine. She is the co-author of several books on decorating and design, including Sun Country Style, which is the basis for licensed signature collections of furniture and accessories by three leading American manufacturers and importers. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, she holds a masters degree in psychology and is a doctoral student in psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

Patricia Hart McMillan is a nationally known interior designer, whose interior design work for private clients, designer showcases, and corporations has appeared in publications worldwide, including the New York Times and USA Today. Known as a trend spotter and for clearly articulated views on design, she is quoted frequently and extensively in both trade and consumer publications. She a ppears on TV and talk radio. A prolific writer, she is coauthor and author of seven books on interior design and decoration, with Sun Country Style signature collections of furniture based on two books. She has taught decorating courses at several colleges and conducted numerous seminars across the U.S. She is decorating editor for Christian Woman Magazine and reports on design trends for The Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She has been editor-in-chief of two publications and was head of a New York City-based public relations firm representing some of the most prestigious names in home furnishing and building products. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in art history (with an emphasis in architecture), from the State University of New York (New Paltz). She was awarded a certificate from The New York School of Interior Design.

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