Home Decorating For Dummies
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Home decorating draws on your creative side, as well as your inner engineer. Whether you dabble in home decorating or make it a career, you get to play with color, texture, and pattern, in addition to tape measures, graph paper, and paint. Finding the furniture you want is important, and so is doing the planning that makes your decorating a delight.

Tools a home decorator should take to assignments

As a home decorator, you never know when you’ll need to create some magic. Take a tip from professional home decorators: Pack a portable carry-all filled with all the must-haves of the trade — suggestions are in the following list — and you’ll have decorating magic to go!

Glue gun: Use this for a variety of decorating and
crafts projects.
Pins: Keep straight pins and safety pins for draping and
Hammer: Choose one that lets you hammer in nails and pry
them up, too. Pick a size that fits comfortably in your hand.
Plate hangers: Look for these in different sizes for
both small and large plates.
Magic Hem: Iron-on Magic Hem creates seams without
sewing. It’s available at grocery stores and craft or sewing
Screwdriver set: Pick a pack that includes several sizes
of both standard and Phillips head (cross-shaped head)
screwdrivers. Don’t use the wrong size or style driver —
you’ll destroy the screw.
Measuring tape: A 25-foot retractable steel tape works
Screws: Choose a variety pack of styles and sizes.
Nail kit: Look for a set that includes a variety of
sizes for various jobs. Or assemble your own, including fine nails,
long nails, short nails, and finishing nails.
Tool kit, tackle box, bucket, or basket: Use this for
storing your gear. Keep it handy for quick fix-its and instant
Notebook: Pick one that has unlined sheets (for
sketching and note-taking) and is small enough to fit inside your
tool kit.
Velcro: This comes in handy for making items such as
easy-to-remove slipcovers.
Picture hangers: Use these to make hanging art
Wire: Use wire for hanging, fixing, and holding

Quick-start home decorating tips

You can’t wait to get started on your home decorating project, but taking a few minutes beforehand can save you time, money, and aggravation down the road. Use the tips in the following list to ensure that your home decorating projects run smoothly:

  • Fix your budget! Spend no more than what you have.

  • Formulate an action plan. Establish goals. Set priorities. Decide what room or rooms you want finished and in what order. Decorating goes faster when you have a plan.

  • Scope out the job. Create a floor plan using a computer-aided program or draw one by hand on graph paper.

  • Discover your personal style. Are you Contemporary or Traditional? Knowing your style eliminates confusion (and wasted time) by steering you toward the best choices.

  • Shop! Pick stores that stock a large selection for quick delivery or carrying home. Shop by mail. Surf the Internet for information on prices and products from the comfort of your home.

  • Do first things first. Have all carpentry and wiring performed before you cover your walls and floors. Decorate the ceiling, walls, and floor before you bring in furniture.

  • Buy major pieces of furniture first and accessories last.

  • Spice up your decor with accessories galore! Pick pieces with personal meaning.

Furniture facts

A large part, literally, of your home decorating scheme is the furniture that populates the room(s). The following list offers definitions and tips to help you choose these large (and often large-ticket) items:

  • Furniture is marketed in three distinct price ranges: budget (affordable), moderate, and expensive.

  • To the trade means that only a decorator or designer can purchase these exclusive home furnishings.

  • Fully-assembled (or pre-assembled) furniture is ready to use right out of the crate.

  • RTA (ready-to-assemble) and KD (knock down) furniture come unassembled in flat boxes and must be put together by the buyer. RTA and KD items cost less than fully-assembled furniture.

  • Case goods are cabinets, tables, or any piece of furniture that has no upholstery.

  • Upholstered furniture is any furniture that is covered with upholstery, such as sofas and lounge chairs.

  • The manufacturer’s brochures and hang-tags provide information on whether furniture is fireproof or fire-retardant.

  • Quality furniture features good materials, careful construction techniques, and durable finishes.

Handy measurements for home decorating

Decorating your home requires lots of measurements. You need to know whether furniture will fit where you want it, how wide and long windows are for window treatments, and how much paint you need. Use the tips in the following list to help you decide what you need to measure and how to calculate quantities:

  • Find your room’s overall square footage by multiplying the room’s length by its width and squaring it (this is the area). You need this handy number for determining if a piece of furniture will fit in the room and for estimating quantities and prices.

  • Figure the amount of tile you need by dividing the width of the floor by the width of the tile (horizontal row) and the length of the floor by the height of the tile (vertical row). Buy up to 10 percent more tiles than you need, to allow for breakage and error.

  • Determine how many gallons of paint you need in order to paint a ceiling by measuring your floor’s length and width, multiplying them, and then squaring the numbers. Divide this number by the spreading rate (see the paint can for this figure).

  • Establish how many gallons of paint you need for walls by adding the areas of the ceiling and walls. Divide this figure by the spreading rate (located on the can). If you’re going from light to dark, double the amount (for a second coat). If the surface is porous, you may need 25 to 50 percent more paint — ask your store’s paint pro for advice.

  • Measure the wall from floor to ceiling to determine wall space.

  • Average ceilings are about 8 feet high. Tall ceilings range from 10 to 12 feet or more. Low ceilings are anything under 8 feet. Use corrective decorating techniques by using the right color, texture, or pattern to make the most of space.

  • Be sure to add walk-around and breathing space between pieces of furniture to avoid clutter. Between chairs and sofas in seating groups, allow about 2 to 5 feet. Add up to a foot around your bed for bed-dressing and sheet changing. Leave 4 to 5 feet of clear walking space for traffic flow through rooms.

Using color, pattern, and texture

Color, pattern, and texture are the stylistic building blocks of your home decorating palette. You use these three elements to create the style, mood, and feel of each room in your home.

Creating with color

  • Paint small spaces in whispers of a cool, light color.

  • Cover big spaces in a cozy, warm, confident color.

  • Light, cool colors make walls seem to fade away into the distance, making rooms seem spacious.

  • Dark, warm colors make walls seem to come closer.

  • For the best color schemes, pick neutral colors that you’ll never grow tired of.

  • Distribute colors naturally, with dark colors on the floor, medium colors on the walls, and light colors on the ceiling. Use the law of chromatic distribution:

    1. Put neutral colors on large surfaces or objects, such as the floor and sofa.

    2. Use stronger shades in a smaller amount on smaller spaces or items, such as a short wall or a chair.

    3. Employ the strongest accent color in the smallest spaces and places.

    4. Scatter accent color around the room to make an impact.

Playing with pattern

  • Mix patterns such as checks with florals or large-scaled patterns with small-scaled patterns.

  • Not sure when enough is enough? Play it safe! Use three different patterns that contrast in scale but relate in color.

  • More is more when you confidently mix up to five patterns. To do so, let one large-scaled pattern dominate over one medium-scaled floral and another geometric, and toss in two small-scaled accent patterns (your choice of floral or geometric). Make sure the colors in the large-scaled pattern are repeated in all the others.

  • Place pattern everywhere! Put the same pattern on the walls, windows, and furnishings.

Toying with texture

  • Traditional rooms look best in refined, smooth textures.

  • Contemporary spaces need more textural interest.

  • Feminine rooms need elegant and subtle textures.

  • Masculine decor calls for nubby, tweedy, and rugged texture.

  • The more neutrally colored the room, the more important texture becomes.

  • Heavy textures “eat” space, so use them only in large or cozy rooms.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

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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