Home Decorating For Dummies
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As you begin your interior design project, it can help you to create a style board to craft your color scheme and collect samples of fabrics, colors, and inspiring photographs. Arrange these on a large sheet of white paper or poster board. Professional designers use these to show clients how the room might look.


Collect your color and material swatches from actual samples. You have several options when obtaining samples from retailers:

  • Some samples (laminate countertops, paint, and so on) are free. You may have to purchase others.

  • Some retailers allow you to check out samples as long as you return them. They may request a deposit. Many retailers credit deposits to your account when you buy.

  • Brochures, magazine pictures, or even colored slips of paper (available from art stores) work well. Having actual carpet, paint, and fabric swatches to place together to form relationships is the best option, but pictures will do in a pinch.

If you use foamcore or poster board for your style board, attach your photos, swatches, and so on so that they can be easily removed. You can then reuse your boards.

The larger the sample, the better. Big samples give you a truer idea of how a color will look when it’s covering an expanse of wall, floor, or furniture.

Evaluate your completed plan under the same lighting conditions that you’ll be using in your decorated room. Your finished room should look as first-class as (and probably even better than) your style boards.

As you work with various color schemes, keep these tricks in mind:

  • To make a room look bigger, use light, cool colors to create an atmospheric look. Paint all surfaces the same color. Match the upholstery to the floor. Use contrasting textures to add interest.

  • To make an average-sized room seem cozier, use medium-tone, warm neutrals. Decorative wall features like wainscoting (wood paneling that comes about halfway up the wall) or paneling make great accents. Use contrasting paint for paneling, and either match or contrast the molding.

  • To make a ceiling look higher, use white paint or a lighter value of the wall color. Keep floors relatively light.

  • To square off a long, rectangular room, paint or paper the long narrow walls in light, cool colors to make them recede. Make the short walls advance by using a dark, warm color.

  • To narrow a wide room, use deeper, warm neutrals on long walls, and lighter cool tints on shorter walls.

  • To darken a high ugly ceiling, use black, dark gray, midnight blue, or even the same dark, intense color (such as hunter green or chocolate brown) you may be using on a wall.

  • If the room has varying ceiling heights, don’t hesitate to paint them different colors. Paint a dropped acoustical tile ceiling the same color as the wall. Paint a raised ceiling white or a light contrasting color. The acoustical tile ceiling will seem to disappear! Hooray.

About This Article

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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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