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How to Get Started by Barbara Jennings

Before you begin decorating, it's important to remember that the ultimate goal is not just function, but to let the room reflect the personality of the dwellers when all is said and done - and create a specific sort of mood. So you want to infuse your own personality into the mix. This is why you don't want to look at a picture in a magazine or even on this website and try to recreate it. Merely use photographs as a jumping off place to inspire you.

To start, find a comfortable place in the room to sit and ponder. Evaluate your family life and who uses the room and why. Magazine can be helpful to collect ideas and trends in color and style. Perhaps a fabric already in the room will serve as the basis for your overall palette. You need a good neutral for the main body of the room, and a secondary color mainly applied to fabrics and accessories. Your third color, the accent color, will be used sparingly, just for excitement, drama and energy. Try not to have more than 4 different hues in a room and vary the 3-4 with texture, shades and tints.

Patterns are a great way to infuse your personality into a room as they can be geometric, free flowing, organic and so forth. Most common patterns will be stripes, plaids, checks, floral and so forth. When mixing patterns, try to choose ones where the background color remains the same for continuity. The color palette should be the same from one pattern to the next and you should have variety in the size. For instance, if using 3 patterns in the same room, choose a large one for the window treatment, a smaller one for the sofa, and a still smaller one for the chairs.

You'll want to vary the textures in a successful room. Mix smooth surfaces with nubby surfaces, otherwise if you overdo with just one side of the spectrum, the room can become too expected and then dull. There are prints that are very dimensional and these can be used for textures. Mix it up for the most interesting effect.

Furniture selections come into play next and need to be chosen, not just for function, but for their role in supporting the established decor. Make sure that no single element sticks out visually creating disunity. Look more to blend the styles and colors of the furniture. You can always bring in slipcovers or do some reupholstering if you want to keep a piece that just doesn't fit that well. If that won't solve the problem, get rid of the piece or find another room to use it in.

The Importance of Personalization
Add your own personal stamp to a well-planned room by your choice of accessories. Accessories carry the dreams, activities, hobbies and essence of the dwellers of the home. That's why they are literally the most important selections you will make and care should be taken to bring in things you love.

Pictures, vases, pillows, artwork, plants and area rugs are all essential to a room's finishing touches. Without them the room will feel unfinished. Think of them as the icing on the cake or the earrings or necklace for a beautiful dress. If you have a very defined theme or style, the accessories should be chosen that directly fit into the theme. But there is freedom to experiment here too. Eclectic rooms are the easiest to accessorize because just about anything goes. The main thing to remember is that you're wanting to create a room where the elements work together as a cohesive unit, so avoid things that jump out at you. They only thing that should reach out and grab attention is the focal point. If the focal point is a large piece of art or an area rug, then those items can be stronger, more dramatic or more bold. Otherwise, let the rest of the accessories blend into the room without attracting too much attention. In the end, make sure the accessories fill the entire room and are balanced around the room, not all sitting just on one side.

One often neglected aspect of interior design is the inclusion of humor. While this is an optional element, you might give it some consideration because it is yet another way to make your space truly unique and one-of-a-kind. But we've been discussing the importance of bringing your personality into a room so that it becomes your room and not a room. This can be easily done through a whimsical vase, a humour work of art on the wall or the front of throw pillows. It can be a figurine of a humorous character, a collection of items that remind you for extremely fun times in the past.

Lastly look for ways to bring something unexpected and of real originality into the decorating scheme. This is most easily accomplished through art in my opinion. As a published artist myself, my work is like no other artist on the planet. It reflects my very broad interests and my home not only displays art from some of my favourite artists, it is filled with my own expressions. Thankfully my family likes my work too.

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(2004-05 Copyright Barbara Jennings)

Barbara Jennings
is the West Coast Pioneer in Redesign, author of 7 decorating books, a published artist, corporate art consultant, and furniture arrangement consultant. For training in professional furniture and accessory arrangement, or to start your own redesign or art consulting business, please visit:
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