Selecting decorating materials from the myriad of options

Sometimes too much of a good thing IS bad! (except chocolate, sex, shoes…oh but I digress!) When starting your decorating project, you will find so many choices that it’s mind blowing and so confusing. We Designers could also get overwhelmed, but we have a strategy for dealing with it all. I break it down into 2 phases – the “inspiration piece” or the “process of elimination phase”.

It’s tempting to fall in love with every new thing that comes out on the Internet, magazines and ads, but you must resist the temptation to select one of each. Just like shopping for a new outfit, you need to coordinate all the pieces or you will have a closet full of wonderful but mismatched clothes. Your goal needs to be to narrow it down to 1-3 good possibilities.

If possible, try to find an inspiration – a piece of art, a fabric sample, a photo, a paint swatch of even a piece of clothing. I’ve seen Candice Olson design a whole room around a fabulously gorgeous silk blouse! Now if that doesn’t get your juices flowing, then we’ll have to move on the Phase II – the process of elimination. So many of my Clients know precisely what they don’t like but cannot describe what they do like. So let’s just go with that …

Start with a great showroom full of samples. I like to use fabrics, because they are small, readily available and don’t weigh a lot. Do you know how heavy W/P books and tile samples are? Too much to schlepp around! Then eliminate all the patterns and colors that you won’t love to live with. (that could be florals, paisleys, blues, – whatever you know you aren’t drawn to) At this point – over half the options are gone. Then it’s like a kid in a candy store – start pulling all the samples that you really love and toss them all in a big pile on the table. This pile can then be sorted into groups of like colors, mood, texture and patterns. If you are not good at this, showroom staff can help you too or get our free guide.  You will quickly see a great color schemes emerging. If one pile has too few pieces, you can probably take this as a hint that you will have trouble coordinating enough elements to pull off a great design. If you still like that one best, then work specifically to develop more pieces to that puzzle. If not, eliminate it.

Strive for at least 5 compatible patterned fabrics in a space – utilizing solids, textures, stripes, prints and wovens.


When you get it down to the semi –finals – start living with them for a few days, get the Family involved in the voting and Voila – You have a winner !! Use these samples as your guide to selecting all the rest of the furnishings in the room.

Now go out there and tear up a showroom!

Written by Peggy Ridgley of Prism Design and Renovations, 2014 . Peggy has over 25 years of experience and satisfied Clients in Arizona, California, Wisconsin and Florida. She can be reached at (480) 725-4687 for answers to all your decorating questions and challenges.

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