Kick Start your Decorating project

Sometimes too much of a good thing IS bad! (except chocolate, pizza and 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. Get my FREE guide – “10 Easy Steps to DIY Decorate like a Pro”.

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.  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 and your free guide to select all the rest of the furnishings in the room.

Now that you have some idea of colors, patterns and fabrics – let’s review some styling tips. I like to start with the actual architectural features of the house.  Is your home traditional, contemporary, Tudor, ultra-modern, colonial, territorial or Craftsman?  Hopefully you like the general styling of the architecture so we can build on that foundation.  It’s important to have that cohesive feeling when your architecture meshes with your décor.  To illustrate this, let me tell you about one of my Design Client’s projects.

I was asked to help a friend redesign her 90’s kitchen. Now this is a very independent, athletic professional woman with 2 big Sons.  This is not a girly-girl house by any means.  When I arrived, I could see the SW influence of the soft terra cotta and turquoise colors and a strong rock waterfall feature in the pool.  My Client had seen a beautiful, all white French Farmhouse kitchen that she really liked and proceeded to ask me to design her kitchen in that style.  This is always a hard thing to tactfully move a Client in another direction.  Knowing that most people are not exposed to all the wonderful options that Designers see and work with regularly, I asked if she would be open to a suggestion.  Long story short, we designed and built a more casual, SW, slightly rustic kitchen/Family room that was so much more practical for this active Family.  The room is filled with warm textures of hammered copper, distressed Alder wood, colorful marble tops and fabrics with slate in golds, plums and greens.  She loves the new look and is carrying the colors up to her new Master bath remodel.  The morale of the story is to use the features that best accent the home.  That makes selecting a style for your décor so much easier. (check out the photos in my Portfolio under “Rustic SW kitchen”)

If your home does not have any obvious architectural style beyond contemporary, then we’ll have to move to Phase 4 – finding a real inspiration from a photo or locale. This locale does not even have to be in the US.  Many of my Clients take their inspiration from their favorite vacation spot.  If you live in Alaska and want to recreate your favorite tropical retreat, this may be a bit unconventional but if you have a simple, vanilla contemporary house, we can fill it with mementos of your favorite destination.   Then the theme is established and you can continue to collect on your trips or visit local shops.  Think about how fun a Moroccan, Tuscan or Asian inspired décor could be!

To combine all your years of different pieces successfully, we’ll work on an “eclectic” design.  Remember that eclectic still has to have cohesive style elements.  You cannot simply fill your room with totally unrelated pieces and expect it to feel well designed.  This is one of the most challenging design styles because every piece that you select has to be fabulous and interesting.  Use the same rules of scale, color and texture mixing as would apply to any successful decorating project.

So to recap – to get you out of first gear and kick start your new decorating project, you will need to find an inspiration. It can be a color, a fabric, a photo an architectural element or an international style.  It just needs to speak to you and make you feel good about coming home!


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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