Decorating: Where do I start?

Thursday, December 4, 2014
A Mathis Brothers Furniture living room collection.

It's a pretty common ailment. You have this living room that needs decorating, redecorating, or refreshing. And you're wandering around wringing your hands and mumbling to yourself, wondering where to start. Because you're decoratorwise (or maybe just read it somewhere) you know The Starting Point is the most important decision you need to make, because every piece of furniture, every drop of paint, every shape or texture you choose will depend on it. Oh, snap. Where to start?

Well, there is a process you can follow to find that starting point, and end up with a look that's uniquely, personally yours. Relax and read.

Find Your Theme

Start by choosing a central theme. Consider not just your living room furniture, but the rest of your home, too. You want it all to work together. Some of the most popular themes are: rustic, contemporary, casual, eclectic, traditional, modern, metro modern, minimalist, regional, and period dcor.

To choose yours, first decide what's most important to you. Comfort? Style? Fashion? Are you decorating for yourself, your family, your mother, your friends? You'll be happiest if you can decide on what's right for you, not for someone you want to impress or cater to. If you're a country girl at heart, you just won't be happy in a Metro Modern room. And vice versa.

Once you know who you are and what you want to achieve, open yourself up to what's out there - in friend's houses, home decoration magazines, television shows, and on the internet. Find home furnishing stores in your areas with complimentary design services. Talk to their decorators/designers. In short, look at everything until you find the theme that's right for you.

Finding your anchor piece

Once you've decided on a theme, choose your anchor piece. It can be almost anything - a sofa, rug, accent chair, sectional, even a single lamp, painting, or mirror. Most importantly, it should be something you love, and something that sets the stage for everything to come.

Once you've decided on your anchor piece, choose the rest of your furniture, furnishings, accents and accessories accordingly, but don't be a slave to your theme. Remember Emerson's comment about a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. If you find a piece you love, even though it might be a departure from your central theme, consider it seriously. A little contrast is sometimes a good thing.

Size really can be important

For small apartments, loft living and tiny homes, consider a maximum of three colors, patterns or styles. A riot of unrelated colors, shapes, and patterns can turn your decorating scheme into chaos. Remember to choose the scale of your furniture to fit your room size, door frame size and elevator/stairway access. Buying an armoire that won't fit through your door is not a good thing. Think about versatility, especially in smaller spaces. A chest of drawers can also serve as a countertop or a television stand; an ottoman with hidden storage can make a small space more efficient; some modern chairs can be stacked on top of each other in the corner to make more space when needed.

Digital Room planners can help

As it has everywhere, the computer has become an important decorating tool. Mathis Brothers Furniture, and many other furniture stores now have 3-D modeling applications in their design centers, with apps that you can download to your smart phone or tablet. These state-of-the-art tools help you plan your space and fill it with the furniture and accessories of your choice. They even let you walk through it in 3D living color. It's not exactly the same thing as seeing it in person, but it can be a huge help in making your decisions - particularly about size and placement.

To do the most with the least, think small

If you're happy with your living room right now, but would just like to freshen it without spending a ton of money, think small. Start by taking a good, unbiased look at your room. Try to see it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can add a new focal point that draws the eye or changes the room's context.

It's amazing what a few simple changes can make. One new accent chair. A new, white lampshade... a bit of unexpected color... a picture re-framed and re-hung... new, colorful throw pillows for the sofa... adding a new valance - or taking one away... a small, colorful rug that breaks up the carpet or floor... a larger one that brings everything together... These are small changes that can make a big difference without breaking your budget.

Lighting is also an important factor. Think about arranging your lighting, even if it's just table and floor lamps, to create context. A room that's evenly lit from wall to wall can be boring. You might want to subtly highlight your anchor piece with lighting.

You might also consider creating an accent wall. Simply paint it an interesting color to give more flavor to your room. Or add floor-to-ceiling framed collections, in a formal pattern or more randomly, depending on your theme. Add a mirror that dominates the wall, which will have the added benefit of making the room appear larger.

You are not alone

Here's the bottom line. Decide what you want to accomplish with the room. Find your starting point. Decorate around it. And remember, many of the larger furniture stores, like Mathis Brothers, have free design services staffed by talented professionals whose only wish is to help you get the look you're looking for at a price you can afford. You're on your own, but you're not alone.