Learn How to Approach a Project

(re-posted from About.com)

Q. What wisdom would you want to convey to a young person starting out with a brand new house to decorate and perhaps a limited budget? Looking back, what advice do you wish someone had given you about furnishing your own home when you first started out?

Mary Baltz: Live in the space to get a real feel for important things like light, how a house is being used, where you spend most of your time, what rooms need a more practical approach, room setups, and so on.

“Remember the house is yours, inside and out, and should reflect your personal style alone. Sometimes it helps to look at new trends, but don’t forget tag sales or flea markets. Also, so much can be done with natural stone, paint and fabrics.

On shopping: “It is most important to remember that one piece may have more than one use. So, when you are shopping at tag sales, flea markets, or antiquing, use your imagination . Shutters make wonderful indoor window treatments, garden furniture may look beautiful in your living area… Whatever you are passionate about — collect it! Collections are a wonderful reflection of personal style.”

Ann Fox: “I’m big on decorating living spaces around sofas that are durable, neutral , and preferably with slipcovers for flexibility and ease. The patterns can be in chairs and accessories that are less expensive and can be changed later. Also, realize what you love, then make your home reflect your loves and interests.”

Tricia Foley: Go with good classic design in terms of furniture…I always look for multi-purpose pieces, that can be used for other rooms as living conditions change…there are so many wonderful simple window treatments and bed linens at low price points that can transform a space with color if you have neutral walls and floors to set the scene for your own personal style.”

Lyn Peterson: “It’s very much like getting dressed. Your home needs to be decent. You need a shoes, pants, and a shirt. Earrings, mascara, those come later. In a home that means starting with the basics in descending order ; kitchens and baths need to function or you cannot live. You need a bed upon which to sleep – another necessity; a table to share meals with family and friends, a sofa or chairs to sit on and lamps with which to read. Window treatments is a must-have for privacy.

“All the rest is make-up and cosmetics. Don’t keep reconsuming the same things over and over. If you have a couch, use it even if only “for now”… for now is ok if you already own something, just not acceptable for any new acquisitions. Remember that there is no design without light. If it comes to a choice between a throw pillow and a lamp, I know what I’d choose. Overhead lighting is unflattering and not task oriented.

“Try to do the surgery first. Get the patient — your home — healthy, then add the trimmings later.”

I wish someone had told me not to throw anything away . I sold off my grandparent’s mahogany dining room set with 12 leather chairs. Totally cool, totally my family. Guess what? I was into pine as a newly married. It’s not like buying sweaters or shoes. Where do we have this body of knowledge, this wealth of experience that tells us, if you are like me, you can’t wear V-necks because my neck is so long I look like a giraffe. I needed to learn not only what I liked but worked for me and my family.

“We become so contaminated by what we see in the magazines. They decry “Navy is the new pink, brown is the new black, sisal is in or sisal is out!” You need to try to reach deep inside to find the true you (very California here) — what you like and not what you think you should like. Ultimately that is what makes a successful interior — the consistency of your point of view, your perspective. If you buy something because it is in fashion and not because it is truly you, then when it goes out of fashion you will hate yourself. So…never buy anything in fashion because then it can never be out of fashion. And don’t throw anything of good quality away . Only toss the junk, or you’ll regret it later.”

Rachel Ashwell:

  • “Less is more.
  • Choose a few select items — a sofa, table, rug, chandelier.
  • Keep whatever you have simple.
  • Try and have fresh flowers, even three separate buds vases which adds luxury and beauty.
  • Fragrance is nice as well, so incorporating candles (vanilla) is always nice.”

Charlotte Moss: “Looking back I wish I’d been less formal and more casual. I wish I had listened to myself a little more and invested in pieces that were going to stay for a long time, like a great bed and a great dining room table.

“I think a great bed in a master bedroom is very important. A lot of people think about the public rooms first, and think about themselves last, and I think that should never be the case. Investment things include a great dining room table, because that’s where everybody comes together when you entertain.

“The thing that exists today that didn’t exist before, are mail order catalogs. Today, there are catalogs that are brilliant. You can go to Pottery Barn and get velvet curtains. And even if the whole color palette is too much for you, the violets or deep green, then white with one color can really stand the test of time. Look at Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, and the incredible Pottery Barn for Kids — all of these things available via mail order didn’t used to exist. It makes decorating so much easier today because it’s available at retail, it’s attractive, and it’s very well-priced for the quality. I think it’s so much easier for young people today .”