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If buying luxury furniture wasn’t expensive enough, there is always the high cost of hiring an interior decorator to create the well-appointed home of your dreams. Can’t you have both? Style, a perfect finish, and value in your furniture combined with the coordination and the awe sensation that you gain every time you are in that room. The satisfaction gained from having every lamp, table, and mirror acting as the perfect accent, like jewelry to the room. You can have that, and you can do it yourself.

My Aunt and Uncle were both accomplished architects in Pittsburgh and also in Virginia. They always told me to first consider lighting – I remembered the acronym RAT:


Depending on your goal, what you have in your room and the windows and the direction they face (North-South-East-West) will determine how you want to treat the light (both natural and artificial). If you decide to start decorating a room with a lot of windows facing strong sun exposure (either early morning or late afternoon) and it has wall marble floors (which will make for a lot of reflection) then you need to consider buying a real good pair of sunglasses or tuning things down a bit.

A good way to understand this is to look into RAT with a little more detail:

  • Reflection. Hard surfaces (for example: marble, tile and ceramic in white or very light colors) will have a tendency to reflect incoming natural light or artificial indoor light.
  • Absorption. Pourus surface materials (i.e. soft woods and heavy rugs and fabrics) will have a tendency to absorb light.
  • Transmission. Mirrors, white colors, and light marbles will also reflect light, both artificial and natural.

So, one should always consider how to treat the light as it enters the room naturally and what fixtures you use artificially to create light. In addition, you should not rely on one light source artificially. Specifically, try to create a mood with ceiling surface dimmers, wall sconces mounted more at eye level and floor lighting that projects up from the floor of the room. At the same time have fun with the fixture and consider one theme or style of fixture – don’t mix more than two! With that said, (and I should not say this) don’t crowd your room with TOO much furniture.

Remember, it is better to have fewer “exceptional” quality pieces than a lot of “ordinary’ case goods or upholstered furniture.

Another very important consideration should be function – I state that function should precede style. Starting with a simple floor plan and using graph paper to help make this easy. Consider if the room(s) need to serve more than one function.

Scale is a common mistake that most people make when decorating. The famous Mario Buatta states that the mistake that most people always make is that they are not scaling. He goes on to say that most people never scale furniture correctly and…ready for this…it’s usually too small! He goes on to say that they don’t buy quality upholstery or the best quality furniture.

Regarding my experience, people do not have a master plan when it comes to decorating. Most folks do not take into consideration the flow between your rooms. As a result, people need to consider color contrast (especially between adjoining rooms and areas) instead of doing piece meal (provided of course that your budget will allow this if you need to change other areas.)

You need to think about how you will unite the spaces and consider that cohesion for all of the rooms. Some suggestions:

Do: Have fun and enjoy the process
Do: Collect objects from travel that carry a story and a history about yourself
Do: Use a lot of green (as in plants and flowers)
Do: Save money and paint a room for a quick change
Do: Take a few risks
Do: Keep things simple
Do: Try to have a complete plan (if your budget allows for it)
Do: Use larger scale furniture – be daring!

Don’t: Design around trends or current fads
Don’t: Mix too many styles
Don’t: Be afraid about mixing old and new
Don’t: Ask for your next door neighbor’s opinion
Don’t: Use oversized lighting fixtures or paint your ceiling
Don’t: Use a lot of window treatments – especially formal ones

So what else should you keep in mind? What about the function of the room? Does the room need to serve more than one function? As a library with books that need to be accessible? Will it be used as a home office? A room used for storage? As a showcase for a pen collection? Perhaps it needs to double as a spare bedroom.

What would people like to do in the room that is not possible now? Watch TV? Would they like a computer to be accessible for work or play? Play board games? Gather with the entire family? Relax?

Also, consider the traffic pattern. If there is only one entry then you need to consider a traffic pattern. You can build a traffic pattern from one door to the next. If there is one major trail from one door to the next, then this will require some thought. Like furniture placement, for example. Why? Well you will not want to pace a Recamier upholstered in a Scalamandre Silk Moiré next to a door leading to the kitchen where little Johnny will be running by with a piece of blueberry pie.

Re-thinking how often a room is occupied is very interesting. In the marketplace today, there are many wonderful solutions. For instance, modular wall units give the appearance of built-in libraries or showcases. Handsome armoires conceal computers and/or TV screens. Multi-purpose game tables for crafts and entertaining.

When considering colors, I like to refer to the color wheel. You can find one online or buy a decorating book that has one. Usually it is the terminology that confuses people. When deciding on a color, you should be familiar with these terms so you get a better understanding of what it will bring to your room:

Hue. Hue is a fancy term for color. This word is used when generalizing a description for similar colors. For example, scarlet, apple red, rose, vermillion. These are all reds close in color.

Intensity. Refers to how bright or strong a color is. Vivid pure colors are strong in intensity while paste, or gray are low in intensity.

Tone. Tone refers to the relative brightness or darkness of a color. For example, the yellow in a banana is by nature darker than the yellow of a lemon. Tones are vital when decorating in order to create moods and atmosphere.

Other questions to ask yourself:

What is my budget? (Long and short term)
What textures suit my family?br/> What are the favored colors within my family?br/> What weather factors will influence the decorating?br/> Pick a word, one word that describes your objective and hope for the room. Elegant? Formal? Tasteful? Mellow? Bright? Dramatic? Then start with a blank piece of white paper and begin.

There is now a world of possibilities. You just need an open mind. Now more then ever it is easier to come to successful conclusion with your decorating projects.

Now that you have that you've created the perfect room, learn how to protect your fabric investment and how to care for your wood and leather furniture.