By Katie Bingham-Smith
When it comes to decorating, many people get frustrated and feel they don’t know where to start. As someone who loves to rearrange my home regularly, and has been hired to decorate other people’s homes and offices, I have a few tips to offer those who say “I’m just not a decorator and I don’t know what to do.”
Just get started
If you are feeling stuck, all you have to do is get started. We all know what we like (even if we think we don’t) and what we don’t like. Take a trip around your favorite home goods store and you will immediately be drawn to certain pieces.
Find inspiration, it’s all around you
Flipping through a magazine is also a great way to get a feel for rooms and aesthetics that spark something in you. Perhaps a certain color makes you feel happy or nostalgic. Maybe you see a sofa that you must have. These are all great starter points that can be the foundation for your decorating style.
Take your time
This isn’t a race. Decorating your home so you feel comfortable and love your space takes time, sometimes years. That’s okay. It’s also okay to change your mind. Trust your intuition and don’t try to force something that doesn’t work. Trust me, it will drive you crazy if you purchase a set of chairs just because they were on sale and you didn’t really love them.
I can’t count the times I’ve waited for a bit and found something I loved that was affordable. Also, remember it’s okay to change your mind. Furniture and accessories can be moved. Rugs can be changed out.
The best thing to do is let your home speak to you — believe me, it will.
You may love the sleek modern look and pick out a grey sofa with metal legs, but also can’t stop thinking about frilly pink pillows, and that beat up buffet you saw at a flea market. Just as brown and black clothing and gold and silver jewelry can be worn together, mixing styles is the perfect way to find your style. The juxtaposition with hard lines and soft lines, and light and dark, can help balance your home and keep you from feeling bored or like you have to stick to a theme.
This is the reason why so many of us like sweet and salty snacks. The variety is what keeps us alive.
Don’t follow trends
Unless you love them of course. Remember over a decade ago when the whole ‘Shabby Chic’ was in and all the magazines were showcasing paint-chipped furniture and lots of ruffles? I tried that in my simple, red colonial home and it just didn’t work. In other words, I’d love something in a shop, but get it into my house and feel like it didn’t belong.
You know how you can see a pair of pants you love on other people, but know you don’t love them on yourself? It’s the same concept, and the more you ‘practice’ bringing things into your home, or changing things around, the better you get at discovering what you’ll truly love. It saves a lot of energy, that’s for sure.
Talk to your friends who have a decorating style you love
Yes, your home is yours and you are the one living there. However, I suggest people talk to friends or family members who have tastes they admire for two reasons: Two heads are better than one, and they may think of an idea you haven’t.
However, this also helps us decide what we really like. Think about how you use other people’s advice with other things in your life; you listen and follow it if you like it. And if you don’t, you do your own thing and it pushes you to make the decision for yourself, which is always the right one.
Painting with neutral colors allows more room for finding your style
When your canvas is clean and neutral, it allows you to buy that bright red sofa if you want it. However, if the room was painted a dark green, you might feel like you had to get something that flowed better.
Neutral colors have a variety of shades: tan, white, gray and ivory make your colorful accessories, artwork and furniture pop.
Another benefit is that you will be able to bring any piece into any room in your house if it’s all neutral. It’s a lot easier to change out a purple pillow for a green one than it is to paint a room from purple to green if you are tired of it.
Decorate with things you love
Maybe you frequent the ocean. Collecting shells, seaglass and driftwood and adding in colorful accessories which remind you of the water can be incredibly uplifting.
Perhaps you are a city-lover who feels the most at home when surrounded by industrial buildings and architecture. Abstract paintings and a minimalist look with lots of metal accessories like vases or mirrored tables can bring that into your home.
Think outside the box
Plumbing pipe can be morphed into really cool looking curtain rods. You don’t have to have traditional railings for the stairs in your home. Now, you can use things like plexiglass, industrial rope or wire to add an unexpected element.
Perhaps you live in a wooded area, or have plenty of privacy and don’t want to spend the time and money hanging curtains — go without and let all that natural light shine in and speak for itself.
Crates can be used as tables and dressers aren’t solely made for the bedroom. They can look wonderful in a dining room to hold linens, cookbooks or spices. You can also dress them up by adding a marble or butcher block top.
Add a mirror to any room. Hang one in the entryway, the kitchen or dining room. Most people have them in the bathrooms and bedrooms, but bringing them into other places in the house can instantly make them feel larger.
Light is important
Living in Maine can bring some dark days. While it’s cozy, we all feel our moods lift where there is enough light. Some things to consider for letting as much natural light into your space are to paint with light colors. Don’t block your windows with large plants or pieces or furniture. Instead, put them to the side and have your windows clear. Mirrors are also a great way to cast more light.
Finding your home style should feel rewarding and satisfying. However, it’s a journey. We are always growing and evolving in all aspects of our life and our homes are no different.
This first appeared in the January/February issue of Bangor Metro magazine, available on newsstands throughout much of Maine. Bangor Metro is also available by subscription.