DEAR GAIL: I’m constantly watching all the decorating shows. I find it fascinating to see how two identical rooms can look completely different when decorated. I don’t have the budget right now to redecorate, but would like to give my family room a new look. Where can I start? – Rose Marie
DEAR ROSE MARIE: A quick, easy and no cost way to give your room a new look is simply using what you already own. It’s what we in the industry call interior redesign. In just one day and with a little bit of work you can have a completely new room.
Where you start is by completely emptying the room. I know this is a lot of work but it is essential in getting a new look. It’s hard to see how a room can look different with everything where it currently is. Just like an artist, you need to start with a blank canvas.
So first remove your accessories, lamps, plants and then your artwork. Place them where they will be out of the way. Put breakables on the kitchen counter or dining table and lamps on the floor, along a wall so you don’t trip on them. Keep like items grouped together, just how it’s done in the stores. Place artwork by size and try not to lay them in front of each other. The best place to put them is either down the hall or in another room.
Now it’s time to move your furniture. Try to get everything completely out of the room. If not, move it as far out as you can. Be very careful not to hurt yourself; this is not a one-person project. I use carpet installers’ moving glides, but even the little moving discs are helpful for those heavy items. With the room completely emptied, it’s OK to take a short break, but remember everything needs to go back in. You can figure spending about four to six hours for an average-sized family room.
Your next step is to stand in the middle of the room and take notice of the lines in the room. This is easiest to do by looking down at the floor and baseboards. Do you have any angled walls, floor tiles set on a diagonal, or does your carpet and tile meet on a diagonal? Always work with the angles in the room versus against them. Don’t be afraid to place your furniture on an angle. It’s what will give your room a new look and one that is more interesting than before.
Do you have any architectural focal points like a fireplace, great view, built-in bookcase or entertainment unit? Of course, in the family room the television is the primary focal point. Watching television is the main function of the room. It’s important to identify your primary focal point as the next step is to place your furniture.
Start with your sofa and place it addressing the television. What I mean by addressing is that when you are sitting on the sofa, the television is in your line of sight. The sofa does not have to be directly across from the television; it could be on an angle to it, but it shouldn’t be at a right angle. You don’t want to have to turn your head completely to the side to watch television; it’s just not comfortable.
Once your sofa is placed, is there another important focal point in the room you want to see while sitting on the sofa. If you can’t see it, try placing your sofa in different positions until you can see both. Or are you OK if you can see it from another piece of furniture? So, next place your love seat or chair at a right angle to the sofa. If you have a third chair, place it on a diagonal across from this grouping to balance your furniture arrangement in the room. If you don’t have another chair, take one from another room that you’re not using.
Now it’s time to bring back your lighting. A trick to lighting your room is to place your lamps in a diagonal, or preferable, triangular pattern. This ensures that you won’t have any dark corners. Place your trees and floor plants next. If there is a plug nearby, accent them with a floor uplight.
The next step is artwork. You want your artwork to relate to the items around it. Don’t just have it floating on the wall. It’s always best to anchor it to the floor with a piece of furniture or floor plant. A very large piece without something underneath it will give you an uneasy feeling. The bottoms of the artwork should be level with the floor or the piece you’re hanging it over. Only stagger artwork up a staircase.
Try not to place the same pieces of artwork in the same places. This is one thing that will give your room a new look. Just because it was over the sofa before doesn’t mean that’s where it has to go again.
The final and finishing touches are your accessories. Start with the focal areas in your room, normally the coffee table and mantel. The rule of odd numbers and asymmetrical arrangements always work; they are more interesting and pleasing to the eye. Just like with your art, switch things around. It’s been proven that after 27 days we no longer take notice to the things around us. If you are uncomfortable with accessorizing, look in model homes and magazines for placement ideas to follow.
As with all decorating, it’s about balance, proportion and simply how the room feels. If something just doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not properly placed. So move it around until it does. That’s the beauty of interior redesign. Follow your instincts and with these simple steps you’ll be surprised and amazed how different your room will look without spending a dime.