A house evolves over time. I’ve said this numerous times to my clients to reassure them when they feel their home is not “finished.” Instead, think of your home as a work in progress. Due to time and budget, it is rare when all changes and improvements can be made all at once. Not only that, but you probably have noticed that your tastes change over time too. What really gives a house a finished, designer look is the thoughtful selection and placement of accessories and furnishings. And the good news is that this work can be done in stages, as your time and budget allow, and as your tastes become more defined.

Let’s begin with a basic living room: white walls, wall-to-wall beige carpeting, blinds on the windows, a fireplace, sofa, loveseat, coffee table and end tables. Once you’ve got the basics, you can start with Stage 1.

Stage 1: First, you paint. Wall color immediately adds interest, and also makes a room feel more complete. Next, find a great art print to hang over your fireplace. Select a color from the art print and purchase some throw pillows for the sofa and love seat. Place a few accessories on your coffee table, such as a nice book, green plant and some candles. Some framed family photos and a small vase of flowers is plenty for your end tables. Do you have enough lighting? How about a floor lamp next to your sofa?

Stage 2: You’ve lived with the first layer for a little while, and now you are ready for more. The beige carpeting is looking bland and worn in places, but you cannot afford to change it yet. Try placing a colorful area rug in front of your sofa and loveseat. This will give the room an instant punch of color. Then turn your attention to the windows. The blinds are great for privacy, but hanging stationery curtain panels on a decorative rod will really give the windows a finishing touch. Select a color that will complement the area rug and the art print that is still hanging above your fireplace. An indoor tree will give the room a nice touch. And some ledges hung on the wall will provide space to display some family photos.

Stage 3: You’ve saved up some money and are now ready to replace the carpet with the cherry hardwood floor you’ve been wanting. The same area rug will look great on the new floor. An upholstered chair in a coordinating fabric or leather will add extra seating, and also provide another texture and pattern in the room. Replace the overhead light with a hanging pendant or chandelier. This will look beautiful and also anchor your seating area. Add a piece of furniture that makes a statement: a gorgeous oversized clock, or an antique chest, or an etagere to display treasured collectibles, for example.

Over time, as you add your personal touches, your house will evolve into a beautiful, comfortable home.

Did you know that blue is named by most people as their favorite color? If you study color psychology, a topic I find fascinating, you will learn that being surrounded by blue actually has a calming effect on the body. It can reduce blood pressure and slow down your heartbeat. It must have something to do with the ocean and sky. I don’t know about you, but being by the ocean immediately calms me down.

The right shade of blue in the home can bring about a sense of peace and tranquility. That’s why it is a wonderful color for bedrooms. Choose muted, soft blues to create a relaxing feeling in your room.  A hint of gray in the color will keep it looking sophisticated. Once I was called to help a client correct a color mistake. She had painted her bedroom blue, but she didn’t like it at all. When I got there, I could immediately see why. She had picked a pastel blue with a lot of yellow in it, which was making her master bedroom feel more like a baby’s room. I helped her pick a darker, more muted shade, with some gray in it, and showed her how it would blend better with her bedding and artwork.

Blues are lovely in children’s rooms. Please forgive me for being a little bit stereotypical here: paired with lavender, pink and yellow, periwinkle blue is delightful for a girl; paired with tan and red, sky blue is perfect for a boy. A friend of mine painted her sons’ room in beautiful dark, marine blue. With white wood blinds for contrast, and oak furniture for warmth, the room was both youthful and sophisticated, not to mention striking.

In my own home, it is evident that I am a “blue person:”  I’ve got cobalt blue glass tile on my kitchen backsplash, my bedroom is painted a dark blue called “Wonderful World” with accents of brown and red, and my guest bath is blue and white with blue glass mosaic tiles in the shower.  My daughter’s room is a very pale shade of blue, with a darker shade on the ceiling, with crisp white trim, oak floors, and green accents. I’ve deviated from blue in past decorating projects, but always seem to come back to it. It has been my favorite color as long as I can remember.

Darker blues evoke the qualities of leadership and authority.  Navy or Cadet blue is a great color choice for offices, libraries, and dens. Paired with neutral-colored upholstery, and dark wood furniture, a dark blue office can send a message of productivity and efficiency. I will be using a deep blue called “Luxe” in the library of a client. That name doesn’t lie—Luxe will undoubtedly give that room an elegant, luxurious feel.  Accent colors will be gold and burgundy. My own home office is painted in the pale blue of my logo. I accented it with touches of lime green and orange to give it an energetic, friendly feel. Combining blue with orange, the complement, or opposite, of blue on the color wheel, always creates a dynamic look.

For an easy, casual look, what could be better than blue jeans?  For one client’s family room we combined a blue denim sofa with soft yellow walls, a red leather chair, and crisp white shutters. Patterned throw pillows and an area rug containing all of those colors tied everything together.

With gorgeous shades of blue appearing in nature—blue irises, forget-me-nots, lapis lazuli, aquamarine–  it is no wonder that blue has withstood the test of time in decorating.

This summer I am embarking on a re-decorating project of my own. Since my daughter has moved to a small apartment closer to school, her room here is ready and waiting for some changes. Several years ago, I wrote an article about decorating her room when she went from a little girl to a pre-teen. Wow, how time has flown! Since her pre-teen years, she made many decorating decisions for herself, creating a room that was all her. Gradually the dolls and American Girl books were phased out, in exchange for hundreds of photos of friends, sentimental mementos, and hand-made artistic touches. She even asked me for decorating advice a time or two, which made my day. Don’t all moms feel great when their teenage children ask their advice? It has been enjoyable to experience the transformation of my little girl into the strong, independent young woman she is today.

When she left the house, she took her bed with her, along with many of her favorite items, leaving the room sparse and plain. My plan is to make the room nice for her when she comes home to visit us. I will incorporate many of the personal items she left behind—since she is not exactly completely on her own yet, I certainly don’t want her to feel like I am eliminating her from the house. My re-decorating plans call for a new paint colors, a refinished wood floor, and a new bed with new linens, along with a new arrangement of existing decorative items and artwork.

Her walls will be painted the palest shade of blue; my design intent is to make the room feel fresh and light, like a day at the beach. The harmonious color scheme of blue and green, reminiscent of sand and sea, will be soothing and restful. Blue and green are my daughter’s favorite colors, so I know I have her blessing. Her ceiling will be painted a slightly darker blue, and the crown molding, baseboards and door will be refreshed with a coat of bright white. Her worn carpeting will be removed, exposing the hardwood floor underneath. The floor will then be refinished in a clear coat, which will match the other wood floors in our house. This will add to that fresh and light feeling I am going for.

I purchased bed linens in white, pale blue and pale green; I love to mix and match bed linens, using different colors for the fitted sheet, top sheet and pillow cases. And, in my opinion, no bed is complete without a variety of throw pillows, even if they do end up on the floor at night. (Just ask my husband—we have 8 pillows on our bed!) The new quilt has very subtle, wavy stripes of light blue, white and green. Finishing touches will include many of my daughter’s photos and colorful art pieces. As a designer, I am good at visualizing, and can already see the room completed. I am confident this room will become a respite for my daughter when she comes home to be with us. I enjoy seeing her so much; I hope she makes coming home a habit.