Before HGTV came on the scene in 1994, most people picked their own paint colors, bought their own furniture, and selected their own bathroom tile. Some were very successful; others, not so much. Then came the avalanche of design shows, and pretty soon, we were all benefiting from the talents of the professional designers we were seeing on TV. Because I had been interested in interiors since I was a very young girl, I too found myself glued to the TV, inspired by all those television designers. It was during those years that I decided to switch careers, take design classes, and begin my new career. HGTV made interior design accessible to everyone, and for that I will be forever grateful. It’s the reason I have a successful business. But, for as much advice as HGTV dispensed, for many people the result was to create more confusion and self-doubt. If you are someone feeling a little unsure, allow me to offer some friendly advice as you undertake projects at home.
- Please, please, please make a master plan before buying or starting anything. Even if you’re only working in one room at a time, think ahead to what you want your whole house to look like when you are done. This is especially important if you have an open floor plan. In open floor plans, there really is no such thing as one room— many rooms flow together, so the whole space should be taken into account to make sure the color scheme is consistent and the furnishings and other design elements are coordinated. Keep in mind adjacent spaces like hallways and the entry, so you have a cohesive look at the end. That said, I think I am more forgiving than other designers might be, so kids’ bedrooms and your own private spaces can deviate from the overall color scheme.
- As part of your master plan, measure your spaces carefully, check all dimensions of furnishings you plan to buy, and please buy only what you need. Resist all urges to buy a whole suite of furniture just because its on sale. I’ve seen very awkwardly arranged rooms due to too much furniture and furniture in the wrong size.
- Pick paint colors after picking out area rugs, textiles and furnishings. It is much easier to match a color to a fabric, than to try to find a fabric that matches your paint color. Trust me on this one!
- Ask for opinions, but not too many! If you’re working with a designer, you can trust him or her to do the right thing by you and not lead you astray. After all, you’re paying this person for his or her expertise and trained eye. If you are working on your own, ask a significant other or a trusted friend (whose taste you admire) to help guide you. Asking too many people for opinions only leads to self-doubt and a syndrome called “analysis paralysis,” in which you spend too much time thinking about things, but never actually move forward with your plan.
- Watch the placement and size of artwork. Not to be overly critical, but I have definitely seen my share of awkwardly placed artwork. In general, large walls need large artwork; narrow walls need vertically-oriented artwork, and horizontal spaces (like above a sofa) need horizontally-oriented artwork. And, if you are not sure how high to hang something, please err on the side of hanging it on the lower side, rather than too high. A great rule of thumb is for the center of the artwork to hang at 60-65” up from the floor. This applies even if you’re as tall as Kevin Durant, because artwork needs to relate to the furniture, not the wall height or the height of the people living there. If your artwork is too small for a particular wall, move it to another wall, or create a larger grouping for it using additional art pieces, or mirrors, or wall vases, or candle sconces.
- It’s OK to take your time. When we watch shows on HGTV, we get the idea that our homes should be “done” in a day. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. It takes time to order furniture and to schedule painters and electricians. It may take months to find the perfect piece to hang above the fireplace. A home evolves over time as our needs and tastes change. Take your time and enjoy the process.