By Karen Corinha, for The Sun Chronicle
Here are a few design topics for you to ponder in 2015. I hope that they bring you success and prevent you from making design mistakes that can cost you money, emotional distress and potential discourse with the people that you live with.
1. NEVER CHOOSE A PAINT COLOR WITHOUT BEING IN THE SPACE REQUIRING PAINT
For anyone who has read any of my columns, forgive me for repeating myself. For those who are new, please, if you only take one piece of advice this is the one. Do not use a color because it looked pretty in someone else's house or great in the store without putting up a chip on your wall and looking at it in the different lights of day. Most manufacturers give away color chips. I can order them for free from Benjamin Moore and usually send three or more to my clients in an 8-inch size for them to place around the room. Ask at the paint store. Even if you have to pay for them, it is worth it in the long run.
Consider the trim color and make sure the colors work together. Your color should also not glow in the dark. How many yellow rooms have you walked into thinking the sun was coming up? Tone it down a level and remember that if you want to love it in your home for years take the time up front to get it right.
2. IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT IT, AND IT CAN'T BE RETURNED, DON'T BUY IT!
Even with years of experience, there are things I have purchased for myself that I regret. My biggest was an expensive carpet from Restoration Hardware Outlet that cost me three months' salary. It looked great in the store, but not so much in my family room. Knowing that I could not return it just left me feeling horrible every time I looked at it. (It is now living a happy life in a friend's dining room where it looks great.)
3. DON'T BUY FURNITURE WITHOUT FIRST INVESTING IN A TAPE MEASURER!
My clients tell me that furniture shopping brings them the most anxiety. It is difficult in the showroom to sense proportion. Something might look like it will fit beautifully until you are trying to get it up the stairs to your apartment or in the back door. Ad it is not always large pieces that can give you trouble. Last week, a client could not get a storage piece into the office because there was not enough swing in the hallway to make the turn.
Measure the piece of furniture you are interested in and cut a piece of newspaper the same size for your room. You will be surprised how it looks. All furniture stores can print out a tear-sheet for you of the pieces with dimensions. If you are ordering online, be sure to view the piece from all different sides and don't forget the height.
4. A BARGAIN IS NOT ALWAYS A BARGAIN
How many times have you seen a great piece at a great price and put it in your cart? It can be easy to buy something because it feels so good to get it at the price on the tag, but if you do not have room for it or it requires you to completely redo your space at home to accommodate it, then it might not be a wise decision.
5. INVEST IN YOUR HOME
For people who rent, invest in pieces for your home that make you happy and are portable, meaning you can take them with you and use them again at your next place. Some examples: a beautiful drapery panel, furniture piece or framed artwork that you love. For those who own, consider investing first in the "structure" of your home, creating a beautiful backdrop for your furnishings like a stunning tile for the bathroom or beautiful wallpaper for behind the bed. The big box stores have a terrific selection of tiles that echo the look of the expensive brands. It doesn't have to cost a lot to make a big impact.
6. LESS IS MORE
If your space is small, keep that in mind before filling every inch. The fewer the pieces in the room, the larger it will look. A small living room, for example, will function better with small pieces. Look for these on display in the bedroom section of a large furniture store. Keep chairs under 32 inches wide and apartment-size sofas to 72 inches wide with two cushions instead of three.
7. DRAPERY PANELS SHOULD NOT BE A FOOT FROM THE FLOOR!
When you hire a professional to do your window treatments they should install them to hang one half inch off the floor. (Don't even get me started on puddling.) It is so easy these days to buy beautiful "ready mades" everywhere. I have even seen them at hardware stores. The key to making these look their best is in the installation. Install the rod so that the fabric frames the window and if you have the room, mount the brackets on the wall six inches beyond the window frame so that the drape grazes the glass and does not cut off all of the light from the window, turning your room into a cave.
Another tip: Many of the "ready mades" out there are made with grommets on the top in place of pinch pleats or rod pockets, and grommeted panels require a deeper projection to look their best. What that means is that you may have to adjust the bracket so that it sticks out from the wall as much as possible and the grommet has room to fall behind the rod.
8. GET INSPIRED
Inspiration is available everywhere! I tell my clients to pick up a beautiful magazine or spend time on Houzz before they embark on a renovation project. Sometimes it is enough to host a party to be inspired to spruce up the place a little or finish the projects that are not finished. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a party recently at a home that was so spectacular I was inspired to come home and clean my office, closet, basement and garage.
9. UPDATE THIS YEAR!
Updating is as easy as bringing in a new lamp or two. Give away that old piece you hate that you are only holding onto because it belonged to a great aunt. If giving it away is out of the question, then paint it. Changing out a dated light fixture does not have to cost you a lot. There are a few online sites that I think are filled with bargains.
I could not afford to redo my kitchen but desperately wanted a change. I researched and then painted my cabinets a pretty gray from Benjamin Moore called Bone Black CW-715, replaced the hardware with a polished nickel and single-handedly put up a new tile backsplash of glass. The result is very pretty, much more current and, best of all, affordable.
10. IT IS YOUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD, IT SHOULD MAKE YOU SMILE!
What is it that makes you happy with your home? One of my designer friends tries to have fresh flowers in the house at all times. That could become costly, but it is a great reward for a cleaning job done well.
Karen Corinha is an accomplished and regionally recognized interior designer who specializes in creating high-style, affordable solutions. She is also a regular columnist for The Sun Chronicle.