I receive a lot of mail, emails with decorating questions about decorating on a budget. I am truly touched that so many of you want my opinion, but I receive more requests then I can handle. If you have sent me a request for decorating advice and I have not gotten back to you, please do not take it personally. I cannot possibly get an answer back to all of you. I have been trying, but there is just not enough time in the day to answer all of your requests and still have time to blog.
To try to help as many of you as possible with the decorating on a budget process, I have decided to start a series where I will pick one or a few readers photos and feature them to get some of your questions answered while passing on a few design tips. I will choose the spaces that I think can help the largest amount of readers. I am going to call the series –
I chose the home of Brenda to start the series. Her décor is traditional and tasteful. She has a color scheme and has succeeded in unifying her open concept floor plan. What her décor is missing though, is what I see in many of the photos that are sent to me are lacking– personality. You don’t want your décor to look like a furniture showroom, you have to mix things up a bit to add your own personal style to truly achieve the WOW factor you are working towards creating. The way to do this is with color, texture, and decorative accessories that have a meaning to you.
The other aspect that pops out at me in many of the photos that are sent to me for ideas is that the principles of design are not followed. Scale, proportion, balance, mixing color and textures are often overlooked. We all want pretty and buy things we like, but often don’t consider the scale of the object and how it will fit into the entire scheme of things – we just like it and when we place in it in the room, we wonder why it doesn’t sing to us. It is usually because it is breaking one of the principles of design – most often – the scale of the item and how it relates to the room or the proportion is off.
Every successfully decorated room – no matter the style or budget, follows these rules. It doesn’t matter if you have a room full of flea market finds or high end furnishings. Your space is going to look cohesive – have flow and visual appeal if you think of scale, proportion, and balance first and how the item is going to fit into the whole. Personal taste and style come after you find something that is the right scale and proportion.
Keeping these principles in mind – I think Brenda just needs a tweak and some personality in the way of some added accessories and color to her space. She wrote:
Hi Diane –
I am a wife, parent of a preteen, and work full-time. I
am not creative (I wish I was) but I know what I like.
I like things to look custom made on a dime. I like
the things that are in the Ballard Designs catalog
I need help with the kitchen/dinning room/ kitchen
nook areas in my home. It one large space.
P.S. remember I am trying to “design on a dime”. LOL!
Brenda has an open concept floor plan on her first floor. That is always a challenge for furniture placement and where wall paint colors should start and stop. Brenda has many things in her favor – white trim, paneled doors, hardwood floors, and light cabinets. They make a good foundation that will stand the test of time. Her furniture is neutral – off white and black, which also makes it easy to mix and match colors, patterns, and add new accessories. Her rug has red in it, the hearth and fireplace surround are dark green marble. If she ever wants to change it on a dime, it can be successfully painted over with the right prep and paint.
The fastest and least expensive way to make changes to a good foundation is paint. It is inexpensive and anyone can roll it on a wall. I would choose 3 colors to use on the walls for her first floor and up her steps to the upper floor. Main color – neutral, Contrast – lighter or darker, Accent – bolder. Brenda has this in place already, but it can be improved by adding a bolder accent color.
Lots of ideas here – this post is pretty long, so hang on… lets go.
Brenda’s Kitchen …………….
1. The arched doorway is unique. I would accent it by painting the wall and the bump out walls to the right of it in an accent color. If keeping her current paint scheme, a darker green in the same color family as the light green on the walls would provide enough contrast. The two items to the left of the doorway are too small and out of proportion for the space. Something larger and longer to fill the vertical space would look better. It could be as simple as 3 clipboards covered with pretty paper and hung along the wall with shopping lists on them or a burlap covered vertical memo board made from foam core to fit the space.
Colors to consider:
2. Painting the front of the counter peninsula the same color as the arched doorway accent color or use a 3rd paint color would create more visual interest and add depth between rooms. Add some of the accent color in the way of accessories (see below). Remember to create balance and mix up the textures and colors of the accessories added to the counter tops. Wood cutting board – ceramic canisters, shiny glass vase, terrycloth dishtowel over the oven door handle.
3. The chalk board on the door is a great idea, but it would look proportionally better hanging portrait style on the door. When hanging artwork or a frame – they look best when the shape of the frame follows the shape of the wall or space they are being hung on. The door is taller than wider – hang items in portrait style. If the door was wider than taller – hang framed pieces landscape style. The same is true when you hang items on a wall – look at the shape of the wall first, then hang art accordingly. Another option would be to use black chalkboard paint right on the door to make the entire door a chalk board. If that is too much – just paint the raised panel sections with chalk board paint. I have made chalkboards out of fake oil paintings I find at the thrift store that are in nice chunky frames. Just mask off the frame with painter’s tape and use chalkboard spray paint to cover the fake oil painting.
4. The dark contrast of the accessories along the top of the cabinet takes the eye away from the counter tops and cabinets – which should be the focus. Large white pitchers and platters on plate stands along the top will help. Another option would be to create some repetition. Remove everything on the top of the cabinets and hang a series of related art prints or plates evenly spaced along the wall above the cabinets. Do the same thing on the cabinets on the opposite side. It is simple, fills in the empty space, but won’t fight for attention – it will just be an accent. The space can also be left empty which will create a clean modern vibe.
I would replace the floral art on the wall with something more personal. Maybe art her preteen made in school or an unframed canvas with a mix of a few added colors besides black, greens, white, and pale red. Another option – since the wall is opposite the window – I would hang a mirror or a gallery wall of mirrors here to reflect the window light and brighten the space while making the area feel larger with the reflection becoming a fake second window.
Since Brenda likes the look of Ballard Designs, I gathered a few images from their site to help her better visualize the accessories I think would compliment her décor. She does not have to buy them there. Everything that I suggest can be found, made, or bought inexpensively. Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Home Goods, IKEA, Michaels, Walmart, and thrift stores are the places I usually find what I need at a fraction of the cost.
Photos: Ballard Designs
-Large letters like this can be bought at the craft store and painted any color you desire. Hung on a wall they add texture and interest, plus personality – your initials.
-Cake stands on a kitchen counter add a chic homey feel. Even if you just stock it with store bought baked goods. Target and Walmart both sell them.
-Old books can be bought at thrift stores. Remove the book jacket to see what the book looks like underneath to find ones that have nice color, shape, and size.
-Flea markets have old house parts, HomeGoods has reproductions of decorative moldings that can be used as accents on tables.
-A collection of white pottery need not break the bank. Look what Shannon at MadiganMade did on a dime with flea market finds and some white paint to fill the top of a hutch.
-Burlap boards are quintessentially Ballard. Easy to make yourself with a piece of foam board and inexpensive burlap wrapped around and secured with duct/mailing tape on the back. Use thumbtacks bought at the dollar store to make a border around the edge.
-Baskets in all shapes and sizes can be bought at HomeGoods. They can be placed by a chair to hold extra throws, pillows, magazines, kid and pet toys – you name it.
Place these accessories on the kitchen counter, the long table under her TV in her family room. Mix in some pillar style candles and some greenery – you will have created a snippet taken right from the catalog at a fraction of the cost.
Eat In Nook, Hallway, Family Room…..
5. + 7. This is the space in between the kitchen and family room. I would like to see it have a look of its own, while still blending in. Add a colorful pillow or throw blanket to the leather chair so the view down the hallway creates a nice vignette that draws you in. The contrast of the dark window valances against the wall color and the white blinds– takes your eye to them and stops the visual rhythm around the room. I would remove the valances on the window and doors. In the table area, replace them with drapery panels to elongate the windows. Leave the doors with just the blinds. If you don’t need them for privacy or light altering – remove them to show the glass on the doors. Choose a pattern or style that has the same green as in the family room panels. Horizontally Striped white and green would look nice. To keep the cost down – buy simple white panels at Walmart or IKEA and horizontally stripe them with painters tape and paint. Kim at Sand and Sisal has a great tutorial on how to do it.
To create a much bolder look for the space – use black and white.
Add emphasis – Brenda has two different colors on the walls. That adds interest, I think more texture is needed on the bump-out seating area walls. Bead board wallpaper on the walls in the table area 3/4’s of the way up the wall with horizontal molding running across the top will add emphasis. It is not hard to do and will cost less than $75. It is sold at Lowes for $20 a roll. A board and batten treatment like the one in the photo below would look equally nice, but would cost more and require carpentry skills and tools.
Photo: Ballard Designs
6. + 7. Mix it up. The upholstery and the leather looks great. What is missing is color balance and some accent color for interest. Perhaps add a third texture in the way of textured colorful throw pillows and a blanket placed over the arm of the chair and sofa. Scale: The lamp is too tall and narrow – not the right proportion. This style lamp looks better on a small accent table that is placed against a wall. A better option would be a floor lamp that has an arm that extends a light with a shade over the sofa and would provide task lighting to read when seated.
Photos: Ballard Designs
– Inexpensive burlap yardage bought at the fabric store can be easily fashioned into no-sew drapery panels. White panels can be stenciled to resemble the Ballard ones.
-Crocks and canisters can be found at thrift stores. They may not look like this, but you can easily change them with a can of spray paint. Then dipped into paint to create this two-tone effect. Spray paint comes in shiny, matte, textured, and stone finishes– so faking out a pottery or crock look is easy. These would work well above the kitchen cabinets.
-Candles grouped in threes, just the way it is done on the book or two as shown in the photo is one of the easiest accessories to add. They can go anywhere. IKEA sells them in all sizes, as does Walmart.
-Boxwood greenery can be found at HomeGoods, TJMaxx, and Marshalls. I even found one at Lowes after Christmas. Hang on the back of a door, on a wall, or even tied to a chair like they did in this photo. I am a big fan of boxwood spheres. Place in a flower pot on the floor by a door add that extra bit of style that will add interest to your home.
All these added accessories add personality and your style to your décor. When decorating on a dime – you always have to be on the look out for deals everywhere you go.
Family Room ……………………………………………………
Since the mantel is one of the focal points in the room, I would try to make it more updated and interesting. Remove everything on top of the mantle and the two prints from the wall. Buy a few large artists framed canvas’s at the crafts store. (Wait to buy when you have a 50% off coupon). Paint them in a few of your favorite colors that contrast with the wall color. Cover one with fabric or burlap. Lean them against the mantel, then layer smaller framed items in front of them. Layer one of of the framed prints in the mix if you love them. Place a large vase filled with white, pink, or fuchsia flowers on the right side of the mantel. Leaning art makes it easy to change or add new items.
I would move the small frames on the side table. Edit the ones you don’t like anymore and place the rest on a long tray and place them on the table under the TV.
When it is affordable – replace the area rug with a larger one. It would look better if the edges of the rug went under the sofa and the console table under the TV. since your room is long, you may need to get a custom size. you may only be able to place in under the sofa and not the TV table, but that will still look better then the small one that is just floating in the middle of the room. To keep it affordable – ask to have a carpet remnant cut to the custom size needed at your local carpet store. They will bind it for an additional cost, but even with that, it is a very affordable way to get a custom size rug.
The white sofa has dark pieces all around it, Chair ottoman and console table under TV are dark. Add white accents with color pops on these surfaces so the eye can travel around the room and see some some white all around. This will create a visual color balance for the room. Add more color – white, fuchsia or green/blues In the way of the accessories I mentioned above.
Lighting is always left as an afterthought, but I think is the most important aspect when decorating. The wrong color shade, bulb wattage and placement can make or break all of your decorating efforts. I have written a few posts about this. You can find them, How to Light Up Your Life, and Picking the Right Lampshade. Overhead lights cast hard shadows onto objects and people. If they are your only option – add dimmer switches to them so you can control the amount of light needed at different times.
None of this should be done all at one time. To make decorating affordable, let it evolve, wait to find only items you truly love. Most importantly give your home personality and you will end up loving your space.
If you want to add an idea or two about decorating on a budget that you think may help Brenda – please leave a comment. Just keep in mind:
1. Ideas need to be affordable.
2. This series is all about design ideas on a dime, not for voicing your opinions about personal style or taste.