There are infinite possibilities in home décor. The vast spectrum of choices can be exciting, but more often than not, the options are overwhelming. And believe me, whether you’re ready for a major house overhaul, or simply need to enliven a tired living room, the biggest gaff you can make in decorating is putting it off. Flip! for Decorating will help you make simple and achievable decisions about decorating, whether you’re starting with an empty house or are ready to liven up your already furnished apartment.
When friends call me for decorating advice, I know they’re looking for no-fuss solutions: the perfect gray paint, a sofa she’ll love forever, or a quick way to hang art before a party. I never reply with a laundry list of design rules, instead I’ll send her a one-line e-mail, “Benjamin Moore, Owl Gray in flat finish.” That gets her on her way to the hardware store and toward overall design improvements. You’re probably the same way–you don’t have time to comb through 300 swatches of gray paint or to mock up a few curtain styles before making a decision. So now I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. As a longtime decorating editor, it’s my job to know everything on the market–and to distill that into a short list of fail-safe choices that will get your home looking pretty, polished, and unequivocally you in a snap.
Flip! for Decorating kicks off by laying the groundwork for your home’s decorating scheme. Chapter 1 spells out the fundamentals of color, specifically, how to choose the perfect paint for a single room or a harmonious palette for your entire home. Paint is the fastest, easiest, and most dramatic way to transform a room. So to make it even easier, I’ve included a list of my favorite, no-fail paint colors to help you narrow down your choices.
Chapter 2 focuses on window treatments, teaching you how to select curtains or shades that bring new life to any window. Both chapters are packed with simple, effective ways to update your interiors. Tips like painting the ceiling a lighter color than the walls and hanging custom-made or store bought curtains high above the window frame will make any room seem more spacious. Before investing in a new sofa or rug, consider the techniques in Color and Windows–you’ll be surprised how changing the wall color or dressing up a window treatment can make a room look brand-new.
Chapters 3 through 6 focus on the four most decorated rooms in your home: the living room, dining room, family room, and bedroom. Each chapter begins with a section about the biggest, most important (and usually costliest) piece of furniture for that particular room. Think sofa, dining table, and bed. Second only to wall paint and windows, these marquee pieces of furniture make the biggest impact on a room. Even if you’re not in the market for a new sofa, skim through the section to learn where to place the one you already have to help reinvent your room.
Additional pieces of furniture and accessories are explained throughout the chapters. Each time an item is added to the room, a section called Basics will give you information about how it’s used in the room and tips for buying it. Typecasting breaks down the merits of specific types of furniture and clarifies questions of style, such as when you should use a round dining table verses a square one.
And you can even let your fingers do the walking. Unlike other decorating books, Flip! for Decorating shows you the progression of decorating a room step-by-step. Just use your thumb to flip through chapters 3 through 6 and you’ll watch four rooms assembled one piece of furniture at a time!
As you “flip” through the book, look for recurring sidebars, such as Measure for Measure, which illustrates the proper dimensions and measurements for furniture, rugs, and lighting, and Educated Consumer and Test Drive for quick shopping tips. Panic Button, If there’s One Thing You Do, and Why Not Try, will give you solutions if you are stumped, stymied, or need to add a quick jolt of style to a room, and fast. Each of these chapters end with Finishing Touches aimed at teaching you styling tricks so that all areas of your home, from bookcase to bed, look natural but pulled together–and even magazine-ready.
Luckily for you, it’s a great time to shop for your home. Today you can buy everything from fabric by the yard to custom upholstery, to chandeliers to hand-woven rugs with just a click or a call. New styles of furniture and accessories appear (and disappear) as fast as seasonal fashions: When patent leather hits the runway in Milan, it’s only a matter of weeks before it shimmies its way into showrooms around the world. It’s easy to fall for trends (I do it, too), but try to use them sparingly, like you do in your wardrobe. Resist the urge to buy a sofa decked out in the trend du jour and, instead, indulge in inexpensive art or accessories like colored vases and blankets that satisfy your urge but won’t feel “last season” before the check clears.
Decorating your home is, in a lot of ways, like getting dressed, with similar factors to take into account. When you buy clothing, I’m sure you consider what colors look good on you, what styles fit your body type, and when and where you plan to wear the item.
It’s the same when choosing a decorating scheme for your home. Think about your personal space. Consider the size and architectural style of your home, and the climate of your surroundings. What fits your lifestyle? Do you frequently host parties or do you work from home? What makes sense for your stage in life? Are you a homeowner with children or fresh out of school on an assistant’s budget? The more realistic you are about how you live, the better the choices you’ll make for your home. Most of us falter when we pick objects that are too aspirational, such as buying a pair of silk velvet— covered chairs for a home with a new baby or kitten. However, there’s no need to forgo flourishes of fancy just because you have pets or children; just scale it back and luxuriate with silk-velvet throw pillows instead. If you can’t afford the eight matching dining room chairs that you love, why not buy two and place them at the heads of your table? Mixing and matching furniture of different styles is a great way to make a room look modern and fresh.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to buy that perfect chair or alter those window treatments. You’re only a few pages away from decorating bliss.
Now get ready to FLIP
Excerpted from Flip! for Decorating by Elizabeth Mayhew. Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Mayhew. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.