The Design Center
and Furniture 101
sections on this site are intended to take some of the "pain" away from your home decorating challenges and at the same time give you ideas and suggestions. Here are some questions you should ask yourself and the other members of your family:
- What styles do you like? Have each person in your family gather magazine photographs that depict the looks they like.
- Which styles don't you like? This information can be equally important.
- What are your favorite colors? (Here's a hint: Determine the predominant colors in your closet.)
- How will the room be used? Will it be completely casual or used only for formal entertaining? Your answer will determine many aspects, right down to the durability of fabrics.
- Do you have children or pets? Don't forget to consider their needs!
Once you have answered those basic questions, there are some easy steps to follow which will make your life easier and enhance the finished room.
- The first step in planning your space is to determine the focal point of the room. Find the dramatic element that draws your immediate attention. If your room has an attractive feature, such as a fireplace or picture window, center your furniture arrangement around it. If your room doesn't have one, create a focal point with furnishings. Dramatic window treatments, an interesting display of artwork, or a beautifully decorated bed can help define the space.
- After determining the focal point, go to our online room planner found on our homepage (or CLICK HERE). Or you can draw a floor plan of your room using graph paper or furniture templates. Use one graph square for every foot of actual space. Be sure to include windows, staircases, doors, fireplaces, and the focal point of your room.
- Measure major furniture pieces and make a template of each piece. After your room plan is complete, you can print it out and add color of each piece in the plan; then you can get a good idea how color is mixed throughout the room. Move the templates around to find the best arrangement before moving the first piece of furniture.
The following are a selection of questions that you have probably asked but may not have found the answers.
Q: I want to get new end tables for my living room. Is there a "proper" height that I should look for?
A: An end table should be no more than two inches higher or lower than the arm of the accompanying sofa or chair. Not only will that give your grouping a more cohesive look, it will also make reaching for something on the table much easier.
Q: How can I avoid "cookie-cutter" decorating and create an interesting room without straining my budget too much?
A: First and foremost, select accessories, fabrics and furnishings that reflect your individual lifestyle and taste. Keep fresh flowers and potted plants on hand for the gardener in you. A tabletop completely covered with your cache of elegantly framed family photos adds unique personality and a sense of tradition to a room. Tossing a few colorful, even whimsical pillows into an empty corner adds a surprising touch to an otherwise monotone room. And for the intellectual types, a wall of bookshelves filled with favorite volumes will take center stage.
Q: Flowers and green plants look great in the home, but I have absolutely no knack for gardening. Any ideas?
A: Nothing beats a vase of springtime flowers to brighten up your décor. However, one of today's permanent floral arrangements will also do the trick. These realistic arrangements range from the small and subtle to big, lush and full. So you don't really need a green thumb to bring nature indoors!
Q: What can I do to create a warm, cozy atmosphere in my home?
A: First, establish a warm color scheme. Soft, natural colors and earth tones are always popular and soothing. Enhance the atmosphere with richly textured upholstery fabrics that feel good to the touch, such as velvet and chenille. Decorate with books, photographs and mementos that reflect your interests and tell about your family. Finally, light your rooms with lamps, wall sconces, torchieres and candles instead of overhead lighting.
Q: I need storage space for my china, stemware and serving pieces. I'm looking for something other than the conventional china cabinet. What can you suggest?
A: If you're looking for enclosed storage, consider a sideboard. Small servers can tuck into niches, too; use a pair to flank a doorway, giving you tabletop space for barware, bowls or tureens. Make a dramatic statement by positioning an armoire at one end of the room. If you have dinnerware that you like to display, look to glass-enclosed display cabinets, baker's racks, or etageres.
Q: What is the most popular form of window treatment these days? I am in the process of redecorating my master bedroom and can't decide between the traditional look of curtains, or a more contemporary approach. My furniture is contemporary styling in light oak, but many of my accessories, including a vintage dressing table and crystal dresser top set, were once my grandmother's. What do you suggest?
A: The sky is the limit on window treatments. First you must decide if you want to let a lot of light in or go for all privacy. With new home construction emphasizing large windows, many decorators are opting for subtle top-of-the-window treatments that add only a small amount of color and pattern while hiding a blind or a shade. With what sounds like an eclectic environment that mixes different styles, this may be the way you want to go. Choose the dominant colors in the room for your treatments, but keep the patterns simple.
Q: After entertaining, I noticed a large white ring on my new coffee table, probably caused by someone not using a coaster. What can I do?
A: Use one of these stain removal techniques as soon as you notice the ring.
Q: My upholstery seems so dark, but I can't afford both winter and summer upholstery.
- Rub with paste wax using very fine (4/0) steel wool.
- Rub the spot lightly with a soft lintless cloth moistened with camphorated oil. Immediately afterward wipe with a clean cloth.
- Dip a small piece of cheesecloth in hot water to which three drops of household ammonia has been added. Wring cloth out tightly and rub spot lightly.
A: Why not try swapping dark, textured pillow covers for soft pastels, florals or springtime hues such as yellow, lilac or green. Consider a double-duty slipcover sofa.
Q: I have an active family. What upholstery fabrics will stand up best to everyday wear and tear and still give the room some style?
A: Many of today's most fashionable fabrics will withstand the most active family. Microfibers, for instance, are one of the most durable fabrics available; even most grades of leather will fit your parameters.
Q: I'm ready to purchase a new dining room table but I'm not sure what size to get to accommodate my family.
A: As a general rule, figure two feet per person along the sides of a table; a 10-foot-long table, for instance, will accommodate five people on each side. At the head and foot of the table, allow 15 to 18 inches per place setting.