Resolutions hit home

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
This photo shows how designer Brian Patrick Flynn gives clients resolutions to frame their misfit art at the beginning of the new year to assure its use. (Sarah Dorio)

It's the season for resolutions, and for many people that means vowing to get their home in the best shape possible.

Whether it's clearing out clutter, catching up on small repairs, bringing fresh style to a favorite room or organizing closets, many people have home on the brain as the new year begins.

For interior designers, "the phone rings in January, after the holidays," said Betsy Burnham, founder and principal designer at Burnham Design and Instant Space in Los Angeles. "People take stock and make resolutions. People get motivated, which is great."

But how can you make sure those resolutions stick, and turn into real results?

Burnham and fellow interior designers Taniya Nayak (host of HGTV's "Destination Design," premiering in March) and Brian Patrick Flynn (of TBS' "Movie and a Makeover") offer strategies:

This photo released by Sarah Dorio shows how clients of designer Brian Patrick Flynn opted for the gift of a contractor to turn dead space between closets into a laptop workstation.(AP Photo/Sarah Dorio) **MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT TO SARAH DORIO** **MANDATORY DESIGN CREDIT TO BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN**


You may be feeling inspired to jump into projects right away, but these designers recommend taking time to think and plan.

Burnham suggests spending a weekend leafing through design magazines. Tear out photos of things you love, creating a stack of tearsheets that show what you really want your space to look like. "Any of your rooms can look like any of those rooms," Burnham said, if you take the time to determine what you like and how to make it happen on your budget.

Flynn recommends searching your home for small spaces that aren't being used well. Take a look at alcoves and corners of rooms, then brainstorm new uses for them. Nayak suggests photographing each room, then looking at the images as if the home belongs to someone else. You'll view familiar spaces differently, with fresh eyes, she said.

Next, make a list of the jobs you really want to get to this year and determine the first steps you need to take for each. Schedule those first steps and gather any necessary tools or supplies. "You need to mentally prepare. Tell yourself, 'OK, Saturday's the day,' and then don't make any other plans," Nayak said. "The more things you do to prepare, the more invested you are in making it happen."

Not everything must be done in the first months of the year, Burnham said, but it's important to set things in motion.

In planning, "Be realistic," Burnham said. "Try saying, 'I'm going to make sense out of my hall closet today,' instead of saying, 'I'm going to do all my closets today.' ... If I say, 'I'm going to redo this bathroom,' that may not happen. But if I say, 'I'm going to start by measuring, then I'm going to interview contractors,' that gets done."


If your resolution is to bring new style to your space, Flynn said, there are small changes that will instantly freshen any room.

Start by pulling out unframed pieces of art or things that need new frames: "Yes, framing can be expensive and you may think, 'Why am I putting money into something I already own?' But right now, you're not using it," he said. "Take it to be framed, then when you get it back, next thing you know you're finishing rooms because you're so excited about the art."

Try swapping the art in one room with art in another. Experiment with mixing styles. You can always move things back if you don't love the new combinations.

"Redo your surfaces," Burnham said. "Take everything off your coffee table, all the pretties, then rearrange. Move books, boxes, collections to new spots." Go through frames to update family pictures. Flynn also recommended adding trays and baskets to organize and coordinate loose items.

Another quick infusion of style for the new year: Nayak suggests spray-painting old furniture and frames in new colors. Her favorite: Paint ornate frames and traditional wooden pieces in fresh white lacquer. It can be done in one day with little expense.


To keep on schedule, commit to deadlines: Plan a home decor swap or holiday decoration swap with friends, Nayak said. If you have plans to trade stuff on a given date, you're going to actually go through your home and weed out what you don't want anymore. It's also environmentally friendly and affordable.

Another great motivator: Plan a party. "You're probably not going to do it if you guys are hanging around in your pajamas. But if people are coming over ... It just works like that," Burnham said.

Figure out the obstacles to doing what you want and find ways around them. Dreading decluttering and reorganizing your kitchen? Merge your desire to get healthy or lose weight with the desire to de-clutter and organize your kitchen. Use one resolution to help you stick to the other, Nayak said.


Spending money on help from a contractor or handyman may seem like a splurge, but an expert may be able to accomplish in a single day projects that would take you weeks. And a professional may be necessary to get the look you want.

Finally, keep expectations realistic. Burnham thinks of an ideal project in terms of a "triangle: good, fast, cheap. I tell clients, pick two. You cannot have all three."

Your resolutions won't all get accomplished in an instant, but if you stick with them and figure out what's most important, you'll see results.

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