Back to the basics - Key to decorating is finding your style

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

What's your decorating style? You say you favor simple but classic furniture pieces but love colorful, graphic poster art? Plus, you always scour flea markets for Fiestaware pitchers? Look around at what you live with and what you love. If those pieces and colors make you happy, that's a starting spot for finding your style.

Decorating is all about expressing your personality and surrounding yourself with favorite things.

Rules of this game don't really exist. You can fashion them to suit your lifestyle. Perhaps you want to display a growing collection or to showcase some inherited traditional furnishings. Maybe vibrant color is your signature look in public spaces, but in private ones, you favor whites and soft neutrals. That's perfectly OK.

What style can feature the look you love: Country French, New Country Colonial, Southwestern, '50s Funk, bold contemporary, or rich traditional? These days, eclectic is a style all its own.

Tying all the components together is tricky for some. That's where color, pattern, and furnishings become key tools.

COLOR: Color can visually stretch space, raise or lower ceiling heights, and alter emotional levels. Besides, it's the most reasonably priced tool on the market. Dramatic color can transform a bland wall into the focal point of the room. Liberal use of white, such as for woodwork and trim, lightens a color-rich room.

Never underestimate the stimulating power of red, or the surprising impact of cobalt blue. Look at natural, lighter tints of old favorite colors for a fresh look when you paint. Call on yellow to infuse some sunlight into a room, and don't be shy about using a rich chocolate brown on walls for a rich, restful look.

If you like the retro look, check out some shades of blue, green, and turquoise used in mid-20th-century interiors. Or, create a dramatic look with gold, silver, and jewel tones.

PATTERN: Show your personality by building a room scheme based on a dominant pattern, such as in an Oriental rug. Or, showcase a faux-paint finish for a touch of drama, or pick a mix of fabric and wallpaper designs.

For supporting patterns, repeat at least one of the colors in the dominant pattern. Large rooms can accommodate a mix. Small rooms can handle a lively mix, too, if the patterns are scaled down.

With multiple patterns, a print fabric of a sofa slipcover, for example, can set the scene. Wallpaper might be added to the mix, along with a subtle pattern in draperies. Another pattern on a side chair, along with others on accent pillows, can work together for a total scheme.

FURNISHINGS: Focus on one or two furniture pieces, such as a sofa or a pair of love seats. The rest of the furniture plan can be based on the pattern, color, scale, and size of the pieces.

Furnishings comprise more than the furniture pieces in a room. They also include artwork, rugs, lamps, mirrors, book, photographs and mementos that add character.

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