Decorating dos and don'ts

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Television decorating-maven Lynette Jennings understands the frustrations of decorating your home. "If you're like me, you often find yourself attracted to totally different styles," she says.

That's perfectly OK. Picking out what's right for you -- not what others say is "right" -- can become one of the toughest hurdles. Design is not absolute, she insists. "We need to own up to who we are and what we like and then have the courage to live the way we want. Now that's design."

Jennings says too many homeowners get caught up in what others think. Taste is personal, and there are no mysteries or hidden agendas for living with space the way you love it.

She encourages families to take a good, hard look at their space. If time is spent mostly with children, then it doesn't make sense to put the often-used family room in the basement with no view or natural light. If you have a formal living room that you save for guests and you don't find time to have many, then perhaps that room should become the family room. If your family would enjoy putting a pool table into that room, do it. The room will become a true "living room."

In like manner, porches don't have to be for sitting only. If an old-fashioned sleeping porch would make you happy, there's no rule saying you can't turn your screened porch into one.

"Homes should better conform to our needs. The American house plan hasn't kept up with our varying lifestyles," she points out.

The same thing is true with color. For example, little girls' rooms don't have to be pink. Kitchens don't have to be yellow, a throwback to the 1940s.

The decorating guru understands firsthand. With a blended family of five children and two parents, she soon found out that it was imperative to go with the flow in terms of recognizing different styles and tastes.

Tools, not rules, from Lynette Jennings:

To pick your favorite colors, look at your closet, your car and the artwork in your home. See what colors you choose and which ones make you happiest. Forget about trend colors by setting your own pace.

Define a color with a white trim. White trim can brighten and sharpen a color.

Show some emotion in your decorating. Show off a colorful decorating personality, not just a white box.

If beige is your bag, fine. But be sure to add a bit of drama to it. Use rich tones, and show that you're confident in your choices.

Add a touch of black or a bit of dark color. Just a hint of it anchors the total color scheme of a room. For example, ordinary cabinetry gains fresh style with new black knobs. Or try a black countertop or black picture frames on photos.

Color is the grand connector in your home. Rooms aren't islands. They share borders with each other.

Straight Talk on Decorating From Lynette Jennings (Meredith Books, $34.95)

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