We asked designer, TV host and author Christopher Lowell for his advice on giving your home an affordable facelift this fall. He shared some of his top tips with the Decorating Diva.
Clutter is the biggest culprit, Lowell explains. "People go out and buy more without purging what they have," he says. Get rid of everything that no longer tells your story accurately today or has become obsolete to your current lifestyle, the designer advises.
After purging, think about how you want to live now versus before. To make this part less daunting, do your homework. There are more visual resources out there today than ever before, and Lowell suggests finding examples rooms you like or connect with (for example, on the Internet or in a magazine), then visually breaking them down into key elements you can easily (and affordably) duplicate. "When you have a plan, you can build a room in layers and phases as you can afford."
Once you have a plan, decorate with your heart — not for your neighbors or what you think your parents might approve of, says Lowell. It's your home, so avoid trying to create spaces for guests — create spaces with your family in mind. After all, you are the ones who will be spending the most time there, so you want to be comfortable.
What to avoid or get rid of
If you're not sure what to change, the first thing Lowell mentions is patterned wallpaper. He explains that it is increasingly becoming a thing of the past because it devalues a property at resale because it's so hard it is to remove. If you do want to use it, stay organic and textural in your choices.
Wall-to-wall carpeting has also become a thing of the past -- instead, the preference is for hard-surface floors working in tandem with area rugs. Veneer floors are cheaper and easier to install than ever, and area rugs are easier to clean without disrupting the whole room, Lowell explains. Area rugs also last longer in high-traffic areas, add stylish pattern underfoot and move when you move to a new location. "Even in bedrooms and especially masters now, wall-to-wall is no longer desirable."
Once you're ready to make some changes and hit the shops, Lowell says to think timeless and classic first. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I like this a decade from now?
- How much will it cost to change if my tastes change?
- If I buy it now, can it be put in any room of a new home later? If you buy right, it should last you forever.
Trends to consider
Thinking classic and timeless is important, but there are a few hot trends to consider when thinking about updating your home. Lowell provides a few examples.
- Dual-function is what consumers now look for in furniture. Does it do something else like provide storage and/or move easily?
- Oversize upholstery like pit sofas are being replaced by smaller-footprint pieces that can be reconfigured depending on changing household activity.
- Multiple conversation groups now work better than big stationary ones (i.e., two or three chairs together versus one couch).
- Club chairs now replace loveseats. Both people get their space, compared with a loveseat that only accommodates one (or two people who want to get cozy).
- Dedicated home theaters and home offices are being replaced by floating media and tasking stations that put family members back in the mix instead of alone in a dedicated room.
- Formal spaces are going away — living rooms and dining rooms will now become part of bigger, more open communal spaces.
Affordable décor ideas
We all want to save money, especially when the holidays will be here before we know it. But decorating doesn't have to break the bank. Paint has the cheapest and most dramatic bang for the buck, Lowell says. "It can add intimacy, change proportions and bring together a lot of eclectic things into a more cohesive visual balance."
The next step is adding mirrors, another easy, affordable way to update your space pre-holiday. Remove dated or meaningless wall art and replace with great chunky-framed mirrors, the designer suggests. "They'll never go out of style, will add architecture to a space and will double light and view, space and mood."
Stay texture-driven with pattern and think solid layering when choosing all your room fabrics— similar to when you put an outfit together. "Pattern is the first thing to date a room so never build it into investment pieces," Lowell says. Instead, confine it to easily changeable things, like pillows. Last, if you're really stumped, you can also hire a designer for a walk-through consultancy. "For a few hundred dollars, a good designer can tell you a lot in a few hours, see your home in an objective light and save you thousands," Lowell says.
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