Conventional wisdom decrees that spring is the season to spruce up rooms and put a new face on your space, but winter doldrums can also be cured with some fresh paint, bright colors and newly organized rooms.
Whatever your motivation, if now is the time to make your home the haven you desire, you must first gather your thoughts, your magazine clippings, your random swatches and paint samples, and channel all of this into a design scheme. But how?
First, “look at how you live,” says LaMar Lisman of Lisman Studio in Salt Lake City, and ask yourself some fundamental questions. “How are you going to use the space? What is your lifestyle? Do you entertain or are you a homebody? Are you formal or casual?” Answer these questions before replicating a room in a magazine or taking the plunge into a gallon of high-gloss, hot pink paint.
Discovering who you are and the true function of a room can gently guide you through the rest of the decision-making process. For example, how much color can you handle? Are you at ease with mixed textures and patterns, or must you see wall-to-wall solids?
“People like to surround themselves in shades of their environment,” Lisman says. A native of Waikiki, for instance, welcomes the vibrant reds of a ginger blossom and the azures of a lagoon, while a Utahn, in general, would rather nestle into a room of neutrals. “We are surrounded by a lot of brown—even our greens are brown-greens!” he says. Even with a cozy Great Basin palette, one must still make sure to keep a room crisp and fresh, says Greg Hodson of Johnson and Hodson, also in Salt Lake City. “Don’t try and blend everything into a mud bowl! Especially in hard times, it’s refreshing to brighten things up. Don’t be afraid of white and get some contrast.”
If you only bring in one new dimension, Hodson adds, “I don’t care what room it is, any room looks great with white lampshades.”
Tie it Together
After incorporating these basic but integral ideas, you can now move on to “decorating.” But what is decorating?
Essentially, says Hodson, good design at its core is a function of organization, something we can all comprehend. Chances are, you lead a busy, executive lifestyle and crave order, symmetry and balance in your home retreat. This can be accomplished to any taste, but doesn’t have to be sterile and boring.
“Through accessorizing, through cabinetry and display, decorating has a lot to do with grouping and organizing a room into something personal and manageable,” says Hodson.
Sometimes all a room needs is a fresh eye, says Linda Johnson, the other half of Johnson and Hodson. For years, the firm has offered a “spiff” service, designed to help clients navigate through their own seas of armchairs, end tables and treasured collections and rearrange what’s there into something fresh and functional.
“If it’s done right, when it feels right, people use it,” Johnson says. “We’ve had clients call and say, ‘We are using it all the time now!’ Design is not just making things look pretty.”
One easy—but not recommended—way to decorate is to latch on to some kind of “theme.” Just because you collect African masks doesn’t mean you turn your living room into a jungle. The key is to gather those masks into a place of impact, then accent them with subtle complementary touches to pull it together, such as one zebra print chair or ottoman. The key is to avoid too much “whimsy,” Hodson emphasizes. “Keep your cute reigned in!”
Another way to begin putting a room together is to use one “piece” as a foundation on which to build. For example, you may have a bottle-green leather wingback chair that will never be released from your clutches.
Lisman says that while there are few strong “trends” right now in design, one is helping clients find what appeals to them by mixing their own pieces with new. “I hate the word ‘eclectic,’ but that’s what it is. I help my clients take something they love and make it look great, mixing style, scale, proportion, pattern and color.”
Even the brightest people with a flair for design could use an expert at some stage of the game, and if it’s in the budget, it can save a lot of time and money in the long run. Most designers offer a service similar to the Johnson and Hodson spiff; it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.
“We help talented people all the time to tie it all together,” Johnson says. “We’ve got years of knowledge and resources at hand.”
Keep it Real
One trend is surfacing right now in just about every catalog you flip through. Lisman defines it as “farm chic.” The good news is that elements of it are timelessly beautiful and classic and could be incorporated into a home for years.
“There is a real return to the handcrafted, to natural woods, woven fabrics, to an unfinished feel,” Lisman explains. “This is not the distressed look of years past. It’s not Old World, but green, raw and weathered. It’s a return to beautifully made things with….soul. I can’t explain it, but it’s something you can feel and sense.”
A quick walk through Restoration Hardware will add
inspiration, but think in terms of linen, raw silk, burlap and canvas. And baskets. “I haven’t seen baskets in years, but these are beautiful baskets, pieces you can pass on,” Lisman says. On the color front, look for milk, butter, duck egg, weathered barn, corn silk. “It is blending your buttoned up space into a more natural, earthy home setting.”