Your home is the easiest way to ensure the experience is positive every time you walk in the door. Decorating is about self-respect. Your surroundings reflect what you think of yourself, so surround yourself with the best you can afford. Our series of stories on the best decorating tips of all times are among our most-clicked and enjoyed – so here is our third Decorating Special to help you honour your presence in your home. And help make sure everything you put on show speaks to you and sends a positive message to others. Click here to discover how your style affects more than you thought. And be proud of where you live. Read more, ‘Melissa’s Ultimate Guide to Decorating.’
Great design creates great moods. That doesn’t mean spending a lot.
Good taste doesn’t cost anything extra. It’s as easy – and as cheap – to get things right as it is to get them wrong. Remember the more expensive a piece, the more useful, and flexible it should be. Make every item work for its keep.
You don’t need jaw-dropping architecture to make a space feel better. You just need a few quality classics, the ability to open your eyes to the boundless possibilities your house offers and the dedication to use your energy to allow it to fulfill its destiny. Here are new ways of living your best lives within the home. Start by treating each room like a blank canvas. Read more, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Decorating Your Home.’
1. BUY THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD
It’s cheaper in the long run. The more beautifully made, understated and simple your furniture, the longer it will last. That applies especially to the standards: dining tables, chairs and sofas. Don’t skimp, and choose timeless staples in neutral tones that you’ll be able to take from house to house. You’ll use them in different ways in different rooms, giving them different looks with little touches such as lamps and cushions. Read more, ‘Hands Down, This is The Best New Occasional Furniture Brand.’
2. DISPLAY SENTIMENTAL ITEMS AROUND YOUR HOME
One reason that experiences (and memories of those experiences) make us happier than material things is due to the entire cycle of enjoyment that experiences provide: planning the experience, looking forward to the experience, enjoying the experience, and then remembering the experience.
Make your interior a gallery of positive memories.
3. MAXIMISE YOUR SPACE
Built-in wardrobes make the most of space, allow you to arrange storage to suit your needs, and avoid the problem of a huge, hulking piece of furniture. Hinged doors are the best look.
4. ONE THING AT A TIME
Think of furniture staples as being like fashion’s little black dress: the more simple and classic they are, the more you vary them with accessories.
5. SEATING ARRANGEMENTS
Don’t use too many single chairs in your living area – the room will seem unwelcoming and formal. Mix up different chair styles, along with ottomans. As Goldilocks found, dining chairs must not be too hard or too soft, they must feel weighty – too light and no one trusts them, and they should not be shiny or too futuristic.
6. GET YOUR SOFA PLACEMENT RIGHT
Don’t place two sofas facing each other – too confrontational. Read more, ‘Bringing The Living Room To Life.’
7. GROUP ANTIQUES BY COLOUR
There’s a fine line between kitsch and curated. Unify vintage and new pieces by grouping them by colour hues. Read more, ‘How To Display Your Collections.’
8. GENERAL TV TIP
Don’t let your television take over your life or your home. Make your TV a seamless part of the design, without actually hiding it.
9. GO GREEN
Improve your emotional well-being by placing living plants throughout your interior. They can reduce stress and bolster concentration.
10. NOT LISTENING TO A ROOM
The best interiors are a harmonious marriage between architecture and interior design so spend time in an empty apartment or house before you decorate it. Get a feel for each room’s proportions; register the quality and direction of light; contemplate some surfaces, textures and colours—then let the room’s function dictate its design.
In other words, the furniture configuration in your living room should not be the same every time you move.
11. PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD EVERY DAY
Get rid of everything in your life that doesn’t measure up, whether it’s chipped cups, clothes that are the wrong size/ colour, or linen that is stained, cheap or tragic. Other people will notice and judge you. Worse, you’ll judge yourself.
12. DON’T BE A FASHION SLAVE
Don’t buy things for your home only because they are really cheap or really expensive.
13. FABULOUS FLOORING
It is one of the most expensive surfaces and it should be your first decision – especially as we have the most physical contact with it. Floors have a big impact on aesthetics, practicality and budget. The same flooring throughout an area will unify it and increase your sens of space, whereas a variety of treatement will enclose areas. What does your house need?
14. BUYING TOO FEW STAPLES
You can never have too many drinking glasses, knives, forks and other basics. You need to own at least three sheet sets, and two towels for every person in the house. Recognise that some things come in the wrong quantities: six dinner plates are not enough, even for a bachelor pad. Get twelve. Ditto wine goblets, wine tumblers, kitchen knives and teaspoons.
15. MASTER THE MIX
Beware matching ensembles of furniture, bath fittings or bedroom suites – the most effective and affordable approach is to mix mass-produced items with one-offs.
A sumptuous cushion moves a plain sofa into the style stratosphere, a basic round metal table looks brilliant with a French antique chair.
All matching curtains, cushions and carpets create character-free rooms, however upmarket. A house needs a mix of textures, fabrics, colours, tones and patterns to give it life and interest. You might like to read one of our most popular stories- ‘Best 50 Decorating Tips of All Times’.
16. DINING TABLES
They generally look depressing when bare; and only look good when dinner is about to be served. Rooms that contain tables have to be flexible and inviting, the sort of place you’d want to spend time in even when there’s no food.
17. SMALL SPACES
In small rooms, tuck the dining table into a corner and consider banquette seating. Opt for extension leaves, so you can tailor your table for different occasions.
18. BALANCING ACT
If your dining table doubles as a work surface, consider a laminate top you can cover with linen when you entertain.
Straight-backed dining is a thing of the past and most of us choose to use our “good china” everyday. The most successful rooms strive to be casual and relaxed. They welcome guests and encourage them to linger.
20. TRY SOMETHING ELSE BESIDES FLOWERS
Create a special centrepiece by featuring only green textures and foliage. Autumn is brimming with beautiful leaves, branches and berries or try an evergreen centrepiece in the winter. Read more, ‘Now Trending: 8 Ingenious Ways Plants Can Make a Room Look Bigger.’
21. KEEP IT SIMPLE
You can’t go wrong by focusing on one type of flower in the same hue. Try white hydrangeas or hellebores in the spring. A simple, monochrome bouquet combined with one or two textural elements will always look elegant and chic.
22. SLAVISHLY FOLLOWING TRENDS
Never change the way you design a house for the sake of a trend. The most successful rooms defy categorisation. They’re allergic to design templates because they reflect their owner’s individuality and life experiences. Read more, ‘What Interior Designers Hate to See on Instagram.’
Use only what suits you and your house. If you have to succumb to a fad, only buy an accessory or two and be prepared to throw them out next season.
23. DON’T RESORT TO CLICHE
Rooms that stay relentlessly true to one particular style or period – such as the popular ‘mid-20th century modern’ look – can leave little to the imagination. Good design is never stuck in a time warp. It’s confident and surprising. Glamour is rooted in the unexpected.
24. LACK OF HUMOUR
The best rooms never take themselves too seriously and yes, there is such a thing as death by good taste. A multi-layered interior should easily accommodate – and, at times, flaunt – a little irony, wit or kitsch.
25. TREAD LIGHTLY
Tie in floors with walls – pale with pale, strong with strong. Go very pale or very dark – nothing in between. Try a combination of hard flooring (timber or paver-size tiles) with woollen, cotton or fade Oriental or French rugs.
26. FEAR OF COLOUR
A coat or two of paint is the least expensive and quickest way to transform an interior. Skillfully applied colour acts like cosmetic surgery and opens up a claustrophobic kitchen or heightens a low ceiling. And then there are the mood enhancing qualities of colour.
27. STEP BACK
Look at things from a distance, so that you can see the discordant notes, the shabby and the chic. Set a new standard for the new things in your life, and be ruthless about maintaining it. There’s no room for sentimentality. Look for the fun, too. The Phillip Treacy hat that hasn’t emerged since the 1999 Melbourne Cup races might work brilliantly exhibition mounted.
Seek advice from stylish friends, as two pairs of eyes are better than one. Even experts usually seek a second opinion, if only to confirm what they already feel is right.
28. EASY ON THE LIGHTS
Improve your sensation and perception by changing your home’s lighting. As soon as night falls, lighting is the most decorative element. Remove harsh lights, and replace them with more calming varieties, and use dimmers or adjustable lamps whenever possible. ‘Read more, ‘The Essential Guide to Lighting.’
Rip off every ugly piece of door hardware in the house, from kitchen and bathroom cabinets to the front door. Pitted brass has to go. All those cut-acrylic jewels, too. Porcelain floral sprigs must also be destroyed. Anything in 24-carat gold plate must succumb to the purge. Install new, weightier, modern but unobtrusive designs in stainless steel or traditional classic French knobs that never go out of style. Read more on ‘The Best Door Hardware Suppliers on our Directory.’
30. BOOKS ARE CENTRAL TO AN INTERIOR
Books can be aesthetic signifiers, their spines telegraphing a certain gravitas — or a certain playfulness, depending on how they’re arranged. They create theatre, drama, and add soul to a room and the ultimate finishing touch. Read more, ‘What to Do With Coffee Table Books.’
31. EMBRACE YOUR INNER GARDENER
A tall palm tree can add a sense of lushness and energy. It’s only a plant, but it’s a game changer.
32. THIS GOES WITH THAT
If you want to move stuff from room to room, use neutral colours such as paper- bag brown, straw, stones with tone and white. Choose jacquards, damasks, linens, cottons, moleskins and small geometric prints. They are flexible and have visual interest and character, and won’t clash. Fads in fabrics come and go, but little checks are a classic. So are all kinds of stripes.
Any fabric you choose has to be tactile: if it feels unpleasant don’t buy it at any price.
33. ACCESSORIES TO CHANGE THE LOOK OF YOUR ROOMS
Accessories can pack a lot of punch, completely changing the atmosphere of a room, and you don’t need to spend a fortune of them.
34. DON’T BE MONOMANIAC
An interior filed with Victorian, Edwardian or Louis XIV themed furniture can make you look like a museum-keeper or a monomaniac. Antiques mix and match with everything, and one or two pieces go a long way. English antiques are good value at the moment, because the fashion has shifted to retro and twentieth-century classics. Make the most of the opportunity. They’ll be back. Be eclectic.
35. DISPLAY COLLECTIBLES ON A TABLE
Every room can benefit from accessories that have a history. Rather than showcasing your collectibles on a shelf, display them on a table. The secret is to make sure your collection is highly curated to maintain a sense of balance, unity and structure so it reads like a mini installation.
36. GROUP ANTIQUES BY COLOUR
There’s a fine line between kitschy and curated. Unify vintage and new pieces by grouping them by colour hues.
37. THINK OF PAINT AS MAKE-UP
Versatile, cheap, easy to apply, fun to use and simple to change – the only hard part is deciding on colours. To pull of the perfect interior, stick to the same harmonious tones throughout: pale with pale, strong with strong. If you want advice, check our ‘Cult Paint Colour Story’.
38. GO FOR HARMONY
Neutrals have been the most popular tones for the home during the first decades of the 21st century – and for good reason. Many people feel comfortable when surrounded by carefully balanced colours that create an understated environment and make few demands on the eye.
39. NEUTRALS OFFER INFINITE POSSIBILITIES
They are such a wonderful base to contrast furniture and accessories with, and making spaces airy and relaxing, refined and timeless, or elegantly sophisticated. Selecting a group for your home is easy – simply consider the light in the room and decide which colour you are most drawn to. Green-tone neutrals have a softness that feels very old world. Cool neutrals with a blue undertone – a good alternative to pure white – are for those wanting a strong industrial feel. Contemporary neutrals have a lilac tone, which lends an urban, clean edge while bringing warmth. So they are perfect in a family home, because they will never have the gritty feel of colder, bluer greys. Then there are the yellow-based neutrals which are more complex and have an unmatchable delicacy. The traditional feel comes from a dash of black. It is the prettiest and simplest of the neutrals that works perfectly in any rustic situation, and is very easy to live with.
40. FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES
Traditional design rules would probably advise against using mirrors of different sizes and placing them at different heights. They would probably also discourage from using fur in your bathroom, but we recommend following your own style rules. Do what feels right for you.
Just as there is a difference between fashion and style, there is a difference between trends and personal taste.
41. DRAW FROM YOUR HISTORY
Incorporate pieces that your family collected in your décor—did they have a midcentury penchant; a collection of nautical memorabilia; or rugs and textiles from their own family heritage? Weave these pieces in with your own personal taste to create a sense of history in your home.
42. NAB A NOOK
Transform an awkward under-eave space into a cosy reading spot. Stock it with comfortable seating, a table, a lamp, and shelves for displaying books and collectibles.
43. SOFAS THAT FORM THE FOUNDATION FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
Finding a great sofa is like finding a soulmate or a classic well-cut suit: the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You want it to be subtle and easy to relax in, with great attention to detail. Buy an investment piece and not a cheapie. Choose the very best fabric. Read more, ‘Finding The Perfect Sofa for Your Living Room.’
44. WHERE TO FIND STYLE
Show your individuality in how you live. To find the things that add your personal stamp, go to the places that stock one-offs. These can be high-end stores, auction houses, antique shops, trash shops, homeware boutiques, even hardware outlets. Look for a vast sideboard with the patina of old age, an antique chair, a pre-loved sofa, an expressionist painting. Things you’ve never seen anywhere else. In your hands, they tell the world, ‘I’m an individual. This is my taste.’
45. BE SATISFIED WITH LESS
Don’t be eaten up with materialism. Sometimes a little is enough. One Buddha in a bathroom beats two, and a single beautifully tailored blind trumps over-abundant curtains that spill opulently on the floor.
46. CURB APPEAL
Fundamental to a good first impression is a handsome front door.
47. WHAT TO DO DAILY
Place a garbage bin near where you open the mail, so you can toss out any unwanted mail the minute you receive it, instead of having to decide what to do with it down the line.
48. REDECORATE! REDECORATE!
Focus on how movement can play a part in your home. A change in environment helps improve mood, so keep your decor from becoming stagnate by deep-cleaning and re-arranging the space every few years. Read more, ‘Why You Should Redecorate Until You Kick The Bucket.’
49. FIND THE TIME TO FINISH THINGS
It’s easier not to do things than to do them. But fixing the torn flyscreen or the sticky drawer will give you a Martha Stewart high. It might be rearranging your bookcase with a view to the shapes and different volumes, turning your collection into a display of getting your sock drawer right – keeping an eye out for where new acquisitions are required. Or tearing up the carpet has made you miserable for 10 years. It will give you pep and pride in your achievement.
It will take less time and money than you thought and your life will improve dramatically.
50. TIME WARPS
People get stuck in the era when they grew up. Update your eye by flicking through instagram, blogs and magazines or visiting the best shops in town to see how things are being done. Often many of the things you own are fine, they just need a tweak.
And Finally, What If You Can’t Afford to Decorate? Don’t stop decorating, just stop buying. You can still pick up ideas and keep-up-to date – on social media, window-shopping, etc – about how to arrange what you’ve got.