As an avid reader of your blog, here is a burning question I could not find.
We just bought a brand new built home. Where do I start? Window coverings? Area rugs? Furniture? The entire home has hardwood floors.
Is there some sort of decorating plan or template I can follow?
Happily, we are planning to get some new up-to-date furniture. So, much will need to be replaced.
Thanks, in advance,
hehehe… It’s not easy, is it?
Sorry for the sardonic chuckle, but people ask me all of the time for decorating advice. So often, I get long-winded descriptions which cause my brain to short-circuit.
Designers are visual people; if we can’t see what you are talking about, it is impossible to give advice, much less come up with a decorating plan.
Here are a couple of posts that do discuss the importance of having a plan
The most important thing you need when buying furniture.
The worst decorating mistake you’re probably making.
But, what you need is a 12-step program.
Oops. No, not that kind of 12-step program. I meant a 12-step DECORATING PLAN– A plan that will ensure that you get the best results possible.
While there’s a lot of great information in those two posts, it’s not everything. So here is where I’m breaking down in sequence, everything you need to do so that you will be less likely to end up with a scary mishmash.
The first three steps need to be done in close connection with each other. And this is because much of it is interrelated.
Decorating Plan Step #1
Assessment of your home.
This is an exceedingly important step because the style of your home, where it’s located, and the other homes in your area might dictate some of your design decisions.
But, it is also the time to look at the “givens.”
Givens are things that don’t move like tile, floors, mouldings (or lack of). And it might go as far as the layout of the rooms and, of course, kitchens and baths.
However, some of this ties into the budget. If money is tight, then you will need to look for creative ways to make your new home’s decor work for the look you want. You might want to check out Decorating Advice for Folks Who Are Plumb Broke.
If money is more plentiful, then part of the assessment will be deciding if things that aren’t working need to be changed somehow.
Givens may also apply to things that you MUST work with, such as your grandmother’s secretary.
This brings us to:
Decorating Plan Step #2 –
Discovery of your personal decorating style.
Personal decorating style is a vast topic with lots of sub-topics. It is also related to the style of your home– Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If you are lucky, you will already have a strong sense of your unique style. But, if not, now is the time to nail that one down.
How do you find your style? Well, I found mine really fast when I went to interior design school. And I had to complete an entire living room with a rendering and boards in one week.
If you need help, I recommend going to Pinterest and creating a secret board where you can pin away everything you love. Make notes in the place provided for a description. If you need to share this board with anyone, there is a place that you can provide for that.
This is a vital step because you can’t bake a cake if you don’t know what kind of cake you’d like to bake. One doesn’t just start throwing ingredients together and hope for the best. Right? Only the most experienced and talented chef could attempt something like that.
I have a lot of pins and boards on Pinterest. Please follow me and feel free to pin your private and group boards anything you like from my boards. You can also pin anything on this website that has a pin it button. (unless it’s clearly ugly and your board is to be used as a reminder of what NOT to do.)
But another way to find one’s style is to look at the work of other designers. I have done many, many posts featuring many talented interior designers. This links to some of them.
Decorating Plan Step #3
Planning for your living needs
There are dozens of things you might need to incorporate into your design plan, but here are a few to get you thinking.
- If money is tight, are there certain rooms that must be more or less finished?
- Do you entertain a lot? Inside? Outside?
- Do you need a place for the kids to play? I know a family whose two boys share a room, and another bedroom is their play area. Or maybe you need a designated homework area where you can keep an eye on them. (said an experienced mother who did not have this!) ;]
- Is the home working as laid out? Sometimes it actually makes sense to switch a designated space. For example, maybe you don’t need the formal dining room, but you need a home office far more, or a den or even a guest room. Or the area that’s supposed to be the dining room would work better as the family room and vice-versa.
- Is something missing? For instance, a coat closet, broom closet, or mud/laundry room? How/where will you create the necessary space(s).
Decorating Plan Step #4
Figuring out your budget
Prospective clients hate being asked this question. But it’s imperative to take a good, long realistic look at this number. And if you have not yet purchased a home, not to get yourself mortgaged up the arse to a point where you can’t afford so much as a new table lamp.
There’s nothing worse than a big expensive home with crappy, cheap furniture.
How to figure out your budget?
A very good way is to go to a website like Wayfair that has pretty much everything except custom window treatments. Go pretend shopping. Put everything you want in your cart. Allow for shipping AND delivery if it doesn’t show up right away.
A post I did a few years ago about how much it costs to furnish a room.
And How much it costs to do a smart kitchen renovation.
What if it’s still an insurmountable number?
- Decide your priorities.
- Start with the basics: sofa, two club chairs, end tables, lamps. Now, you can use the room. Hint: Always take care of the big things first. It’s tempting to do the little things, but that’s a trap that might not work out so well for the long term.
Decorating Plan Step #5 – Color preferences
This is not choosing wall colors. Ideally, that actually happens much further through the process. Although, you can certainly be thinking about them. But through your inspiration photos, you should begin to see a pattern of colors you like.
Carry at least one color through all of the rooms on the main living level.
If you need help with colors and color palettes, dozens of them are in the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.
This is a two-part guide with nearly 500 pages and a game-changer. (there are dozens of glowing reviews on the page that explains the paint palettes)
To find out more about the paint products and or Laurel’s Rolodex, start here and then click the links for the individual items.
***I’m going to take a break for a sec. If everyone who’s planning on working with an interior designer or decorator did just these first five steps, you would be able to:
one) figure out if the designer is right for you. (and vice versa)
Learn what it takes to get fired by your interior designer.
Two) make the entire design process easier and more fulfilling for both of you.
Decorating Plan Step #6
This is planning for the pieces that will be going in your rooms and working out the flow. Head over here for more info about how to go about doing this.
Now, and only now, are you ready to get into the thick of it.
Decorating Plan Step #7
Jumping off point. We have talked about this numerous times. It could be:
- a room you saw that you’re using for inspiration and direction.
- furniture that you’ve inherited
Speaking of furniture that you’ve inherited. This is my philosophy. Keep what you truly love. If you don’t love it, give it to charity or sell it. It’s okay. Granny quite possibly did the same thing with her grandmother’s furniture that she didn’t want.
OR, is there a way to use this piece of furniture to make something that you DO love? Could it be painted, perhaps? Or how about a slipcover or new upholstery. There’s an entire post about this.
Okay. Finally. We’re ready, or rather, *you’re* ready to have some fun!
Do you see that you must do these seven steps in your decorating plan BEFORE you even step foot inside a furniture store? Sure, you can look for ideas, but you are not to purchase so much as a napkin ring without a solid plan.
Decorating Plan Step #8
Sourcing the furniture selections for your new home and keeping in mind these important points.
- Where to shop. Well, that’s what the hot sales pages are all about! And the widgets in the posts with home furnishings related to the point of the post. Those are scattered throughout this blog starting in about May 2017.
- I very much recommend that you get a copy of Laurel’s Rolodex with over 500 sources. Some are only to-the-trade. But all except the very highest end products can be purchased somewhere. If you are a designer, you absolutely NEED this guide. Don’t believe me; then you can read the reviews on the page.
- The scale of each item, in relation to the room and each other. For instance. Are the heights of the chairs and sofa within an inch or two of each other? Certain chairs can be taller than a sofa if they are far into the room or such as wing chairs flanking a fireplace wall.
- Are the heights of the tables good for the size of the furniture and scale of the room? Double, no, wait. Triple check all measurements.
- Can the furniture fit through the door? Don’t laugh. It happens.
- If it’s going up or downstairs, you need to be exceedingly mindful of the piece that can make it up or down. The same goes for any very tight corners. If necessary, is there another way to access the space? Some companies will take furniture apart and then install, once it’s in place.
- Sourcing also includes things like window treatments and rugs. But, if money is a problem, I would stick with the basic things that you need.
- In addition, sourcing includes a selection of wall colors and/or wallpaper.
***SUPER IMPORTANT*** especially when purchasing online. Try to get samples of the fabric and/or finishes. If that’s not possible, then try contacting the manufacturer. They usually have customer service reps who will be happy to assist you with this kind of information. While they may not have that information readily available, a good rep will get back to you within a day or two.
However, some companies like Serena and Lily, for instance, are dead-on with the colors. I’ve ordered from them numerous times and every time I got exactly what I expected. Oh, if only everyone had photography that good. BTW, just a coincidence, but all S&L lighting is on sale this weekend.
Decorating Plan Step #9
Making a mood board with all of your furniture, window treatments, floor covering, fabric swatches, paint colors.
Oh, stop kvetching that you don’t know how to do this. If you have a power-point or keynote, you can easily make a mood board.
- Save all of your images in a folder on your desktop.
- Open up the images one at a time.
- Right-click the image select “copy.”
- Then, go to your board hit right-click “paste” onto your keynote or power-point board.
- Drag the corners of the image to resize, and then drag your image to where you want it on the page.
(hint: If you’re ever struggling with anything technical, 99 times out of 100, there is a youtube video explaining exactly how to do what you want to do. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten myself out of a nasty pickle and was saved by some good soul on youtube!)
Back to your mood board.
Do this with every image. It’s fun, and you’ll feel so great when you’ve finished, and the room looks amazing. If it doesn’t look amazing, assess what might be missing.
You can also make another secret board on Pinterest and put all of the final images there. It’s not quite as good, but almost.
Here is when it would be helpful to consult with a professional pair of eyes. I guarantee you that a good professional will immediately see the problem and give you the best options to correct it.
Most designers who do this service work with a two-hour minimum. And while it’s best to work with a local designer, it is possible to do long-distance with an experienced decorator.
Note: If you are a decorator and provide E-design services, you can say so in the comments, and then please link to your design services page where it asks for your URL to your website. Note. Please do not link to houzz. All links to houzz from this website will be deleted. If you don’t already know, the link explains why.
Decorating Step #10
Edit. Ruthlessly. If in doubt, leave it out.
- This might mean more trips to stores either online or in person.
- Please note that measurements both in stores and online can be incorrect. If in doubt and the measurements are tight, please call the manufacturer or vendor.
- It might mean reselecting. (or waiting) Welcome to my (old) world.
- Revise the mood board that you’ve saved.
Are you still struggling with some areas? Then, contact a designer again. Quite frankly, I think you should be working with one the entire time, but I realize that sometimes it’s impossible to find the right one. It is better to do it yourself than torture yourself with someone who is inflicting pain because it’s not a good fit. (read here to find out what can happen if it’s not a good fit)
How are you doing? Are you THRILLED with everything you’ve selected? In days past, I would hold all of my client’s samples up and stare at them for days. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it usually isn’t.
Ahh… that’s better. Now you’re coming into the home stretch. However, the home stretch could last for weeks, if not months (and months)
Decorating Step #11
- Start with the items with the longest lead times, such as custom pieces or any out-of-stock items. Please be careful with the latter. Try to find out WHEN the item(s) is expected to be back in stock. If they have no idea, I recommend reselecting; unless you’re the gambling type or MUST have that piece. Still, it’s risky.
Be relentlessly OCD. Pretend that the person on the other end of the order line just arrived from a planet in a distant galaxy. Never assume anything.
SPELL EVERYTHING OUT WITH TECHNICOLOR ACCURACY.
- And include swatches or a clear photo of the material on any custom orders.
- Make sure that workrooms and manufacturers understand which way the fabric is to go.
- Send anything delicate for upholstery out to be knit-backed for dozens of truly nightmarish things that can go wrong with fabrics, click here. (most of these happened to me!
Decorating Step #12
- Arrange for deliveries.
- Wait for the truck that never shows up after you spent three hours rearranging your schedule.
- Call the delivery company to find out what happened.
- Get the spiel that “the truck broke down.” (that’s code for the guys decided to take off early to go to the tavern)
- Hope to heaven that nothing comes in damaged; because if it is, you’re going to have to work to prove that it happened and happened before it landed in your home.Good luck with all of that!
Now, coinky-dinky, I got this email THIS afternoon and am including it because it’s related. My answers are embedded in the email– like this these two sentences.
I love your blog, taste, and intelligence – and I am one of the pickiest people on earth.
Good, you should be, and thank you! :]
I’m writing with a blog suggestion:
There is a recent surge in online design services, and it is hard to know if they can truly help. Or, if they can, which kind of service to choose.
I have a crazy/busy life; two young kids and a senior-level, demanding job. And, when we recently moved to a new, larger apartment, I became overwhelmed by the process of trying to decorate it.
We have a tight budget but expensive taste, and there is way too much choice in the market; plus, when I would order things that look nice online, they often arrive looking very different…
And, making returns amidst a crazy work/kid schedule puts me over the edge.
Although I don’t really have much of a budget for a designer, I know it is necessary if I was ever to have a living room.
Hold on a sec. What makes you think that?
If more designers would get and use Laurel’s Rolodex, they could earn more money AND charge their clients less— A LOT less.
And, as I don’t know where to find an affordable designer, I turned to an online service that matches the user with one.
They matched me with a designer about six weeks ago but didn’t love her online portfolio.
Everything is sleek, contemporary, and grey with a pop of color.
Do you mean like this?
I know that’s the style right now, but it’s not my style. Her look just doesn’t resonate with me. To put it in perspective, I love almost everything you post (but I hadn’t discovered your blog yet).
The service (Homepolish, if you must know!)
No, I don’t need to know, but thank you for telling me, just the same. :]
They insisted that she’d be right for me, so I agreed to it and paid a large up-front fee, and we got started.
Insisted, eh? You know, I took a look at their website. They have a few “different” styles, and ya know what? They ALL look the freakin’ same. This reminds me of Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, no fries, chips, no Coke, Pepsi. (yes, it links to one of the old skits with John Belushi! HILARIOUS!)
Now, weeks later, it has been so challenging. She is super nice and has kids too, but I don’t like most of the items she suggests; I’ve shared a detailed Pinterest board with her, so my style is clear – it seems to me she should understand it.
We’ve met/shopped several times, but it doesn’t seem to help – she had picked out only two sofas to try. I didn’t like either, as they were boxy/modern slope arm, and she’s now recommended only a couple more, but they continue to look like those other two (I prefer curvy lines and had suggested English Roll Arm, but she hasn’t shown me a single one).
You are speaking French, and she is speaking Mandarin. She only knows what she knows.
I think she is frustrated by my limited budget but isn’t her job to help me source the right thing within that budget?
Yes, it should be, as long as the budget is realistic. Apparently, the furniture you seek, stylistically, is not within her capabilities at this time.
She needs to get a copy of Laurel’s Rolodex STAT!
And she keeps suggesting things from Restoration Hardware (her favorite), Crate and Barrel, and West Elm. But, the very reason I reached out to Homepolish is that I had already looked at those places and not found what I wanted, so the presumption is that I need designer expertise and resources.
The process has also been ad-hoc and incohesive – I would have thought there would be some sort of structure and plan, but beyond the budget, we laid out upfront, there isn’t one. So now Homepolish has sent me an email.
To ask why I haven’t yet bought more than a pair of RH blackout curtains (which were so heavy they broke the brackets on my kids’ curtain rods), as they can sense something ain’t right.
noshitshirley! But the fact that they are emailing to find out why you haven’t bought anything else is disturbing to me. IF they contact, it should be to inquire, “how’s everything going with Pinky Beige? Isn’t she fabulous?” And then you can tell them the truth instead of being put in an awkward position.
Sorry to ramble. It’s just that I’m dying for my home to be a home instead of a storage unit, and I have so little time in the day-to-day to deal with this. I’m not sure if this problem is the concept of an online service in general or specifically the Homepolish-recommended designer…but regardless, it made me crystallize the problem so many of us face that you might be able to help us with –
I guess the suggestion for the blog post is this: how can someone on some kind of a budget (doesn’t have to be crazy tight) best get design help through an online service in each of two ways:
1) using the services that match you to a live, in-person designer who can go to your home (the post could outline what to think about, what to ask for, how to ensure you get a good match, and what to expect in the process)
There is always going to be an extra charge for this. Any time you involve an extra party, you pay.
2) using the online design services that don’t go into your actual home but rather use visualization software to help you model your space with different designer-selected furniture and decor (again, the post could explain what to look for, what to ask, and how to optimize the process), and maybe also 3) any other kind of online interior design service that I’m not thinking of.
Does this make sense?
Discovering your blog was a breath of fresh air for me, as your taste is lovely and your writing is so fresh, fun, and smart, and the topics (and sale posts) are so relevant. Thank you for doing it!
Thanks so much, Dorothy. I very much appreciate your kind words!
But, here’s how I feel about these companies who are providing e-design to the masses.
If one’s idea of a gourmet meal is Chef Boyardee Ravioli out of a can, they will LOVE online design. Or rather E-design, it’s usually called.
However, there are two kinds of e-design.
Through a company like the one above, which apparently means:
cheeseburger-no fries-chips-no coke-Pepsi-design
How it works is they have a limited number of furnishings, and now that they’ve assessed that you have “cheeseburger taste” (not!), they simply plug in the minute variations based on your questionnaire.
If you dare say that you want a grilled cheese, then you will get a call inquiring why you’re not cooperating, it appears.
To be clear, some of my colleagues do E-design, and it is far more personal. Plus, you aren’t giving a cut to a big company.
Most of these designers are very talented, and their selection of home furnishings far vaster.
What I hear from you the most is a lack of time. And in your case, it’s true. Working full-time and then coming home to take care of little kids must leave you exhausted.
But look at all of the expense, time, and energy you have expended on something that’s been a huge disappointment?
However, please don’t be down on yourself. I’m the girl who spent $7,000 building a custom shop several years, and the entire thing went down the drain. We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Somebody else said that, but it’s true.
So, I’m not going to suggest that you do everything yourself. However, I think you could use a designer as a consultant and follow the 12 step interior design plan.
Phew. This is officially the longest post ever. So, no pics today. But I think this is a post to refer back to repeatedly, and it’s one that others will like to see. Therefore, if you have Pinterest boards, please pin the graphic below to one of them.
And also, I never mention this (but should), but if you like the post, then please share it on Facebook and Twitter (links below the post)
Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!
by Laurel Bern
living in a relatively small space (a condo) I say “measure, measure, measure.” Measure your room space, measure your major furniture pieces and figure out ahead of time what is going to go where. You can sprinkle in the accessories later (including hanging stuff on the walls AFTER the furniture is in place). Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!!
Great advice Susie! Thanks for that. It’s quite steamy here at the moment. But then, it’s July. But this is one of the steamiest that we’ve had in a while.
Great post Laurel. I’d like to add that there are designers (like me) who will work on a consulting/hourly basis. I’ve had many clients who want to do it themselves but need some professional advice before pulling the trigger on the important (costly) choices. It is an extra cost but minor compared to the cost of re-decorating (or worse– living with something you dislike). If you find a designer who doesn’t work this way you can ask them if they know of a designer who will.
Thank you for chiming in with that. I think it’s a great service and well-worth the money.
I do not think it is overstating things to say that you are my most trusted resource. Anything I buy, I check first to see if you have had something to say.
And I cannot believe it but I have actually learned from you. My taste has evolved and my judgement has really improved. So has my confidence.
I chose antiqued brass and a yet to be determined shade of green for our master after a lot of deep thought. We have three shades of wood in there already so I wanted something that was light and didn’t add to the HEAVY WOOD SO MUCH WOOD ITS A FOREST IN THERE GIRLFRIEND, And I feel like it will be beautiful. And that is all because of you.
Thanks so much Celeste for your kind words. I have grown and learned writing this blog too! Part of that is because it’s forced me to examine exactly how I do things so that I can explain. And part of it is learning more about areas that I have somewhat less experience with like kitchens and bathrooms. Or, exploring certain materials like the encaustic cement floors. And then, I have learned so much from all of the wonderful readers!
Loved this post. I’m 64 and never really had a plan, but if I were to start over, I’d certainly take your advice.
At my age, I have all the furniture I need, but sometimes I feel like I want to replace some things. I purchased well-made furniture where it counted, and I still mostly love what I have.
You mentioned somewhere on your blog ‘overpriced furniture.’ I don’t really know when furniture is overpriced. My furniture came from a well-known vendor, one of those places with in-house decorators to help us choose. And it wasn’t cheap, but it certainly wasn’t
the most expensive out there.
How do we know when furniture is overpriced? What do we have to pay for good quality furniture? Do most people buy furniture for the long-haul, or do they purchase things with replacing them in mind? I grew up in a time when people kept what they had just about forever (my mom, certainly) and it galls me to think about replacing my two 20-year old sofas. They may be a bit outdated as far as shape, but, I don’t know, they still work for me because I think they are classic.
I read somewhere on a different decorating blog (not a trained decorator) that we should replace our sofas ever seven years. Not happening in my house, but what do you think?
It just seems that everything is so disposable these days, and trendy to boot. I have considered having them reupholstered to update their look, but it might be cheaper to just buy new. That is, if I can bear to let them go.
You see the dilemma here, I’ll bet. Anyway, just an idea, and I do love your blog. Hope you are well. Thanks for reading our comments.
Something is definitely over-priced if it falls apart in seven years or less and it costs more than the average item in its category. But it also might be over-priced if it’s involving a certain name or brand that’s synonymous with prestige. Prestige costs $. However, if one has the money and loves the item to bits, then it’s priceless. Right?
I do not adhere to the disposable furniture theory. And definitely not to the it needs to be ditched after seven years proclamation! Ironically, some of the wealthiest people NEVER get rid of their furniture. I mean, truly OLD money; not self-made billionaires in the 21st century. Not that the latter can’t have exquisite taste, but it’s not a given. (unless they hire the right people!)
Here’s my take on your two sofas. If you think that they are classic, then they probably are. You are right. Reupholstery is very expensive. It could easily be $4,000 or more to have both of them done. And yes, you can get a nice, new sofa for $2,000. But if the fabric is still in good condition, maybe you just need to refresh with some new throw pillows.
That links to a post I did about throw pillows. It gives some great sources for pillow covers. Be sure that your inserts are feather and down or else do a really good down alternative. The rest of the info is in the post.
Thanks so much for your very helpful reply. I had heard that about Old Money Folks. Makes sense. I will keep my sofas–they are in great shape and I still love them. I told my husband you just saved him $4000!
I’ll check out the post on pillow covers.
$4,000 at least, before pick-up, delivery and sales tax. I would make it an even $5,000 that you saved.
You don’t lie!!! Seriously, the best blog post I have ever read 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thank you for knowing that this is exactly the information that I needed today!!! You are such an inspiration…
Thank you so much Ann!
I adore you Laurel! I’m so sad to hear about the problem people are having with E-Services. I have a 100% happiness rating with mine but I don’t design with pigeonholing people into a style.
Like you say above, a great designer will give you a great service, I would suggest everyone do their research beforehand and if the service doesn’t include at least an hour skype session, then walk away. The majority of the time the designer should be listening to you, not the other way round!
COME BACK TO ENGLAND! We miss you!
Enquiries for my e-design services can be found on my website http://www.jochrobak.com
Thank you for always being so awesome!
There is a chance that I will be returning late in October this year, but I’m not certain. It would be London only, this time. Unless Ben and Charlie would like to invite me to lunch again. (sans the other 28 trip mates) haha! Although, I think I would have trouble eating, (toooo excited + too busy yakking) so I’d be perfectly happy nibbling on one of Charlie’s amazing cakes or pastries with a lovely English cup of tea.
Thank you so much for linking to your website. It looks lovely. However, I could not find a portfolio. Do you have one? I did view your instagram and am following you now.
You’re so amazing Laurel not only for taking the time to reply but for even checking my site, thank you! I’d love to take you and your partner for high tea in London, if you can spare a minute (I understand you are a very busy woman!)
No portfolio yet, the big projects are only just coming to completion in the next few months and the smaller / online ones have been photographed by the clients and so those ones I put on Instagram. Can’t believe I wasn’t following you on insta (omg).
I might come to NY for the first time ever this year (trying to get a trip sorted but hubby won’t go, so it will be a business trip. Can’t wait to visit all the places you talk about in your blog!
I’ll send you my number again for when you are in London, just in case you do think it appropriate for some high tea at the Ritz.
That would be amazing and if you come to NY, I would love to return in kind!
This really is a fantastic boiled-down version of what those thick “how to decorate your home by yourself” books try to teach you! I didn’t have the benefit of this post to guide me a year ago but managed to make my own, very similar list based on the books of a couple designers I deeply admire. As long as I actually *remember* to check my notes to self when I am shopping, I’ve been doing pretty well.
One invaluable thing for me that I would add was making a short list of adjectives describing the style/feel of things I wanted in my house – i.e., unfussy, natural, relaxed, breathing room. This has helped keep me from purchasing a few things I loved in themselves but wouldn’t work towards the feel of the home I am trying to make, particularly since I have a thrift-store & paint type of budget and things are coming together slowly as I am able to find them.
I think that’s sound advice in the beginning to make the list of adjectives. I’ve never done that. But the things that I purchased because I “had to have it or I would die” kind of feeling, I still love– DECADES later. I used to joke that if the house were on fire, I’d grab the kids, cat, purse and my antique Zuber screen!
Hi Laurel, I love everything you say and pictures of everything I’ve seen that you’ve designed, who wouldn’t?You may have addressed this many times but I don’t understand something. I recently used a local (not chain) furniture store to do interior design work for me.
I did this where I used to live before as well. At this store if you buy $300.00 of furniture from them their design service is free. They came to my home, measured, did schematics, etc. All of their first furniture suggestions didn’t work, but after our discussing why they didn’t the designer was right on the money for most of the rest. For those few other pieces I went to the store and we looked at books together.
If I liked something that she didn’t think would work we continued to explore together till I found something that would. Because I got to sit on most of the chairs, sofas, etc. as they were in the showroom (in other materials) all my seating is ultra comfortable. She gave me awesome suggestions for wall paint colors as well as other decorating advice.
They don’t do window treatments so I went to a nationwide retail store that they recommended. That designer worked with the fabric swatches that the furniture store provided. The window treatments are phenomenal. Again, I didn’t pay any extra for their design professionals. A few friends that are looking to decorate or redecorate have inquired about my beautifully decorated home. When I tell them about my sources and that I didn’t pay to use their designers they are not interested in using services like these. I don’t understand this. Do you have any idea why? What am I missing here?
Well, what they are doing is very clever marketing. Everyone needs design services. The designers are also acting as sales people. Interior designers ARE sales people, no matter.
It’s always easier to sell with a plan and it doesn’t take them a long time to do that. Plus, they can sell more with “free” design services.
Their mark-up supports giving the service away for “free.” Nothing is free. And I’m not saying that you were had. Not at all. However, it sounds like over-all you lucked out and got a design that worked with your budget and style and are happy. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
The question on my mind is would you have done better with a designer, not affiliated with the store? Very possibly. I can’t say for sure without knowing what they charged you and then knowing what the wholesale price which I can almost always find out. I say this because stores have hefty overheads and the money has to come from somewhere. But again, you’re happy and that’s worth something.
As for your friends. It’s puzzling, I know. But over the years, I can’t tell you how many times a client recommended me and I never heard from the person. Dozens of times this happened. I also used to donate my services at auctions and only one time out of maybe 6 did the winner actually contact me. And she did end up being a lovely client.
Brilliant. Thank you for this.
You’re welcome Bianca!
Thank you thank you..I adore you. I’ve been working on my house for several months now and can’t seem to get it together. I just couldn’t gather my ideas on a cohesive plan. I do have several Pinterest boards with lots of pins maybe thats my problem. I like so many different design styles I’ve had trouble settling on a plan.
#1 you talked about things that are considered givens, that could apply to furniture. I have furniture & rugs that I love & somehow now after reading the 12 steps I think now I’ll be able to pull it together. I had no trouble with the master bath or kitchen. Master bedroom will be workable now. But My Pain in the Neck living room, thats still a problem for me. Only has 1 wall that you can create a conversation area and has a direct line of sight into the main bathroom, who likes that? There’s no way to change that either. well I’ll keep working on it. Thanks again
Yes, givens definitely applies to furniture that one wishes or needs to work with. But, I’m so glad that the post sparked some direction for you. That was the intent. Obviously, there are millions of scenarios and styles, but the idea is to put the principals in action for one’s specific situation.
As for your difficult layout issue. It might be worth it to consult with a pro because they may think of a solution that you hadn’t thought of.
I totally resonate with the designer experience! Sometimes, especially depending on your geographical area, it is just darn difficult to find a designer who clicks with you taste-wise. I tried a local designer. She was a super sweet lady and helped me with a few things but overall, it was not what I was expecting. The furnishings she showed me were not to my taste and then I would have to do extra research to show her what I liked and then she would try again but it just wasn’t working for me and was frustrating. I finally realized I could do my own designing and source things from recommendations on Laurel’s website at cheaper prices, watching sales, reading her blog and paint palette products like mad. I too have been very curious about the e-design websites but I have never tried one.
It’s true and something I’ve noticed in recent years or at least since I’ve been blogging. And that there is a prevailing style that I commonly see which is pretty much like what I’m hearing people are getting. I’m not sure why that is. But part of it is a lack of education. Or the educators are not teaching the examples of the greats like Albert Hadley and Billy Baldwin.
Of course, this is not all designers; not by a long-shot, but it’s more difficult to find the ones whose designs are rooted in the classics. The designers I feature on here all are in one way or another. But if they are on here, it means, for the most part, that they’re already super-stars and probably not accessible for most of us.
I would recommend going with an individual designer in practice for themselves for e-design or even in-person services, not through a company. That is unless one enjoys Chef Boyardee ravioli out of the can. Then, it’ll be fine. lol
Great post! But the best post EVER was the Pouf Post.
Oh dear times two. I’m still lost.
Oh wait. Do you mean this post?
That’s one of my favorites too. My older son who’s now at the age where he can finally admit that Mom’s funny enjoyed it a lot too.
Great post. But best post EVER? That would be the Poof Post.
Oh dear, you lost me. What is the Poof Post?
Thank you for this wonderful post, which will help many people. I used your paint guides and Rolodex when I recently remodeled my new apartment. I don’t think I could have succeeded without them.
I’ve returned to the blog five hours after originally reading it because I can’t get Dorothy out of my mind. I was Dorothy 30 years ago! I don’t know if she is a real person or an amalgam of your readers, but for other young Dorothies reading this, I have a few pieces of advice:
1. Fire your decorator. While you’re at it, fire the housekeeper who keeps breaking things, the hair dresser who no longer makes you happy, and the new employee you thought would be perfect but just isn’t working out. Learning how to graciously end relationships is vital if you want to maintain your sanity, not to mention your career trajectory. Most of these people already know you are unhappy, so postponing the inevitable is ruining not only your health and sleep patterns but theirs too.
2. Be kinder to yourself. You have two full time jobs. This is not a moment in your life when you can expect your apartment to end up in the pages of Lonny, as much as the perfectionist in you wants it to. Alright, you could pay someone to do all the work for you, but wouldn’t you rather send the kids to camp? Someday, you’ll be able to afford a really good designer, and then after that you’ll be semi-retired and able to devote hundreds of hours to choosing a chandelier, but for now, admit that you are only one person and that you need to focus on your two jobs.
3. Decide what you really need to be happy. It sounds like you need a pretty sofa and some cabinets and bookcases to put stuff away. So forget about the kids’ rooms (though I want to put a word in for Pottery Barn Kids, especially their curtains and linens) and find a sofa. Swallow your perfectionism for a minute and give up on a 30 year sofa right now. Just focus on finding one that will make you smile when you enter your living room. (Don’t forget Macy’s, btw. What you see is what you get, so you don’t have to spend hours paralyzed in front of fabric books. Now is not a moment in your life when you need fabric book paralysis.) A couple of steel shelving units from Room and Board, some side tables from Laurel’s Rolodex, and you and your family will be ready to make memories.
Thanks for letting me opine, Laurel. I hate it when young women haven’t figured out that society is lying when it says they should be able to do it all. Do what you can while you enjoy your children, your husband, and your job. The rest will work out. A few decades from now, every piece of furniture in your house will be filled with so many memories, you’ll hate parting with anything.
Cecile and Laurel,
I am a Dorothy. I think between the two of you, I have the confidence to make our new (to us) house something special in short order. We recently moved from a small home to somethign considerably larger and all my furniture looks like doll house furniture. Thank you for the permission to not have to find our forever couch. With three young boys, the furniture abuse is rife in our home. But the pillow fights, fort building and general mirth is worth the trade off. Thank you for your comment Cecile, it truly resonated with me! And Laurel, I cannot get enough of your blog. I feel like I have a fabulous sister looking over my shoulder and saving me from myself.
Oh Kate, well this wonderful comment just made my day and I hope that Cecile sees it too! I know that everyone says this, but you will wake up one day and (God willing) your little boys will be grown MEN. However, you won’t feel all that much different than you do now. And, the joyous memories that you’re building now will feel like they happened far more recently than they did.
And then. Poof. They’ll be out of your hair and possibly not living anywhere near you. That’s more the norm than the exception these days with our transient society. However, please make note. Pillow fights never end. I’ll never forget the time my then 22-yr-old and 17-yr-old were in a casual restaurant because we were having lunch. Adjacent to us, were two much younger boys who were perfectly behaved. Mine, however, started beating up on each other, in a bear-cub kind of way. Sure, go ahead and laugh. Very freaking funny!
But at 6′-3″ and six feet, respectively, the sight of these two young men brawling in the middle of this restaurant made me wish that I could suddenly evaporate. I got used to the disapproving look-at-that-horrible-mother-looks– sorta. Believe me. I did my best.
BTW, I always wanted a little sister. Alas, I’m the baby. So, you are welcome to be my adopted younger sister. Although, I fear that I might already be old enough to be your mother! lol
This was an excellent comment!!!
Dorothy is a real person. :] I received the email, just yesterday which was quite uncanny. I think that your advice which I realize is meant for all of us, especially young mothers is superb. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. It’s the kind of knowledge that is difficult to understand until one has lived it. xoxo
Hi Laurel, I hope your head is all healed up from your accident and that the city has fixed that nasty box sticking out!
This post is great and I always look forward to Sunday’s because I love your blog!! I’ve tried talking to several designers here in the St Louis area and My vision for my house has been shot down because I’m using too much color, and neutrals are more in style and I’ve been purchasing old lighting and having them refurbished. Apparently I’m going to make my house look like an old crow lives in it. Of course the house was built in 1936 and I believe needs charm instilled into it, not modernized. I’m not connecting with anyone.
I love your style and know you don’t do consults. I have purchased all of your Rolodex and paint tutorials. Very helpful and that’s where I fell in love with the Herb Garden color scheme. However, I’m struggling with a few things and need help. Does Nancy Keyes do phone consultations? Do you know of anyone who does with your taste, or with good taste? Maybe someone from the St Louis area will chime in.
Have a beautiful Sunday. And thank you again. I can’t wait to see your bedroom BTW. I hope it’s all going very well, that wallpaper was so beautiful and unexpected. XOXO
I would fire this designer right away! A great designer understands who they are designing for. Who cares what is “popular” in your area? There are bound to be other color lovers down there like you. Frankly, I’m SO over neutral. Color is outside, we are happy when we see it, so why not bring it inside? I hear your frustration in your email.
Believe it or not, I have a client in Missouri and I live in Virginia! We worked on the first phase (planning stage) of their custom ranch home,which will be in St. Genevieve. Did this all through emails and Google chats – since we weren’t at the stage of picking furniture for another year. They found me from following the Selma Mansion (built in 1902) page on Facebook, as I am the designer there.
Color and classic is right up my alley.
I do have some suggestions for you, based on your location: Patrice, has some color and classic styles in her designs http://patricemunden.com/ and Jennifer Rapp is located in the KDR Designer Showrooms off Paige Service Drive: http://jcrdesigngroupstl.com/
Hope this information helps you with your project, and you have a happy home at the end of it.
Fancy meeting you here, Heather!
Heather is incredible at designing with color, so her recommendations are worth something 😉
(And thank you, Laurel, for another wonderful post!)
Indeed Shelby, Who imagined we’d see each other her, too 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!
Small world and thank you too!
Thanks so much Heather for your sage advice and recommendations! Heather, for those reading this, is one of my esteemed, talented colleagues and friends that I was referring to in the post.
I appreciate that Laurel, Hope to catch up with you very soon!
Sorry. I overlooked that I was supposed to put my link in this box.
Your taste sounds very similar to my own.
Check out my blog and if you agree drop me a line.
Would love to help. Not located anywhere near St Louis but digital works.
Lovely moodboards! Thanks for sharing your blog.
Thank you so much. My head is much better. I’m so sorry that you’re not connecting with anyone in SL. I don’t know if Nancy does phone consults, but I could ask her. But like I said in the post, I really don’t mind designers letting others know that they are available to help.
I had to fire the contractor which is largely why the project has stalled. But I sure am enjoying it even unfinished!
We have moved four times in the last five years and I have used principles and ideas from your blog to help me design and update to sell those houses-all on a very small budget. Now we have just moved to what will be our forever home and this one is our biggest project yet as the home was built in the seventies. I’ve got olive green carpet in the dining room, marigold and lime green splotch carpet in the living rooms, and even carpet in all the bathrooms! But the house has good bones and the land is amazing. All this to say, I can’t thank you enough for all of your lovely work and advice on this blog. Your taste is amazing and you have helped me so incredibly over the years. I have been scouring your blog for ideas for this house and I always find a treasure trove of advice and pictures. Thank you so much! I really appreciate all you do!
Getting this kind of feedback is truly a gift! I’m incredibly grateful for your kind words. It sounds like there’s no place for your new home to go but up. I never got carpeting in the bathroom. I mean, think about it. Gross doesn’t begin to cover it.
I would enjoy checking out the decorating books you recommend but the page doesn’t seem to load.
Favorite Interior Design and Decorating Books
Did you move it?
Thank you for all that you share.
It’s working fine for me. Usually if it doesn’t load it usually means that there’s an ad blocker activated. To fix that, you would need to go into your settings and make sure that the ad blocker is off. Hope that helps!
That was the problem. I had to open it in a different browser.
Now I’m so excited to check it out!
Hope you have a bliss filled day.
Hooray! I love it when things are an easy fix. That’s my life. Fixing things and work-arounds!
Ms. Laurel, you are the best ever! This highlights/details every mistake I’ve made and instructs how to fix it. Thank you! Thank you!! I love reading your blog and learning from you. You really work at this and it shows!
Many bings to you!
It’s funny (I guess), well maybe interesting to some. But, writing comes relatively easily to me. It’s the posts with a lot of images that sometimes leave me weak, for a spell. Not to say that this post didn’t take time or was a cake-walk. Obviously, I had to put my thinking cap on. And read over and over (and over) to make sure that it was as clear as possible and hopefully not too many mistakes. I never seem to catch them all!
Thank you! You could not have shared your 12 steps during any better time in my life! You just saved me time, money and tons of aggravation with 3 decorating projects underway. I am staging, for sale, my Mom’s beach townhouse decorated in a not so beachy decor. I’ve been decorating our temporary winter retreat (pre-retirement) in South Georgia and decided this summer I should refresh our Maryland not so beachy beach area (main) home.
There are long stories behind each home but the gist is each need refreshing as my taste has changed to more classic and less cluttered while focusing on my favorite color palate & furnishings verses those that are trending. Several months ago, I knew I needed your help thus I purchased your Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection as well as your Rolodex while reviewing your guide for blogging success.
Your 12 Steps will calmly guide me through staging my mom’s home toward a casual elegance and freshness to maximize the sale while keeping her on budget. You have given me the guidance I need to purposefully plan, declutter, re-purpose items and carefully select new items to create homes that I will enjoy living in for many years to come! Best of all, now the anxiety is gone and I am actually looking forward to the rest of the summer!
Thank you again,
Wow Kellee! That is so glowing, I’m looking behind me to see if perhaps you are talking to someone else? But thank you, thank you. Your testimonial means the world to me! All the best with your home refreshes and decorating! And thank you too, for the purchase of my guides. They’re my babies and I’m exceedingly proud of each of them!
So much information. I skimmed but will need more coffee, more brain storage, and a solid re-read. Your depth of info & links to thorough previous posts are mind-boggling.
Off the top of my head—point #10. You included the words Measure And Re-measure. So doggone important. We were buying a small bath vanity in April for the hall bath renovation. I’d looked at EVERYTHING in the box stores nearby. Looked at hundreds online. Measured carefully. But then I finally determined that we would be better served with a smaller size (width) for a bit more maneuvering room in a very small space. Plus, I was tired of thinking about it. (Had just spent many weeks on the master bath, finished, and put a bow on it! So picked one was going to order from the Box store get one delivered. But then, we happened to stop at that same store and There it Was! The one I had in my online cart. On display. And…eyeballing it I can SEE it’s absolutely Not as tall as the online measurements or the measurements on the box. I make the employee bring a tape to measure. It’s well over an inch shorter than the stated measurements! The manufacturer had include the height of the top of the backsplash.
And FYI. I finally decided to use the very same vanity we had installed in the master bath, just in the smaller size using a different more masculine granite top for the hall bath. So the baths don’t match but the look for the house is cohesive.
Yes, I “ate my Wheaties” before I wrote this one and nursed a delicious glass of iced joe for a while. Gosh, in the case of the vanity, it should be clear that the over-all measurements for the height included the backsplash and then another measurement to the top of the VANITY should be stated. But, that sort of thing is unfortunately, not uncommon.
Since the room is a bit narrow i would consider a high back banquette on the end wall. Keep the gorgeous breakfront in the room.
Two lovely sconces on each side of banquette.
Take out chandelier and if possible move a lovely chandelier over table which has now been turned to run width of banquette. Realize moving electric can be $$$ and then the patching of the ceiling.
But u could paint the ceiling GREEN.
Don’t know what fabric is on chairs but I know fabric can be painted. Move two chairs beside the low storage piece. Love the grouping of prints over this piece.
The rug can be in the room but not under table. Sea grass rugs r not compatible with coffee, red wine or dropped whipped cream.
This certainly cannot be done overnight and I know tight budgets
I believe that this comment is meant for a different post. But thank you just the same. It sounds like you read it in a different tab and then answered it on this post?
I think we are so lucky now to have access to the internet. Back when I bought my first home & was trying to decorate it, it hadn’t been invented yet. I had to go to brick & mortar stores.
There still are some left & they do offer free decorating services. I recently used Ethan Allen to help me select a chair for my bedroom. The salesperson even brought over the display model so I could get a sense of its scale in relation to my other furnishings.
But you are so right…decorating without a plan is just asking for trouble.
Yes, it’s difficult for the big retail furniture stores to make a go of it. And in fact, this is the case with all of retail. Will the internet completely take over one day? Probably not, but I think that what will happen is that stores won’t rely solely on their brick and mortar business to keep themselves afloat. That’s already happening with most companies.
When you are right, you are right.
Great post, terrific advice and it is the truth!
Thanks so much Debra!
Laurel ~ thank you for your wonderful detailed blog… I have read it religiously ever since I happened across it. I have a question for you that I hope you can help me with. My daughter has a modern custom-made sofa with a chaise that can be attached on one end. I am going to be storing it for her. She lives in Michigan and I live in Illinois. How can I get this sofa shipped? I have contacted some major moving companies and they have minimal weightage requirements which one piece of furniture does not meet. Thank you ever so much (countless-flowered-thank-yous) in advance… ~ cynthia
The post only came out ten hours ago, but thank you so much. As for your question about shipping. I’m not familiar with your part of the country, but you might try contacting Shelba Johnson (Johnson Trucking) or Metropolitan Warehouse. Word of warning, however. It’s not going to be cheap. I once had a piece of furniture go astray. I had two separate orders for two clients, one in New York and One in Kentucky and the company sent both pieces to Kentucky. Oy! 100% their fault. Long story short. It was such a hassle getting that thing picked up and delivered to the correct party, that the company gave up and just made a new custom-piece.
Great post, Laurel. Oh, that all my clients read it before purchasing and making mistakes that they then call designers to fix! 😂 Even broken down into 12 steps and with the resources you’ve created, so many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task and the number of choices! It can be hard to bite the bullet and hire a consultant — especially when a significant other doesn’t understand why one is needed — but it can save a ton of money. And what lots of people don’t realize is that most designers pass on significant professional discounts in so way as well.
ugh. I know. I got those calls too– most of them, actually. Then there was the call about “just needing to finish things off because it’s not all quite coming together.” That, I quickly learned was code for “it’s a big bloody mess and there aren’t enough Chinoiserie ginger jars in the world to help.” ;] Of course, I would politely decline stating that I wasn’t taking on any “finishing jobs.” haha
Wow, Laurel, you HAVE written the best blog post on decorating! All your readers should thank you, bookmark this post, and read it again and again.
Oh Phew! I sure did go out on a limb saying that. I certainly try my best with every post, but I felt pretty confident that this one would check-off a lot of unanswered boxes. As I was writing it, I kept thinking about what photos to put with it, but then, felt that this one time, I’d let it be all about the words.
I wanted to let you know that I’m in Paris staying in an Air BnB apartment extending a layover a few days before we head out again to see family .
This apartment has a French kitchen like you have mentioned in the past . Open shelves , some black stone counter and sink , old cabinets plus a new retro red fridge .
The entire place is filled with double french doors with views of the street , talk ceiling and elaborate moldings.
On top of that , it’s falling apart and the decorating is just a bunch of stuff thrown together . Yet , it looks perfect . The old building with its character makes everything look great. 🙂
Well, all I can say is that I’m bloody jealous! lol Enjoy your time in Paris. Believe or not, I’ve never been there unless you count a layover at Orly, sitting on plane for three hours, enroute to Cairo, Egypt, as being in Paris.
Great post! I spent close to 2k for a designer for a couple of drawings of my kitchen (not computer ones) that were not what I wanted. I chose her because I saw pics of kitchens and they looked great. So I have decided to trust my gut. I think if I get a few projects handled where people disagreed with my choices and they turn out great, that I will have more confidence going forward. I had all kinds of contractors through the house to get bids. Depending on budget and where bids come in…if I cannot afford to pay somebody I will learn how to do it myself. Except plumbing and electrical. Good news is I had 2 general contractors that did not argue with me AT ALL. Yay! I think I will do your rolodex when it’s time to do the living, dining and bedrooms. Soooo…like 15 years!!
And…our house is getting painted. Close to Hawthorne…it’s Lemon Drops by BM with Mayonnaise trim. Need to try a small sample on the actual house as I only did foam board. If it is too bright then will do Hawthorne. White picket fence is coming along. The curb appeal is going to be night and day…so much so that I am considering starting a blog. But I don’t know how much time it takes to do it right! I love your blog, it’s my favorite! I don’t want to start a blog and halfway do it…
Sorry about the-not-so great experience with the kitchen designer. But great that you’ve found some terrific contractors!
Years ago I had a client whose house was painted Hawthorne Yellow and it was lovely. General rule of thumb with colors outside is that they usually brighten up compared to how they look inside. But, doing your test samples should help with the decision.
Thanks so much for your kind words too. I won’t kid anyone. Blogging is a LOT of work, but it’s work that I love because it exercises my need for creativity and I still get to design without all of the hassles I write about that are inherent with being a professional interior designer or decorator or whatever people want to call themselves. :]