1. ScaleIf you live in a Queen Anne railroad-style home, overstuffed furniture will seriously cramp the room. Go for delicate pieces with a slim profile instead.
Give the space the same adjectives you would give a person, i.e.: tall and skinny, short and curvy, wide and chunky and so on. Then pick pieces that match the room based on those adjectives. Be careful when you shop in a large store, because the pieces look dwarfed. The furniture is larger than it appears.
2. FlowIf it means getting a three-seat sofa instead of four-seater, so be it. Dodging the ends of furniture and sidling your way around a room is one of my biggest peeves. And don't block windows, doorways or pathways with furniture. I don't know much about feng shui, but I bet the practitioners would tell you the same. The flow of energy must remain easy.
Room design by Amy Levine. Photo by Rick Brazil.
3. FashionJust because you’re enamored with "shabby chic" at the moment, consider this: faded florals and white are charming, but what about your dogs, cats and children? Will they care as much as you? You may change your mind in a couple of years and be glad that you got leather instead. (Cleanable with saddle soap and repairable with shoe polish!)
So, be careful of fads. Instead, spend your big chunks of money on the everyday basics—a good quality sofa and chair. Use a little that’s left over for the faddish items: the leopard print lampshade or the raffia cushions. (The same way you spend big dough on the flattering jeans and well fitting shoes, but go cheap for the accessories that will be out of fashion next season.)
In this room by designer Kenneth Brown, zebra-print pillows are an easy-change accessory on the navy blue sofa. See more of this room >>
4. ColorThe way a color looks on a chip is not the way it will look on or in your house. If you think you like the color, buy a quart of it, put up a 5 x 5-foot swatch on the wall, and look at it for a few days at different times of day. Reflections from the outside, amount and saturation of natural light and reflections from the flooring will change how the color looks. This is a MUST DO.
5. AccessorizeAnd that doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money. This is the place to save. I frame my child's artwork in great-looking $20 frames from IKEA. Make your own artwork on premade canvases from craft stores. Put orchids in pots that you found at garage sales. Use pillows to add splashes of color and pattern on your sofa. Put a new lampshade on an old lamp. The wobbly ashtrays you made in grade school make great candy dishes (and conversation pieces). Put live plants in every room. Buy them according to the amount of sunlight gets in the room and they’ll thrive. They are a natural, organic accessory.
In the room above, a calendar becomes a grid of wall art inside store-bought frames. Room design by Kenneth Brown. See more of this room >>