Pile On the Style

BY DAWN KLINGENSMITH ON FEBRUARY 9TH, 2016

If you want a room makeover but don’t know where to start, consider decorating in layers. Many designers recommend this approach but offer different ways of going about it.

Blogger Erin Souder suggests “building a room from the ground up, layer by layer.” Celebrity home stylist Christopher Lowell recommends starting with the room’s “shell” and then moving inward. Whatever the sequence, the point of layering is to break the decorating process into manageable steps and make certain along the way that the design elements are cohering.

Using this approach, you can keep certain things the same and incorporate items you already own, but clear the room and start with a clean slate for the best results.

For the ground-up method, start with the floor and work your way up. If your starting point is a rug, choose something textural, colorful or patterned, suggests Souder, creator of the DIY and home-style blog, “House of Earnest” and a contributor to the official Etsy blog. A patterned rug will help determine the room’s color palette.

For wall-to-wall carpeting, on the other hand, choose a neutral color so as not to limit future makeovers.

Next, arrange large wooden furniture or “anchor pieces” and then add the upholstered furniture. Choose the lighting, hang your artwork and finish up by adding accessories.

Lowell’s approach starts with walls and flooring – the room’s shell. “The biggest mistake people make with paint is using an accent color as a background color,” he says.

Don’t go too bold on the walls because correcting regrettable choices is costly and time-consuming, and the painting process is “a huge disruption to the home” he adds.

Choose a neutral color for the walls, which is not to say a boring color. “Neutral doesn’t mean beige,” Lowell says.

If you’re looking at a color strip at the paint store, the third or fourth square down often is a safe bet for a wall color, he adds.

Once you’ve selected the paint color, “carry the paint swatch with you or have it on your phone for reference when you shop,” California and Nevada-based interior designer Susan Ippolito advises.

Lowell’s third layer is high-ticket upholstered furniture. You want your selections to stand the test of time and provide a pleasing background for any accent-color changes you make in the future. Accent fabrics, layer four, are your draperies, rugs and decorative pillows. This layer adds “personality and punch” to the room, says Lowell: “You could have Muppet fur pillows on the sofa, but a little bit goes a long way.”

Layers five through seven are non-upholstered furniture such as coffee and side tables, accessories, lighting, and plants.

Accessory colors and finishes should be dispersed throughout the room for a harmonious effect, Lowell says.

Other layering approaches might start with the room’s focal point or color palette. Whichever approach you take, the first step should be planning and measuring, not shopping, says Sharon McCormick of Sharon McCormick Design in Durham, Connecticut.

You can draw the room to scale on graph paper and experiment with different sizes and arrangements of rugs and furniture, or tape their dimensions on the actual floor. This will show you what fits and works in the room, McCormick says.

Once you’ve determined that, say, a sofa and love seat work better than a sofa and two chairs, the plan then becomes your shopping list.

“What often happens is people see something they like on sale and they buy it and it doesn’t work, or they buy something that catches their eye and just start there. That’s when things go awry,” McCormick says.

In contrast to Lowell’s system, McCormick considers a room’s lighting in the earliest stages of planning and puts off painting until upholstered pieces have been selected. “Even if you aren’t changing lighting fixtures, you may need extra outlets for lamps and you’ll want those installed before you paint,” she explains.

A layered approach is not intended to lock people into an inflexible system, but to provide sequencing for those who are intimidated or on a budget and need to decorate in stages. Just don’t stall out, warns Lowell: “Most homes look like Sybil designed them because people stop and start and stop and start.”

Progressing in layers gives them the confidence to keep at it.

 

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