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The Cardinal Sinners of Decorating

Posted: 06/23/2013 9:07 pm

Bad taste is a sin but you CAN be saved. The confessional is open...
 
Whether evil exists is open to debate but, in a design context, it's certainly prevalent. And it's a determined force -- each time we arrange an exorcism by paintbrush, dodgy decor returns in another guise, in another room, in another house. Not that we're grumbling -- makeover manevolence keeps us busy. Both sides of the pond.
 
Yup, we're permanently at war, but victory will eventually be ours. We're more than designers, you see, we're global bad taste busters, sent earthbound to make the world a prettier place. Described once (by a British scribe) as "painting superheroes with wallpaper swords," we're like Spiderman to the Green Goblin or Superman to Lex Luthor. Praise the Lord for Colin and Justin, we hear you cry, as Scottish tongues dig further into Scottish cheeks.
 
But what if we could stop evil, in its various guises, from manifesting in the first place? Fact is, because we see the same offences week in week out, we can propose an identikit guide to the world's typical design crimes. Suitably informed, you could avoid the problems altogether or, at the very least, confess and make change. Hallelujah! It's time to 'name and shame'...
 
First Time Floppers 

Many folk move into first homes and furnish with haphazard, mismatched hand-me-downs. 'Compulsory recycling' like this is often a measure of economics -- and it of course makes sense -- but before the next step is taken (and so that evil doesn't grip hold) an element of 'tuning' is required. As you settle and acquire extra resources, weed out items you don't love, and replace slowly with things you do.

Sinning signs:
 
Glance into a problem home and you'll see a veneer of dread; an old sofa, for example, with a throw casually 'draped' across offensive, lumpy upholstery. Shelves will bulge with an assembly of mismatched (but not in a cute way) crockery, poor lighting (problem homes seldom have pairs of table lamps) and all manner of discard bequeathed by, ahem, unloading in-laws.
 
Empty Nesters 

Mid-50s, typically, rattling around in a dated, empty house, these lovely folk exist in a time warp, terrified to reclaim space lest doing so somehow confirms kids have indeed moved on. We particularly enjoy working for this contingent; they deserve 'correction'; they've put their hearts into bringing up their kids. But change can be good -- even cathartic -- and can help parents move on. Break out and reclaim life, say we. The re-feathering revolution starts here.
 
Sinning signs:
 
Baywatch and Star Wars posters tacked loosely to bedroom walls. Kitchens that were fitted around the same time Noah built his ark, often with frosted Plexiglas ceilings. These spaces are a salient reminder that cash, throughout the years, was spent on the kids. Which is of course lovely. Now, however, chicks flown, available funding should (potentially) be more liquid. What? Hold it. School fees to pay? Shoot; we forgot that aspect. OK, fair comment, but how much does it cost to peel away a bikini clad Pammy Anderson from a time warp bedroom wall? We rest our case.
 
Design Dummies
 
Design is a language; it spells out who you are and communicates this to those around you. A double D home may 'boast', for example, an over-scaled modern dining table, Victorian striped wallpaper and quirky bistro seating, a less than stylish triptych that quickly exposes an utterly errant design gene. Imagine wearing a ski hat, black rubber waders, a cocktail dress and a bed jacket. Quite the sartorial vision, huh? OK, so each garment might work individually (on the slopes, while fishing, at a party or while snoozing) but come on; at one time? A messy mash up best avoided.
 
Sinning signs:
 
Glance around and you'll observe an evil fashion faux pas at every turn; clashing patterns, heavily themed schematics, ergonomically unsound furniture and suspicious ornamentation. The look positively screams 'ill conceived' with each vignette more disturbing than the one by which it's preceded.
 
Clutter Nutters
 
We've viewed and spewed over a million and one overloaded homes, though in this category, overloaded refers not just to accessories and collections but to finishes such as patterned paper, swirly carpets and overpowering paint choices. If truth be known we relish these abodes. We enjoy releasing a more minimal aesthetic, even if that means presiding over the cull of a hundred strong flock of ceramic owls or an over zealous china frog army.

Sinning Signs:
 
Surfaces, at every turn, will be cluttered. There'll be an army of gesticulating Lladro ladies jostling for space and, in the shag carpeted bathroom, the loo roll will be wearing a knitted skirt with a perky wee Barbi doll protruding from its cardboard tummy. We never quite 'understood' the toilet roll doll and now, as the fervor for retro gathers momentum, we live in fear that her star may once again ascend. Please no. Not ever.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous

Those who inhabit these gaffs suffer from 'delusions of blandeur' thanks to their beige box cookie cutter homes. The same applies in the residential design context where soulless decorating makes space visually sag. By all means paint everything beige at sales time (to temp a swift purchase) but, if staying put, inject at least a little personality. You know it makes sense.
 
Sinning signs:
 
Excessive use of espresso timber and beige wall to wall Berber. Further examination generally reveals lightly textured wallpaper -- with no particular pattern -- 'inoffensive' (we'll be the judge of that) faux mahogany side tables (that are generally too small to hold a thimble, let alone a teacup) crossword puzzle books and beige velour everywhere. Jeez, the very thought is giving us goose bumps big enough to ladder our Gucci jeans...
 
The aforementioned problems, however, are only the tip of the style free iceberg. Hey, we've not even touched on avocado bathrooms or popcorn ceilings. Decorative malaise, you see, prevails in many quarters and even talking about it can have a debilitating Kryptonite effect on our superpowers. So, if you'll excuse us, we're off for a battery charge. Yup, it's time to drape ourselves in cashmere, sip a coupe of Bolly and do the flick through a hundred and one back issues of Architectural Digest. Ah, joy; we can almost feel our equilibrium rebalancing. Any moment now, against an aural backdrop of Kylie Minogue, our remedial powers will return. And at that precise moment two super heroes will fly into battle. Blimey! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's...

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  • Use Cushions As Seats

    Instead of spending loads on pricey chairs, reach for oversized cushions (in bright colours and bold patterns!) to increase a room's seating capacity.

  • Say No To Mass Produced Art

    Instead of buying expensive artwork, get creative with large collages, wallpaper scraps or maps or hang a beautifully patterned fabric from wooden dowels. Off-the-shelf frames with kids art can make your home unique.

  • Paint An Accent Wall

    Paint an accent wall a high-contrast colour (the brighter the better). All you need is a single quart to make the transformation happen.

  • Decorate Your Countertop With Flower Pots

    Countertop in need of some life? Pop some plants inside colourful metal planters for a cheerful look at a cheap price.

  • A Juicy Addition

    Add this no-fuss centrepiece to a table! Ripened fruit in a wooden bowl is simple, accessible and chic.

  • Create A Focal Point

    Whether it's a single item or a group of items placed together, creating a major focal point can make a room look more spacious -- and can save you more cash than by spending money on several ornate pieces.

  • Mix And Match From Different Sets

    Uniform sets are out; mixing and matching is in. To create a gorgeous and trendy living room, dining room or table-setting, mix and match pieces from different furniture sets.

  • Decorate With Black And White

    These classic colours can create dramatic space that looks expensive and has a lot of bang without the buck.

  • Buy Bold Lamps

    Use lamps that have shape and sculpture. Lamps that are too small can make your space look cheap and are often just as expensive as show-stopping lights.

  • Reuse Your Furniture

    This budget-friendly tip prevents you from spending loads when you can just revamp the old. Don't have the money to spend on a new media unit? Try an antique armoire.

  • Don't Spend On Decorative Cushions

    <a href="http://www.marthastewart.com/274323/pillow-projects/@center/277001/diy-decorating" target="_hplink">Try turning old pillow cases and bedsheets into chic throw pillow shams</a>.

  • Stencil Away!

    To create gorgeous patterns and accentuate any space, all you need is <a href="http://www.diynetwork.com/topics/stenciling/index.html" target="_hplink">cardboard, paint and an exacto knife</a>! Detailing your home has never been so easy and budget-friendly.

  • Help Your Hallways With A Rug

    A large decorative rug or hallway runner will hide scuffs and mask worn hardwood; it's much less expensive than having your floors refinished or sanded down.

  • Store Wisely

    Instead of buying new pricey storage units, cover old boxes of varying sizes with different papers and materials. You can even paint them!

  • Chalkboard Walls

    Chalkboards and blackboards are an easy, budget-friendly purchase and add a fun touch to kids' rooms, kitchens and studies. You can even paint your own on a wall using store-bought paint.

  • Use Nature As Inspiration

    The great outdoors is just outside your window. Collect branches and place them in a large vase or fill different sized jars with herbs, leaves and flowers to add colour to a beige room.

  • Sea You Later, Expensive Accents!

    Oceanic accents are trendy and keep your budget in control. Giant clams and oyster shells can be used on their own for decorative purposes and can also make great bowls to hold anything from candy to potpourri. Sticking a variety of shells in all different shapes and sizes on different walls and frames can also make your home worth sea-ing.

  • Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

    Mirrors come in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices. Hanging mirrors on walls, or installing them in opposite windows or doorways, also creates the illusion of space.

  • Mix And Match Low With High

    Mixing high-end products that are on sale with inexpensive accessories will give any room a chic look that's on-trend for fall. So go ahead: combine high-end pieces with vintage accessories and flea market finds.

  • Hang A Collection

    Hang eye-catching ornaments in your kitchen, like an eclectic collection of silver trays or pots filled with greenery.

  • Appeal To The Senses

    An affordable way of making your house zen? Bring in pleasant sounds and smells with wind chimes, table-top fountains and aromatic candles.

  • Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint

    To add a lift to a room, get some new paint and coat the walls. A cheap way to get your rooms looking clean and fresh!

  • Cluster Materials Together

    Grouping together intriguing framed photos in interesting ways creates a unique presentation -- and is much less costly than displaying art, photography or building a shelving unit.

  • Change Handles, Drawer Pulls And Door Knobs

    Changing cabinet handles, door knobs and drawer pulls can bring a whole new style and look to your existing cabinetry. Faucet handles are also a quick and cheap fix that can up the glam in a home.

  • Fake Architectural Detail

    Materials like painter's tape allow you to paint horizontal or vertical lines or create shapes like rectangles or squares on walls.

  • Create Your Own Window Drapes

    Hang fabric panels on rods that are wider than the actual window frame; this costs less than regular window draping and gives the illusion that your window is much larger than it actually is.

  • Add A Ceiling Fan

    Upgrade your living area or bedroom with a small ceiling fan -- they often cost under $100.

  • Add Cover Slips

    Revamp large pieces of furniture with slipcovers. This, combined with changing around pillow shams and materials, will make it appear as if you've done a major reno or room overhaul.

  • Invest In Casters

    Want a floating island in your kitchen, but don't want to spend the extra dough? Invest (barely) in a caster. You can even attach wheels onto one to create rollable storage.

  • Monogram For Less

    Doing this craft yourself with iron-on decals -- and foregoing spending money on it professionally -- will add some oomph to staid home objects without breaking the bank.

 

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