Whether you live in a cozy apartment or rambling suburban home, a cottage by the sea, or a lodge in the mountains, your living room creates a lasting impression for all who enter. It tells your family and guests if you’re formal and elegant or fun-loving and laid-back. It sets the mood for the home and should be a reflection of the owner’s personal taste.
A living room can be arranged in many ways.
For some, this space is formal and perfect at all times, to be entered and used only when guests come to call. To others, it serves as a comfortable family gathering place for watching TV, doing homework, or visiting. Some have a cozy nook for sipping tea and curling up with a book.
A formal living room, historically referred to as a drawing room or parlor, often showcases the homeowner’s finest possessions.
The décor is often symmetrical—a sofa with painting above, flanked by two end tables topped by lamps. Formal window treatments of luxurious fabrics trimmed with braid and fringe, and perfectly set pairs of occasional chairs and tables follow traditional rules of decorating. Few homes these days have space for such a perfect (and often useless) room that is more to be looked at than used.
Curb appeal is something everyone should work on but is of particular importance to those wishing to sell their home. As soon as a new listing comes up, perspective buyers are going to drive by to decide which if they’re interested in seeing more. These handy tips can make your house outshine all the others on the real estate market.
- Be certain your house can be clearly seen from every direction of the yard. If there are bushes or trees blocking windows trim them back.
- Have your curtains/blinds all uniform in color from the outside.
- Wash your windows.
- Power wash the exterior of your home and all decks and sidewalks.
- Schedule your driveway to be sealed as soon as weather permits. If you have a stone driveway, put down a new fresh layer of stone.
- Paint your front door.
- Add new mulch and edge your yard.
- Repair all cracked and chipping paint on the exterior of your house. A buyer may look past this defect, but a mortgage appraiser may insist that the deteriorating paint be repaired or they will not give your buyer a mortgage.
- Clean the gutters.
- Rake your yard to remove all dead leaves and debris
- Cut back all the dead brown remains from last season’s perennials.
- If you have a front porch highlight it with a pair of chairs to sit on.
- Display an American flag. All other decorative flags should be avoided.
- Remove lawn ornaments.
- Replace your mailbox if it is not in mint condition.
- Make sure your house number is large and clearly visible.
- Park in your garage and shut the door. Your home will appear bigger.
- Buy a simple new front door mat.
- As long as it is safe, add new light bulbs with a brighter wattage to your porch lights.
- Keep in mind that your yard is the first thing a potential buyer will see. The care and maintenance you invest here will give a favorable impression for the level of maintenance in the rest of your home. A good rule of thumb: keep your yard as clean as if it was another room in your house.
Garden windows are most commonly found in kitchens, but can also be used in other rooms. A garden window provides a three-dimensional opening to the outdoors, and can act as a mini-greenhouse. You can accessorize it with an herb garden, flowers and potted plants, or treasured curios.
These windows come in many sizes, styles, materials and price points. If you are replacing a standard-sized window and have rudimentary carpentry skills, you may be able to do the installation yourself. Custom sizes might require professional installation. Choose top or side panels that open for ventilation, and select your frame material from vinyl, aluminum or wood. Energy-efficient windows with the Energy Star; rating can save on heating and cooling costs and may qualify for a tax rebate. Pricing depends on the window size and material. Double or triple panes, coatings and accessories can add to the cost. Top manufacturers include Andersen, Certainteed, Jeld-Wen, Milgard and Thermal Industries.
We have a bay window with 1 stationary window and 2 side windows that open up in the kitchen. We were just informed that we are not permitted to attach a hummingbird feeder to the outside window. Do you make an insert that would go in the movable window and allow the hummingbird station to be technically inside our condo. Sort of like a box to insert in the open window space. Plexiglass? The hummingbirds are looking for their feeder. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have.
Homeowners and apartment dwellers alike need a basic household tool kit.
You may have lots of tools for particular projects that you use infrequently, and they can be kept in a garage or workroom. But having basic tools handy in your living area makes it much more convenient to do simple home repairs.
You might keep these basic tools in a hall closet, a kitchen drawer, or in a handy tool box or plastic box on a shelf in the entry or mudroom.
It doesn’t really matter where you keep them, as long as they’re easy to get at for quick home repairs. You’ll save lots of inconvenient trips out to the garage or down to the basement.
Your in-home basic tool kit should include these basic do-it-yourself items.
You may not think you need one, but a 25-foot measuring tape will work for most jobs.
Whether you measure for a tablecloth or window treatment, or a whole room for new flooring, choose one large enough to easily measure your home’s spaces. A second smaller tape of 6 to 12 feet can be put in a pocket or purse for shopping trips or for hanging pictures.
Two basic screwdrivers are a necessity. Choose both a good quality flat head screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver in a medium size. A set of tiny screwdrivers will come in handy when you need to tighten a pair of eyeglasses or fix audio or computer equipment.
One pliers will not do. Get a small assortment in various sizes and shapes. You’ll use a needle-nose pliars most frequently, but have a heavy grooved pliers for removing nails or large staples.
Wire cutting pliers are good for wiring and craft jobs.
You get what you pay for here. It’s important to get an accurate level for accurate positioning. A good sturdy level will last a lifetime. (These are also called “torpedo levels” due to shapes of the tapered ends.) A level is a must for straightening up pictures, drilling holes in a level line, checking tabletop alignment, or mounting towel bars perfectly.
Whether you’re hanging pictures or putting shelf supports up, a medium weight hammer will cover most household jobs. Consider other sizes if you’ll be doing either delicate projects or construction.
This tool resembles a pliers, but has a locking mechanism that grips and holds things tightly. Use it to grip a screw you want to remove or use two to twist sticky things apart. They provide a slip-free hold when you need it.
Assortment of Nails and Screws
You might find prepackaged sets of basic sizes at a home center or get a small divided box and put together a custom assortment that will come in handy when you hang pictures or make minor repairs.
Save your scissors with this essential tool. A wire cutter makes it easy to snip wire for crafts, electrical repairs, and other household projects.
You’ll probably need to mark a drill hole or record a measurement. Have pencils handy and write on post it notes or bits of blue painter’s tape if you don’t want to write on the wall.
Blue Painter’s Tape
Even professional painters use this tape to mask off areas they don’t want to paint. It’s available in several widths and looks like plain masking tape. But this special tape is blue and can be removed from most surfaces without damage. You can use it for other household jobs besides painting. Mark stud locations with a small square when hanging a picture or installing molding. Tape off the edges of a door frame when painting a wall, or tape down runners of heavy kraft paper to protect floors from dirt and scratches when moving.
A room will feel much more inviting and offer a more comfortable place to rest if you arrange the furniture or accessories around a focal point. Sometimes a focal point is an architectural feature. At other times, a focal point can be a special picture, mirror, or dramatic piece of furniture. Learn how to find a focal point in your room and how to make the most of it.
Time Required: Varies
- Look around your room to determine the ‘biggest’ feature. It may be a fireplace, a picture window, or a built-in bookcase. This will generally be your focal point.
- If your room has no distinguishing architectural features, identify the largest furniture pieces. These could become your focal point.
- A focal point should be something interesting to look at, something colorful or texturally and visually appealing.
- You can create a focal point for the room, by focusing on artwork, floral arrangements, paint color, or shelving.
- The focal point should be the ‘first thing’ you see when entering a room. If possible, build your furniture arrangement around the focal point.
- If an outdoor view is the focal point, orient the furniture inside and outside to take advantage of window areas.
- You can create a focal point wall by painting one wall a different color from the rest and accessorizing with a wall arrangement, artwork, or display shelves.
- Use lighting to enhance your focal point. For example, use a picture light, track light, or wall washer fixture on a painting or wall display.
- If you’ve identified a mantle or shelf as the focal point, use plants and accessories to decorate them.
- Use contrasting color to make the focal point stand out. For example, use a light wall color behind a dark wood armoire.
- Focus on your room’s best qualities by choosing a focal point you enjoy.
- Decorate and ‘frame’ a focal point with plants, curtains, and art.
- Remember to try choosing the ‘first thing’ you see, or the biggest item for a focal point.
One of the things that makes decorating so much fun is the huge amount of resources that we can go to to learn more about how to make a beautiful room. We can readbooks and magazines, watchTV shows, read onlinearticles, and visit decorating showhouses to find all sorts of wonderful advice on things to do to get a beautifully decorated room.
But even with so much advice and inspiration on what to do, it can still be hard to learn what not to do or what mistakes you can avoid even before you even start a decorating project.
So to help fill in a few of those gaps, here is our list of the 20 easiest decorating mistakes to make and the best things not to do in order to get around them.
1. Don’t Let Someone Make Choices for You
Your home is your personal space. Don’t let someone else tell you what you should do. If you need help, ask for suggestions.
But when the time comes to make decisions, they should be yours. It’s your home and you should feel comfortable with the choices.
2. Don’t Paint First
You can buy paint in every color under the sun. In fact, you can have paint mixed in any imaginable color you might want. Choose fabric, carpet, and upholstery first.
3. Don’t Choose Paint From a Paint Chip
A small chip of a paint sample might look great in the fluorescent light in the paint store. But a whole wall of it might be overpowering. When you’ve decided on a color, purchase a quart of the color and paint a small section to see how the color looks in the room with natural light. If you don’t want to mess up the walls, paint a piece of cardboard and tape it on the walls in the room where you plan to use the color.
We have had numerous instances where clients and/or realtors have asked us whether a house that we are inspecting conforms with codes. Home buyers sometimes confuse our inspections with code compliance inspections.
Pre-purchase engineering inspections of houses or buildings are not code compliance inspections. Such an inspection is considered to be well beyond the scope of a building inspection as defined by the professional standards that govern home inspections. By law, the local building department inspector (Code Enforcement Officer) has almost the final say in interpreting and applying codes. Although we can sometimes comment on the applicable codes, the final determination must be the local CEO.
More importantly, it is critical to understand that existing homes will rarely conform to modern building codes and standards. This is because building codes are revised on a regular basis. As a result, today’s code would be different than the code that was in place when an existing home was constructed. The code at the time that the work (construction, repair, or improvement) was performed is the code that applies. There is also no requirement that existing homes conform to today’s codes and standards. Certainly, any renovation or repair work that is performed on an existing home must be performed in a manner that conforms to today’s standards. We offer the three examples below:
Modern electrical codes dictate that electrical outlets in “potentially wet locations” be protected by ground fault interrupter protection. These locations would include some kitchen outlets, bath outlets, exterior outlets, pool equipment, etc. However, if a house was built in the 1950s it may not have ground fault protection for a bathroom outlet. There is no requirement that ground fault protection be installed. If this same bathroom were to be renovated the electrician who is performing the work would be obligated to install ground fault protection at the time of renovation. Today’s codes apply to the new work that is currently being performed.
Another example would be entry doors that separate a house from an attached garage. Modern codes for new work dictate that the door leading from the house to the garage must be a fire-rated door (usually metal) with a metal jamb. Also, a self-closing hinge is required for the door. This would prevent the door from being left open. The purpose of this code is to help prevent a fire from easily spreading from the garage to the interior of the house. If an existing house built in the 1940s has an attached garage, and the door leading to the garage is not a fire-rated door the homeowner is not be required to replace the door. However, if they chose to replace the door, their obligation would be to utilize a door that conforms to current codes.
A third example would be that of automatic garage door openers. For a number of years new automatic garage door openers have been required to have redundant safety reverse features. This means that the door will reverse if it meets an obstruction or hits an object during the downward motion. Also, new openers must have an electronic eye safety reverse. This makes the door reverse if the electric eye (or safety beam) is crossed when the door is in the downward motion. Of course, there are many old openers still in use that would not conform to these standards. There is not a requirement that these openers be replaced. The requirement would apply to openers that are currently manufactured and installed.
Choosing the right exterior color can make a huge difference when you paint your house for resale. The paint store brochures show different combinations of exterior paint colors. But keep in mind those color combinations actually include three colors, not just two. The additional color will add definition to the architectural details and your house will have a more finished look.
How you paint your home makes a big difference in its saleability. An appropriate color for the area and house will translate into prospective buyers wanting to see the inside. Make a mistake with the outside and you’ll turn off prospects.
In picking exterior colors consider the other homes on your street and in your neighborhood. If the house is on a wooded lot or has extensive landscaping, than earth tones would be appropriate. The color choice should take into consideration the stone or brickwork on the house and the roof color. Additionally, the home style can help dictate a direction. Colonial homes look good with white or beige, while ranch homes could be more appealing using muted shades. A muted shade – generally a color that required two words to describe like “cream yellow” vs. yellow.
If you want to appeal to the widest buyer audience then go conservative with the exterior color. Here are some exterior painting tips to avoid.
- Don’t paint your house black, dark green, purple or other dark color. These colors make your house looks small, gloomy and limits prospect appeal. Buyers respond better to a lighter color palette.
- Don’t paint your house a bright color like sky blue or hot pink. Unless it’s the norm for the area don’t think about this option.
- Don’t over paint the trim, a couple accent colors in appropriate places complements the architecture. Adding too many colors or painting in patterns are negatives.
- Don’t be creative with color choices, dark brown with yellow and pink trim is not special or unique; it just means your house will sell for less and be on the market longer.
Painting a house is expensive but a great way to improve its value and help it sell quicker – if it’s done right.
Aluminum windows predate their vinyl and wood counterparts. They are used liberally in the home market for their versatility and reasonable cost. A hallmark of this casing style is its ability to size: Builders use them to create large-area, picture-window effects, where the entire side of the structure looks as though it were made of glass. Featuring sealed, mechanically joined corners and clean, sharp edges, aluminum casements are known for their strength and stability.
The advantages of this window option include moisture resistance, a positive strength-to-weight ratio and the ability to choose multiple shapes for creative designing. Although they are not known for maintaining heat and cold as well as some other materials do, there are a wide range of low-cost engineering additions that can help to improve their energy-efficiency. Depending on the national region, aluminum fenestrations can cost between $3 and $5 per square inch for materials and installation. Complex designs can increase this estimate anywhere from 4 percent to 12 percent.
Double hung windows may be charming, but those overlapping window sashes are smack dab in the middle of your view. Casement windows, on the other hand, are hinged at the side and let in the maximum amount of light and view whether open or closed. Winds that buffet your home actually push the window tightly against your house, rather than creating little vortexes between the upper and lower sashes as they do with double-hungs. Casements are a natural for ranch, contemporary, Southwestern and other architectural styles.
Casements are great for bedrooms, where they can open wide for emergency exiting and are easy to operate even for those who are wheelchair-bound. From the outside, however, the controls can be difficult to overcome for an intruder.
For wide windows use double casements, or install narrower casements for ventilation on each side of a large, fixed view window. It’s easy to make a good case for casements.
Not everyone has the time to go to school to learn the basics of decorating. And depending on what you’d like to do as a decorator, not everyone has the need. But for those of us who have the eye, but not necessarily the know-how to design the interiors that we’d love to live in, there are numerous online resources that can give you more than enough information to get you on your way. With these great online sources, anyone can learn about the basics of decorating while finding wonderful inspiration for their first design project.
If you have no clue about choosing furniture, selecting color, or what style of decorating you like, help is at your fingertips.
If you know just what you like but not how to bring the look to your home, you’ll find photos, tutorials, and helpful advice about decorating for just the right look.
Sitting at your computer, you’ll find loads of information without ever setting foot inside a classroom.
Whether you need ideas, color suggestions, or instructions on ways to do things, just get “web surfing.”
- About.com’s site for Interior Decorating
Of course, we think you’re already at the first stop. Here at About.com’s site for Interior Decorating we’ve tried to put together a lot of information to answer just about every question you might have. And we add more information all the time. But if you’re not finding what you need, check out some of these other sites.
About.com Style Guides
Our own site has a section on Style Guides for Home Interiors. Learn what goes into making a comfortable Shabby Chic® bedroom or a French Country dining room. You’ll have fun deciding what style you like and learn how to bring the different elements into your rooms on any budget.