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Decorating your first place or on a tight budget? This is a must read!

1. Paint

Choose a color with depth. I never understood this until recently. This means a color that has undertones of other colors. For example, if you want a light blue room I would suggest looking for a color with a grayish undertone. It will neutralize the color and give your room a more sophisticated feel (otherwise, your room may look more like a nursery). You want to create intrigue, so select a color that falls between two mainstream colors. It is a job well-done if you have to invent a word to describe it such as “greige” (gray, beige) “blue-ish”. Think about elements of nature… the ocean is never perfectly blue and the variation of green in a leaf. Nature can also show you perfect compliments. My favorite is the radiant pink (pink undertones are uplifting in any space)of a hydrangea once summer has ended and it is dying out with hints of brown and gold all anchored on a green stem.

As you transition spaces, coordinate a complementing color palette to tie all the spaces together. You can select all warm or cool tones or choose a different shade of the same color for adjacent spaces. Decide which rooms you want to have high impact color and create a palette from there. Homes that change color from room to room often feel choppy and smaller than they really are. I see young people make this mistake too often!

Paint is cheap (especially if you do the labor), so don’t be afraid to take a chance.

Colors I like:

String, Stony Ground, Chemise, Slipper Satin Farrow and Ball (left to right)

String, Stony Ground, Chemise, Slipper Satin
Farrow and Ball (left to right)

Quiet Moments Benjamin Moore

Quiet Moments
Benjamin Moore

Constant Coral, Nomadic Desert Sherwin Williams

Constant Coral, Nomadic Desert
Sherwin Williams

Raindance Benjamin Moore

Raindance
Benjamin Moore

2. Original Wall Art

Start frequenting your local flea market and keep your eye out for anything original (hopefully it is signed by the artist) and finished. By finished I mean that it is already framed or wall-ready. If you are pinching pennies, it does no good to purchase something that needs additional work. Another idea is to commission a friend to create something original for you or look online at Etsy.

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Looking for something a little more unique? Try hanging a vintage textile such as a quilt, scarf or suzani. If you are looking for a set, frame individual pieces of wallpaper samples. This is a great way to occupy large wall space (like above your sofa) and help the room feel balanced.

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Consider re-purposing vintage treasures for your walls. I recently found some authentic Italian Florentine ashtrays for $15 at the flea market that I mounted and hung on my wall. What about your grandmother’s china that’s not being used?

A collection looks more expensive than a single piece, so hang coordinating pieces together. If you do not own a set of prints, use an online service that can take your own photos and print them on a canvas. Avoid using close-ups of faces for this. Consider scenic travel pictures or anything from nature that you have taken. If you are a recent bride, perhaps use detailed photographs of your bouquet or the centerpieces from the reception. As you select the pictures, keep in mind how the colors (black and white is always a safe bet) will fit in with the color scheme of the space.

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3. Accessorize & Layer

Minimize your personal accessories such as picture frames and junk magazines in shared spaces and relocate them to your bedroom. Choose a select few in simple frames to keep out.

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Books are your best friend! If a wall of empty bookshelves overwhelms you, keep the golden ratio in your back pocket… 75% books, 25% accessories. If you are a book lover, try pulling the slipcovers off of your books to give your collection a more cohesive, vintage look. Thrift stores and estate sales are a great way to build your collection. Empty vases, bowls and candlesticks make wonderful bookends. Pick up a few display stands at your local craft store and display a restrained number of china pieces.

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4. Pull your furniture off the walls!

This is the easiest of all. A tight space feels even tighter when all the furniture is pushed up against the wall. And let’s be honest, if we need the space to feel “more expensive” that means making it feel anything but small. Specifically, I am talking about upholstered pieces in your seating arrangement. Pull everything in about 3 inches and you will be amazed at the impact. Your living room will feel “cozy” instead of crowded.

While you are doing this take an assessment of what you have and how it is meeting your needs. For example, do you need to keep 6 dining chairs out all the time if you are tight on space and live alone? I love creating intimate dining nooks with just a pair of chairs. If your living room is also doubling as an office, consider placing your desk directly behind the sofa and it can act as a console as well.

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