I think it might be embedded in our DNA… that “itch” that restless urge to refresh our home. We watch the popular renovation programming on HGTV or DIY network, and flip through design magazines with a ravenous hunger for inspiration and ideas. However, for many people, when it comes time to actually put these ideas into practice knowing where or how to start stops us in our tracks… the inspiration turns to intimidation. What if I do something wrong? What about the budget? So often what has inspired us, has been accomplished with a large budget. So, what if you don’t have a big budget for your update… no worries. Let’s remove some of the intimidation by breaking the project down into a few manageable sections that can be accomplished with a smaller budget: plan, paint, pillows, placement.
Before diving in, start by organizing all that inspiration into something manageable. You’ve spent hours walking through furniture stores and studying photos of rooms and furniture that speak to you. But now you struggle with translating all that you’ve seen into an actual plan for your home. Start with a mood board.
This is a collage of photos and samples of fabrics, flooring, tile, and décor gathered in a composition. A mood board will help to organize your inspiration and give you an idea of how things will look together. Start with a photo of a room that inspires you, and then gather samples of the finishes that have been used in the room. Most stores offer samples of carpet, flooring, tile, and fabric for free or a minimal cost. If a sample is not available, take a photo. Paint samples are readily available at hardware and paint stores. Pay attention to details like texture, and color when gathering samples. Is the color warm, or cool? Is the metal table that inspires you shiny, or distressed? What is the texture of the fabric or finish that inspires you… is it chunky, sheer, smooth? Look for samples that have those same qualities.
Now that you have your mood board, it is time to translate your vision into your actual living space. This is when it becomes necessary to align your vision with your budget. Big changes can happen on a small budget by focusing on paint, pillows, and placement.
There is no greater cost-effective way to make a substantial change in a space than paint. Walls, cabinets, and some furniture can all be completely transformed by paint, and can bring your inspiration to life by keeping a few things in mind.
Warm vs. Cool Tones All color has either a warm or cool undertone, meaning it has a blue base or a yellow base. Warm colors (yellow base) go from red through yellow-green while cool colors (blue base) go from green through red-violet. A good way to begin training your eye to see these undertones is by visiting the paint section of your local hardware store and studying the color samples. Begin in the white paint section… there are hundreds of shades of white, look closely… does the sample have a cool tone, or a warm tone? As you train your eye to see what those undertones are, you will begin to recognize it in other colors as well. Color can be complicated, but as a general rule you will want to choose warm or cool tones rather than mixing the two. Warm tones will make a space feel more intimate, while cool tones will make a space feel more open.
Finding Colors that Complement
Understanding the relationship between colors can be daunting. Using a color wheel can help you make choices that work best together. At the most basic level there are monochromatic colors (various tints, tones, or shades of one color), complementary colors (colors that are positioned directly across from one another on the color wheel), split complementary (your key color and the two colors on either side of its complement), triad (using three colors equally spaced on the color wheel), tetrad (a combination of four colors that are two sets of complements on the color wheel).
Use Small Samples First and Invest in a High-Quality Paint You think you’ve found the perfect color? Excellent! But before you commit to painting an entire room take the time for two more steps: 1) Invest in a quality paint. The more pigment a paint has the better the quality. While it may seem expensive at first, you will need fewer coats… saving you both time and money in the long run. 2) Buy a small sample can of the colors first and paint it in several places in the room. You will get a better idea of how the color will look in your room once you see it in various lights, times of day, and next to other finishes like baseboards and furniture colors.
PILLOWS (and other accessories)
Another way to save money while updating your home is by paying attention to your pillows and accessories. It is far more cost effective to swap out your pillow covers and add a throw blanket to your sofa instead of reupholstering or buying new furniture. While you may be swooning over that emerald green velvet sofa, in the long-run it is best to begin with basic upholstered furniture in neutral colors as your foundation, and save the bold colors and patterns for the pillows and accessories. If this advice has reached you too late, don’t panic. Chair and sofa slip covers come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Changing rugs, art, and accessories in the room can also transform your space to the updated look you’re going for. This doesn’t always have to mean buying new. Start by shopping your home… you may already have the perfect rug or accessory in storage or another room. Also, consider having your art reframed instead of replacing it entirely.
Simply reimagining the placement of your furniture can have a dramatic impact on how the room feels. Is all of your furniture pushed up against the walls, leaving the center of the room feeling empty? Try anchoring the center of the room with an area rug, and pulling your sofa and chairs closer in so their front feet are on the rug. Or, instead of having your sofa and chair at 90° from each other… try moving the chair to the far corner of the rug and turning it in toward the center.
As I mentioned earlier… shop your home. Don’t limit the furniture choices to what is already in the room. If you have a painting, rug, pair of chairs, etc. in another part of your home try them out in a new space and see how it looks.
There are principles of space planning and the flow of a room that are important such as not blocking entryways and traffic flow, but perhaps most importantly you need to be willing to experiment. See what feels right to you and what doesn’t.
Taking the time to really think about all of these details of your update will ultimately save you money in the long run because you will be happy with the results, rather than always feeling like something needs to be adjusted. If you still feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to consult a professional designer. Many offer a free consultation, and will outline a scope of work and budget that you both agree upon before getting started.