Furniture Shopping: How to Make the Right Selections For Your Home

Buying furniture for a new home or simply refreshing the look of your current one can be a big task. You want to be sure that your selections are thoughtful and appropriate for your lifestyle while being stylish at the same time. Rushing the process and being unprepared when you start your journey can lead to decorating mistakes and put you in the position of having to either send things back to the store or being unhappy with your hasty choices. Here are some easy ways to make sure that these things don’t happen and that your purchases will bring you nothing but enjoyment for years to come.


Preparation is key. You may be itching to run out to the store right now and get started, but there are a few things you need to do before you even leave the house. Measuring your space is your first step. Measure not only the floors but the ceiling height as well. Showrooms tend to have taller ceilings and wider spacing to stage their products. This can give you an altered impression of how much square footage is required to hold these items. Knowing how much space you’re working with as well as how tall your ceilings are will prevent you from purchasing items that are not proportionate to your home. Remember to also calculate how much open walking area you desire once the pieces are in. Overcrowding the room won’t do you any favors when it comes time to place everything in it.


Make a list of the items that are essential to your space, starting with the largest items first. Work your way down the list to accessories you may want to add for accenting. Always deal with your must-haves first to make sure you don’t lose valuable space for them in your home. Bring your tape measure and measurements with you and head out the door!


Most importantly, take your time. These are large purchases you’re making that you will have in your home for a long time. There is no need to buy everything on your first outing. Sit on couches, chairs, and beds to test for comfort. Open and close dressers, armoires, and hutches for ease of use. Check for imperfections and feel their textures. Keep in mind that colors and styles can vary from what is displayed in a showroom. If you like a certain style but don’t love the finish, there may be an alternative available that is not on display.


With a little preparation and patience, you are sure to find the best pieces for your home. Get started today!

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 16: Unity

The principle of unity is the concept of pulling all the elements and principles of interior design together to create a connected look to the space you are decorating.  To ensure that the result is successful, it is essential to plan and decide what the dominant features of the room will be.  This will prevent the room’s design from becoming overwhelmed with an abundance of focal points.


Connecting the elements can be done in multiple ways that will result in the grouping of certain pieces together while keeping each section cohesive to the overall arrangement.  Upon entering a room, the viewer’s eye automatically looks for a pattern to recognize.  Having a sense of order to a design creates an inviting environment which the viewer seeks out involuntarily.


Elements can be grouped together by proximity, similarity, continuation and alignment.  Proximity is the method of placing items close together to make it obvious that they are related to one another.  A sofa with accompanying loveseat and coffee table is an example of this.  A group can be assembled through similarity by placing repetitive items together.  Using items similar in color, size or shape will accomplish this.  A blue area rug under an upholstered chair with blue accent pillow staged in front of a painting with a similar shade of blue in it is a good representation of this method.  Alignment is achieved through the lining up of edges to bring focus to them.  Coordinating chairs at a kitchen island or lining up artwork frames on a wall are obvious displays of alignment. Finally, continuation provides direction from one element to another through signified lines, curves or edges.  The light beaming down from a chandelier can lead the viewer’s eye to a circular coffee table surrounded by a half-moon shaped sofa with globe lamps at each end. 


When deciding which groupings to use for the space, remember to maintain the main theme of the room.  Keep a common motif that binds them all together no matter what proximity they are to one another.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 15: Scale

Scale refers to the size of a space, the objects in it and their compatibility to the human form.  The areas you work with in your home vary in size so keeping your furnishings to scale with yourself and its dimensions are important for making everything look just right. The visual weight of the objects you place in a room need to be taken into consideration as well to maintain proper proportion.  Proportion and scale go hand in hand and tend to be used interchangeably because of their close relationship in design. 


To determine what size furnishings are appropriate for your living space consider taking measurements.  Ceiling height, length and width of a room all play their part in influencing what goes into the design.  For example, a room with a low ceiling would not be well-served with tall furnishings.  They will only make the room’s walls and ceiling appear shorter than they already are.  Taller ceilings have the luxury of using high or low furnishings as more sizable furniture will look proportionate to the space and low furniture can be used to make a statement. 


Small rooms can be decorated with more delicate furniture and visually lighter pieces while these would look out of place in a larger space.  When painting the walls, or choosing patterns, smaller rooms tend to need more light hues and smaller patterns to avoid overwhelming them.  Larger rooms can use a variety of colors and pattern sizes without dwarfing the size of the space.  Using a focal point in the room will help set the tone for the scale of items you use for the remaining decor no matter what size room you are working with.


It is also a good idea to allow for areas of negative space to prevent the room from looking too busy.   This can be accomplished through making space to walk between furniture or toning down the number of elements emphasized in a room.  Allowing a viewer to be able to rest their eyes throughout certain parts of the room will make it more comfortable and inviting. 

Traditional Style in the Living Room

The way we live has changed the way we decorate. For most of us, gone are the formal living rooms that no one ever uses except for company and holidays. Today’s lifestyles are generally more informal.  This doesn’t mean that traditional style is out of fashion too. Instead, it means that the style has come to incorporate slightly different aspects of decor.

Traditional style today can be influenced by anything from French to Farmhouse to Mediterranean styles as well as more formal antiques.  This living room is a good example of the traditional style that works for today’s living.  The style does not focus on strict structure, but rather creates small pockets of grouped furniture and works with traditionally styled pieces that are actually contemporary in nature.


Focusing on this wonderful stone fireplace, this seating arrangement is perfect for conversation, gathering around a cozy fire, or playing games.  A television is not visible but could be incorporated into the room.


Comfortable upholstered furniture in traditional styles is mixed together.  The sofa with the antique chair, side table, and clock are a nice mix. The area rug helps unify the colors of the furnishings and accent pillows.


The hardwood floors in this area are the perfect choice for a traditional style room.  Hardwood is a timeless classic that feels at home with any type of style.  However, in this setting, the hardwood floor becomes its own statement piece. In a traditional style room, a Persian or Oriental rug may be a good choice.  The colors and patterns of these classic rugs would also work to tie in the wall and furniture colors. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 14: Proportion

Simply put, proportion is the proper balance between design elements.  It is being able to walk into a room, take in all its parts and know that it is just the way it should be.  This tends to be a more personal concept to grasp because every homeowner is going to feel differently about when they feel that a space is truly finished and correct.  Proportion comes through repeating similar themes throughout the same space to provide unity while also using differing pieces for variety.  Whether your items are similar or different, there must be a relationship between them to create the harmony needed to make it all work.


A good way to get started is to try to take this process step by step.  What colors are you working with? Are there a few spots in the room where the same color can be repeated to pull those items together? Choose an odd number of items in each grouping since this can be more pleasing to the eye.  If there are a lot of colors going into the room’s accessories, use some neutrals to bind them so the colors don’t become overwhelming.


Think about the shapes that are present in the room.  Arched doorways and circular tables bring a circular shape that can be balanced out with some rectangular pieces to add visual weight.  If there are a lot of boxy pieces in the room, then incorporating some free-form shapes would soften it up a little bit.  Don’t just stick with plain items for your living space.  Any patterns you can add through wallpaper, pillow covers and area rugs will give the room a more interesting look.


How much light is in the room? If you are dealing with a dark space, balance that out with lighter colors for your furnishings and add the appropriate fixtures to bring attention to special areas. If there is a lot of available natural light, items of a darker color won’t dim the room too much so feel free to place a few in the space.


Remember to think about textures as well.  Items with thicker textures will make a room feel cozy and inviting, so be sure to blend them in with its cooler, sleeker features.  A lush blanket thrown over the side of a leather couch, one wall of textured wallpaper against 3 solid colored walls or a smooth wooden mantelpiece hanging from a textured stone-finished fireplace are all great ways to achieve proportion.

The Retro Living Room

Sometimes it is fun to take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the nostalgia of the past. Some people even want to live more in the past. One way to do this is to decorate in retro fashion. Decorating your living room in a retro style is a great way to bring back the feel of more innocent times.


Wallpaper is a hallmark of retro rooms. There are many options, and the decade you decide to focus on will affect the style of wallpaper you choose. There are some important things to consider when choosing wallpaper. There are various types of wallpaper to choose from, and important things to consider are cost, maintenance, and style. Before you apply the wallpaper, make sure you check the pattern direction several times. It is common for people to put up wallpaper, and realize after the design is going the wrong way. 


Another key feature to decorating a retro living room is the type of furniture. There are many styles to choose from, and depending on the size of your living room there are also many types of furniture to decorate with such as sofas, loveseats, sectionals, settees, and chaise lounges. The style and type of fabric you choose will depend on the decade you are decorating. 


Flooring is another key feature to focus on when decorating. Some popular retro flooring choices are vinyl, wood, carpet, linoleum and tile. With some many styles to choose from, it’s important to consider cost, maintenance, and style. 


Knick Knacks for the 1940’s consider flowery yet simple pieces, also wooden décor, clocks, and sunny pictures. For the 1950’s consider atomic motifs, big lamps. The overall look is clean with Scandinavian style being very popular. In the 1960’s copper and other types of metal were very popular for decorating. A few other popular decorating themes were owls, roosters, Siamese cats, and mushrooms. This was also the age of lava lamps and posters. Lava lamps were also popular in the 1970’s along with globe lamps, arc floor lamps, abstract wall art was also popular along with sculptures. 


Each decade had its own popular colors. In the 1940’s one popular color choice was art deco, which included lighter and more neutral shades. The mid-century modern palette was also popular with deep tones and bold colors. The style changed in the 1950’s to pastels, Scandinavian, and modern colors being very popular. In the 1960s colors were inspired by the outdoors. Colors like gold, yellow, green, and orange were very popular. Turquoise, bright green, brown, and sunshine yellow were very popular colors in the 70’s. As you can see, each decade had its own style, and focusing on the popular colors of the era you choose to decorate around will make your living room look more authentic. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 12: Rhythm

The principle of rhythm can be described as a pattern that provides movement through a design.  It connects all the room’s elements together, providing order and unity to the space.  Without it, a room can feel disjointed and out of proportion.  That’s why it’s a good idea to educate yourself on how to achieve rhythm in your design and ensure that your living space feels harmonious when you enter it.  There are three main ways to incorporate rhythm into your home’s layout: repetition, alternation and progression. 


Repetition uses repeated elements of the room’s design in a regular, recognizable way.  Examples of this method are placing 4 to 6 matching picture frames with similarly photos in them on the wall above your couch in the living room.  Carrying the pattern through the room would be matching the mat board color in the frames to the couch.  Repetition can also be seen in matching pendants lights hanging from the ceiling and identical throw pillows as accessories to the room. You can also use repetition through lines.  If there are vertical lines on an upholstered chair, you can repeat the pattern in a vertically striped wallpaper or area rug.


Alternation is the method of using two or more elements in a pattern that repeats throughout the space.  An example of this would be using the color combination of black and white with square shapes.  These colors can be utilized through a tile floor design, black and white pillows, frames, area rug and wallpaper.  Another example of repeating elements would be combining circular furnishings, neutral colors and textures.  You would see something like a half-moon shaped leather couch in a taupe color on top of a round stone colored area rug with circular glass side tables. 


Progression is a pattern developed through a sequence of colors or objects in recognizable way.  An example of this being used in your home can be through accessories ranging from small to large or low to high.  This can be seen in a set of nesting tables in the corner of a room or a three-piece animal sculpture that advances in size.  Window panels with progressively changing color, candlesticks ascending in height and abstract paintings featuring the same color in different levels of saturation are also good examples of progression.


Using your new knowledge of rhythm, make your home unforgettable with a discernible pattern that will delight you and your guests. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 11: Balance

In interior design, balance is crucial for making a space look comfortable.  This principle uses the visual weight of a room’s objects to provide it with stability.  Visual weight does not always represent the actual weight of an item, but how it is perceived in a design.  Items that are larger in size, darker in color, higher in contrast and more complex in pattern and shape appear to be “heavier” than items that are lighter, less dense in design, lower in contrast and lighter in color.  The art of balancing these items is making sure that the heavier objects and lighter pieces work well in the same space.  One heavier item may be balanced out with three lighter objects.  Or two equally heavy objects can balance one another out. Understanding the different types of balance will help you choose which arrangement will work best in your home. 


There are three types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial.  Symmetrical balance is achieved through the placement of the same objects on either side of a room using a central line as a guide.  An example of this is a bed with matching side tables.  On those tables are matching lamps.  The bed acts as the center “line” while the matching table and lamps are symmetrical on each side.  While these arrangements can be pleasing to the eye, the similarities can sometimes do the space a disservice by making it look too predictable.  Be sure to sprinkle in different items to prevent the room from looking too plain.  Asymmetrical balance uses a variety of objects with similar or different visual weights and places them opposite one another to provide equilibrium through interesting combinations. This arrangement can be a little more difficult to achieve if you are unsure of an item’s visual weight, so be careful with your choices.  An example of asymmetrical balance is placing a large sofa with side table and lamp across from two single chairs with a floor lamp in between them.  Finally, there is radial symmetry, which is an arrangement of pieces around a central point in an almost circular way.  Focus can be pulled inward or pushed outward, but the center remains the anchor of the design.  An example of this would be an upholstered chairs arranged in a circle around a coffee table or a half-circle sofa facing a chaise lounge and accompanying area rug.


Now that you know all about balance, choose the type of symmetry that will bring the most visual interest to your space.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 10: Light

Proper use of light is essential to accentuating all the other aspects of interior design.  It influences how colors are seen, sets the mood in a room and brings attention to a focal point.  Natural and artificial light both have their parts to play in making a space look its best.  Making sure that natural light can come through while assuring that artificial sources can make up for any gaps in coverage is important when it comes to making a home as inviting as possible. 


While natural light obviously comes from the sun, there are three types of artificial light that can assist with enhancing any room: ambient, task and accent.  Ambient light is considered your general lighting.  These are the main light sources you use when you enter a room and need basic overall coverage to see.  Examples of ambient lighting are chandeliers, recessed can lights and wall-mount fixtures.  They are usually the first types of light you think of when furnishing your home.  Task lighting is next.  This lighting is used to assist you in performing daily functions in your home.  Good examples of task lighting are desk lamps for getting paperwork done, track lights for under the kitchen cabinet to illuminate your meal prepping and vanity lighting for the bathroom mirror to perform your morning and evening cleansing routine.  Finally, there is accent lighting.  This type of lighting is used to bring attention to the focal point in a room.  The bulbs used tend to be brighter to accomplish this goal.  Accent lighting can be used to showcase a large painting over the fireplace, bring focus to items displayed on open shelving and even bring light to shadowy recessed sections of a wall.  


One of the best things you can do for your living space is invest in dimmer lights.  Having control over how light or dark a room is coming in handy when you are having a dinner party and want to create a more relaxed mood.  It’s also perfect for bedrooms, since bright lights aren’t conducive to good sleep.  Even the bathroom can benefit from a dimmer as well.  You don’t want to be greeted each morning with an overwhelmingly bright light when you’ve just woken up. 


Now that you know the functions of each type of lighting, you are ready to choose the right combinations for your home.  Remember that while you may have enough natural light in some rooms during the day, you will still need to have enough artificial light sources for the evenings.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 8: Time


While time is not an official element or principle of design, it is still an important factor to consider when deciding how to decorate a space. The time of day and the time of year can determine how certain areas of your home are utilized and what level of attention they need to be showcased at their best.


The time of day that you spend in each room helps to determine its look.  Bedrooms will have a more relaxing color scheme and softer lighting, while your kitchen and living room will have livelier elements since that is where more of your waking hours are spent.  This concept can also be thought of in terms of how much natural light certain rooms are exposed to throughout each day.  A room that faces the day’s first light may need a different window treatment than the one that catches the sunset.  For example, a bedroom that receives a lot of sunlight in the morning would benefit from light-blocking curtains to promote better sleep patterns and lighter furniture to keep it cool temperature-wise so your energy bill does not go up during warmer months.  In contrast, rooms that tend to run on the cooler side can benefit from thicker, more lush fabrics with vivid colors to warm it up. 


Another way to think of time is how it plays a role in seasonal decorating.  No matter what climate you live in, there are going to be times of the year where you want your interior and exterior decor to reflect the cultural celebrations you observe.  These can be events that occur in the immediate neighborhood around you, an event that you are hosting, or a special holiday observance.  No matter what the occasion is, any one of these festivities can bring about the addition, removal or replacement of certain items in your home, even if it is only temporary.  The adjustments can be as simple as changing your tablecloths, displaying figurines or even incorporating party supplies into a space.  Special holidays may call for a change in kitchen accessories or more luxurious blankets to hang over the couch.  Lighting may be adjusted and candles can be brought out and prominently displayed. 


So, when it’s time to make decisions about your decor, think about the idea of time and how it will influence your process overall.