STEP FOUR: Invest in the Bones

I shop for furniture, in the same way, I shop for clothes. I am practical but not cheap. I can appreciate a trend, but prefer to stick with items that are classic with a long shelf life. I love good tailoring and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a well-made piece. 

Century Furniture Lotus Bar Cabinet

My friend and I were out shopping for furniture for her condo over the weekend.  She recently moved into a two bedroom in Midtown and needed to purchase all new furniture for space.  We met up at one of my favorite stores where I was sure she'd find some really cool pieces. I could tell that she was digging many of the things in there, but for some reason would act disinterested.  By our second stop, I started to pay attention to her habits.  She would walk into the showroom, check out the nearest price tag, condemn the entire store as "too expensive" and start migrating towards the door.  When I saw what she was doing, I stepped in to let her know why her type of shopping was driving me nuts! I  started by telling her that she needed to live with the things she loved and that she couldn't just look at the price tag and make a decision. I felt she was being closed minded about the experience, so I had to change my approach. It dawned on me that I should put furniture shopping into terms she could understand.  I related the experience to how she and I shop for clothes. 


I immediately thought of Fashion Guru Nina Garcia's cardinal rule for when shopping for clothing,  invest in the Bones. I started by relating our trips to Neiman Marcus. We discussed how there are things in there that a ridiculously expensive while others are affordable. I went on encouraged her to employ the same techniques when shopping for furniture as she would at Neimans. 
Rule number 1. Look for that truly unique piece. Shopping for me is always about quality over quantity.  I seldom bring home bags and bags of clothes. I like to buy things one at a time to make sure I love it and that it will work with other things in my wardrobe.  Everyone has different shopping techniques, but for us, this works best.

Rule number 2. Buy the best quality product you can afford.  This is a redundant point, but it's a great tip.  Instead of buying inexpensive sheets and 7 other things, spend as much money as you can to get the best sheets possible.  You have to stretch yourself when it comes to investing in your home.

Rule number 3. Look for strategic ways to get the things you love into your home. The decision to decorate your home can be costly.  Many times you will be making a sacrifice to get things exactly how you want them.  Give yourself permission to work on this project over time. This will give you time to save up if you need to or to get the item on sale. 

Rule number 4. Look at your entire project and budget when decorating your home. There will be places where money can be saved to purchase the items you really want. Consider all of your options. Collect images and take notes. Then prioritize. It's your home. You deserve it!

STEP THREE: Follow Your Design Roadmap

In the "Start With What You Love" post, I recommended you start decorating your room around a fabric, an area rug or a piece of art you couldn't imagine life without. That item will become the guide or the roadmap for your project.  Once you have it in place, you are free to make purchases and other decorating decisions knowing that everything will in some way tie back to the inspiration piece.  

Think of your home as a puzzle with many pieces. You would never dump the pieces on the table and start assembling them without taking a look at the box.  The completed image on the box is your roadmap.  You need that picture in your head to guide where you place each puzzle piece.  Likewise, you need your inspiration piece to guide you when you are out making selections for your room. And just like you wouldn't look at the box once and discard it before the puzzle is complete, you don't want to lose sight of your room inspiration before it is done either. 



STEP TWO: Use Your Passion As Inspiration

Interior design is not only a career choice but my life's passion. I would do it for free if my father owned the light company.  I'm like most designers who believe your home should be as unique as you are. But what does that mean? It means your home should reflect your individual taste and revolve around the things you love the most. The rules of design teach about balance and scale and what formulas to use to pull a space together. And while I understand the rules of design, I believe they hold second place to your ability to capture the feel and soul of your home.

Images via the    Sister Sophisticate blog   

Images via the  Sister Sophisticate blog 

Your lifestyle, the things you enjoy doing and having around you day to day is where you should start when designing your home. Don't just hand that power over because you don't trust your style. If you are like me, the way or style in which you live your life has evolved.  Over time the things you love should rise to the top pushing less than extraordinary things out of your life altogether.  How you live in your home and your personal journey when included in your decor choices will produce a space ideally suited for you. I've lived in different places, read many books, fallen in love with songs, and picked up things from various cultures during your travels. That range of experiences which is as unique as I am, when added to my living space makes me happy, and my home entirely mine.

When traveling, I encourage my clients to bring back mementos and photographs to add to their decor.  These personal artifacts collected over a lifetime is what makes Since we have an established design plan where we've painted the walls, purchased the furniture and placed the accessories, I give them the opportunity to add thoughtfully to their home something that is special and holds memories for them. 

STEP ONE: Think Like A Designer

1. Accept that the Space is the Space

As a designer, I've seen my share of awkwardly designed spaces.  In most of my projects where I am dealing with an older home, there is always some design challenge to be overcome.   Be it a sloping ceiling or awkwardly placed windows, there is something in the space that makes me wonder what in the world the builder was thinking.  Because we don't live in perfectly shaped boxes, chances are your space will have it's own challenges that will require special attention.  The best way to tackle the decorating is to accept the space for what it is.  You can best access the true nature of the space when the room is empty of all furniture.  Inside the empty space, you will want to take detailed notes and measurements.  Use your phone and take pictures of the space from various angles. Be sure to make notes of architectural details like built-ins, and beams that cannot be moved. 

Empty Living Room

2. Start with something that you love

I find inspiration in many different places.  Fashion, nature, photography, and travel have all inspired me during my decorating career. I can not start a project without the proper inspiration to guide the process.  I often ask the client to show me something they absolutely love.  This is usually a piece of art, an unique fabric or a statement making area rug.  I then use the item to inspire the color palette for the space.  Working backwards from an item you love will ensure you end up with a space that makes your heart skip a beat.

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3. Look for inspiration everywhere

It's important to collect the things you are drawn to for your home even when it seemly makes no sense at all.  On my desk are beads given to me by my friend and Top 20 designer Joy Moyler, a piece of amethyst I picked up one Saturday morning, tons of books and various other knick knacks I like having around.  These things go beyond the necessities of a functioning office and gives it personality.  
Don't worry about your collection making sense.  Grab everything that inspires you.  You can edit your selections later.

When collecting room images as inspiration, be sure to take a really good look at the picture to see what it is that caught your attention. Was it the color palette or a particular piece of furniture? You might find that you are drawn to the simplicity or calming nature of a room.  Whatever it is, just remember, the more detailed you are, the more success you will have recreating the look and feel of your home.

4. Choose your furniture carefully.


Undoubtedly, you will end up living with your furniture longer than expected, so choose wisely from the beginning. Invest in quality pieces that will anchor each room.  For the living room it will be the sofa, for the dining room, the dining room chairs and for the bedrooms, it will be the bed.  Buy these items first and buy them well. I'm obsessed right now with colorful coaches.  I feel that if I'm going to have to live with it for a while, it should be a show stopper.  My favorite sofas right now are velvet, and I can't get enough.  They are so rich and vibrant when done in a moody blue, bright yellow, or emerald green. 

Be sure to take care to purchase furniture that fits perfectly into the room.  Furniture that is too big or too small for the space is my pet peeve.  When in doubt, give the sales associate your measurements and have them ok the purchase.  You can digital layout tools.  There are quite a few on the market designed to make the process easy for you.  Final note.  Purchase only the pieces you need. You are not obligated to buy the complete set.  Switch things up.  Mix and match the items in your home to create an exciting and alluring space.


5. Remember, design is in the details

Those knick knacks you collected in step 3, the pillows you made from the fabric you love, the collection of family portraits that date back six generations, all go into this phase. Everything that separates your home from the other homes on your block can be found here. Window treatments, lamps, bedding, and accessories give you a chance to add layer upon layer of your personal style.  I love this phase because it is what gives a room personality and where you can have a lot of fun.  Because you choose the foundation (furniture) correctly, you can take as many risks with these items as you'd like. You can even switch them up seasonally, but most people just leave everything as it is.