Editor's note: This story was originally published in May 2020.
We’re all spending more time at home these days. And we’ve all had a lot more time to stare at our living space and ponder what we’d like to change, whether it’s furnishings, decor or some bigger home improvements.
If you’re looking for a little guidance or inspiration, here are some decor and design tips from local experts Alison McIndoe of AK Interiors, Chris and Claudia Beiler of The Chris and Claude Co., Yvonne Pratt of StoneGable blog, Anita Yoder of Heritage Design Interiors and Jim Martin of Jim Martin Design:
• Create a budget: Set a decor budget and try to stick to it. It’s OK to splurge, but keep in mind that your tastes may change — and sooner than you think, Pratt says. She recalls saving early in her marriage for two 18th-century sofas that cost a fortune. They lasted for 27 years, which was 17 years longer than she really wanted them. “Only spend as much as you’re willing to live with something,” Pratt says.
“You don’t need to spend a lot to make it special, McIndoe says. “Everybody doesn’t have an unlimited budget and neither do I.”
• Be thrifty: “Use thrifting, yard sales and auctions as your first option,” Claudia Beiler says. “The prices are insanely better.” You’ll be supporting local people and businesses, too. Numerous sites also allow you to set up email alerts when a particular item you’re searching for goes on sale.
• Sofa pillows: For spring, Pratt uses pillows with lighter colors and fabrics, including linen, a cotton print and a woven indoor/outdoor material. “I think pillows are the jewelry of a room,” she says. “They can change the look of your room in an instant. I think they should be used liberally.”
• Texture: “In a neutral color palette room, texture is one of the most important things,” Pratt says. In her great room, you’ll find texture in the pillows, the nesting baskets on her coffee table and the sisal area rug.
• Mix and match: Different textures, patterns and finishes add fun and visual interest to a living space, Yoder says. Her entertaining space includes a kitchenette with a backsplash that looks like multi-textured metal and a basketweave farmhouse sink. “Look how much fun this is,” she says.
• Plants: Greenery adds an extra level of beauty to any space, even the shower, Chris Beiler says. The Beilers have numerous plants in their dining room - a spider plant in a metal pot atop the storage cabinet, sprigs in little glass vases on the table, and wax plants that trail from a set of hanging brass planters to the window and the ceiling beams..
• Go faux: But don’t be afraid to use fake plants and flowers, especially if you don’t have a green thumb, Pratt says. Good quality faux lasts for decades. Pratt’s great room offers a nod to spring with faux white tulips overflowing a giant urn on her white buffet and a variety of faux ferns.
• Embrace neutrals: Neutral bedding and window treatments will go with anything. McIndoe says. Adds Martin: Stick to neutrals for features like countertops and cabinets, then feel free to go crazy with wall colors, backsplashes and other accessories that are more easily changeable.
• Get creative with walls: “It’s just wallpaper. It’s just paint,” McIndoe says. “If you get a lot of great memories out of it there’s nothing wrong with changing it down the road.”
• Splash of color: Don’t be afraid of rich colors, says Yoder, who chose an “antiquey kiwi” for her lower-level powder room walls and a warm, earthy red for the cinema room.
• Be bold: “People are afraid of going bold,” says Yoder, who likes to use unique pieces that make a statement, whether it’s a painted chest, a copper table or a large, European-style vanity. “Sometimes big and bold is kind of fun.” Adds McIndoe: Don’t be afraid of a big, bold pattern — even in a small room.
• Books: Books are one of Pratt’s favorite decor items. She covers most of her books in burlap (more texture) and paints others white. They serve as risers for display items on her buffet and fireplace mantel, and as accent pieces, along with a topiary, to fill an open wire basket on her curlicue chest.
• The mantel: Don’t fill the whole mantel, Pratt advises. The eyes need negative space so they can rest. Both ends should balance like a seesaw. Although symmetry is the easiest way to achieve that, it’s not necessarily the most interesting.
• One more mantel tip: Never put a mirror over the mantel — unless it’s going to reflect something gorgeous. Pratt chose two large fern prints on black for over the mantel to add rich color to the neutral room.
• Little extras: Creative touches, like glass oval doorknobs, make a child’s room - or any room- extra special.
• Don’t overdo it: Keep the seasonal tchotchkes to a minimum. Pratt’s decorating mantra: Bigger is better; less is more.
• History: Don’t hide those family mementos in a storage box where you can’t enjoy them. Display them in your child’s room, McIndoe says, “so they have a background of where they come from and what’s important — which is family.”
• Lighting is key: Many people overlook the importance of lighting in their home, Yoder says. They either don’t have enough or they don’t take advantage of the many lighting options. Her living and entertainment areas feature directional recessed lighting over the mantel, track lighting to show off artwork and, of course, decorative lighting.
• Lighting tip No. 2: Don’t forget the dimmer switches. They give you even more control of the lighting in your room. “You can crank it up and turn it down,” Yoder says. “You can’t turn up nothing.”
• Lighting tip No. 3: Versatile swing-arm wall lamps are an excellent option, McIndoe says. Daughter Ellery has two by the company Visual Comfort — one above each nightstand in her bedroom. They’re great for reading in bed, and they free up space that a table lamp would normally dominate on a nightstand.
• Furnish for the future: Adult-size bedroom furniture will stay with a child as they grow, McIndoe says, noting her 5-year-old daughter will be able to take her double canopy bed with her someday when she moves out. “I typically don’t use kids’ furniture (for clients) unless requested,” she says.
• Think vinyl: For high-traffic areas, especially ones that lead outside, luxury vinyl plank flooring is a great, easy-to-clean choice. Yoder used it throughout her lower-level living space so she wouldn’t have to worry about kids tracking in mud. “I wanted it to look good but be very low maintenance,” she says.
• Hang ’em high: Give the illusion of longer windows, especially in a lower-level room, by hanging window treatments at ceiling height.
• Resale isn’t everything: “Resale value has some value, but don’t commit yourself to doing something only for resale value,” says Jim, who prefers to design spaces for clients based on how they live and what they appreciate. “If someone tells me, ‘I want to remodel my kitchen and I’m probably going to sell in two years,’ I would probably tell them I’m not the best person for them.”
• Find a remodeler you can work with comfortably: “If you don’t have the chemistry, if you’re not able to relate to the person you’re working with, then move on,” Jim says.
• Create a space that feels like you: “People see pictures on Pinterest and they want their style to be that,” Claudia Beiler says. “It’s not expressing who they are. Buy what you like instead of turning your home into the next fixer-upper.”
• Beware DIY: Thanks to house-flipping TV shows, YouTube videos, Pinterest and the like, we’re in the midst of a huge DIY movement, but that often oversimplifies the important design process, Jim says. “A lot of people miss out when they don’t hire a professional.”
• You can do this: There’s nothing mystical about decorating, Pratt says. “Decorating is science and psychology. When you know those two things and pair it with your creativity and personality, it becomes decor magic.”