30 Easy, High-Impact Decorating Ideas – My Thoughts

21 02 2011

I love to flip through magazines for decorating and home improvement ideas – that’s one of the reasons I love Better Homes and Gardens so much.  Also, because they have some great garden ideas, which I always struggle with.  But that’s a post for another day.

My mom gave me a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens as a gift, and it’s been great!  In the March issue, they had an article on 30 easy, high-impact decorating ideas, and I saved it to use some as inspiration.  Here are the ones I particularly liked:

  1. Layering: “Layers keep a room from being one-note. Prop framed pictures or mirrors against a wall, overlapping them slightly. Top a stack of books with a fun little something. Drape a throw over a chair arm. Now, you have depth.”  – I’m a big fan of this idea, which is something I’ve used on my fireplace mantle before.  I might try it out in some other rooms as well!
  2. Organize books by color: “Calm chaotic shelves by organizing books by color. Leave some upright, and stack others, placing decorative objects between them.  Painting the inside of a cabinet a fun color or covering it with wallpaper or wrapping paper is another simple lift.” – This is a great idea. I’ve always left some books upright and stacked others, but I’ve never thought to organize them by color.  I saw another great idea recently – to wrap books with the same color wrapping or wall paper.  I might try this in my office or living room.  As for painting the inside of a cabinet – I did staple fabric to the back of my bookshelves, and it gives it a lot of visual interest.
  3. Baskets: “On open shelving or an armoire, matching storage bins, baskets or boxes make a room look more pulled together and less cluttered. Toss in DVDs, phone books, and more. Stick with solid-color neutral containers for flexibility in moving them to other spots when your needs change.”  – if you’ve been to my house, you know I LOVE baskets. I use them for everything, and I’ve found that they do make open shelving look much neater and more elegant.
  4. Fireplace in the off-season: “Don’t let the fireplace be a black hole in the off-season. Fill it with a pillar or three-wick candles, a woven basket filled with silk flowers, or a plant in a colorful pot.” – I’ve never thought to try this!  I have a working fireplace, so I always thought the candle thing was more suited to false fireplaces.  But it’s a great idea to keep your fireplace as the center of attention, even when you don’t have a roaring fire in it.
  5. Curtains: “Hang curtains near the ceiling rather than just above the window trim. It gives the illusion of height – great for a small room or low ceiling.” – I’ve done this in all the rooms I’ve hung curtains in, so I can attest to the illusion of height.  Even though I have standard ceilings, it adds drama to the room.
  6. Bedding: “Swap out the coverlet, pillows, or throw on your bed. Any – or all – are easy enough to change and will make it seem like you have a new room every season.” – This is something I definitely do, at least for the throw.  I have the warm grey blanket I crocheted on my bed now, but that will be too heavy come spring and summer.  So I’ll swap it out with a different blanket.  I might even think of changing out the pillows!
  7. Paint: “Paint the rear wall of an upstairs landing a color that you only discover upon ascending the stairs. Surprise!” – I don’t think this would work well in my house, but I love this idea. I plan to hang on to it for future homes!
  8. Stair baskets: “A decorative basket at the bottom of the stairs is so much easier on the eye than the stacks of stuff that tend to accumulate there. Drop things in it, then disperse items in one swoop when you’re already make a trip upstairs.” – As you might remember, I’m already waiting on mine to arrive
  9. Pattern: “Every room needs pattern, but pattern can be scary. Conquer the catch-22 with a graphic pillow cover. Just slip it over an existing pillow when you want a change-up. It’s amazing how much oomph one little fabric square delivers.” – This is another fabulous idea.  I plan to try this when my new chair arrives for the office – more on this later!

What are your favorite decorating tips?


Hanging Curtains

27 04 2010

For a while, I debated hanging curtains in my dining room and living room.  It doesn’t seem like a major decision, but for some reason, I couldn’t come to a conclusion.

I have these hideous blinds in both rooms.  They’re good for two reasons: 1) I didn’t have to buy them and 2) they cover the entire set of four or five windows I have in each room.  Eventually, I want to replace these with bamboo shades, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  My thinking was that the shades with the curtains might be too much.

Then I told myself how well it works in my guest room.  Hmm.

But then I thought it might make the rooms too formal.

I’ve been going back and forth on this for a while.  Totally ridiculous, I know, but these are the decorating decisions that run around in my mind.

So on Saturday, I was playing hooky from my ceramics class and easing into the day with breakfast in front of the TV – HGTV, of course.  I saw a commercial for Color Splash, and David Bromstad said that floor to ceiling curtains add drama to a room.  At that moment, I knew – I needed curtains in the dining room.  I made the decision for a few reasons: 1) the moment I heard that, I knew he was right (and I always go with gut instincts), 2) I thought it might be an extra way to block out any peeking from my creepy neighbor, and 3) looking at those danged gross blinds in my pretty living room every day just depressed me.

I took my measurements (about 82 inches across and 96 inches from floor to ceiling) and headed out.  I went first to Target, because I remembered looking for curtain rods with my mom at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and they were both expensive and nothing special.  I found one that I liked – a dark wooden (fake wood) one, with large knobs on each end.  I thought I needed a little bulk in the rod because of the way the rest of the room is decorated – I can’t really explain why that is, but that’s how I felt! 

I checked out the curtains there too – I had it in my head that I wanted something silver, in a silk/taffeta kind of material.  They didn’t have that at Target. So I thought I’d use some of my millions of Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons and pick up some curtains there.

I found the perfect, perfect curtains, on sale, in silver.  I loved them.  They only had one in 95″.  I looked and looked, but could only find another one that was 84″.  I took it as a sign.  Sigh.  Instead, I picked up two champagne curtains, which seemed to be the only two in 95″ and since they were close to the curtains that I love so much in my guest room, I thought I’d be okay with them.

Then it was on to putting them up!

I had three brackets, each with two holes. To hang these up, I needed to first mark my holes, which I did using the bracket.

I wish I had a head mount for my camera - it would be easier.

I used the first bracket and marks to decide at which height I wanted to hang my curtains. I did want to go with floor to ceiling, so I dropped the bracket about two inches from the ceiling and made my marks.  I measured both where the top of the bracket was and the top hole, so that as I marked each subsequent bracket, they would be even (since I wasn’t using a level).

Then, it was time to drill the holes.  The brackets came with wall anchors (those little plastic doo-hickeys that you hammer into the wall and then put a screw into), so I first drilled holes to accommodate them.  The depth of the wall wasn’t great (because of the framing of the house), so I had to shorten the wall anchors a little by cutting the ends off – I’ve found that this works great, and hasn’t affected the strength needed to hold up the thing being anchored.

Time to drill - not the best pic ever, but I was taking this one-handed. With my left hand.


Once the holes were drilled, I hammered in the anchors.

Holes with anchors

Then, I secured each of the brackets.

Brackets up!

Once that was done, I put up the curtain rod.  This was a little bit tough without adding the ends (I know these have a specialized name, I just can’t remember it right now!), because I had to try to stretch the adjustable rod without having it fall out of the brackets.  I finally got that done.

Curtain rod - up!

Then, I ironed the curtains (note, make sure your iron isn’t too hot for the material. Mine ended up heating up too much and tearing the fabric in a spot that’s fortunately not too noticeable!).  I put the curtains up and found out that 95 inches apparently doesn’t really mean 95 inches.  Although the curtain rod is two inches from the ceiling (putting it at 94 inches from the floor), the curtains are still a couple of inches off the floor.  I’m a wee bit irritated about that, but I must say, I LOVE the way the curtains look.

All right, so the champagne curtains look good. I'm still sad about the pewter ones

They’ve formalized the room, true, but it looks so finished and classy.  It does block out some light, because they’re room darkening, but I’m only in that room in the evenings, mostly, anyway and can always open the curtains if I want to.  (I never open the blinds because of my creepy neighbor)

Now this room makes me really happy!

Every time I come downstairs and see the curtains, it makes me happy.  Such a small change, but such a big difference!

Would you like to see the full before & after?

When I moved in...

Interim decorating

And now - can you believe it?

A Photo Project

21 04 2010

Since this was fairy involved, I thought I’d write a separate post about the photo project in my guest room.

I’m a big fan of Pottery Barn. I can’t always (or almost ever) afford their stuff, but they put together such great rooms that I’m always hunting through the catalog for ideas for my house and tearing them out. One of these was the idea that inspired this photo project – in the background of a bedroom layout, they had black and white photo in white frames with big mats hanging on the walls, and on the mats was written the date that the picture was taken and who was in it.

Since my friends and family will be the ones enjoying the guest room, I wanted to make them feel welcome by hanging up some of my favorite memories and I thought this would be a great way to do it. I chose a number of photos that I had and converted them to black and white – mostly they were photos I’d taken, but several were from when I was younger, and my parents had taken them.  I ordered them from Snapfish in 4×6 and 5×7, because I wanted to get 8×10 frames for the smaller ones and 11X14 frames for the bigger ones to leave them with a large mat to write on.

Once they arrived, I picked up the frames and mats that I wanted at Michaels (to me, the happiest place on earth). I ended up with 13 (I know, not my favorite number) frames, four of them being smaller.  The 9 larger frames came with the mats I wanted, but I had to get extra mats for the other frames. 

When I got home, I worked on setting up the pictures. I chose the 13 photos I would use and wrote on the backs who was in them and what I wanted to put on the mat.  Then, I first wrote out the mats in pencil – I’m not really a script writer, but I thought script would look better, so I wanted to make sure I practiced first before using a permanent marker.  Once I’d traced over what I’d written with a Sharpie, I let it dry and then erased any visible pencil marks.  I used the paper included with the frame (the one with the picture on it) by placing my photo on it to center it, and then taping it there.

Then, I cleaned out the inside glass of the frame, let that dry, and then put the picture and mat in there. I repeated this for all of the 13 photos and frames.

Like a blank canvas

I’d read somewhere that when hanging a project like this, it’s a good idea to lay it out first on the floor to identify how you want it to be set up. GOOD IDEA.  I laid it out on the guest bed (there isn’t enough floor space) and moved things around until I was happy with it. 

Laying it out beforehand helped

Then, I started with the middle picture, so I could try to center the whole thing on the wall.  The larger frames each had two hooks in the back, so the nails could bear the wait of the frame. Because of this, it would have been helpful if I’d waited to borrow my dad’s laser level to hang them, but I didn’t.  I would hold up the picture where I wanted it and eyeball it. I marked the two corners with a pencil and then measured where each hook was on the back of the frame – you’d think that both hooks would be placed the same, but you’d be wrong. And yes, I learned that the hard way.

I’d take my measurements and make additional pencil marks on the wall until I knew where I wanted my nails.  Then I’d hammer in the nails,  making sure that they stuck out a little bit so I could easily hang up my picture – I recommend using nails with wider heads for the frame to grip. I didn’t, and it caused me a lot of frustration!

Once the picture was up (because the nails weren’t nailed into studs), I could just push the picture back so it was flush with the wall.  I repeated this for each picture until they were all up, and then I went back and cleaned off the glass on the front – I decided to wait to do this until the end, because I knew I’d get fingerprints on them.  And now, I’ve got a cool photo project that highlights my family and friends in the guest room!

All finished!

Guest Room Makeover

20 04 2010

I finally got around to working on making over my guest room – I was going to post a quick update before it was completely finished, but I ended up waiting until all my final projects in there were completed.

The reason I wanted to makeover my guest room is because I felt like it was the room that anything I was unsure about went.  My old bed?  Guest room.  A mish mash of my artwork and photos, none of which had matching frames, or even frames of the same color? Guest room.  An old dresser of my parents? Guest room.  My sister’s end tables? Guest room.  Anything extra I had just kind of got thrown in there, and every time I walked by, I just hurried right past – it was the only room in the house that I really hated. 

Not bad, just not...great

It did have one redeeming feature, and that was the window treatments I’d put up – I LOVE those curtains.  So I needed to make sure that whatever color I chose would still complement them, which wasn’t difficult because they’re a neutral tan/brown.  Originally, I thought about changing the color of the room to a shade of blue, but I realized that with the bathroom across the hall already a shade of blue (and my entire first floor blue), that would be too much on one house.  So I stayed with green, but found a deeper, warmer shade that would compliment the quilt I already had in the room.

See? Better already!

Then, before I started to move things out and paint, I began planning.  I knew I wanted/needed to keep the bed in there, but I wanted to soften it up.  It’s an Ikea bed, very modern and low to the ground, with no box spring.  The headboard is boxy, and I had recently read that to soften up a boxy headboard, you should put three Euro pillows along the back – lots of pillows always softens things up – I may have gone overboard with the pillows, but you can judge from the final product! 

You can never have too many pillows. Right?

Another way to soften up a boxy headboard is with round nightstands and lamps.  I would have loved to add in new nightstands, but to be more economical, I decided to use the stacks of big art books that I was keeping in the room as nightstands instead and just replace the square lamps.  I chose lamps that are round all over – a round base, smooth cylinders, round lampshades, even a circular light pull.  Since the room is fairly dark because it doesn’t have an overhead light, I bought a third floor lamp in the same style, which really helps to brighten up the room and continue the softening.

Not soft, but still a neat bedside table

Round lampshades help to soften the room a bit (from Target)

I also really wanted to incorporate natural elements into the room – I’m a total sucker for them.  I needed more storage in the room, so I was replacing the old dresser, which had three broken drawers, with a smaller, dark brown dresser from Walmart.  That’s not a “natural” element, but to compliment it and add to my storage, I included a dark wicker chest from Target.  I softened that up with a knobby cream throw and am storing extra sheets and towels in the chest. 

This is one of my two favorite things in the room

The dresser ended up being a little shorter than I anticipated, so to give it some height, I found a wooden vase at Michaels, and added some bamboo and other reeds to it.  I also found a great rectangular dish on clearance there, and put three candles on it to give the room a lovely spa feel (I want my guests to feel welcome!). 

This is the other

Michaels can be awesome for home decor

This is very spa-like to me

I should add that I subsequently (after taking this picture) added a round mirror from Target, which also makes me very happy. Though it’s pretty small so it’s not THAT useful for guests.

My Target mirror

I kept the same bedding, but added an extra burnt orange pillow that I had already, and picked up a dark brown pillow to increase the “squishiness” feeling of the bed. 

Then, I tried to think of what else would be nice for guests – I already keep a couple of extra clean bathrobes in the closet, and have towels, shampoos, soaps, conditioners, etc. from hotels available for them.  My parents had given me an old tv, which I set up on the two round side tables from my sister – they double as shelves, so I also have some good reads for guests in there.  For the side tables, I already had a flashlight, and I put out a dish with some individually wrapped chocolates.  I also picked up an alarm clock that guests can use. 

Not all of this planning happened in advance, I must admit – I had an idea of the way I wanted the room to go, and the type of furniture I wanted to include, but some of it happened on the fly once I’d painted the room and rearranged the bed (which is HEAVY, let me tell you).  And then I was faced with what to do with the walls.

Since I had had so many mismatched frames/pictures in there before, I wanted to be a little bit more coordinated.  I knew that I wanted to do a photo project on one wall – something I’d seen done in a Pottery Barn catalog – since it was fairly involved, I am posting a separate entry about it tomorrow morning.

Above the bed, I didn’t hang anything – I read that somewhere you shouldn’t hang things over the bed (in case they fall down). So I found a quote that I liked “Make each day your masterpiece” – one of those removable wall quotes you see everywhere these days – and put that above the bed.  On the opposite wall, I found a print I liked of a house at the beach with a labrador and framed and hung that up.  Room complete!

I took this before all the wall art


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