Tired of living in a home with drab colors and outdated furniture, but not sure where to start making changes? You're not alone.
"People are motivated, but they get so overwhelmed that they end up doing nothing," said Sabrina Soto during a recent telephone interview. A renowned interior designer, Soto is the host of HGTV's "The High/Low Project."
After leading countless home design projects for clients, she's discovered common roadblocks for homeowners searching for a new interior design on their own. Soto recently published her own template for overcoming these roadblocks and creating a successful home design, Sabrina Soto Home Design: A Layer-by-layer Approach to Turning Your Ideas into the Home of Your Dreams.
The many layers
of your home
When creating a new home design for a client, Soto begins by breaking each room into eight components or layers.
"It's similar to how people get ready in the morning," she said. "You layer your clothes on, and you put accessories and jewelry on at the end for a great touch. I thought it would be a good way to design a room, working with the big pieces and then adding finishing touches."
Soto's layers include:
Ÿ Understanding your space: Identify those things that cannot be easily changed, including architectural style and walls, windows, outlets and doors.
Ÿ Choose your colors: Learn more about basic color schemes and choose colors that best meet the needs of each room.
Ÿ Select your surface treatments: Explore options for walls, floors, ceilings and countertops.
Ÿ Integrate storage: Meet organization needs while adding to each room's design.
Ÿ Edit your furniture: Decide if existing furniture meets your practical and design needs, and consider reupholstering a current favorite or purchasing an accent piece.
Ÿ Select your textiles: Use fabric (furniture coverings, sheets or linens, and more) to emphasize the tone of the room.
Ÿ Illuminate your design: Use sunlight to its full potential, and examine the room's artificial lighting needs.
Ÿ Accent your interior design: Choose and place accents such as art, decorative items, candles or pillows. Use accents sparingly to avoid clutter.
Soto walks readers through each layer in detail in her book, sharing numerous examples and dozens of photo illustrations for each concept.
As you prepare to mentally divide your home into layers, make an effort to view each room with an open mind or try pretending that you're examining a home that you might consider purchasing. It might also help to ask an honest friend for advice on each room's layout and design.
"You've been (living) there for so long that maybe you can't see a room any other way," said Soto. "It could be as simple as a new furniture arrangement, or moving a buffet table from the dining room into the foyer."
One of the most common fears Soto sees in clients is a fear of creativity. Many homeowners worry that only a professional interior designer can create a truly fantastic home design. This isn't true, said Soto, noting that even the most uncreative homeowners can find ways to create a home interior that is uniquely right for them.
"If you feel that you have no creative bones in your body, you need to find inspiration," she said, noting that she enjoys looking through Pinterest for ideas. Homeowners can also watch design shows or tear out pages from magazines to get ideas.
It's also important to learn basic design principles and practical design considerations. For example, Soto encourages homeowners to leave 36 inches around every piece of furniture to allow guests to easily walk around the room; less space might force people to shimmy past a dining room chair or coffee table. She also explores color and texture rules in depth in "Home Design," allowing even the most color-challenged homeowner to choose their own color scheme.
"When you are even a little bit educated about what textures and colors work well together, you're more comfortable making decisions," she added. "You can become a little bit more educated, and then find some physical pieces that you want to build a room around. Try to make it something that has a lot of pattern, so that you can pull a great color scheme from that."
Clutter: A "design killer"
Clutter happens. It's also a huge distraction from your newly redesigned home, and regularly clearing clutter can be a huge waste of time.
When Soto met with a client last month, she was asked to offer advice for just one room because the rest of the home had been recently redesigned. But while she was expecting a freshly redesigned home, she wasn't prepared for the clutter.
"Their living room is so gorgeous, and they put so much time into it. But there were toys everywhere, and it was such a distraction," she said. "You want people to be comfortable in your space. Clutter makes people feel claustrophobic."
Prevent clutter by understanding your family's clutter zones and creating storage solutions. If toys are a problem, consider stylish baskets or a storage ottoman. Create an easily accessible place for car keys, cell phones and incoming mail by placing a pretty tray near the front door. Shoes, jackets and school bags should also have a discretely out-of-the-way home.
Also watch out for furniture clutter. This can be a big problem in the bedroom, where homeowners force an entire furniture set into one small room. (Remember that sale when you bought a new bed frame and received a large matching dresser for free? The store wasn't doing you any favors, unless of course you needed a new dresser.)
Take a serious look at your storage and furniture needs, along with the space available, before committing to keep every piece of furniture.
"They feel like they have to have it together because it's a set. Break up that set, and if you can find a space for that piece in another room, great," she added. "Otherwise, sell it or donate it."
Designs that grow
While children grow and their tastes change, it's possible to design a child's room that can stand the test of time.
First, avoid themes in the room's design foundation. Most children won't want princess wallpaper until they start college; they'll be asking you to remove that wallpaper by the time they are in middle school. Instead, play up your child's interests with bed linens, pillows and other accent pieces that can be easily and inexpensively replaced as they grow.
"Try not to go overboard with themes or colors," said Soto. "I try to use more neutral colors. Pink is great when they're young, but they might not like it when they're older."
Choose furniture that will last for the duration of your child's stay at home, preferably sturdy wood pieces. Wooden furniture can also be painted if you want a burst of color in a young child's room, and then repainted in a more neutral tone as the child approaches adolescence.
When Soto redesigned her niece's bedroom, she kept the color schemes simple and neutral. Years later, Soto's sister is now grateful for the advice. Her niece recently asked to refresh her room's look, changing the theme to a more modern, adult city theme.
"Everything still works," said Soto. "She can get new pillows, some wall art, and the whole room can look like new at a minimal cost."