Personalization at heart of room makeover success 

by Melissa Martin 

Let’s face it. Redecorating the living spaces in your home always sounds like an exciting undertaking, but with so many decisions to make – from selecting the perfect paint shade to picking out the right upholstery – the process has the potential to become overwhelming before you even settle on a color palette.  

With so many elements to consider, not to mention an endless array of fabric, flooring, lighting and décor choices, determining the starting point for your project is often half the battle. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to navigate your way toward a visually stunning space without sacrificing your sanity in the process, said Rory Stringer, an interior designer for the Pine Tree Barn in Wooster. 

“What I often tell my customers at the very beginning of a redesign is to first find a piece they love,” Stringer said. “That can be a piece of artwork, an antique, an area rug or even a swatch of fabric that catches their eye and that can serve as the jumping off point for the entire project. Once you have that one piece, then the easier it is to find your theme.” 

Next, Stringer said, is to select the larger pieces for the room, which means focusing on how the room will be utilized on a regular basis.  

“For example if it’s a family room, you’re making over, you have to decide if the room will primarily be used for conversation, which means your focus is on creating gathering spaces, or whether it will be used for relaxation, in which case the furniture in the room will primarily serve as a space for watching television,” she said. 

In either case, Stringer said, measuring the space you have to work with is vital. 

“People are good with colors, so usually that’s not an issue,” she said. “Scale is a bigger issue. People need to figure out how big the furniture in the room can be without being too large or too small for the room it is in. The same goes for curtains, lighting and pictures and making sure that they are hung at the right height and in the right place in the room.” 

Interior designers typically use magnetic boards with moveable pieces in ¼-inch scale to make fast work of laying out a room. For homeowners who are taking on the job themselves, she said, using grid paper to develop a layout is smartest way to determine how large a sofa should be and where any accessory pieces should be placed to maximize the space. 

“This way you can look at the space visually before you have the furniture in your house and see if your vision works,” she added. “Sometimes, even if you know the length and depth of the piece going in, we often don’t account for the height and that is equally essential in determining whether the piece – be it a sofa or a television stand – is the right scale for the room or not.” 

With so many decorating variables for homeowners to consider, often the best way to narrow down the look you are going after, according to Stringer, is to find an inspiration photo in a magazine or on a website and attempt to replicate it. That doesn’t mean everything has to be the same as it is in the photo, she said, but it helps to “see what you like and then tweak it to your comfort level.” 

Because most inspiration photos tend to be on the formal side, Stringer recommended factoring your lifestyle into the design equation, too. If you have children or pets, for example, seek durable fabrics, paint sheens and accessories. 

“You might find a look you like that features white upholstery and white curtains,” she said. “But if you have kids or pets, you can easily replicate that look by changing the room to a light beige or light gray and adding subtle textures and movement to make the space more livable.” 

The same is true for pristine white sofas often pictured in magazines. Substituting a light tan or gray couch, she said, can be a practical move that maintains the overall look.  

Also, those with children and pets should opt for “performance fabrics that are stain- and fade-resistant,” Stringer explained. “There are fabrics being manufactured these days that can be cleaned with just water.” 

More than anything, Stringer said, the decor should make sense for homeowners and their families.  

“You have to remember your home should be a reflection of you and your lifestyle, so you shouldn’t be afraid to make the space your own.” ∞