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  • Fawn Baranko

Getting The Designer Look

Updated: Mar 21

Whether you’re hoping to refresh an existing space on a shoestring budget, or starting from scratch with all new furniture and lottery winnings, most people hope to achieve a pulled together designer look that will at least make you feel good if not make friends and family jealous of your décor acumen. Achieving this noble goal can prove overwhelming. Fortunately, over the years I’ve identified basic rules that make any space look and function better. Follow them, and let the envy flow.

Success begins with a written plan that clarifies your ideas and keeps you focused. First, determine the mood and purpose you want your room to have. Will it be a place to relax or have lively discussions? Are you drawn to vibrant colors or calm palettes? Whatever you decide, make sure it reflects your preferences, which may not be what the latest magazines show. Find photos that align with what you want and refer to them throughout your project. Make note of the colors, lights, and furniture styles your dream rooms have, and find common elements. Develop a budget with enough allowance to buy the items you want as well as have professionals install if needed. Next, compare your current room with your dream version. Determine what absolutely must stay (the sofa you can’t afford to replace), what you want to keep (the painting that reminds you of your favorite place) and what you need to remove. Give yourself permission to donate items that no longer fit your style or make you happy. Let those items make someone else happy.

With a clear plan in place, furnish your room with the right sized objects in the right places. Furniture should fit without being crowded. Objects should make sense and add value where they are placed. Artwork should be appropriate for the room and centered at eye-level on walls. Not sure if something is the right size or in the right place? Use easily removable painter’s tape to mark the floor and walls. Sketch a floor plan and make scale sized paper representations of what you’re considering for the room, or take advantage of online tools like Wayfair’s free one that provide floorplan and 3-D views. If you’re replacing something, compare measurements of what you currently have with replacement considerations. Pay attention to height as well as width and depth. A chair that’s too tall will literally tower over everything else. A sofa that’s too short will look like you beat it into submission.

Finish your new design plan with color flow, shape symmetry, and texture variety. Every room should share at least one color from the adjoining space. Resist the urge to have more than three main colors in a room. For the most part, furniture should share a common shape, usually in the legs or arms. Use style and size search menus on websites to narrow the field of options. Allow open space and avoid cluttering flat surfaces. Use the friendly wine glass test: If you don’t have room to safely place a couple glasses of wine, something needs to go (not the wine!). Banish dark areas with appropriate lighting. Layer dimmable overhead lighting with attractive lamps. Then set out the drinks and snacks, invite the friends, and revel in your designer room fabulousness.


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