Designers Coffeehouse — Weekend Warriors

We’re back in the virtual café chatting with, and getting guidance from some of our interior designer-friends. Today we talk with:

Sidewalk Cafe

HomeWorkshop: A homeowner has a free weekend coming up. What’s a project (that most homeowners can accomplish in that time) that can really improve a room?

Barbara Miller: You may have heard it hundreds of times but if you have a weekend and want to give a room a facelift the biggest impact you can make in any space is to paint the wall with a color.

Don’t waste your time if you are going to be so close to the neutral you already have that you can’t tell the difference and don’t go so far in the other direction that you are uncomfortable in your own home. But choose a color that is already in some artwork, pillows, or accessories that you already love that will enhance the feel of the room.

You’ll be surprised what a difference a gallon of paint can make. If painting is not up your alley, or you already have a color that you love then I would recommend taking a look at the room arrangement and accessories. Remove everything that is not too large, or is awkward. Clean the room well while it is empty, sit on the floor and draw plans of how you could use the room.

Think about functions and groupings not just “where will the sofa fit?” It does not have to go on the one wall centered between the two windows with a painting or a mirror over it!

After you have a plan bring things back in one at a time and assess them. “Do I want this here, does it serve a purpose, does it add to the feel I want for my room?” Once you get the things you already own in place, make a trip to a home accessories store and freshen up your look with just a few pieces. A small investment of time and money can go a long way.

When I do this with clients they frequently feel like they have a whole new room even though we have not purchased a single large piece of furniture.

Linda Merrill: Paint. It’s such a common answer – but that’s because it’s the best thing one can do. A fresh coat of paint in a new color is the single biggest change you can make.

Espresso Wood Coffee ShopIf you’re not sure what color to select, try picking a slightly lighter or darker shade of your current paint color (assuming you like it!) for a new perspective!

Kerry Ann Dame: A family-room mini-makeover is very easy to do, and improves the room we spend to most time in.

I always like to start by looking at the function of the room, because once that’s under control it’s easy to do a quick paint job or add some colorful touches. If you are swimming in magazines or there are games all over the floor, address these problems first.

Coffee tables and side tables are clutter magnets. Add baskets to the bottoms of living room bookshelves to hide reading material or hold toys and games. If something is not working – i.e. your coffee table needs a lower shelf for books, replace it with the right kind of table.

Getting clutter out of sight has a major impact, and baskets and drawers are ideal because it’s so easy to stow something when you’re done with it, especially if it is stored next to where you use it. You can also re-purpose an unused dresser from another room to add drawer storage to a living room or nearby hallway.

Now that things are tidy, the tried-and-true quick makeover is to paint. It’s well worth it to get professional advice – meet with a designer for an inexpensive one-hour session before the weekend, and you’ll get some fantastic ideas. Perhaps you’ll want to paint three walls and wallpaper a feature wall in a modern pattern; or the ceiling could get special attention. At any rate, plan ahead and have your colors selected beforehand so you don’t waste half your weekend feeling desperate at the paint store!

Think about how you could shake things up and rearrange the furniture completely – perhaps a chair could move in from a bedroom, and you could have a slipcover made. If you have time to fabric shop, pick up a few yards of something wonderful for new pillows and use that fabric to choose the new paint color. For a traditional look, replace an end table with a skirted table; table skirts are easy to sew and the tables are quite inexpensive. If you have bookshelves, now is the time to consider painting the interior a snappy color. Replacing taupe or cream lampshades with new ivory ones will really brighten and update the room.

So with a bit of preparation and shopping ahead of time, your weekend makeover can result in major change. Early in the week, take measurements of your bookshelves and old lampshades. Choose some fabric and decide the paint color, and go shopping for storage baskets and lampshades. Friday evening, de-clutter and reorganize, and make changes to the floor plan. Then, move furniture away from the walls before you go to bed. Saturday, paint the room. Sunday, put the furniture back and spend the afternoon sewing and accessorizing.

Linda H. Bassert: I would suggest projects: Paint color is one option, and redesign, or rearranging items in the room, is another.

Look again at your artwork – which may include rugs, as well as paintings, sculpture and collections- does the wall color bring out the best in the art? Consider repainting – but let the art help you select a paint color. Then consider using Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint – a low VOC paint which also has an amazing velvety surface and depth of color. It will transform the space in an amazing way.

But if you already have a great color on the wall, or feel that there are other bigger issues in the room, what is another weekend project? Rethinking the space. Where are the natural traffic patterns? Is the lighting balanced? Does every chair have a place nearby on which to put down a cup of coffee or a glass of wine? Do you have some furniture in another room which would work better in this room?

Does everything feel right – the right scale, comfort level, current colors – or is there something that stands out as outdated, worn in a less than comforting way, or tired? You may find that rearranging what you have, or replacing that lamp that was in your college dorm, or one of your “early attic” pieces, is just the change to freshen up the space.

One change may lead to a slight shift in furniture placement, or rehanging some of the pictures. Indeed, considering the pictures before you paint, when you feel free to make more nail holes, is a great idea – time to try out a better placement of the pictures and other art in the room.

Good luck to all!

Read past stories in the Designers Coffeehouse Series:

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