Almost everyone I know thinks that the first thing they want to do to their home is apply a coat of paint in their favorite color. While paint makes an immediate, and relatively inexpensive change, I think it is a mistake to begin a decorating project with a paintbrush. Why?
The latest paint palettes and suggestions sweep blog posts and Facebook like an array of tempting desserts - "oooh, this one looks GOOD!" we exclaim as we nearly swoon with excitement. The Pantone Color of the Year adds to the dilemma as they announce that the color for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Last year's color (2013 was Emerald Green) is out, as consumers search Joss and Main's latest in purple hues.
The interior design industry, like the clothing industry, is driven by sales. To keep those sales going, fashions have to keep changing. Boot-cut jeans give way to skinny jeans, and crop tops to long, flowing shirts . . . and then it all repeats again. Avocado and tangerine made their way back from our great-grandmothers' homes not too many years ago, and recently, the 1950's turquoise and pink became new and hot, even though we shook our heads over them as we threw them away in the 60's. "Bellevue Beige," as it is called in our area, keeps making its rounds too, mostly amongst those who are afraid to make a mistake, and want to play it safe. Just take a look at the old Oprah shows to watch warm-colored sets give way to cools, and back again. We all tend to appreciate change and want to keep up with the fashion world, whether it is in our closets, or in our living rooms.
The problem is that a sofa or a new lamp costs a lot more than a pair of jeans. Most homeowners like to think of their new purchases as lasting them for at least ten years. I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll wonder what you were thinking as you look at that sofa ten years from now. It's just the nature of the world we live in. Gone are the old European ideals where multiple generations sat on the same beautifully-made chair (yes, I am a Downton Abbey fan!). Whereas those lovingly-crafted furniture pieces used to be viewed as pieces of art, we now live in an era when it is rare that a chair cushion will still be wearing well ten years after its purchase.
. . . Which leads me back to the paint question.
If your most expensive pieces are the furnishings, shouldn't you start there? Paint comes in myriads of colors; there are thousands of shades of blue, for instance. Why not make sure that your "Magnetic Gray" perfectly harmonizes with your area rug - just because it can?
Be patient. Make a plan. Keep a folder with all of your favorite items, so that you resist impulsive buys. Choose your area rugs, sofas and chairs first because they are your largest investment. Choose your fabrics for your window coverings at the same time because they are your next largest investment. Finish a room before heading to the next one. You'll enjoy yourself more, and your creative juices will flow for the next project. You will also save yourself the drudgery of un-doing or re-doing a space. I've had many clients who groan when they realize they should repaint a room once they have chosen the furnishings that will go in the room. Yes, paint is relatively cheap compared to everything else, but what is your labor worth? Paint is definitely not the place to start.
If all of the above is true, and you are going to make an investment in your home, don't go with fads. The place I start with all of my clients is in getting to know them. Really know them. I want to know what music they listen to, what they watch on TV, where they are going to go to unwind, and what a typical evening is like for them. I want to know what relaxes them, and what gets them up and running. I gather all of the information, and then put my heart into helping to create a space that is uniquely them. These components come together to create a "style" that is true to who my clients are. That style should be mostly harmonious throughout the home. Color becomes a part of the style, but it is secondary to the lifestyle reflected within the home, and it is based upon who the clients are, and not what the latest blog states. Staying true to style is going to help my families still love their homes in five years . . . and perhaps even in ten.