Author Archives: Jeff Rice

About Jeff Rice

Jeff is a Certified Interior Decorator & Redesigner, Real Estate Stager and Color Specifier. His award-winning work has been featured in numerous publications including From House to Home™ & Home Improvement™ as well as other local and online media sources. He is a three time recipient of the Houzz.com 'Best in Service' Award. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL and has been serving the greater Chicago area since 2004.

WAKING FROM A KIDDY COMA

I read somewhere “home is where life happens” or something to that effect.  I totally agree! While it’s certainly nice to have a perfectly decorated, neat & tidy home, let’s be honest.  It’s almost impossible to live like that 24/7, 365 days of the year.  The daily coma of family life can take a toll on your paint, furniture and accessories making decorating perfection a fleeting, if not impossible, goal.

As much as we love them, kids (BOTH the two & four legged kind) can make having the perfect decor even more of challenge.  Since beautiful decor goes hand in hand with neatness and cleanliness, it’s an almost impossible feat with kids or animals around.

I consulted with a client recently who apologized for her lack of decorating.  Her excuse was that she and her husband had been in a “kiddy coma” for over 10 years.  I know that’s the way a lot of parents feel.  It’s a very real condition in many households and no reason to be ashamed.

Kids will be kids.  As they should be.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have pretty things or a reasonable expectation of everything looking nice.  Here are a few of the best tips I’ve shared with young families over the years to help wake up quickly from the dreaded kiddy coma:

1-  Set boundaries.  Children learn quickly.  Teach them the difference between adult spaces and kid-friendly ones.  Start early, making sure the kids understand which spaces are meant for child’s play and those for adult “play”.  That doesn’t mean the two can’t or won’t overlap from time to time.  But, if the kids have a space that is all their own, they’ll be less inclined to trash the ones you would prefer to keep neat and pretty.

2-  Storage.  Provide plenty of it!  It’s easier to keep things looking neat and tidy with lots of storage.  Cabinets, trunks and storage ottomans are great accent pieces in your decor.  And they offer perfect places to tuck things away.  If possible, toy boxes should have lids and should be tucked behind a sofa or chair.  And don’t forget decorative boxes.  They’re both a beautiful addition to your decor and very useful to keep life organized.

3-  Paint.  No matter how hard you try, expect your walls to take a beating, especially with younger kids and animals in the home.  Save yourself time and money by using the right paint for the lifestyle in your home.  Most paint manufacturers including Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams now boast products specifically designed for durability and washability.  And while it’s better at hiding blemishes and touch ups, flat paint tends to show rubbing and burnishing.  So, consider using a satin or eg-shel finish instead.  Finally, I find an ample supply of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers™ is a must-have in any active household.  (Just be careful… they can remove paint as easily as finger prints.)

4-  Area rugs.  Inexpensive, cleanable area rugs are much cheaper and more easily replaced than other wall to wall floorings.  Protecting high traffic areas with inexpensive rugs will help protect the finish of hardwood and make carpet last longer.  

5-  Upholstery.  Your gut may tell you to go a cheaper route with furniture.  Unfortunately, all furniture has a “life expectancy” based on its quality of construction.  Kids can be rough on furniture.  Cheaply made furniture will need to be replaced more frequently and may cost more, in the long run, than more well-made pieces.

The key to buying furniture that will stand the kid-test is to pick fabrics that are both durable and cleanable.  Check the cleaning code of the fabric.  “W” is the code used for the most forgiving and durable fabrics because it can be cleaned with Water.  “WS” refers to fabrics that can be cleaned using Water and/or a mild Solvent.

Depending on the price and coverage, fabric protection insurance from furniture retailers is a good idea with young kids and pets.  Many cover accidental spills and bodily fluids (both human and animal).  DIY fabric protectors from Scotchgard™ and others can also add a layer of protection.

A home with 2 young children

Home is definitely where life happens.  And life can be messy sometimes, especially living with kids.  Using these ideas and making smart choices as you decorate your home for an active family lifestyle will help you wake up from the “kiddy coma” much sooner than you might have expected.

 

BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS REDESIGN

Interior Redesign offers homeowners the opportunity for a fresh, new look in their homes using what they already own.  Surprisingly, it can usually be accomplished in a single day with amazing results.

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One of my favorite parts of this job is seeing the bewildered, yet ecstatic, look on a redesign client’s face when we’re done with a job.  In every room we touch,  we manage to reveal the hidden beauty in their home.  Sometimes that means being very creative, working magic to create something out of nothing.  Sometimes, it means taking something that was already good and making it great.

Last week we helped a young couple in Naperville, IL.  They had already had a lot of help from mom and aunt styling their beautiful home.  But, they felt like it could still use a few tweaks to make it just right.  As difficult as it is to create something out of nothing, it’s actually MORE challenging to improve upon an already beautiful space.

Starting in the living room, we added a few new layers including an area rug, new floor to ceiling drapery panels, taller lamps and a larger, brighter piece of art.  We suggested adding an armchair to complete the furniture group when budget allows.

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In the family room, we rearranged the furniture to make better use of the space while still addressing the combo tv/fireplace focal point.  Angling furniture is a great way to make a long and narrow space feel wider and more cozy.  As we re-accessorized, we eliminated several of the symmetrical elements in the space which generally feel more appropriate in a formal living area.

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We also reworked the family photo wall at the top of the stairs creating a focal point using an old window from the grandparents.  We disguised the rope we used to hang the window with a piece of metal art.  And finally, we used Velcro dots to attach the K to the glass.

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The changes, while not overly dramatic, took something that was already very nice and added the few finishing touches they wanted to make it perfect.  With the help of mom and a very few purchases, we were able to surprise the homeowners when they came home from work with a new to them look, redesigning and restyling with 90% of what they already owned and in only one day.

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If you’re interested in seeing the undiscovered potential in your own home, give us a call.  We can put a different spin on what you already have to create a fresh look that exposes your home’s hidden beauty!

Happy Decorating from Decor Designs.  815-245-2433.

BEDROOM MEETS STUDIO

Progress comes in many forms, sometimes bringing us full circle back to places we’ve already been.  That can happen, for example, when your adult child needs to move back home for a while.  The challenge, of course, is creating a space that feels like part of the childhood home and yet adult and independent at the same time.  Progress here means it’s probably time to revamp a teenager’s bedroom to serve as a new, adult pied-a-terre which is exactly what we recently finished doing for a client in Deer Park, Illinois.

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Considering both mom and adult daughter’s input,  we wanted to update this large bedroom to give it the more adult feel of a studio apartment.  We also wanted to make changes which would help the space serve as a guest bedroom in the future.

We began by having the room repainted.  Straying a little from our “go-to” grays, we chose Sherwin Williams “Skyline Steel” SW 1015 as our backdrop.  It turned out to be the perfect choice.

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In true redesign fashion, we also wanted to incorporate as much of the existing furniture as possible.  Building around the existing espresso-finished modular desk, bookcase and dresser, we replaced a few key pieces and added a few new ones to freshen the look of the space.

Since the bed is obviously the focal point in any bedroom, we decided that was the best place to begin our update.  We started by adding new reclaimed wood & wrought iron nightstands which were a nice tie-in with the darker case goods.  With the matching headboard on backorder for months, we created the illusion of one with a piece of scrolled metal art in the meantime.

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We also needed more accent furniture to help fill the large 15′ x 20′ bedroom.  So, we added a beautiful tufted, gray & teal pinstripe chair to create a corner reading nook.  And we added a tufted gray ottoman at the foot of the bed for extra storage and seating.  New, bright white bedding and window panels added a layer of softness and elegance to the space.  Finally, we layered in a large area rug and some colorful pillows.  Chicago & Illinois themed art, updated string lighting and accessories helped personalize the space for the returning adult.

With plenty of privacy and most of the amenities of a studio apartment, this transformed bedroom now feels like a home within a home.  And our client’s couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

 

 

 

VERTICAL DECORATING

For most suburbanites, we are used to living in our sprawling two-story or ranch style homes.  In the BIG city however, more people and less available space requires homes to be built up, rather than out, to maximize use of the land.  This results in what I often refer to as “vertical living” at it’s best!

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Cut to a job we just finished for a young couple in Chicago.  Their industrial, loft-style home encompasses 3,000 sq. feet on FOUR floors.  Visitors enter the home from a courtyard into a first floor living space with 30 foot ceilings complete with a fireplace and coat closet.  After climbing 26 steps you arrive at the second floor living area featuring a spacious living room, dining area, galley kitchen with island and powder room.  Another 26 steps and you arrive at the third floor Master & Guest Bedrooms both with full en suite baths.  After a final 20 steps, you reach the fourth floor bonus room featuring laundry and roof top deck access.

Needless to say a home gym or even a gym membership is probably unnecessary in this living arrangement.  As my team and I can attest, a “Buns of Steel” workout dims in comparison to styling 4 floors of living space all in one day!  (One of our phones fitness trackers recorded climbing 47 flights of stairs as we completed the transformation.)

While the couple had already purchased the majority of big ticket items for their home, our job was to add a new dining table and chairs along with a few pieces of accent furniture and more finishing touches like artwork, accessories and greenery.

Likely to be an unused or under-used space on the first floor, the man of the home used the space as his virtual golfing studio.  Complete with tv monitors, putting green and cage, we decided to up the anti in this man-cave space.  To his setup, we added a beer fridge, pub table and three, gray leather bar stools to complete his man cave.

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Upstairs, in the main living, the couple already had a large charcoal gray sectional for plenty of seating, a rug and a beautiful hammered metal coffee table.  To those, we added a leather recliner, aluminum side table, a distressed console table, and stacked trunks for another side table along with lighting, greenery and accessories.  We took our inspiration from the couple’s Chicago themed artwork including a fantastic replica of the Chicago flag crafted from reclaimed wood.

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On this floor, it was also time to add a new dining table and chairs to replace the repurposed family set.  We chose the dramatic butcher block sheesham wood Edmund table from Home Depot (of all places).

DINING ROOM

We paired the table with set of six dark gray upholstered contemporary wing back chairs we found at the local HomeGoods.

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Upstairs, between the bedrooms we added a console table and created a gallery wall for family photos.

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And in the Master Bedroom, all we needed were a few more accessories, lamps, and 108″ window panels to soften the edges of the large windows.  (We hope to style the Guest Room as a nursery at a later date!)

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Upstairs, to the fourth floor laundry, we added additional storage and a folding area for clothes along with a retractable clothes line for delicates.

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On the landings between floors, we added large statement artwork to have something beautiful and inspirational to look at as you climbed or descended each set of stairs.

 

As you can see, the key word to this redesign is “upstairs”.  I am so thankful that my crew didn’t rebel when seeing how many flights of stairs were involved in restyling this city home.

While the homeowners would never make as many trips as we did loaded with tubs and furniture, they no doubt get in a good workout each day with their built-in gym.

Whether your living space is spread out in the suburbs or stacked in the city, make use of every single space.  Happy vertical Decorating from Decor Designs!  815-245-2433

 

 

 

DECORATING FOR FAMILY

Beautiful spaces are a dime a dozen.  Fill a space with the trendiest, most expensive decor you can find.  And while it’s pretty to look at, it still isn’t home.  So, what makes a house a home?  It’s family.

Creating common spaces that suit the needs of a family is probably the single most important task any decorator will tackle.  Of course, you want it to be beautiful.  But, it also has to function well for every member of the household, no matter how young or old.

Consider a home to three young adults and their parents.  The home is a hub of activity for friends and family almost every day of the week.  All are coming and going either from college or work.  Whether just for family or casual entertaining, updating and enhancing the primary living space in this home needed to fit their busy lifestyles.

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That pretty much describes this project we’ve just finished in Hoffman Estates, IL.  The project focused on restyling a large combo family & living room in this beautiful home.  While we wanted to create two distinctive spaces with their own function and personality, both needed to play together when needed as one unit.

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Working with a generous budget, we were able to replace dated and worn furniture with all new seating.  Two durably upholstered sofas provide comfortable seating or lounging in the t.v. space.  Nearby, we grouped four new leather club chairs around the fireplace as more of a conversation space.   New reclaimed wood and metal nesting tables were separated to give plenty of spots to set a drink.  New Santa Fe storage trunks double as coffee and end tables.  New lamps, artwork, accessories and area rugs complete the spaces.

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While each area serves it’s own purpose, with a few simple moves, the leather chairs can be repositioned nearer the television for movie night or game day parties.

As we suggested, the homeowners repositioned one and refinished both built-in bookcases.  Darkening the wood work and mantel with gel stain and painting the brass fireplace surround with heat resistant bronze metallic paint gave the fireplace an updated and much stronger presence in the rooms.

The end result is a space that has already wowed family and friends.  It’s sure to get thorough use in the months and years ahead.

Decorating a room for family is more than just adding trendy furniture and accessories.  It’s about creating a space that blends form with function and provides a hub for friends and family to make a home

Happy Family Decorating from Decor Designs.   815-245-2433.

 

IS HOME DECORATING EVER DONE?

Most of us are goal oriented in some way, whether we realize it or not.  Maybe the goal is to lose weight or get a degree.  Perhaps it’s buy a new car or go on a special trip.  Dreaming, believing and achieving goals gives purpose to our lives, gets things done and keeps us moving forward.

One dream of many homeowners is to “finish” decorating their home.  You’d think that would be a reasonable goal!  While we work hard to help make that dream a reality, the reality is your home is never truly done.

But, don’t despair!  It’s not like there aren’t other elusive goals in life.  Is raising a child ever really a finished proposition?  Is your goal weight ever really permanent?  Some goals in life are constantly changing out of desire or necessity.  With ever evolving personal tastes and new trends in decor, your home is constantly in a state of change as it adapts to your family’s current lifestyle.

There are a few things you can do to help give your home a “finished” feeling even though it might never really be done.

1-  Choose fixtures and finishes with ‘staying’ power.  Rather than buying the latest and greatest, choose tried and true.  If it’s trendy now, chances are it’s going to have a short lifespan in the arc of decor.  Be happy with the fact that no matter what you choose, trends in home decor, as with fashion, are usually cyclical.  If you wait long enough, old becomes new again.

2-  While seemingly boring, neutral wall colors like creams, beiges, taupes, and greiges stand the test of time and changing tastes.  Swapping out colorful accents like rugs, pillows, artwork and window fashions is much easier than painting walls.

3- Along the same line as neutral wall colors, invest in upholstered furniture featuring neutrally colored and patterned fabrics.  Nothing dates upholstery faster than trendy colors or patterns (think paisley).  As with walls, you can always add punch to your ‘Plain Jane’ sofas and chairs with more trendy throw pillows and throws.

No matter what, embrace the fact that your home’s decor is always in a state of flux.  It can provide stability during times of great change in your personal life.  And it can give you the perfect opportunity to express your unique style when change is desired.

Happy Decorating from Decor Designs!  815-245-2433

 

 

 

WHAT SHOE IS ON YOUR BEST FOOT?

Real estate staging is a tool savvy home sellers and good realtors use to market a property.  As with any marketing strategy, staging helps ensure a property is ‘merchandised’ to attract the largest number of prospective buyers.  In a nutshell, it’s all about putting your home’s proverbial ‘best foot’ forward.

Contrary to popular belief staging is much more than depersonalizing and decluttering.  While no one relishes the though of spending money and working countless hours on a property just to turn around and sell; staging can make all the difference between getting people in the door or being ignored.

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Of course, every home seller must decide how much they are willing to do and to invest in the sale of their home.  No one else can make that decision.  But, depending on how dated the property and its decor are, a reasonable staging budget is somewhere between 1/2% to 1% of the anticipated list price.  That usually covers most minor updates, staging props and of course the services of a professional stager.  Changes to infrastructure like flooring, kitchens and baths will obviously cost more.

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Stagers aren’t magicians!  While we have been known to work magic from time to time, our ability to make dramatic transformations in a property is clearly linked to the staging budget set by the seller.  That can apply to both the amount of time working on the project as well as the amount of things we change or add.  Think of it this way.  If the act of staging helps put the best foot forward, the budget for staging buys the shoes!

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While it isn’t necessary to totally renovate a house prior to putting it on the market, the more that’s done to shorten a future buyer’s ‘to-do’ list, the better the chances of selling quickly and for more $$$.

Working with a limited budget, it’s important to focus on the main living areas first which might include a finished basement.

With time or $$$ remaining, focus on the master bedroom, bath and all other bathrooms.

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Finally, if anything is left, turn your attention to guest or kid’s bedrooms since most people can envision the potential of those spaces.

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We just finished staging a nice property in Cary, IL this week.  After some time sourcing a limited amount of staging art, accessories and other props, we arrived at the house ready to pull together work the homeowner had already started.

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While the transformation isn’t always spectacular, the end results are no less impressive.   Using only available furniture, we rearranged each room to maximize it’s visual appeal.  Mixing colorful staging art and accessories with the owner’s decor helped give even more punch to the spaces.  And with over 85% of buyers shopping online first, the listing photos have to be memorable to get them in the door.

Again, staging is all about putting your property’s best foot forward.  If you think about it, nobody remembers Dorothy’s house when it fell into Oz.  (It’s a good thing she wasn’t  trying to sell!)  But, the munchkins sure as heck remember those ruby-red shoes.  The moral of the staging story…. when you’re putting your best foot forward, make sure you’re wearing kick-ass shoes!

Happy Staging from Decor Designs!

 

 

 

 

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER

Who hasn’t changed part of their home decor only to realize redoing one thing leads to another… and another?  No matter how small the change, it usually has a domino effect.  Perhaps it starts with remodeling the master bathroom.  Beautiful new vanities, an amazing double shower and beautiful tile… all the things any spa would love to have.

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But, unfortunately, that fresh, new look stops at the bedroom door.  Looking around you realize you could probably use some new bedding.  Then, of course, the window treatments would need updating.  The seating in the room that blended well before is now a no-go.  New night stands and lamps would be nice.  Before you know it, the entire room is in play.

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We’ve been working with new clients in Crystal Lake who faced that very dilemma.  After she and her DIYer husband finished the master bath update, the decor in the adjoining master bedroom no longer flowed.

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At somewhat of a loss, she reached out for help restyling the master bedroom so everything would flow with the newly updated bath.  New hardwood floors and fresh paint became the backdrop for the new sanctuary.  Our client added new nightstands and we brought in bedding, lamps, window panels and artwork.  Along with furniture relocated from elsewhere in the home, the space now feels refreshed and inviting flowing perfectly with the renovated bath.

While we were at it, our clients asked us to redesign the living room, dining room and family room.  Reusing and repurposing a treasure trove of goodies, we maximized each room’s function and visual appeal just in time for Easter guests.  The end result in every space was a nice update without spending a ton of money or bringing in lots of new things.

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In our client’s kind words, “Decor Designs just finished an interior design of our master bedroom and a redesign of our whole house! I am speechless and thrilled with the finished project! Jeff was spot on to our decorating personality and repurposed so many things, I was amazed! He made our house feel like a home and I cannot wait to entertain! He was timely, courteous, and truly delivered a finished product that inspires me and makes me smile!”

So what if one thing leads to another?   Sometimes that’s all the motivation you need to finish something you’ve probably been putting off for a long time.

Here’s to letting one thing lead to another creating beautiful spaces in your own home!  Happy Decorating from Decor Designs.  815-245-2433.

 

 

JOYOUS DECORATING

If you think about it, what we do decorating for others is a pretty intimate proposition.  After all, who else gets to spend their money and touch their stuff?  Having the chance to personalize the only part of the planet reserved for our client’s family and friends is a privilege.  So, for us as relative strangers, it’s flattering to be a part of something so personal.

Last week, we finished a decorating project that began back in January.  Just like most of our projects, it involved lots of “spending” and “touching”.  🙂  Time and money were spent sourcing new furniture, reupholstering older, beloved pieces and finding the perfect art and accessories.  And when it was all said and done, we’d touched almost every inch of the family areas in this Schaumburg, Illinois home.

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Our shopping & to-do list to refresh and restyle most of the home’s first floor was a long one:  new wall color, carpet, baseboards, light fixtures, lamps, window treatments & hardware, new sofas, chairs, end tables, foyer console, corner media unit, re-upholstering two wingback chairs, matching ottomans and two storage cubes.  As if that weren’t enough, of course we planned to blend a few, new accessories and art pieces with a lifetime of collected treasures to bring everything together.

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Whether shopping or meeting to discuss our progress, we were in frequent contact with the homeowners, Bernie & Joy.  During major projects like this one, frequent communication helps ensure a successful outcome.  Good communication is the basis for any good relationship.

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Over the weeks it took to bring everything together, we received text and email notes about one subject or another.  No matter what was going right or even wrong at the time, Joy kept me updated with photos and notes about our progress.  More often that not, I noticed she signed her messages “Joyous”.

I’ll admit that it’s easy to get lost in the process.  Wanting everything to be just right, I can obsess about every detail.  Each time I read her ‘joyous’ words, I was reminded decorating is largely a privilege rather than a necessity.  And since there’s no such thing as a decorating emergency, it was ok to take time to enjoy the process as much as the end result.

Living Room coffee table vignette

After everything was done, Joy and Bernie sent me a wonderful ‘Thank You’ note.  She told me again how much they love their newly updated home.  She went on to say that, even thought it had only been a few days, she missed all the texts and emails hopeful we’d stay in touch.

Custom faux floral centerpiece

Decorating is definitely an intimate business.  And while I get to spend their money and touch their stuff, when it’s aIl said and done, it feels like I’ve left a small part of myself with every client I help.  Joyous decorating is the best decorating of all!

DECORATING FOR ALL AGES

Every decorating project is different.  While most spaces and their contents are similar, a client’s age and personality always make every job unique.  Most of the spaces we style are more “adult” in nature.  But, every once in a while, we get the chance to work with the youngest members of the family on their rooms.  Adding the finishing touches to a child’s bedroom makes him/her feel special and “grown up”.  For us, it’s a chance to channel our own inner child with more whimsical & playful decor.

Earlier this year, we were invited back by a family we worked with a year ago styling their main living spaces.  This time, we were being asked to work with what mom and dad had already started and put the finishing touches on the kid’s rooms.  Three children at least three years apart offered a variety of personalities and interests to bring to life.

Our youngest was the self-proclaimed royalty of the family.  Anything little princess was right up her alley.  Having outgrown her infant space, she needed a new bed frame and night stand plus most of the finishing touches.  To personalize her enchanted bedroom, we kept the light gray walls and geometric panels adding bright white and pink bedding, accessories and artwork.

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For our middle child, we were inspired by travel.  Everything trains, planes and automobiles was his thing.  Starting with dark mahogany furniture, Kermit-green walls and dark blue draperies (complete with airplane finial hardware), we added an airplane shelf, art and accessories to transform his bedroom into transportation central.

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Rounding out the trio, the oldest wanted her own sense of magic.  Too old for the full princess treatment yet not old enough for all things teen, we needed to find the perfect blend of fun and sophistication.  Inspired by her love of purple, pink and butterflies, we added a pre-lit tree, lanterns, art and accessories to give her a slightly older but whimsical finished look.

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Making the most of what mom and dad had started, we added the unique, finishing touches that really reflected each child’s personality.  The end result, three very happy kids.

Have fun channeling your own inner child as your decorate with your kids.  Need help?  We’d love to play along.  Happy Decorating from Decor Designs.  815-245-2433