Tag Archives: Decorating Tips


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 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.



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.



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.



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.



A common theme with most clients is the need to declutter.  Whether helping stage for sale or redecorate, too much old stuff can really get in the way of a fresh, new look.  This is especially true of anyone who has lived in the same home for ten years or more.

Image provided by freshome.com

Trying to decorate around tons of stuff, from hand-me-downs to old furniture, art and accessories is a daunting task.  While it’s certainly possible for an experienced Redesigner to work many of these items into an updated look, the average homeowner will struggle.  Either out of sentimental attachment or the thought “I might need that someday!”, it’s hard to let go of the past.  The reality, however, is if you haven’t touched it, looked at it or used it in the last year or so, chances are you will never really need it.

Image by lifeinleggings.com

It’s no secret Americans are a society of consumers.  We are bombarded with ads and sales to entice us to buy things we don’t necessarily need or sometimes even know we want.  While that’s a huge topic all on its own, the real problem is we tend to consume (or dispose) of much less than we collect.  Accumulated treasures, no matter how relevant at the time, can result in a home buried in the past with the look and feel to match.

I met a lady once who had suffered through a tornado.  Her home and its entire contents were essentially swept away in a matter of minutes. Understandably, she was devastated.  Years later, as she was telling me the story,  she said living through the tornado had taught a valuable lesson.  Ultimately, she’d come to appreciate that, while she and her family had escaped with their lives, her home and its contents were just “stuff”.  Rather than getting depressed by the loss of so many things, after a while she felt oddly liberated by the tragedy.  So, she decided that, every year on the anniversary of the tragic event, she would have a ‘tornado’ day!  Anything in her home that hadn’t been used or was just taking up space would either be donated or thrown away.

Courtesy of lifehacker.com

I’ve never forgotten her story.  And while I’m as guilty as the next of accumulating too much ‘stuff’, every so often I feel inspired by her to have my own ‘tornado’ day and I highly recommend the same to my clientele.  If possible, I suggest setting aside a day or two a year, perhaps when you change those smoke detector batteries or change the time on your clocks and have a ‘tornado’ day.

Image courtesy of softeny.com

The moral of the story is it’s ok to let go!  Stop holding on to or trying to decorate with everything you or someone you loved has ever owned.  Life is too short to be buried in a pile of crap that even you don’t want but hold onto out of guilt or perceived obligation.  (Side rant:  If I never see another “grandma’s” piano sitting in a corner covered in dust, it’ll be too soon!)

Your home is constantly evolving and so is your decor.  Out with the old and in with the new only works if you make that first bit (out with the old) a priority!  Declutter your way to style and you’ll be happier for it.

Happy Decluttered Decorating from Decor Designs, Inc.  815-245-2433






Who hasn’t tried at least one paint-by-number?  I remember trying this classic moose masterpiece when I was a kid.  Sadly, I don’t think mine looked much better than this one.  In fact, I’ve never been very good at painting even by the numbers.  Thank goodness, when it comes to decorating, the numbers work in my favor.  In fact, here are some of my favorites. From ONE to SEVEN, these tips take the guesswork out of and might help fill in your own decorating blanks.

ONE:  Arranging any space is easier if you narrow down to ONE focal point.  Whether it’s a fireplace, picture window, piano or tv, picking a focal point to arrange around makes it easier to group furniture and helps a room make sense.


TWO:   Even numbers, especially pairs of things appear more formal.  Whether it’s a pair of matching wingback chairs, lamps, end tables or even TWO companion art pieces, duos work well symmetrically feeling balanced and more formal.


THREE:  When deciding the color story for your space, think in THREEs.  A trio of colors, even shades of the same color, add dimension and interest to any space.  Start with a canvas or background color (usually walls).  Enhance your background with a color that compliments it.  That could be another example of the same color or a neutral.  Finally, add a pop of color that is unexpected and seems to fight or clash with the first two.  Following the rule of THREE when picking colors will create a dynamic color palette for your space.

Color Trio

FOUR:  Most rooms have at least 4 corners.  And your room is going to look and feel differently when seen & appreciated from each one.  When you’re decorating, make sure you take a look at your space from as many vantage points as possible… preferably all FOUR corners of the room.  The balance and layout of a room can look great from one side, but might look off from another corner.  As you place furniture, add artwork and accessories always take a look at your composition from each corner making adjustments as you go.


FIVE:  Even in formal spaces, most accessories look best when grouped in odd numbers.  While pairs of accessories can be dramatic, odd numbers of accessories in varying sizes and shapes add visual interest and layers to your design.  Grouping a tall, short, flat, round and an oddly shaped items is a great formula for accessorizing.


SIX:  Great lighting is one of the most important and yet overlooked aspects of decorating.  In order to showcase your decor and eliminate dark corners in your space, ensure at least SIX sources of evenly distributed light in your space.  Natural light from windows in addition to overhead lighting and lamps all count toward your six.


SEVEN:  Artwork makes a strong statement in any space.  If hanging above a sofa, console table or other furniture, it should be ‘mated’ with the object it hangs above.  The rule of thumb is to hang artwork with the bottom roughly 6-8″ above the back of the furniture piece.  If your artwork is hung an average of seven inches above, you’ll insure perfectly hung artwork every time.


In many ways, the art of decorating is as straight forward and fool-proof as paint by number.  Incorporating ONE through SEVEN , rest assured your space will look as good or even better than your favorite fool-proof art masterpiece.

Happy Decorating by the Numbers.


I’ll admit I love this time of year; one of my favorite seasons for outdoor activities and indoor decorating!

Crisp air, sunny days and the smell of falling leaves put me in the mood for all things Fall.  From hayrides to corn mazes, from changing leaves to gourds and pumpkins, from sitting around fire pits with friends to enjoying soups and stews, everything about this time of year screams hearth and home.



Here in the Chicago area, we’re seeing the leaves turn, the harvest mums are in full bloom and the thistle and grasses have gone to seed.   All are sure signs that snow will be flying before we’re ready for it.

Fall accents blend with every design style. And those same fall touches, with just a few tweaks, are easily updated over the next several months for the fall holidays.  With fall leaves, dried grasses, harvest fruits and veggies as a base, it’s easy to add accents for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Harvest time coincides perfectly with bringing the outdoors inside in your decor.   Inspiration for your fall decor is as close as your back yard.  Take a look around at all the things mother nature has to offer this time of year and incorporate some of them into your decor.  Warm colors and natural, organic abundance are the perfect backdrop for your fall decor.

And the best part of all, by adding seasonal accents, you get a whole new look for your home without breaking a summer sweat.

Happy Fall Decorating from Decor Designs!


Driving to a bedroom restyle yesterday, I heard an ad on the radio.  It said, in part, the most important thing you’ll ever own are your dreams.  Talk about getting my attention!  I couldn’t agree more.  Without dreams, nothing ever changes.

I’m sure you’ve heard the motivational quote… “Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it.”   When I started thinking about, in a way, that’s exactly what our clients do.  First, they Dream of a new look for their home.  Then, they Believe that hiring us is the best way to make their dream come true.  Finally, working together, we Achieve the new look turning their dream into a reality.


Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.” – Debby Boone

I think it makes total sense.  If it weren’t for dreams, we’d have no inventions.  Without inventions, we wouldn’t have beautiful homes full of beautiful things.   And without designers and decorators who can dream the dream with you, we wouldn’t have beautiful spaces.

Not to beat the metaphor to death; but, if you have a dream of what you’d love your home to look like and you’re ready to plant the seed, we can help.  Together, we’ll grow your dream into something beautiful.

Sweet Dreams from Decor Designs, Inc.  815-245-2433





When have you ever heard that removing your jacket is more formal?  Like never!  Well let me tell you…. taking off a book’s dust jacket is a clear exception.

My client’s will confirm, no doubt, that I have an aversion to book jackets or dust covers as they’re sometimes called.  Generally more colorful than the book’s more neutral binding, they can be distracting when displayed.

Book Jackets

Let me give you an example…. In the past month alone, I have done three projects where the owners had the full series of Harry Potter books on display.  While certainly a classic collection to have on hand, the dust jackets leave much to be desired in a more ‘adult’ space.  Simply by removing the colorful artwork that covers the binding, you have a series of books that make a more ‘mature’ statement regardless of the teenage content!

Harry Potter Books

Of course, I’m not just picking on poor Harry Potter.  From John Grisham to Stephen King to Nora Roberts, any book looks better with the jacket removed in my opinion.  With a solid-color binding and print lettering, every genera of book is more suitable for a library or decorative display with the dust jacket removed.  Occasionally, especially with books heavy on photography, you’ll find that the glossy binding is the exact same as the jacket.  But even in those cases, the jacket can be removed.  Invariably jackets become tattered and worn on the edges and don’t look nice anyway.

So, unless you have a signed, original copy or limited print book that needs protection, go ahead and liberate your books by taking off their jackets.  Not only will they look better on your shelves, but no one will be the wiser whether you prefer to read the wizarding wonders of the ‘boy who lived’, the legal wranglings of Jake Brigance or bad boy turned good cop Cam Rafferty.

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



If you want to take your interior decorating to the next level, attention to detail definitely raises the bar.  Something as simple as moving a piece of furniture, artwork or even accessories just a few inches can make a difference in the finished look of a room.  As I’ve said before, the devil truly is in the details.

On the other hand, paying attention to details can derail your efforts if you forget to consider the “big picture”.   I work with clients all the time who pay so much attention to detail they get lost in it.  No matter where we are in the process, they tend to fixate on the minutiae of the moment rather than looking forward to the finished look.  It’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” kinda thing.

Picking paint color seems to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for novice decorators. Is it this shade of beige or that shade of gray?

SW 7044 Amazing Gray

SW 7044 Amazing Gray

SW 7043 Worldly Gray

SW 7043 Worldly Gray

Given the fact that everyone sees color somewhat differently, it’s anyone’s guess where you might land.  Stop the insanity!   It’s not that wall colors aren’t very important.  But color, just like anything else has to be considered as only a part of the complete picture you’re trying to paint (pun intended).  Truth be told, even if the wall colors aren’t the perfect shade of beige, you can still pull it all together by speaking to that color with the rest of your decorating choices.  When your space is complete, the wall color will become a back drop to your furniture and other layered decor.  And, done correctly, your decor will become a compliment to your wall color.  Picking a new rug, new window treatments, accent colors etc…. all are opportunities to get bogged down in the process if you don’t step back for perspective.

Roulo LR 2

With each decorating decision, I encourage you to consider the space as a whole.  From something as large as picking paint color to something minor like accessorizing a bookshelf, stepping back for a better look puts the entire job into perspective and helps you avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Attention to detail is the most effective treatment for a condition I call “Accidental Decorating Disorder”.  It means you’ve taken time to consider your decor and have taken intentional steps to improve it.  On the other hand, you’re assured a relapse if you get lost in every little element losing sight of the finish line.

As with everything, a good balance will help you raise your decorating bar and rise above it at the same time.  Happy Decorating from Decor Designs!



Wanna know one of the biggest decorating mistakes we see time and time again? Artwork. Yes, it can be bad for any number of reasons…. Maybe it’s dated, the wrong color, style or scale. But, the worst offender with artwork is placement!

Whoever said artwork should be hung at ‘eye-level’ should have his eyes poked out! Don’t believe me? Hand your 6’3″ husband a piece of art and have him hang it at ‘eye-level’ and see what happens. I”m guessing that’s what happened in this picture!
As a general rule, most DIY decorators hang artwork too high! You’d think people lived in art galleries based on where they chose to hang everything. From artwork to family photos to clocks to mirrors, they are all equal opportunity offenders.

Think of it this way… unlike an art gallery, in the home, artwork is best appreciated while seated. So rather than hanging these things at ‘eye-level’, wouldn’t it make more sense to place them lower so you can enjoy them without craning your neck? Eye-level while standing varies greatly from person to person. But most everyone sits at about the same height. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to hang things about 60″ from the floor to the center of the art/clock/mirror or about 6-8″ above a piece of furniture like a table or sofa.
Lowering your artwork will not only show off your nice high ceilings but will make your space feel more cozy.

So forget asking your husband to hang it and skip the ladder! Pull your artwork down out of the rafters and save yourself a trip to the chiropractor. You’ll be happy you did!


2016 New Year

The Holidays are over…  You’ve taken down all the finery of the Season only to be left with blah!  While it’s nice to get back into the routine of everyday living, it probably feels like something is missing.  And now there’s nothing to disguise those decorating updates you just didn’t have time to get around to before the holidays.

It’s traditional to start the New Year off with a few resolutions for improvement.  These can go way beyond losing weight or reading more or keeping in touch with friends.  Why not make a few decorating resolutions for 2016 as well?

Resolutions, like other goals in life, are what keep us moving forward.  And the key to reaching any goal, in my opinion, is to make sure it is actually attainable.  The same goes for decorating resolutions.  While remodeling your kitchen might be a dream goal this year, it might not be a realistic or feasible one whether it’s for lack of time, money or other factors.

Making and actually keeping your New Year’s decorating resolutions is simple if they themselves are simple.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1-  CLUTTER… I’m guessing this resolution might be on your list every single year.   It makes the list repeatedly because we all know how important it is.  And we know how good it makes us feel when we actually do it!  Don’t let the prospect overwhelm you.  Start with something small like the “junk” drawer in the kitchen.  Don’t lie…You know you have one!  If you haven’t used it or needed it in the last year, chances are you won’t.  Get rid of it!   Move on to your kitchen and vanity cabinets.  I recently purged an entire trash bag full of stuff that had been pushed to the back of my bathroom vanity cabinets.  Even if you stop here, you’re going to feel better.  But don’t stop yet.  The best decorative bang comes from decluttering more visible areas.  Chances are those bookcases could use a little attention.  And curio cabinets are a great place to purge accumulated need-nots!  Closets come next.  And if you’re really brave, the attic or basement is waiting.  If you tackle one catch-all at a time, before you know it, you’ll have decluttered all those trouble spots in your entire house and you’ll feel a weight lifted.  The unintentional benefit of decluttering is that it makes your space feel fresh, clean and more decorative!  While you might not have really changed a thing, you’re still going to appreciate the fresh, new look of your space.  Who knew decorating could be that simple?

2-  PAINT…  Now that you have finished decluttering and have fewer things to move around, there really is no excuse for putting off a fresh coat of paint.  In fact, this resolution pairs very well with Resolution #1, Decluttering!  While you have everything torn apart, why not take a few hours and throw a new coat of paint on the walls or freshen up the trim?  Changing the color of a space with paint is easily the fastest and least expensive way to update the entire look and feel of a room.  One or two rooms a year and before you know it, your entire home is updated and on trend.  It puts those scuff marks and blemishes in the past and gives you a fresh, new look for the new year and beyond.

3-  WINDOWS… Let’s assume you’ve had the same window coverings for years.  It’s easy to do.  Many people struggle with this element of decorating.  It’s easy to overlook tired, dated window treatments because they just kind of hang there and do nothing.  However, few things date a space faster than window treatments.  Whether it’s the style or fabric, they actually draw more attention than you realize.  Vertical surfaces and their decorations draw the most attention in a space.  Since windows are usually one of the largest “vertical” elements in a space, making sure the way their treated is clean, fresh and updated is always a great resolution.  Can’t replace them right now?  No worries… give them a thorough dusting and/or cleaning.  Blinds accumulate an amazing amount of dust and dirt.  Make them shine with a quick wipe down.  Same goes for soft treatments.  Have them dry cleaned or remove them for a good beating.  Adding inexpensive panels or sheers to existing treatments can give you an entirely new look.  If your color palette is fairly consistent consider switching window treatments between rooms for an instant, new look.

4- ART…  Another item on your vertical surfaces that can look stale is artwork.  If you’ve had the same piece of art in the same spot over the sofa for years, it’s time to move it.  Just like window treatments, these items are easily transported and repurposed from one room to the next.  Try it over the bed in the master bedroom or perhaps over the sideboard in the dining room.  Create groupings with smaller pieces of art rather than having them scattered around the room.  Groupings ressemble “large” art when appreciated as a single unit.  Collage walls are all the rage in decorating magazines right now.

family 3

5-  FAMILY PHOTOS…  A favorite decorating safety net for many are the venerable family photos.  They take the guesswork out of committing to art or accessories and who doesn’t love their family… right???  Well, no one loves your family more than you do!  That goes for friends and other guests to your home.  Limit the use of family photos to places where the faces can be seen up close and appreciated (think hallways or end tables).  Avoid  large focal walls with family photos unless they are very large prints where the faces can be seen from across the room.  More importantly, make a resolution to update framed family photos regularly.  It’s time for Betsy’s 1985 graduation picture to go.  Wedding photos are another offender, especially if you or someone you love has been married for 30 years or even divorced.


6-  LIGHTING… Lighting is an often overlooked but important element in any space.  Having the right amount of lamps provides wonderful task and ambient light throughout your home.  Simply adding more lighting can give a fresh new look to your existing decor.  And if you already have numerous lamps, double check those shades.  It’s easy to let lamps fall into a funk if you don’t regularly clean and freshen the shades.  Few things can detract from your decor more than dented, yellowed or dirty lampshades.

The list could go on and on.  If you’re going to be stuck indoors for a few months because of the cold weather, take advantage of the time and add a few “decorating” resolutions to your list of “wanna dos” this year.  Keeping them simple and attainable will ensure success.  Who knows?  You might just get inspired to tackle that kitchen remodel after all?

Happy New Year and Happy Decorating from Decor Designs!  www.decordesignsinc.com or 815-245-2433