Allow your room to breathe by pulling your furniture away from the walls.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Home Décor
Need advice on decorating? Check out the answers to these popular FAQs.
- by Jennifer Sellers
Where can I go to find décor inspiration? Inspiration can be found in many places. Try looking through home décor and lifestyle magazines, as well as visiting furniture store showrooms and home showcases. You can also look to things you love for ideas. For example, try incorporating into your design the colors found in your favorite piece of art. HomeFurnishings.com’s articles and image galleries can provide lots of inspiration and you can store your favorite tips in our My Ideas folder.
What are the advantages of hiring a professional interior designer/decorator? Professional design consultants can help you manage your project from start to finish and assist you with keeping everything within budget and completed on time. They can also offer a fresh, objective eye without the emotional attachment that you may have to certain objects and styles—and they are usually experts on the latest styles and trends.
How can I get a designer’s help with my project? To find a designer in your area, use our designer locator. Many home furnishings retailers offer design services as well.
Approximately how much room should I leave between my sofa and coffee table? You should allow about 14”-18” between the coffee table and front of the sofa. Make it 24” for reclining sofas.
How far should seating be from the television? You should calculate three times the size of the TV screen for the distance between the seating and the screen. So a 42” screen TV needs seating at least 126” (10 1/2 feet) away to enjoy a clear picture.
How do I know if my new furniture will fit in the room I have it planned for? Measure everything in your room—from the size of the room to the windows, doors and your furniture (including the height, width and depth). Once your measurements are gathered, use the HomeFurnishings.com free Room Planner tool so that you visualize where everything will be placed.
What are some common furniture placement mistakes, and how do I avoid them? Two of the biggest mistakes you can make when placing your furniture are: 1) Placing all of your furniture against the walls, and 2) designing around electrical outlets. Allow your room to breathe by pulling your furniture away from the walls. In fact, floating furniture in the middle of the room creates a sensation of spaciousness. Meanwhile, surround sound, wireless electronics, docking stations and many other technological advances have liberated homeowners from having to work around outlets.
How much space should I leave around my bed? In bedrooms, the sides of the bed should be at least two feet from the wall and three feet from the door that opens into the room. Twin beds need to have at least 18” between them.
How much room should I allow for dining chairs to be pulled out? In the dining room, allow at least two feet of space between the back of the chair and the wall. Keep this distance in mind for placing an area rug under your dining table as well.
What else should I take into account when measuring for furniture and decorating? When it comes to measuring a room, note your wall height as well as the height and width of doors and whether they swing in or out. Record window measurements, outlet placement, sprinklers and corner measurements and plug the numbers into our Room Planner to get an accurate picture of how your redesigned room will look.
What are the biggest design mistakes? The following design mistakes are common, but simple to correct: 1) lack of lighting, 2) too much furniture, 3) no color plan, 4) all furniture against the walls, 5) designing around electrical outlet locations and 6) hanging art too high or too low. You can learn how to avoid these decorating mishaps in our article on this topic.
How do I find my style? Figuring out your home décor style can be tricky for many people. Are you classic traditional, or a little more country, or completely modern? Or it may be that you’ll just know it when you see it. One of the best ways to determine personal style is by looking at the clothes in your closet. If your wardrobe is primarily cotton t-shirts and jeans, you may appreciate a casual, relaxed home décor. Or, if you dress in the latest fashions and have a taste for the finer things, you may feel drawn toward trendy home furnishings and designer looks. The colors you wear often mirror the colors you'll prefer in interior design.
Is "Country" décor outdated? When you think country décor, do you imagine painted red hearts and whimsical ducks? If so, then your image of country is stuck in the '80s. Today's country (often called cottage) means simplicity, clean lines and a palette of nature-based colors. Like contemporary design, the style evokes one's personal taste through an eclectic blend of diverse pieces, but with an emphasis on a relaxed ambience and vintage appeal. Today’s country décor proves you don't need a bonneted duck to say "Welcome."
What's a new style I can try out in my home? One popular home décor look is Belgian style. The defining characteristics of this look are:
- A neutral color palette comprised of greys, creams and browns
- Raw or distressed wood that may also be washed, limed or cerused to give the appearance of age
- Linen fabrics for both upholstery and bedding
- Large or exaggerated scale
- Lack of pattern and ornamentation
- The use of repurposed industrial pieces, including recycled wood, iron and metal parts
I don't want to be married to one style. How do I pull off a more eclectic look? Today’s trends don’t box you in like those of the past, so feel free to mix it up a little. You can play with various styles, and pick and choose the elements you like most. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of updating your existing look with a few key pieces. For a truly eclectic look, try using a period wallcovering in the midst of modern furnishings or placing an antique table or chest in a loft-style apartment with an otherwise stark look.
What sheen of paint should I paint my interior walls? Paint sheen can be a matter of preference, but here's a basic overview:
- Flat: This type of paint has no gloss. It's a popular choice for bedrooms and other lesser-traffic areas of the home. Today’s higher-end flat paints offer durability often missing in the flat-sheen paints of the past. Most new homes have flat paint on the walls.
- Eggshell: As the name implies, this has a bit more sheen than flat paint and is a good all-around choice for walls.
- Satin: This “middle” choice also coats walls well and tends to be very durable.
- Semigloss: Very water-resistant as a rule, semigloss paints are the most popular choice for woodwork and trim.
- Gloss: Full gloss—in a word, “shiny.” The most highly reflective finish, gloss paint will reveal defects in a wall (including brushstrokes) more readily.
How do I identify which shades are "warm" and which are "cool"? In understanding and defining color, the terms "warm" and "cool" are often used. In general, blue, green and purple are considered cool colors while yellow, orange and red hues are considered warm. When comparing the different shades of a particular color, one can be warmer or cooler than another. In the case of the two red hues, one would be described as cooler if has more blue or purple undertones; whereas a red with more orange or yellow undertones is warmer.
What's a cool way to add a new look to my walls? If it’s been awhile since you’ve considered wallpaper as a design choice, take heed: It’s not your mother’s wallpaper anymore! As a matter of fact, designers and manufacturers alike refer to this category as “wallcoverings” since the variety of materials now available go far beyond paper. From cork and bamboo to velvet flock or crystal applications and even three-dimensional selections, it’s all about texture and dimension. If you're looking for unique ways to use wallpaper in your home, check out this article.
Is it possible to make my décor more environmentally friendly? Yes! There are many ways, in fact. Start with these ideas:
- Choose certified wood furniture. Look for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Play up paint color. Choose low or zero-VOC paint in a rainbow of hues, including new darker colors.
- Go local. Decorate with as many local furniture makers as possible to minimize fuel emissions for transportation.
- Use antiques and buy furniture that will last. Invest in heirloom-type furniture—good, solid pieces that will last for generations or antiques that have history.
- Look for sustainable fabrics. Whether you’re buying a new sofa, adding new draperies, or updating your bedcoverings—there are a growing number of options in sustainable and organic fabrics.
I love hardwood floors—what are some of the latest options? Look for imported hardwoods such as tigerwood and Brazilian cherry or exotic finishes on traditional American hardwoods. Reclaimed wood is a particularly hot design trend in flooring. Other hardwood trends include a move toward 5-inch planks, rather than traditional 3-inch boards. And for the more budget-conscious, many of the hardwoods on the market today look like solid woods but are actually engineered hardwood floors, made from wood layers glued together.
Laminate floors are more in my budget; is it possible to get something that looks like a real hardwood floor? Yes, advances in printing and embossing technologies have enabled manufacturers to create wood laminates that are nearly identical in appearance to hardwood floors. Not only that, but laminates are affordable and can often be installed by homeowners themselves.
What are some other hard flooring options? Beyond hardwood and laminate floors, you might also want to consider:
- Premium Vinyl: It's lightweight, durable, resilient and impervious to moisture. One of the newest upscale looks is a premium vinyl tile that looks like stone and can be grouted like hard tile. It mimics the look of real tile, but is easier to install.
- Tile, Marble and Stone: These materials are popular for entryways, sunrooms and bathrooms. On a budget? You can find low-cost porcelain tiles that are “incredibly convincing” in replicating the look of stone.
- Cork Flooring: Made from the bark of the cork tree—which regenerates its bark after harvest—cork flooring can be used in any room. And it’s a comfortable flooring choice for kitchens, where people often stand for long periods.
I'd love to change up the carpeting in my home—what’s popular? Today’s hottest carpets have textures or patterns that create visual interest and disguise the problems that foot traffic brings into a home. For example, textured loop and ribbed carpets—with a combination of loops and cut yarn—have a mottled appearance that hides stains, food spills and traffic patterns. Muted color-on-color patterns, using texture with animal prints or lattice, also are popular.
I have bare floors, so I need rugs, but I'm not sure how best to decorate with them. Any suggestions? Because a rug is often the centerpiece of a room, many interior designers suggest selecting the rug first and building the rest of the room around it. Don’t feel like you have to match your rugs exactly to your other pieces, but do choose colors and patterns that relate well to each other. And if you are unsure how a rug will look in your home, look for a retailer that allows a free in-home trial.
How can I light up a room without making it cluttered with lamps? The key to lighting your home is layering. This means using a combination of different lighting sources—floor lamps, recessed lights, pin spotlights, task lamps and uplights. Also use sunlight, candlelight and fireplace light to your advantage.
Where are the best places in a room to place lamps and other lighting? Lighting is most effective when it's where people can benefit from it the most. Follow these guidelines when planning your lighting:
- Living spaces: Place a lamp behind every reader's shoulder—about 42 inches above the floor. Highlight a framed piece of art with halogen track lighting or by attaching a picture light. Install recessed lighting as your general lighting and consider a dimmer as well.
- Kitchens: A grid of recessed ceiling lights will provide general lighting, and under-cabinet lights make excellent task lighting.
- Dining rooms: A chandelier over the dining room table creates a beautiful setting (don’t forget a dimmer); however, if a chandelier is not your taste, try a grouping of ceiling-mounted pendant lights.
- Bathrooms: Use shadow-free fluorescent or incandescent lights around mirrors for grooming. And don't forget a stylish nightlight.
I'd love to decorate with art, but I'm not sure where to star. Any suggestions? Designing a room with art enables you to create a space that reflects your personal style. First, determine the types of art that appeal to you by visiting art galleries and browsing online art resources. Home furnishings stores often create stunning vignettes that include artwork—sot visiting some local retailers will help you get inspired as well. Lastly, find artwork that you are passionate for—for example, if you love animals, look for artwork that includes them or if you’re a fan of Charleston, pick up some watercolor prints of the city on your next visit there.
I'm on a budget; what are some inexpensive ways for me to decorate without spending a lot of money? Accessorizing is one of the best ways to add panache to a room without investing a huge amount. Just remember: Don’t go overboard. Too many objects will just make your stylish possessions compete for attention—or even worse, look cluttered and messy. Consider the following details when dressing with accessories:
- Lamps: Lamps can be a great way to show off your personality. Today’s designs can be beautiful and elegant, or fun and funky.
- Artwork, Vases and Sculptures: Displaying your favorite photos, paintings or prints on the wall will dress up any room. Enlarge some of your favorite photographs and create a great focal point on a wall with a collection of framed homemade art in various sizes. Similarly, it’s easy to find cheap vintage prints, posters, vases and other artwork. Gather a few and display them together on the wall or a table, and you’ve got a great-looking collection and conversation piece.
- Throw Pillows: Think of accent pillows like fun, trendy jewelry—they allow you to change up your décor seasonally and keep your room looking fresh and new throughout the year. Depending on the amount of detail or hand-stitching, accent pillows can be quite a bargain.
- Mirrors: Mirrors can liven up a space by bouncing light around the room. Whether you buy one large mirror to hang above a fireplace or group a few small ones in a pattern on the wall, mirrors add interest and depth to any room.
- New Linens: Whether it’s a quilt draped over the end of a bed, a soft throw on the sofa or some new hand towels for the bathroom—new linens can quickly make a room feel fresh again. A well-placed throw also can serve to pull together the colors in your room.