PHOTOS COURTESY HGTV BOOKS.
The makeover room has the opulent look and appeal of the inspiration room – minus the hefty price tag. It cost the Sensible Chic designers just $3,259 to decorate.
Creating a space that’s distinctly yours is as easy as blending old and new elements in a variety of colors and textures. Here, the experts from HGTV’s Sensible Chic program show us how to decorate with the things you love and appreciate diversity.
When decorating a room of any style, it is important to start with a plan: decide how you will use the room and envision how you want the room to feel. The first consideration? Color: It can set a mood and capture the feeling of any time in history or any location across the globe.
For an exotic-style room, Jen Jordan from Sensible Chic advises choosing a color palette of five or six shades. Paint sample cards from a home center or paint store will provide countless options. Take a selection of cards home, cut them apart, and group the colors to determine a pleasing palette. Use your favorites as guidelines when shopping for other pieces in the room. If you already have an inspiration piece, however, you may use it as a springboard for the color palette. In the inspiration room, a rare hand-knotted Turkish Oushak rug sets the tone. A similar, not-so-rare—but just as visually exciting—Oriental rug directed Jen toward a palette of red, green, gold, and khaki with shots of black and blue in the Sensible Makeover space.
Khaki paint on the walls offsets the busy pattern on the floor, adding warmth and sophistication. “The walls lend themselves to an overlay of colors,” Jen says. “They’re neutral enough that you can change accessories and completely alter the look.” This smart approach can be used for rooms decorated in any style: Start with a neutral on the walls, and mix and match furnishings and accessories of different colors as the mood strikes.
Store-bought cotton window panels in a khaki color aren’t as lavish as the Indian silk draperies with embroidered red silk bands that hung in the inspiration room. However, the Sensible Chic team contrived a way for the panels to work by adding red satin trim along the tops and edges. Embroidered bees on the trim add some detail in the spirit of the original fabric—and the red offers a warm shot of color against the neutral-color panels. This quick trick can enliven any window treatment; if you don’t sew, use fusible hem tape for quick and easy customization.
Pack in Comfort
When planning furniture for a “well-traveled” room—or any room that will be used for lounging and conversation—comfort is just as important as style. “It’s nice if you can afford extra details, but there’s nothing wrong with simple,” Jen says. At $5,000, the original plush, tufted-back sofa was too expensive for this makeover budget, so Jen decided to forego the buttons. The khaki-color sofa she chose instead stands up to this and any other style because of its simple lines—and at only $700 it is a relative bargain.
Color and texture in the sofa pillows add to the eclectic appeal. “These anchors establish the room as global,” Jen explains. Different fabrics—olive velvet, kilim (a woven fabric of Turkish origin), and red satin—suggest a multicultural influence, while reinforcing the earthly color palette. By mixing pillow fabrics of various textures, patterns, and colors, the neutral-color sofa gains immediate focal-point status.
As seen on TV: Sensible Chic’s elegant inspiration room, with its exotic, one-of-a-kind pieces and expensive antiques, cost designers $76,700 to decorate.
The coffee table speaks to yet another part of the world with its Asian-influenced curved legs and dark wood. Inspiration room designers Sharon Daroca and Eleanore Berman chose a $3,000 hand-carved piece with inlaid glass and Chinese chow feet. At $250 Jen’s alternative was certainly more affordable. Although the coffee table in the makeover room is not as dark or detailed as the inspiration room piece, it still has understated Asian lines, marked by low curved legs. In either case the lesson is the same, regardless of the style of room you are creating: “You can balance expensive antiques,” Sharon says, “with pieces that are more reasonable.”
A two-chair seating area across from the sofa introduces another opportunity for comfort, mixing natural textures and earth tones. A blend of traditional and exotic styles, exposed wood arms, and ribbed chenille upholstery achieves a sophisticated safari club feel.
Navigate the Space
With the anchor pieces— the large rug, grand window treatments, and seating pieces—in place, it is time to draw attention to the details that give this budget-savvy exotic space character. Stacked antique suitcases from a flea market (one is an old faux-grained English tin trunk) find new function as a conversation table between the chairs. Taking the place of a traditional side table, these pieces add to the well-traveled feel of the space. In another corner of the room—and of the world—an heirloom chest huddles under a pair of prints in ornately carved wood frames, which balance the tall tree on the other side of the fireplace.
Then there’s the mantel. The inspiration room’s mantel was adorned with an inlaid bone and mother-of-pearl mirror—expensive touches that exude exotic elegance. Such opulence was foreign to the modest budget in the makeover space. By embellishing the built-in mirror with an inexpensive store-bought Indonesian carving and introducing two imitation cloisonné vases that frame the global picture on either side of the reflection, the less expensive version has just as much class—for a lot less cash.
Showcase Meaningful Souvenirs
The inspiration room’s sand-cast safari chandelier, Ming-style camel, and ceramic turtle all play into the travel dialogue that carries the eye around the room. While nothing could replicate such one-of-kind treasures, Jen says the look is easy to accomplish.
She touched up a rusty antique light fixture, painting the leaves green, adding brown to the stems, and completing the safari look with ecru paper shades. She also shopped at local import stores to find a couch-height sea-grass elephant, an Asian frog statue, and the Buddha head; but she suggests blending in your own souvenirs to give the room personal stories to tell.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment,” Jen says. “If you have something shiny, add another piece that’s dull or rusty. Put new with old, mix pattern and textures.” The beauty of such an eclectic style is that the design is always evolving. Depending on where you go and what you bring back – even if it is simply a trip to your local import store or flea market – your room is a living travel journal unified in color, yet as divers as your experience.
Bring Nature Indoors
To enhance any decor, take advantage of nature’s countless colors, textures, and shapes, following these tips:
- Real plants are almost always better than silk, and most are surprisingly easy to maintain. Keep plants in their original pots, cover them with moss, and care for them individually.
- Planters, pots, and baskets blend best in organic colors, such as brown, smoky green, and earth tones. Look for containers made of natural materials, including stone, concrete, and terracotta, instead of highly finished designer receptacles.
- Observing plants in their natural habitats, exploring gardening books, and visiting your local nursery will give you tips on compatible flora and their care.
- Plant varieties and variation in heights help arrangements look organic and natural—not contrived.
- Natural fragrances can add dimension to your decorating. Jen Jordan says candles and potpourri should smell like a lavender field in France, not like a candy store. Look for essential oils, such as bergamot, rosemary, verbena, and lemongrass; avoid sweet, fruity smells.
To ensure beverages and books are within easy reach, side tables should stand slightly lower than the arms of the chair they complement. If you can’t find the exact table you desire for your room, invent tables of your own from ethnic drums, pedestals, antique boxes, trunks, crocks, or old barrels.
Do you love pattern, but are unsure of how to mix patterns successfully? Follow these tips, and soon you’ll be mixing and matching like a pro:
- Keep in mind that three is the key. Introducing a maximum of three patterns in a space will prevent the eye from being overwhelmed.
- Work within a limited color palette. Sticking to just a few colors for all the patterned elements in a space will keep the look consistent and help the patterns complement—rather than compete with—one another.
- Vary the size and scale of the patterns—but consider them relative to the size of the room. For example, a small detailed pattern on a wallcovering in a large room would be too busy, but in a small space it is just right.
- Remember that distribution matters. Thoughtfully placing items of various patterns throughout a space will keep it balanced; avoid grouping patterned elements together because it will create too many focal points in a room.
- Consider manufacturer suggestions. Many fabric and wallcovering manufacturers offer groupings of colors and patterns that work well together. These collections are created to take the guesswork out of mixing and matching.
The Look for Less
If you are ready to embark on a decorating adventure—but your budget is limited—fear not! Use these tips to help you create a room that only looks expensive.
- Collect one nice piece from everywhere you travel to add meaning to your decor. Decorating with things that have meaning or stories behind them, says Jen Jordan, brings individuality to any space. Look with different eyes at heirlooms you’ve inherited—old books, dishware, stitchery, clothing, even your grandfather’s pipe—to see how they might be displayed.
- Details define the look of your room, but such nuances need not be a part of every piece. A great compromise is to purchase more expensive or larger items in a simpler style, and then invest in design-specific accent pieces to upgrade the look.
- Good rugs are costly. Search garage sales and Internet auctions for better buys. Even with fading and wear and tear, used rugs can be cleaned and blemishes camouflaged, depending on how you place the furniture.
- Add details to an inexpensive light fixture to give it a designer look. Coat it in a bold paint color, add fringe and beads, or change the crystals. Introduce pattern and texture by stenciling and/or upholstering the existing shades, or purchase new shades for a low-cost update.
- If you can’t travel to foreign destinations yourself, visit ethnic shops and villages that sell affordable handmade crafts and other decorative imports, including masks, dolls, statues, and unusual artwork.
This article was edited and excerpted with permission from the book Sensible Chic: Smart Style on Any Budget, by HGTV Books, edited by Amy Tincher-Durik, copyright c 2004 by Meredith Corporation. The book is based on the HGTV television program and is available at better bookstores and through www.amazon.com. For more information about Sensible Chic, go to www.hgtv.com.