Thursday, September 29, 2005

Neutrals vs. Commitment Colors. What to do when selling your home.

When searching for a home, buyers are always advised to treat the process like a business transaction – to lead with the head, not with the heart.

This also holds true when selling, for sellers are marketing a product for sale. It’s not about what you like or want, but what the buyer wants, likes and needs.

The classic approach when marketing a home for sale is to stick with neutral colors on the walls and woodwork. The theory is twofold: First, buyers will have an easier time visualizing how they might make a prospective property their own; and second, white and off-white tints tend to make spaces look larger, and in real estate, square footage sells.

Maximizing every square inch of the rooms in a home is important, but it’s not paramount. A small bedroom, for example, can’t really be made to look larger, but it can be made to look cozy, warm and inviting with the use of the right colors.

Colors are best used when they help accent the positive in a space and distract from flaws. Nearly every room has its strong points and weak points. Figuring out what the flaws are and planning an appropriate color scheme makes a big difference in how comfortable and at ease a room makes one feel.

How mouldings and wall colors work together is a good example of this point. Woodwork and beautiful mouldings are a strong selling point in most markets. But if they’re painted the same color as the walls or are in a very similar shade, they’ll blend in with the walls. If you want to call attention to the woodwork, painting the walls a
strikingly different color has the effect of calling attention to the mouldings. On the other hand, that blending of woodwork and walls may be just what you want if mouldings are very basic or spare. The similar tones cause the eye to blend them together, hopefully leading prospective buyers to overlook these features.

An important aspect in color use is how it can be used to create a "cool" or "warm" sense. The use of these tones in the right places can have a great impact. Cool colors include blues, grays, soft green and lavender. Warm colors are red, yellow, gold and orange. The former evoke feelings of expansiveness, while the latter feel enveloping.

Thus, cool colors can be used to make a small room look a little larger; warm shades help make a large, cavernous room – think any place with a cathedral ceiling – feel much cozier. Bright reds and yellows make good choices for finished basements, where they help make these naturally cool spaces feel warmer. Attics tend to be warm places, so cool blues, greens or grays will help to counteract the higher temperatures.

Bad color choices, on the other hand, can be distracting. Wall colors that are too bright and overpowering tend to "hog" all of the attention. Prospective buyers may become too focused on how they might correct the color, thus missing a strong point in the room, such as high ceilings or a well laid-out pantry.

You may love a "commitment" color, but when selling, realize that it may lessen your chances of selling your home quickly, or at a good price. If friends and family joke about breaking out their sunglasses when they arrive for a visit, you probably need to consider a more subdued shade when selling the home. More subtly, you may want to re-paint in a more commonly appreciated color if no one’s ever complimented it or asked where you bought the paint.

A personal story that involves carpet color will help illustrate the point. When I purchased my current home, the wall-to-wall carpeting was a medium blue – a color I could not have lived with for long. If I hadn’t been able to afford replacement carpeting before moving in, I probably would have continued my home search elsewhere. Even though the property was among the most reasonably priced offerings in a highly desirable town at the time, it had been on the market for months. I’m convinced it didn’t sell immediately because of a dingy and dated color.

Walls and woodwork are the best places for color creativity since paint is relatively inexpensive to change. Replacing carpeting or hardwood flooring is costly, though, so color choices for these features should be approached conservatively.

When it comes time to sell, remember the tag line of a well known TV reality series: "It’s nothing personal – it’s just business." In this case, it’s the business of selling your home and receiving the greatest return on your investment, and not your
emotional attachment to the home.
©2005 Linda Merrill, Chameleon Interiors

Five tips on how decorating choices can help save energy costs this Winter.

For the first time in nearly a generation, many folks will get seriously interested in home energy savings this winter. Warnings about price shocks for home heating have been widespread: Heating oil could cost nearly twice as much this winter as it did last season. Those heating their homes with natural gas won’t escape the pain this time, either -- the commodity price of gas has more than doubled in the last year.

Home improvements will improve energy efficiency, but installing features such as new windows, better insulation or a more efficient furnace or boiler would be both expensive and disruptive. Following are a number of simple tips to help make your home feel warmer, and maybe save some energy in the process.

1. Paint and decorate for warmth. Use warm colors – red, yellow, gold, orange – on walls, fabrics and accessories. "Studies show that under red lighting our bodies secrete more adrenalin, increasing our blood pressure and rate of breathing, and actually raising our temperature slightly," wrote authors Paul J. Zelanski and Mary Pat Fisher in Color (Prentice Hall, 2002). "Yellows and oranges have a similar effect, though they are not as warming as strong reds." If repainting your walls isn’t in the cards, try adding warm touches with accent pillows or throws, area rugs and window treatments See below for more on this topic.

2. Hang insulated window treatments. When closed at night, insulated drapery will go a long way toward keeping cold drafts out of your home. It’s an elegant, cost-effective solution compared with the cost of installing new, energy-efficient windows. Choose fabrics in warm reds or golds and you will get a two-for-one punch.

3. Place area rugs on hard surface floors such has tile, hardwood or laminate, all of which tend to feel cool or cold throughout the year. If the thought of the cold tile bathroom floor in the middle of the night send chills up and down your spine and your hand to the thermostat, consider adding a thick area rug with a good quality carpet padding to the space. These area rugs can be stored away during the warmer months – and each season you’ll feel newly redecorated! Again, using warm toned colors will add to your overall feeling of warmth.

4. Consider energy-efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent bulbs use roughly 75 percent less energy than equivalent incandescent lamps. But keep the following tips in mind:

• Compact fluorescent bulbs are expensive, so the cost savings is most effective when used on often used lighting fixtures.

• Make sure the package says "broad spectrum" or "full spectrum". This type of light provides the closest color rendering to standard incandescent bulbs.

For more information, goto Energy

5. Fireplaces are for coziness, not warmth. Most traditional fireplaces aren’t a good way to save energy. They may make you feel warmer while you’ve got a fire going, but most tend to remove about as much heat from the home as they radiate inside. A better choice for energy savings is a wood-burning stove or fireplace insert. In both cases, the cast-iron stove acts as a radiator, adding much more heat to the home than that which escapes up the vent stack.

Haven’t got a fireplace or stove? Decorative candles can do wonders for creating a warm atmosphere. Just remember – never leave a candle unattended or on a flammable surface.
©2005 Linda Merrill, Chameleon Interiors

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Loving this lighting collection

Remember the "Friends" episode where Pheobe railed against the Pottery Barn customer herd mentality? While Rachel and Ross were busy decorating their respective apartments straight out of the Pottery Barn catalogue - they were telling Pheobe that items came from more exotic locals and flea markets. In the end, though, Pheobe was swept up in the trend as well. The Pottery Barn "style" of solid patterned basic furniture and heavy casegoods has influenced the American interior design aesthetic to such an extent that more than half of my clients have used their catalogue (which must be mailed to nearly every American home) as a reference point for their design plans. The problem? It's too small a reference point. This one company has so influenced what the average American expects from good interior design that every middle- and upper middle- class home in American ends up looking like every other home. Where's the personal touch? Where are the future family heirlooms?

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy my Pottery Barn catalogue as much as the next guy. And I admit that I can be pleasantly surprised by a new item that is unique and interesting. In their current catalgue, I found a lighting line that is just fabulous. It's called "Veranda" and has two different styles of chandelier as well as sconces. As you can see, the lighting mimics the look and feel of pillar candles. While not particularly good for task lighting, they would creat a nice warm ambiance in a room.

So, the point is, while drooling over the Pottery Barn catalogue - keep in mind that a successful interior is a combination of items from many sources - family treasures, travels, artisan goods and popular retail places such as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and the like.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Coral, Coral everywhere

Coral reefs are endangered and in need of environmental protections. However, when it comes to interior design, we sometimes need protection from too much of a good thing. For the last year, everywhere I turn I see this red coral design showing up on fabrics, ceramics, sculptures and lighting, such as these beautiful chandelier shades from The Source Perrier Collection. The reason for the popularity is clear - it's natural, sculptural and bold. It's nearly impossible to predict what will become the lastest trend in fashion and those who can predict aren't talking. But, when images or patterns become so ubiquitous that they are in every design magazine, showhouse and collection one sees, then popularity can quickly become fad. And fads fade. The point is - if you love this pattern for its' own sake then you will love it ten years from now and it's worth including in your interior design. However, if you buy it merely because it's popular, then it might look like last years toile handbags before you know it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

From Tip to Toe; Good design is in the details

Think about the last time you were planning to attend a special event - a wedding, class reunion, a job interview with that dream company. Did you splurge on a new outfit? If so, you probably picked out the right dress or suit, stylish shoes that aren't completely uncomfortable and the perfect accessories. Maybe you even got a new hair cut and a manicure and pedicure. You considered every detail of your look.

Would you wear an expensive dress or suit with worn old shoes or a shirt with a frayed collar before this event? Probably not! Nor would you wear an expensive handmade necklace over workout clothes. Why? Because old, worn or mismatched items drag down what is fabulous about the beautiful new dress or suit.

The same principles apply to redecorating projects. One needs to consider all the details that will give a room the right look, from ceiling to floor. Take inventory of what you already own. What can still be used? What needs to be donated or discarded? What should be bought to complete the look? Is any remodeling needed?

Every design decision has an impact on every other one. Particularly, the decision to do nothing at all. For example, poor lighting can ruin all the hard work involved in selecting the perfect color combinations. To focus only on one or two aspects of room design is to reduce the impact of work that is done.

Obviously, budget plays an enormous part in making decisions. Unless money is no object and you are looking to completely remake a space, you need to consider carefully how to smoothly integrate the old with the new and how to make the most of your financial investment.

The rooms we love in shelter magazines or on HGTV shows are all well designed, from top to bottom. Whether done by professional or homeowner, the beautiful rooms we admire are successful because all details were carefully coordinated. These spaces are not necessarily created from scratch, but from a well thought-out mix of family treasures, flea-market finds and new acquisitions.

Keep the following tips in mind whether you are working with a professional designer or tackling the project on your own:

• Walls, ceiling and floors are the largest surfaces in any room. Together, they have the biggest impact, for better or for worse, on a decorating project.

• Lighting is most likely to be overlooked in room design. How can you see the beauty and quality of your design in a poor light?

• All fabrics in a room, from window treatments to upholstery to bedding, should be of similar quality and condition. It?s perfectly acceptable to mix store bought with custom as long as all the items are well coordinated and in the same condition. An faded duvet on the bed just doesn't work with beautiful custom window treatments. The duvet will look worse and subtract from the beauty of the new treatments.

• Furniture should be of similar quality and condition. It doesn't need to be matchy-matchy, but all pieces should work together and in concert with the rest of the space. Keep in mind that one can always purchase new furnishings over time as budget allows.

• Plan how you will accomplish all your goals within a budget. It is my job as an interior designer to stick to a stated budget to the greatest extent possible while achieving the best design results for the client. I consider all aspects and make selections based on how well each element contributes to the look of the project as well as its cost.

It’s tempting to skimp in other areas when you fall for a pricey item that chews up a large part of the budget. If you skimp on something important, though, you may well end up with a mediocre, out-of-balance room. Much like a new Brooks Brothers suit paired with worn loafers or a frayed tie. If the use of a particularly expensive fabric for window treatments blows the budget, consider limiting that fabric you love to some custom made pillows. That way, you'll still have money for well coordinated bedding. Your results will be better all around.

No matter what type of room or space you are re-decorating, finishing the job means starting the job with a plan and seeing it through, from tip to toe. ©2005 Linda Merrill, Chameleon Interiors

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Comparison Shopping - Grange vs. Crate & Barrel

Most of Crate & Barrel's current furniture is trending towards simple, contemporary lines. A big exception is their Archive Corner Chair, which features a double-rattan back and classic styling. These chairs can be paired to create a "kissing" couch, as seen on the C&B website. This is definately a departure from the standard C&B line. Priced at around $450 per chair, this is a moderately priced conversation piece and would add a distinctive charm to a space. It will be interesting to see how long this piece remains in their catalogue. On the higher end, Grange also has a caned chair in a similarly toned wood finish. The style is completely different, but the scale is about the same. The quality of this furniture is first rate, which is reflected in a price tag of approximately $900 per chair.

©2005 Linda Merrill, Chameleon Interiors

Grange Furniture of France creating timeless elegance

This furniture line is available in the US through interior designers and small shops. It's beautifully made furniture that is well priced for it's style and quality.

This day bed, called Louis Phillip Stowaway, offers beautiful detail, a transitional style and the convenient accomodations for overnight guests.

Grange carries a wide variety of chair styles, but this Napoleon Camp Chair offers style and comfort in a foldaway chair. Much better than your standard folding chair when extra seating is needed!
©2005 Linda Merrill, Chameleon Interiors

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bone Simple Design features handmade, custom lamps

This New York firm specializes in custom, handmade lighting that is deceptively simple. Original use of materials and shapes highlight this collection.

The Rug Company rugs are just gorgeous!

The Rug Company is a British firm (with shops in New York and LA) that creates incredibly beautiful rugs in a wide variety of styles. From contemporary to classic, such as this rug called "Rosy" (not sure why), they are showstoppers you'd be sure to want to create your entire room around.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Art on the wall

Cole & Son's has the most beautiful wallpapers. This isn't the tired old florals from the 80's, or worse, the harvest golds from the 70s. These patterns are bold and classic, colorful and whimsical.

Here is a gorgeous piece of art for the home

Niermann Weeks offers this incredible chandelier that exudes the glamour and fabulousness of the French Riviera.

Great rugs inspired by the Quilts of Gees Bend

The now famous Quilts of Gees Bend have been travelling across the country. It was only a matter of time that these timeless quilt designs were licensed for use in home decor. Shaw Living and Kathy Ireland Home have introduced a new rug collection that is both beautiful and reasonably priced. Click the rug for more information.