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Interior Decorating

Explore the basics of interior decorating.

An interior decorating project often starts with a theme based on a pattern or color. [© Jupiter Images, 2010]
© Jupiter Images, 2010
An interior decorating project often starts with a theme based on a pattern or color.

Decorating interior spaces is both a chance for homeowners and apartment dwellers to create an inviting, functional home and to show off their sense of style. Whether the project is a top-to-bottom reinvention, or a coat of fresh paint in the living room; decorators should start with a plan to coordinate color and fabrics to create a pleasing effect. Consulting color wheels, design magazines or even a professional interior decorator can save time, money and the frustration of a renovation project gone awry. Luckily, there are a host of online resources decorators can turn to for inspiration and practical guidance.

Interior Color

Often, interior decorating starts with a theme or point of inspiration, and very often that inspiration is a pattern or color. From there, things may get thorny. There are several concerns: designers want to choose colors that look good together; match existing design elements, including furniture pieces; are not too dark, bright or subdued; and perhaps tie in to a theme. Decorators who want to learn the basics of coordinating color should examine a brief tutorial from This Old House to get started.

Thanks to the Internet, gone are the days when decorators were stuck flipping through an endless ring of paint swatches, trying to visualize how a tiny box of color would look on a 12-by-10-foot wall. Behr, for instance, has a helpful website that actually generates color

 alettes; users simply click on a color, and then decide whether they would like the generator to use it as the primary or accent color, or view palettes based on similar colors. This site also offers a primer on coordinating color with fabrics and furniture. Similarly, Sherwin-Williams has a Color Visualizer, which generates palettes, then lets users apply them to pictures of bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens.

For advice on color, decorators can turn to Martha Stewart Living, which offers up the magazine's own choice palettes. It features useful tips on decorating with specific colors, including whites and neutrals, pinks and reds, blues and greens, gray and yellow. The magazine also offers practical tips on painting and keeping track of paint colors for touch-ups. House Beautiful is another excellent color resource. It features palette recommendations from respected designers, tips on navigating tricky colors, colors that evoke different natural elements and sexy colors, among other things.

Other Design Elements

Once decorators decide which colors they want, they may then have to choose how to dress the windows and floors, and which types of lighting to use. They must also design a layout that uses the space efficiently and maximizes the attractiveness of architectural elements like doors, windows and archways. For people looking for a basic primer, again, Martha Stewart Living has practical suggestions that can help novice and expert decorators alike, as does Better Homes and Gardens. Rental Decorating Digest also has some nice articles that may be of use, including practical tips on making a floor plan and a basic guide to design elements like scale, contrast and rhythm.

The BBC also has a guide to using space effectively, as well a virtual room application that lets users experiment with colors, textures and room layout. IVillage has a program that lets users start with the type of room they are decorating, whether a kitchen, bathroom or living room, and manipulate it until it is just right. SketchUp, a comprehensive online design application from Google, lets users design 3D rooms; the subscription version, SketchUp Pro, lets users export designs to a CAD program and create presentations.

Design Inspiration

Looking through interior design publications is perhaps one of the best ways for decorators to discover trends and get inspired. Whether or not readers have the budget to re-create rooms from their favorite high-end magazines, examining how professionals used color, layout and furniture to create a look can be useful.

People who like to fantasize about how they would decorate their country mansion or New York penthouse will enjoy Architectural Digest, a premier publication in the design industry. Interior Design is another respected source for decorating news. In addition to featuring projects by famous designers, it also has a photo gallery of elements like flooring, seating and fabrics, in addition to a buyer's guide and an updated list of new interior design products. PointClickHome, the online spot for Elle Decor and Metropolitan Home, features tips on decorating in the latest style.

Those looking for something a bit more down to earth can try magazines like Traditional Home, which has suggestions for people who enjoy a cozy, classic style. Romantic Homes is devoted to readers who want to create a French country aesthetic. HGTV lets readers browse by style, including modern, mission and Mediterranean.

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