How to "undecorate" to get a clean slate

How to "undecorate" to get a clean slate

I like old houses well enough. In fact the newest house I have lived in during my adult life is 60 years old. Like everyone says, old houses have charm. They also come with desirable characteristics like nice neighbors, mature trees, wide trim, quality construction, proper scale, history, and most of all, honest materials that are made out of just what they look like

Old houses have quirks that drive most everyone who lives in them nuts too: poor insulation, plaster cracks that never go away, drafty windows, and squeaky floors to name a few. The issue I would like to address here is "flow."

I like high water pressure as much as the next person but I am not talking about corrosion of your plumbing here. This article is about something just as insidious, corrosion of your home’s visual flow. Visual corrosion begins as homes age and they need repairs and updating. Usually, repairs are made ‘as needed’ and updating is done ‘room by room’ as owners have time and money. Rarely does a home owner have a ‘Big Picture’ idea of what their home should look like when it is all redone.

To complicate matters, styles come and go over the years so one room may remain Victorian while another is Art Deco, and the next is Modern. Even if variations are not that drastic, older homes tend to have mismatched trim, light fixtures, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, paint colors, and flooring.

Old homes often end up looking like just a series individual rooms that have no relation to the next. Perhaps the next time you want to make a home improvement, you should think about doing some ‘un- decorating’. Below are some ideas to help you reclaim visual flow and a feeling of spaciousness to your home. Whether you lean toward traditional, contemporary, or modern style, the following advice will be just as effective.

1. Create a ‘big picture’ plan. Prior to any starting any remodeling, this plan should be a vision of what your house will look like when all remodeling or redecorating is finished. If you have a plan, the second, third and forth phases will have built in answers.

2. More visual flow comes from fewer elements. Most people want to have different colors in different rooms. I say go for it. But, think about having one trim color, one ceiling color, and the same primary flooring throughout.

3. Wood floors are the blue jeans of your home. They are wonderfully deft at going from room to room, color to color, so if you haven’t uncovered your floors yet, you ought to do so. If you don’t have wood underneath, maybe you should think about installing it (or another natural material like cork or bamboo).

4. Avoid wallpaper. It will soon be like those disco pants you bought a few years ago.

5. Keep the themes from room to room consistent. It is preferable to stay within the style and age of your home. It is kind of like wearing the right shoes with your jeans.

6. Change your light fixtures. New fixtures can create consistency and update your home quickly too. To keep the clothing analogy going, think of it as ‘accessorizing’. Changing lighting is relatively cheap for big impact.

7. Make your your light switches and outlets uniform. You will be amazed how easy, inexpensive and effective it is to make all your home's switch and outlet covers all one color and style.

8. When it comes to furnishings, think simple and timeless. One piece of simple furniture looks, well, simple. But add another and another along the way and soon your furniture will look great together. If you buy furniture that is too busy or trendy, your next pieces are less likely to look good with the first.

I’ve heard it said that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. So if your house is too busy now, you should create a master plan employing ‘un-decorating’ tactics. It will take patience to plan ahead and see your simplification through but I promise your gratification from it will be much greater. Just think of it as cleaning your room on a grand scale. Less mess always looks better.

About this Experts Contributor: Paul Livdahl, owner of Design Q&A, has been involved in providing design services based around the home for about 25 years. His Minneapolis-based company was established in 2005 and earned the Angie’s List Super Service Award in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

As of Sept. 10, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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