Monday, December 31, 2012

Scale and Proportion: What's the Difference?

Painting Out of Scale With the Buffet
Have you ever been disconcerted by seeing a king size bed that fills a tiny bedroom, or by a lamp shade too small for its base, or perhaps by a massive flat screen tv that overshadows the fireplace mantle next to it? If so, you were reacting to a problem with scale (the bed and the tv) or proportion (the lamp shade). The two terms are often confused, so let's sort out the differences between them.

What is Scale?

Scale is how the overall size of one object relates to the overall size another object, or to the space in which it's placed. On the right is a painting that's much too small to fill the area above the buffet in a pleasing way. Instead of creating a harmonious composition, the painting and buffet seem unrelated, and the little painting looks like a orphan.

Choosing furnishings or accessories in the proper scale is essential to a space that works. Here are before and after examples from librariantellsall.comThe "art"  doesn't resonate with me, but the pictures do illustrate the point.

The Proper Scale Makes a Difference

Scale Issues to Avoid When You're Selling

One of the most common mistakes I see, particularly in vacant houses, is the use of forlorn, small pieces of furniture and/or accessories here and there in a misguided attempt to make the house look furnished or "staged". Not only do they look wrong because of scale, the style often is inappropriate for the location, such as the typical flimsy aluminum outdoor chair that gets dragged in from the deck, or the accessory that's wrong for the architecture of the house. It's much better to have no furniture and accessories than it is to have the wrong ones.

What is Proportion?

A Proportion Problem
Proportion is the relationship between one part of an object and another, measured in various terms, such as size, quantity or color.  An example in design is furniture. If the legs of a table aren't in the correct proportion to the top, the table could look silly. Or if the arms of a sofa are over or under-sized, the sofa is uncomfortable and unattractive. When you buy a replacement lamp shade, it has to have a pleasing shape and be in the correct proportion to the base. What other examples can you think of? 

Proportion is important because each time it's used correctly, it creates a little spot of harmony. When it's misused, something looks or feels "wrong". 

The Golden Mean

Some proportional relationships are more pleasing to us than others. The ancient Greeks came up with the Golden Mean, which expressed ideal proportions in a simple formula: 
Golden Mean Expressed as a Line

Golden Mean Expressed as a Rectangle

For ideal proportions, the ratio of the smaller section to the larger section should be the same as that of the larger section to the whole. 

This 2:3 ratio is found in nature and design, including the standard dimensions (4 x 6, 8 x 12, 16 x 24, etc.) of familiar objects, such as rugs and picture frames. Did you know that we have the ancient Greeks to thank for these things? 

Essential Differences Between Scale and Proportion

  • Scale refers to the overall size of an object. Proportion refers to relative size of the parts of an object.
  • The proportional relationship is constant regardless of size. Scale can vary, and there can be small, medium and large versions of the same item. 

"The basic rules of proportion and scale are unchanging. They are reinterpreted according to the needs of the time. I like simplicity and I believe in restraint. Above all, there should be harmony-of proportion, line, color, and feeling. The most important element in decorating is the relationship between objects - in size, form, texture, color, and meaning. None of these is in good taste in itself but only in relationship to where it has been placed and what purpose it is to serve."
Eleanor McMillen Brown

Keep Scale and Proportion in Mind

The next time you're considering a design project, keep scale and proportion in mind. If you need a little help, call me at 828-692-4355 to talk about what you'd like to accomplish and schedule a redesign or color consultation. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Choosing Paint Colors for Interior Doors

A Door to Nowhere
This is a story about accenting decisions for interior doors, using the white door in the center of the picture as a case in point.

When I came to this house to do a staging consultation to get it ready to go on the market, I immediately noticed many details had been accented, including the doors, windows, wall vent, railing cap, doorway arch, baseboards, etc. 

The problem of seeing all those details first, instead of seeing the room as a whole, was exaggerated by the high contrast between the stark white trim and the walls. Left as is, there would be much less attractive pictures for marketing, making it a weaker competitor, especially because the house was vacant and all those details had nowhere to hide. Not only that, if prospective buyers came after all, the house wouldn't show as well in person as it could with a few simple fixes. 

Utility/Closet/Storage Area Doors

When I explored the room, I discovered that the center door led to a utility room, not to a living area. When the door to the adjacent powder room was closed, as it was most of the time, those doors side by side created visual confusion and focused unnecessary attention on a door that lead essentially nowhere. 

To create a more attractive, harmonious, photogenic impression, I recommended painting the utility room door (and all the other undeserving details) in the wall color to make them become texture that blended, instead of things that drew the eye. Even if you're not selling, it's a solution worth considering for your doors that lead nowhere, such as those to utility or storage areas, or to closets. 

Hallway Doors

Hallways are another good place to think about accenting decisions. In a long hallway with many doors, consider how much you want to call attention to them, particularly in the following situations:
  • When most of the doors are on one side.  Accenting could make the hallway look lop-sided.
  • Doors that lead nowhere. Accenting them could create confusion, as in the case above.
  • When there is more than one type or style of door or cabinet door, particularly if some have more merit than others. Accenting everything could bring attention to doors that don't deserve it, or add too much detail.


Resist the temptation to create even more detail with accent colors, as in the case of the arch in the room above, or this inset panel door. 

Before-Overzealous Accenting

After-Simple Texture 


In addition to accenting with restraint, consider using paint colors with less contrast. One way to do that is to compare their LRV values (Light Reflectance Values) found at the back of most paint fan decks, and choose colors whose values are close, say no more than seven points difference. 

When it comes to deciding how to paint interior doors, there's a lot to be said for accenting wisely and keeping things simple.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When a Room is Dark

Although we enjoy living in rooms bathed in warm, natural light, it's not always possible to achieve. Sometimes the light that can be captured indoors is diminished by the orientation of the house, the position of the room at or below grade, trees and shrubs outside the window, or the need to create privacy, or hide an unattractive view.  If you live in a house with dark rooms, what can you do to make them feel comfortable and inviting? 

Here are some things to consider when you look for solutions:

Purpose of the Room

A Home Office/Jewel Box
There's no design law that all rooms must feel sunny and bright. Sometimes the purpose of the room will lead you to decide that, instead of fighting nature, you want to create a cozy space, or a luxurious jewel box. Examples include a room where you watch movies or television, a dining room mainly used at night, or a bedroom. Rather than using light, reflective colors, the color in these rooms could be deep and rich, as in this home office. Notice that the red desk and chair blend with the walls, making the room look larger.


Light Fixtures
In a dark room, especially one used primarily at night, artificial lighting is a key consideration.  Analyze the existing lighting. Does it meet your functional needs and suit the look you want? Each room should have three types:  Basic Types of Lighting 

Light Bulbs
In addition to the light fixtures themselves, you need to be up to date on the types of light bulbs that are available for each one, because they will affect the color of everything in the room. If you haven't already done so, replace old-fashioned bulbs with energy-efficient ones, when possible. For each new light bulb you’re considering, you need to know:
  • wattage in lumens, compared with the bulb you’re replacing.
  • its color temperature (CCT) which shows whether the light cast by the bulb is warm or cool, as measured in degrees Kelvin on a scale from 2700K to 6500K. The lower the number, the warmer or more yellow the light. In darker rooms, it's important that bulbs cast a warm light, or the room will feel cold and gloomy.
  • its CRI (Color Rendering Index) number which tells you on a scale of 1 to 100 how accurately the light renders color. Avoid bulbs that don't do this well. 

Orientation (Exposure) of the Room

If you use the room during the day, analyze the natural light it receives, if any. What direction(s) do the windows face? The exposure determines the color that's cast by natural light, and must be factored in to color decisions. North-facing rooms, for example, have constant blueish light, while rooms that face East and West change color with the position of the sun. Color expert Lori Sawaya offers some excellent guidance:

I second Lori's recommendation to test the colors before you decide. Be sure that the sample is at least 2 x 3 feet. A tiny paint chip won't do. 

Who Will Use the Room?

Will the room be used by one or more family members, or is it a semi-public space, like a dining room, that also will be used for entertaining? If it's a personal space, there's a smaller audience to please, and that makes decisions much easier.

Colors in the Permanent Elements

Smart use of color, especially paint color(s) is a key part of your design solution. To start, determine the following:
  • Color family(ies) of the permanent elements, such as flooring, carpet, woodwork, cabinets, counter tops, etc. Are they warm (red-orange-yellow), cool (green-blue-purple) or neutral (pure white or gray)? Be sure your paint colors are compatible. If you have warm tones, choose warm versions of your colors, such as a yellow red instead of a blue red.
  • Dominant colors of major pieces of furniture and accessories, such as sofas, chairs, area rugs. 
  • Colors used elsewhere in the house. The color you use in the dark room should relate.

Some Ways to Create A Lighter, More Open Impression 

If you want to make the most of every little bit of light, natural or artificial, here are some ideas:
  • Use warm, bright mid-range colors for walls. Whites, and very light colors look dingy because there isn't enough light to render the color accurately. To make the room look and feel sunny, use a rich (not pale) yellow. Colors from the red and orange families also are good choices for a warm impression.
  • Use light to mid range colors for major pieces of furniture.
  • Install adequate, three level lighting, as described above.
  • Choose simple furniture and don't over-furnish.
  • Plan for ample negative space. 
  • Hang window treatments at ceiling height and to fall at or outside the window frame so no light is blocked.
  • Use mirrors on the walls and behind shelves. Place lamps or candles in front so their light is bounced back into the room.
  • Use glass on one or more table tops.
  • Choose reflective finishes for some pieces of furniture and accessories. 
  • Favor light, open accessories over large, dense ones. 
  • Carefully prune any trees or shrubs that are blocking light.

Figuring out how to make the most of a dark room is like putting together a design puzzle, starting with how you want to live in the room. Don't be reluctant to make the room into a dark, cozy nest, if that's what suits you. 

If you need help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a design/color consultation. If painting is part of the project and we do the work, the consultation is a free part of our services.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Message Is Your Furniture Sending?

Don't Come In...
Furniture arrangement is a powerful design tool in many ways. Apart from creating a look, the way furniture is placed also conveys a message - whether you intended it or not. For example, when you place the back of a couch facing the door where you enter a room, you've created a barrier, not a welcome. The unintended message is, "Don't come in".

Another way furniture arrangement conveys a message is whether it helps or hinders your ability to have a conversation.  There's a name for each type of furniture arrangement, thanks to British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond (1917-2004), who coined the terms sociopetal and sociofugal.  

Socialfugal Arrangements (discourage conversation)

  • back to back chairs (airport)
  • side by side chairs (doctor's office, movie theater, classrooms)

Sociopetal Arrangements (encourage conversation)

  • rectangular dining room table
  • circular conference table
  • living room conversation area

Conversation, Comfort and Convenience

Table Within Easy Reach
When you're thinking about furniture placement in your living room or family room, keep in mind the goal of social interaction. If you want to encourage conversation, most sofas and chairs should face each other and be no more than eight feet apart. Choosing suitable tables for sofas and chairs, and placing them for comfort and convenience is also important.  Each side table needs to be as tall as the arm of the sofa or chair, or one to two inches lower, and should be positioned beside it for easy reach. Allow 16 to 18 inches between the front of the sofa and a coffee table so there's room to access it and still be able to use the table, which should be no more than 3-4 inches different in height from the seat of the sofa. Sofas and chairs should be placed about 6 to 10 feet apart, depending on the scale of the furniture and the size of the room.  Before you commit, test your furniture placement to be sure that traffic flows smoothly.  Test sofas and chairs to see how easily you can use the tables that go with them.

Mind Your O's, U's, and L's 

When your goal is to create areas for conversation, remember the alphabet. In a dining room or conference room, the friendliest configuration is an "O", a circular table that allows maximum eye contact and interaction, followed by a small rectangle. Size matters. Think about what happens when you add all the leaves to your rectangular dining room table at Thanksgiving. That's why I sometimes like to ask people to change places for each course, or at the very least, for dessert. It also livens things up and makes dining under a fancy chandelier a lot more fun and a lot less stuffy.

The most common furniture arrangement in a living room is the "U" shape, where the open part at the top of the "U" is dedicated to the focal point, such as a fireplace.  "L" shaped sectional furniture can work well too, when supplemented with seats placed across from it. An ottoman, a piece of sectional furniture or a bench without a back, can facilitate conversations in more than one area in a large room by allowing people to sit facing in opposite directions. In larger rooms, it's often desirable to divide the space to have more than one conversation area, as in the example above where a table acts like a low wall and eliminates the view of the backs of the sofas.

Now that you know your furniture has a voice, make sure the way you arrange it sends the right message.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creating A Focal Point

Note the repetition of color...
In interior design, the focal point of a room is the center of interest, activity or attention. It can be an unintended negative element, like a massive projection television that overwhelms a small room, or it can be the planned emphasis on something attractive that has been chosen to play this special role. A room should have only one focal point, but a room can, and should in the case of larger rooms, have centers of interest or activity, such as ones designed for conversation, dining, reading, working, watching television or movies, etc.

Finding A Room's Focal Point

Sometimes determining a room's focal point is easy because the architecture speaks to you, as in the case of a beautiful mantle or a large window that frames a panoramic view. In other cases, there is nothing special in the room that creates a focal point, giving you great latitude to decide what you want, and to create it. A natural place to locate your focal point is the wall opposite where you enter the room, but don't limit your thinking! You could make the ceiling the focal point, as was done in this example that uses paint and a glorious chandelier. Just be sure you have appropriate lighting.

A ceiling as the focal point.

Conflicting or Confusing Focal Points

Design issues can occur when one focal point, a fireplace for example, has to co-exist with another, often a  television. For the room to be harmonious, one of them should dominate. If it's more important to you to be able to sit around the fireplace and talk, yet the room also has to accommodate a television, relative size is one way to solve the problem. Use a smaller television, or hide the televison behind cabinet doors or a sliding panel when not in use, and let the more attractive fireplace be the vision "winner", especially when the only functional solution is to place the television on the same wall.

If the room is large enough, the best approach is to create separate living areas for conversation, viewing, etc.. For maximum flexibility, especially in smaller spaces, use "L" shaped sectional furniture, or multi-directional furniture such as a backless bench or large ottoman, so that one or more people can sit down and face the same, or different, living areas.

When you don't resolve the problem of conflicting focal points, the viewer's eye is distracted and doesn't flow through the room in a naturally harmonious way, and that can be confusing and disturbing because so much is happening that your eye doesn't know where it should go. This article by a staging colleague illustrates what happens to the "eye track" when you inadvertently create these conflicts.

Focal Point - How the Eye Works

Some Roles A Focal Point Can Play

Let's say that you have a room without a natural focal point, or you want to enhance what you have. Consider some of the roles that your focal point could play, and decide what you want to accomplish. Your focal point could meet more than one of these objectives:

  • starting point for the design of the room
  • make a statement, set a mood or create an emotional impact
  • make the room inviting
  • impress visitors
  • act as the cohesive element that ties everything together
  • divert attention from something unattractive
  • add visual weight to balance something elsewhere in the room
  • establish traffic flow

Traffic Flow

The issue of traffic flow is often overlooked, but it's a crucial consideration, especially in older homes that have to work for the way we live now. This article shows you how to weigh the options when you decide what your focal point is going to be.

Creating A Focal Point For A Blank Canvas

If you're starting from scratch, and especially when your budget is tight, there are many non-structural solutions based on using size, color, intrigue, arrangement of elements, and more. This is the time to express yourself and be creative. Here are some possibilities:
  • Define a focal wall with paint in an accent color.
  • Use paint in an accent color to define a focal area on a larger wall. Look at the yellow fireplace wall in the picture above. Repetition of color helps tie the elements of a room together.
  • Hang a large piece of art or other statement piece, such as a textile or sculpture, or even a beautiful large branch from your garden.
  • Place the largest piece of furniture or a furniture group on the focal wall, and build around it.
  • If the focal point is the view, use drapes with side panels, or emphasize it by placement of large plants, or with furniture or accessories.
  • Use an electric fireplace.
  • Install shelving and display your favorite collections.

Schedule a Redesign Consultation

Sometimes getting help is the best idea. Schedule a redesign consultation by calling me at 828-692-4355. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheap Pressure-washing Is No Bargain

Roger Does It The Right Way!
Today I received this letter from wonderful clients who hired us to pressure-wash their house several years ago, loved the result and recommended us, but we didn't hear from them again. We thought they might have moved, but that wasn't the reason. Here's what happened:

"Dear Roger,
We thank you again for the painstaking excellent work you did cleaning the vinyl siding of our home. Remembering how well you rendered the same service in 2009 for us, we were pleased that your quality of work has continued with high standards of workmanship.We have had so many compliments from neighbors and we are pleased to have our home sparkling clean.
Last year our HOA hired a company,(trying to keep cost down), that caused unneccessary repairs to our enclosed porch due to the extreme water pressure used. We are so grateful we can count on your meticulous, professional, knowledgeable work and kind manner. We also thank Sandy for her friendly and courteous way.
It is with pleasure that we recommend you and your company to our neighbors and friends.
Wishing you continued success.
Walt and Eileen Richardson
Hendersonville, NC"

It's understandable that a homeowners association might think that all pressure-washing companies are created equal and decide to save money by choosing the low bid. That's what happened in this case. We've heard from other homeowners in the development who also sustained damage and were unhappy with the low bid people because little time was spent on each house, and little care was shown while the work was being done. This is another instance where choosing the low bid was a costly decision. The Richardsons were so unhappy with the outcome that they chose to hire us again and pay the cost themselves. Keep their experience in mind when you choose someone to pressure-wash your house. 

If you want pressure-washing done the right way, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don't Let Your House Fight With Your Flowers

I frequently see houses and gardens in a war of clashing, unattractive colors because no one considered the effect of the flowers and foliage when the paint colors were chosen. In the case of brick houses, or ones with stone details, plant selection often ignores the color impact of these crucial permanent elements.

Usually the conflict results from mixing warm colors with cool ones. In this example, you see purple and pink rhododendrons (cool or blue undertones) mixed with red-orange azaleas and Japanese maples (warm or yellow undertones) used as foundation plants for a brick house with red-orange undertones. It would have been better to have chosen shrubs with yellow or white flowers to harmonize with the tones of the brick.

How to keep your house from fighting with your flowers: 

  • Try to see a flowering tree, shrub or perennial in bloom before you buy it, either in a nursery or someone else's garden. 
  • If that's not feasible, look at enough pictures on line to be reasonably certain what the color impression will be. You'll avoid an investment of money and time that winds up detracting from the appearance of your house. 
  • When you're considering new paint colors, keep in mind the dominant colors of your flowering plants, especially those in the front yard. 
  • If you live in a brick house or one with stone, figure out the color undertone and choose plants accordingly. 
  • When you're buying flowering plants for containers, keep color harmony in mind. 

Wise choices will enhance curb appeal and add value.

If you'd like help with paint colors, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a color consultation. If you have a painting project, schedule a free estimate. When you hire us to do your painting, the color consultation is a free part of our service.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Consider New Ways to Balance

Balance is a fascinating concept because we think of it in terms of design and also in terms of living. Both suggest a psychological sense of equilibrium, or evenly weighted tension.  When it comes to design, balance is a concept that isn't as well understood and applied as it deserves to be, and when it's missing, a room will look wrong, although you may not know why.

Types of Balance in Design

Symmetrical balance


Most used in traditional design, symmetrical balance is formal and intentional, based on repetition of elements, as in this picture, and therefore more predictable. If you're not careful, symmetry can be boring, like the ubiquitous pair of candlesticks on either side of the mantle. 

Asymmetrical balance 

Achieved through using items of similar weight without repetition, asymmetrical balance is more informal, modern, dynamic and interesting. Here you see the weight of the couch balanced by two chairs instead of using a pair of couches as in the picture above.

Radial balance

With radial balance there's a center point and items radiate around it, or from it. Look at all the curving elements in this picture, from the rug to the carpet to the windows which all appear to radiate from the visual center of the room.

Ways to Create Balance

You can use the things you already have to create new ways to balance. First decide if the impression you want, is formal or informal, traditional or modern. If you want to be formal, make conscious use of repetition by working with one or more pairs of accessories, such as by placing a red cushion on either end of the couch, or hanging a pair of paintings on each side of a doorway. Informal balance is trickier since you have to achieve equivalent weight with dissimilar objects, as with the couch and pair of chairs in the example. If you want to create radial balance, you can do it either formally or informally.

Here are a few factors to consider when evaluating visual weight to create asymmetrical or radial balance:

  • size - large is heavier than small
  • color - dark is heavier than light
  • quantity  - one large can be balanced by two or more small, and so forth
  • placement - foreground looks heavier than background
  • texture - coarse or complex looks heavier than little or no texture
  • pattern - detailed looks heavier than simple
  • shape - irregular shapes appear heavier than regular ones
  • orientation - vertical is heavier than horizontal
  • density - solid is heavier than open
  • preconceived idea - a plate looks heavier than a fork 

Experimentation is the best way to come up with a new arrangement, and the most fun. When I do a redesign or staging consultation, working with balance is one of the tools I use to give a home a fresh new look without spending a penny. Try it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Go With the (Color) Flow

"Flow" is one of those design buzzwords you often hear, but the term is so nebulous it's not well understood, and its importance is often overlooked. The idea behind it is simple: flow is continuity. When it comes to interior colors, achieving flow can be a challenge because: 

  • Most people choose interior colors one at a time as they paint a particular room, often without considering how the new color(s) work with their existing choices. 
  • Colors also are chosen without making sure they work with permanent features, such as flooring, counter tops, tile, stone, etc. 

These two factors work against creating color flow, which is a component of the overall design goals of unity and harmony. Always keep in mind that your house shouldn't look like a collection of unrelated or conflicting ideas, it should look as if all the rooms belong under the same roof.  
When it comes to color, there's a very simple way to create flow, and that's through repetition, which creates a connection between spaces and makes them come together as part of a harmonious whole. 

Easy Ways to Create Color Flow

  • Paint the trim in a single color throughout the house.  It does not have to be stark white!

  • Pick a team: choose a color plan for the walls based on either tints (a hue plus white) or shades (a hue plus black or an earth tone). See my earlier post on this topic for more information: Mixing Tints and Shades-Proceed with Caution .

  • Select three to five of your favorite colors to be your "Core Colors". Be certain that they harmonize with all the permanent elements in your house. Use each color more than once. For example, if you love red, use it for the dining room walls and in the powder room or den, or on the back wall of built-in bookcases, or on a wall at the end of a long hallway. Find red accessories and use them throughout the house, especially in those rooms where you haven't used any red paint. Follow this approach with your other "Core Colors"

  • Use Expanded Core Colors. To have more color options, go to the paint store and find the strip for each of your core colors. Use lighter and darker versions of each color. A light version of the red in your dining room might be the perfect pink for a girl's bedroom. A darker version of that color might be perfect for the den.

  • If you're stuck for color inspiration, don't re-invent the wheel. The major paint companies have done all the work of finding pleasing color combinations. Look at their brochures and visit their web sites.  Benjamin Moore also has created a brochure on color flow with several excellent examples:  Color Flow . 

  • Paint all the ceilings in the house in the same color. (Your ceilings not only don't have to be stark white, the color should be chosen to harmonize with, or be one of, your Core or Expanded Core Colors. With color on the walls, stark white ceilings look "wrong", or as if you forgot to paint them. Repetition of both ceiling and trim colors throughout makes it easier to paint the walls in each room a different color, if that's your inclination, without sacrificing color flow.

  • Transition or connecting spaces such as hallways, foyers and stairwells need a color that works with all the rooms that adjoin them. Notice the rich red in the Benjamin Moore Bold Color Flow diagram, and the neutral in the Soft Color Flow diagram. As you see, either approach can work.

  • Pay special attention to contrast and harmony in an open concept plan. If you can see colors in adjoining spaces, make sure they're on good speaking terms. Extreme contrast can stop the eye and disrupt flow, which is fine if drama is your style, just be sure you want to live with it. One way to know exactly how much contrast there is in your Core Colors is to note their LRV or Light Reflectance Values and work with colors that have similar LRV numbers. To read more on this subject: Light Reflectance Values.  

  • Create a simple diagram of your house and test color relationships. Cut samples from paint strips and place on your diagram in the room where you might use it. This example and the ones from the Benjamin Moore brochure show at a glance how the colors work together. Notice the use of repetition in the example below.

Color flow is more than a buzzword. It's an essential part of creating an attractive color plan for your home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Molding and Baseboards

Typical Skimpy Crown Molding
It used to be that even modest homes featured well-proportioned, somewhat elaborate trim, including baseboards, crown moldings, wainscoting, chair rails, mantles, picture rails and more. However, beginning in the post-World War Two era, these details fell out of favor in the rush to create affordable housing. The sad result is that today many if not most homes lack all but the most basic trim, and rooms often feel like a series of bare boxes, with narrow baseboards and skimpy crown molding, if there's any crown molding at all. Builders who do install trim seem to do it without thought as to whether or not it's the right design for the architecture and correctly proportioned for the height of the ceiling and the size of the room.

When trim is too small, a room feels "wrong". When it's too large (which I've never seen), the room can feel cramped. Even in smaller rooms with eight foot ceilings, the standard 3.5" builder grade baseboard looks undersized. I think baseboards for these rooms should start at five inches and the crown should be a similar size for balance. In larger rooms with taller ceilings, wider base and crown are needed. To determine what's right for your house, buy sample pieces of trim or make cardboard strips of varying widths and see what you prefer. 

But what if you're not building or remodeling and your budget doesn't allow for installing the crown molding and baseboards of your dreams? Let's look at some low cost solutions:

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Moldings and Baseboards

Crown Enhanced with a Small Piece of Trim
  • Add a small, inexpensive piece of trim below the crown molding (or above the baseboard) to make it look larger. Paint the crown or base, the space in between and the new trim in the trim paint to create the illusion of a much larger molding. This picture is from a blogger who did it herself, and you can too...

Crown Enhanced With Paint
  • Create the illusion of larger trim with paint. Extend the depth of the trim by defining a new outer edge with masking tape, and paint the new area with the trim. Be sure to use low-tack masking tape designed to create crisp edges. 
  • Use a stencil or wallpaper border in a design that mimics classic trim, (not ones with flowers or circus animals). I almost didn't mention this option because stencils and borders are currently out of favor in most areas, so make sure anything you do is easy to remove when it's time to sell...

The Easiest Solution of All:

Don't accent skimpy baseboards or crown. Paint them in the wall color. There's no rule that you have to accent trim because it's there, and it's especially unwise to call attention to undersized trim by painting it white, or some other color in high contrast with the wall color. When you treat trim as texture by painting it in the wall color, it has the added benefit of raising the perceived ceiling height and making the room look larger.

When You Have No Crown Molding and a Tiny Budget

If you have no crown molding and want to create the illusion that you do, use masking tape and paint. Start the crown illusion on the ceiling by creating a line at least two inches in from where the ceiling meets the wall, and make the section on the wall at least five inches deep, even in small rooms with low ceilings. Test the proportions on one wall using masking tape, before you commit to the design.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Smart Home Selling In Landrum, SC

I wish more sellers were as smart, open-minded and hard-working as Jim and Lisa Murphy. Here's the story of how Roger and I collaborated with them to transform their rental property into a warm and inviting home, ready for a new family to move in.

A Charming House in Landrum is Prepared for Sale

Here's what they had to say when the project was finished and the house listed:

"We found both Sandy and Roger to be extremely knowledgable in their respective areas of expertise.  Sandy's eye for color and advice was 'spot on', made a lot of sense and looked great on the walls when Roger finished his wonderful work.

We had both taken the 'Smart Selling' course and found it extremely helpful.  Working with Sandy and Roger then helped to make the transformation possible.  Some of Sandy's staging ideas cost very little, and in general, her advice helped us to maximize the effect of the money we did have to spend.

After a lot of hard work on everybody's part, we feel we have an awesome (and very marketable) house that we hope will appeal to many potential buyers.  It's better than new and in 'move-in' condition!"

Jim and Lisa

Friday, August 3, 2012

How Wet Should Your Deck Be?

This summer has been a frustrating time, with daily afternoon storms that make it impossible to schedule deck refinishing projects. The wet weather got me thinking about all the things that can happen to decks, and what it takes to care for them properly.

Do you know the most common reasons that many deck finishes fail prematurely? Improper workmanship and exposure to the elements are the chief culprits. Since you can't control the weather, if you hire someone to refinish your deck, make sure they know how to do the work the way it should be done. This means, among other things: 
  • correct and thorough preparation.
  • use of the appropriate material, based on the existing finish.
  • application of the new finish when the wood is sufficiently dry to accept it, and when weather conditions are right, including the temperature and the prospects for rain. If the sun shines directly on the deck all day, the weather needs to be relatively cool while the material is being applied, or the finish might not look uniform. There should be no rain in the forecast for at least 24 hours, preferably longer.
When you’re getting estimates, there’s a simple way to test the contractor's deck expertise: ask what the moisture content in the wood should be when the finish is applied, and how he plans to determine when your deck meets that criterion. Discuss how the weather will affect his plans for doing the work, and what type of finish he recommends, and why. Do your homework first by asking one of the experts at your local paint store for his product suggestions so that you can discuss the options with the contractor.

 Ideally, the contractor will test the moisture content in the wood with a moisture meter. That's what Roger always does. The water content should be less than 15%. Every manufacturer’s label will specify how the material is to be applied, and under what weather conditions. The contractor should be familiar with the requirements of the product he recommends.

Even when you apply premium grade materials and the work is done correctly under perfect conditions, you must accept the hard fact that decks are a routine maintenance item. The conditions at your house, including the age of the deck and how well it was built, the exposure, the wear and tear it receives, the type of finish you choose and how diligently you maintain it, also will affect how often the deck will need to be refinished.

If your deck needs a fresh start, call me to schedule an estimate. Roger has been a “deck doctor” for many years, and can give your deck a new lease on life. All he needs is good weather."

You can reach me at 828-692-4355.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Go Ahead: Make Paint Color Mistakes

Many people are so afraid of making a mistake choosing paint colors that they go into paralysis and avoid painting, or play it so safe that they wind up with a bland and boring color that doesn't really please them. What a shame.

There's nothing wrong with making a color mistake. In fact, seeing what doesn't work, for whatever reason, is the best way to train your eye and learn what does work, and what you like to live with. Paint is the all time champion of decorating bargains, so it's a very inexpensive lesson, especially when compared with the cost of a couch. If you paint a room blue, only to realize that with a northern exposure, blue walls make the room feel cold, you'll learn from it and apply the lesson to future projects.

To reduce the cost of your experiments, buy the color(s) you're considering in the sample size offered by many paint manufacturers. It's just enough paint to apply two coats on a 2x3 foot piece of foam core so that you can view the color all around the room under varying light conditions. It also avoids the misleading color impression from the common mistake of painting swatches side by side on the walls. 

So don't be reluctant to try new colors. You can make mistakes on a small, inexpensive scale, encourage your creative instincts, learn a lot, have a wonderful time in the process and best of all, wind up with colors you really like.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Color Matching: Set Yourself Free!

Many clients have told me that they want to find a paint color to match the fabric on their couch or window treatments, or the carpet, the counter tops in the kitchen, the stone in the fireplace, etc. Some believed that there's an interior design rule that requires matching, and some were uncomfortable with color decisions and afraid of making a mistake. Whatever the reason, I always tell clients not to worry about matching because nothing is special if, for example, the couch, carpet or drapes disappear into the wall color, instead of complementing, and being complemented, by it. 

Colors that match perfectly not only look boring and a bit contrived, except perhaps in the most high style designs, they can be difficult to achieve because of differences in the items themselves, such as the texture or sheen of fabric vs. paint, and the different types of colorants that are used to create them. On the other hand, a color plan with differences, whether subtle or dramatic, looks far more lively and interesting.  To learn more, follow this link:  Why You Need A Paint Color Plan

If you've been concerned about color matching, it's time to set yourself free. Good design not only doesn't require matching, it usually avoids it, preferring a coordinated whole, with enough diversity to create interest. 

Make friends with a basic color wheel, like the one on the left. If you want to showcase a beautiful fabric, consider a complementary color (opposite on the wheel) for the walls. In the picture above, someone is trying to find the perfect blue, but to showcase the fabric, they should also consider complementary colors or neutrals. It all depends on the look they want...

When you have color decisions to make and would like a little help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a  consultation (two hours/$150).