Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Home Make-Over: Some Practical Tips

We've just spent several months re-decorating our living room. Much of this time was spent in planning, and a lot was spent in waiting for furniture to arrive. Once the big stuff was in place it took time to get things settled and add the finishing touches. In the process, I learned a few things that might help you as you make changes to your own living space.

How to Design a Room -- Measure your room and plot it on a sheet of graph paper. Make your diagram as large as possible, creating as true a picture possible of the floorspace. Now measure the furniture you plan to use and cut out pieces of brown paper bag to scale for the diagram you have of your room. Include tables, bookcases, TV stand, whatever furnishings you expect to use. Move them around, trying out different configurations. You may find that there is too much furniture, or not enough, or that the furniture you want to buy is too large for your room. We found that we needed to move the piano from the living room to the dining room, something I had seriously considered before. We also realized that there would be no room for a recliner. Though it looked impossible that we could arrange the furniture in the style we wanted, we continued to tweak our map and made everything work. This process saved us potential frustration (and money), and I'm really grateful we included this step in the make-over.

Choosing Flooring -- Of course this is an individual choice that will be made according to your budget and your taste. I suggest spending time in the showroom of a carpet store or a wood flooring store and see what they have to offer. We had one kind of carpet in mind when we went into the store, but an hour later, when we left, we had a lot better idea of what was available and the salesperson had helped us work through the process. Most stores will have samples you can take home with you, and they will come to your home to do a free estimate. The big home improvement chain stores offer the same service, but the local stores can be remarkably competitive. We will work with the same company when we change out our kitchen floor and countertops because we liked their work and because they already know our house.

Carpet Care -- Just one thought here. The lovely new carpet feels great on our bare feet, but it's good to be aware that the oil on your feet transfers to the carpet, and dirt can stick to the rug more easily where your bare feet walk most often.

Choosing a Sofa -- Choosing a sofa, one that fits you well and fits into your room well, is the most critical decision you will make. Not every sofa is comfortable for every person, and you need to find the one that is right for you. After all, you don't want to purchase something that looks nice but gives you a headache or is too soft or whatever it is that makes it uncomfortable for you. So don't make any snap decisions about your sofa.

We had to return the first set we purchased (a sofa, a love seat, and a chair) because it did not fit our bodies, even though we had looked at several stores and sat on many sofas before we chose the set we did. It was classy and beautiful and fit our room well, but it did not fit us. Our store was willing to work with us and offered to exchange it for us. After working with them over several visits, we chose a sofa brand that makes sofas to order. I went home and looked the company up on line, then printed out photos and info about each sofa that looked like it might work. I took them to the store and they showed me which styles they had. I sat on each one, but none of them was right for me. My next step was to return to the sofa maker's website and see what area furniture stores sold their sofas. There were about a dozen stores. I collected my printouts about sofas we were interested in and the addresses to the furniture stores and set out. I sat on only sofas made by this one company. I would sit, get up and walk around, and return to the sofa. I sat on a lot of sofas -- you get to test drive a car; you should be able to "test sit" a sofa -- and eventually I narrowed my search down to just two or three styles. Finally I took my parents with me on an outing and in a store miles from home we all decided that one particular style was just what I was looking for.

Finally I returned to our home store with the sofa style number I wanted to order. They showed me the fabric selections and sent me home with samples. After the new sofa was finally ordered we had to wait about six weeks for it to come. But it was worth the wait. The new sofa is made to order!

Store Policy -- When ordering big things like carpet and furniture, be sure you are working with reputable companies. Check them out through the Better Business Bureau. And if you have any concerns throughout the process you can always call the BBB for guidance. Right at the beginning it is good to get the store policy in writing. Find out what happens if you are not satisfied with the product you purchase through them, or the workmanship. It's always a good business practice.

Lighting -- We complained ever since we moved to this house that the living room was too dark. Even with the lights on it was difficult to read. Then we bought new lampshades. We got them to update our lamps, but we had no idea of the additional benefit we would experience -- a bright room!

The old lampshades were all two layers of cloth, both layers pleated. It was a lot of fabric for the light to pass through. They were also taller than the new shades, brightening a smaller area. Our new drum shades are much shorter, they stand away farther from the bulb, and the material is a single layer and a truer white than the old lampshades. Now, instead of looking for a flashlight when the living room lights are on, we are hunting up our sun glasses!

What I thought would take a few weeks ended up taking four months. But I am more than satisfied with the results. I hope these tips help you when you find yourself on the same journey.

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