And another thing ...

Decorating magazines would have us believe home beauty can be easily bought. They show exquisite rooms in million dol
Kathy Lilje
May 24, 2010


Decorating magazines would have us believe home beauty can be easily bought.

They show exquisite rooms in million dollar houses with spectacular views as inspiration for us regular Joes.

That's all well and good for those homeowners, but how does that translate to someone with a modest house, on a modest street, with a modest budget in Erie County?

Lacking either architectural splendor or ocean views, the average home has to try harder to be comfortable and pleasing to the eye. And the average homemaker, unable or unwilling to spend $90 for a throw pillow or $9,000 for a couch, must turn on the creativity to make her home sparkle.

Here are some tips to help you get a start on the illusive house beautiful:

n Take a look in your closet to decide how you want to decorate. A jeans-and-Tshirt person isn't likely to be comfortable with spindly antique furniture or brocade upholstery.

An all-in-black sophisticate won't be impressed with chintz cushions or your Precious Moments collection. Check out what colors you wear each day and what fabrics you favor. Denim or silk, splashy or monochromatic?

Those are good indicators of your comfort level.

n This is an easy one. Instead of trying to figure out which of the myriad of furnishings and accessories you like, explore what you don't like. Call it a weeding process.

For me, it's "I don't want a living room I can't live in."

OK -- go for casual.

I also don't like red rooms, heavy draperies, ornate furniture or wallpaper borders. See a pattern starting to emerge here?

Casual, neutral, natural -- those are the key words I need to keep in mind when I look for furnishings. It's all about personal choices.

n Feel free to mix eras because good design is timeless. Remember every era has its good designs and its disasters.

The '50s gave Americans clean-lined walnut and teak Scandanavian furniture, but it also gave us rickety, ugly TV trays.

In the 60s, decorators started bringing nature indoors and the innate beauty of shells, pods, rocks and driftwood found a lasting place in our homes. But that era offered Keane paintings of the big-eyed children -- at prices anyone could afford and far too many people did.

The 70s introduced modular seating which is making a comeback, but also shag carpet. (Come to think of it, that's coming back, too. Will we never learn?)

I can hardly think of the late '80s or early '90s without envisioning the ever-present peach and mint or dusty rose and blue color combos that were everywhere. Or how about that whole country thing? It may be charming, but all too often is carried to a scary extreme.

If your budget is really tight and there is no money at all in your decorating piggy bank, rely on color to make your home look its best. For instance, a yellow kitchen could be enhanced by yellow napkins and paper towels, a beautiful yellow bottle for dishwashing liquid and yellow kitchen towels. Add a bunch of seasonal daffodils to brighten your day. Edit out the unnecessary items and clean the room until it sparkles. You'll be well on your way to pulling a coordinated look together.

See you next week.