Make Your House Feel More Like Home

Melissa Galt

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So, you’ve just moved in or maybe been settled for a while, and your house still doesn’t feel like home. It’s missing character and individuality that only the infusion of personality can bring. Your home is not your own until it tells your story. Furnishings without accessories, artwork, and accent pieces are like a cake without icing. And it is up to you to determine the flavor and decorations desired and appropriate.

A good starting point is the floor. Whether you have wall to wall carpeting or enjoy the beauty of hardwoods, area rugs are essential. Without anchoring your furniture groups with rugs, your pieces are merely cut adrift on a sea of flooring. Rugs help to establish seating and dining groups, while runners can define traffic patterns and serve as accents. Rugs can be any variety appropriate, including Oriental or Tibetan, border, flat-weave such as dhurrie and kilim, sisal, leather or wool scrap (a shaggy textured appearance), designed pile (an exciting line is available replicating famous works of art), and even floor cloths (a great do-it-yourself idea. ) Rugs are truly art for your floor. Keep in mind the rug size. To minimize expense, an accent is exactly that, just enough to add color, interest, and a ground focal point. Rugs in a living area usually average 4x6 or 6x9, with most furnishings off the edge (except the coffee table and maybe an ottoman). Covering your floor entirely with a rug hides both the beauty of the flooring, while the rug is obscured by all the furniture. In the case of a dining table, be certain the rug is large enough that the chairs do not “fall off" it when pulled out. Be aware also that the pattern and scale selected compliment the upholstery and wall coverings, and be especially careful using any rug with a medallion center. It may be lost or distorted beneath a table base, or lose its impact if offset. Rugs are truly art for your floor!

The next accent most often overlooked and so simple to incorporate is plants. An interior is really not dressed until greenery is considered. Look at the corners of your rooms, in particular if they appear empty, and add a tree or perhaps a basket of mixed plants. Real or silk is not an issue, maintenance and whether you have a green thumb may be. It is wise to invest in quality silk plants, as they can last indefinitely, with occasional dusting (in many cases a spray with water to clean up, is even easier, depending on the care suggested by the source. ) Plants now are available in such a myriad of species, colors, shapes, sizes, flowering or not. And, they are an invaluable way to add life (literally, if real) to an interior. Typically, a basket by the fireplace (in the summer consider a large basket in the fireplace to avoid the black hole look), a tree in the corner, perhaps a garland over the mantel, small brass potted accents in a bookcase, a bouquet on the table (sofa or coffee), are all viable ways to add greenery to a living/great room. Beyond a tree in the corner, a stunning arrangement centered on a table runner can be the focal point in the dining room (and a wonderful reflection-worthy view for that large mirror you wanted to install. ) Greenery is an important part of every interior, even those with a minimalist view. It is a quick and effective way to incorporate an element of nature, keeping you in touch with the environment in some small way.

Once you have added a collage of area rugs, and assorted bits of greenery, it is time to consider your collectibles. Now, you claim you have none, having never saved anything of any worth. I bet you do because, you see, a collection is anything beyond a pair. If you have three of anything, you have a collection, (yes, beer bottles and jelly jars count!) So, get busy checking out those musty old drawers, drafty attics, under-bed stashes, and closets of miscellanea. Collections are meant to be enjoyed, not hidden away in some dust encrusted corrugated coffin. You’ll be delightfully surprised at the riches you invariably already possess, and with a dose of imagination can incorporate into your home. The only rule on collections is that they must mean something to you (not anybody else, just you!) They don’t have to have any intrinsic value, but must have a story and sentimentality. You can create new collections when inspired by a particular piece or event. Try to collect in odd numbers as display is far more interesting. This also makes it easy to pick up the odd piece and avoid getting caught up in searching endlessly for flawless full sets of things. Keep in mind collections are always more effective and exciting when shown in their entirety. For example, if you had a marvelous cache of candleholders and showed them only in pairs in a hodgepodge of spots throughout the house, the visual impact would be diluted, the elegance lost. Whereas these same candleholders massed on a sumptuous damask table runner against the dining table regain their “WOW. " Perhaps your collection is more casual and utilitarian, such as kitchen utensils. Try displaying these in colorful crockware from Crate and Barrel or Pier 1, or arrange a basket collection above kitchen cabinets mixed with greenery. A plate collection could be displayed on a rail running the length of the kitchen or dining room or massed in a china cabinet. Even a montage of magnets can be amusingly exhibited with the help of magnetized boards (Let’s Get Organized), in addition to the usual refrigerator surface. Life is far more fascinating and fun when surrounded by the pieces we cherish and admire. Let your home speak of you with the collections you show off.

Now that you’ve begun to add personality to your interiors, and your house is feeling more like a home, your artwork needs (and wants) must be addressed. Artwork, while typically two dimensional, also encompasses sculpture in a wide range of materials. It is important to concentrate on creating a balanced mix of works. To allow greatest flexibility I try to limit myself to no more than 3 (occasionally 5) works by any given artist. Chances are that even with a diversity of taste, the works you select or own will work in harmony together. Sometimes reframing will be necessary to realize the full potential of a piece and to make it appear most effective with other artworks. On a real shoestring, you can create your own artwork. Striking fabric pieces can be readily stapled to stretchers no frame needed. Children’s artwork can be framed inexpensively and is usually better preserved than taped to a wall or stuck on the refrigerator. Antique prints can be picked up for a song at most flea markets, then frame it yourself with inexpensive frames. To augment a simple wood frame from your local discount center, glue on seashells, or dried flowers, even buttons, bits of broken china (mosaic style), or charms (available in most craft stores). You’ll enjoy a one of a kind craft wonder! Create a display from these either atop a mantel, on the length of a sofa table, or patterned against a wall (photo gallery). (Note: For best effect, keep an edge straight across the top or bottom of all hung pieces, and align them either to the right or left. Be consistent in the spacing between pieces. ) Again, as in collectibles, artwork of any sort should mean something to you, not just cover a spot on the wall!

The most significant lesson to be gained in the personalization of your house, the transformation to a home, is that this is your place. While you can certainly listen to your friends, your mother, and, of course, your designer - remember, your home is your own and what you want is what is truly important. The possibilities are endless!

© 2005 Melissa Galt

Melissa Galt, Lifestyle Designer, Speaker, & Author, is the owner of Melissa Galt, Inc. , a full service interior design firm based in Atlanta. She has been decorating clients’ homes all over the Southeast for more than a decade, making their interior visions come true. She speaks to audiences nationally , on how to use design as the catalyst for “creating the life you’ve always dreamed of". Melissa is the creator of Design Destinations, a free monthly guide to designing your signature life. To sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter, visit .


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