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Diary of a Mad Renovator: Decorating Tips

Written by Jaqui Lividini

Since we’re just waiting for the foundation to be poured, nothing too dramatic has been going on at Renovation Central.  So for this week’s post, I thought it would be helpful to talk to my good friend and decorator extraordinaire, Charles Riley, and share his top decorating tips.

Charles’ design aesthetic is vibrant.  He’s not afraid to use color, likes his clients to include personal items throughout their homes, and has an amazing eye for proportion and balance.  He’s helped me with my Manhattan apartment as well as my business L&Co’s headquarters.

So, without further ado, Charles’ tips for navigating some of the most vexing decorating questions:

COLOR:  Don’t be afraid of color!  Color is such a personal choice, but nothing enlivens a room more.  Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by it.  I like to say, “It’s only paint!”  One way to try out color is to buy small cans of paint in the colors you like and paint a patch of a wall, so that you can see it in natural daylight as well as at night.  Live with it for a bit and then make your decision.  You can always paint over the small test area.

In that same vein, I think that you really must see the color in the actual room.  Paint chips in a store do not give you the same sense of color as painting a bit of the room in your selection.  Nor does looking at a swatch of fabric in a showroom give you the same sense of the color and how you will live with it, as it does to look at the sample in the room.

Another tip when looking at paint chips:  If your eye is drawn to one of the darker palettes in the store, go with the color one shade lighter on the sample card. Often that lighter shade is just right when covering a large space.

SCALE:  Furniture out of context often belies its true size—it’s often in a huge showroom or all by itself on the internet.  In order to truly understand the size and scale of a piece of furniture, I like to tape it out in the room.  If you just look at the dimensions, it can be deceiving.  But placing an outline of the dimensions on your floor or wall in tape or newsprint really shows you how much space the piece will actually take up in the room.  This tip has been a lifesaver for many of my clients.

Visual aids

WINDOW TREATMENTS:  Every window should have a shade and a soft treatment with it.  Jaqui will probably disagree with me on this, but I like this combination because it softens the look of a room while also allowing the resident to control the light in the room as well as privacy. Window treatments dramatically change the way a room looks, and layering the windows is a great way to create a particular style.  Do you want to make the room look more formal or more casual?  You can do either by mixing patterns, colors, or stripes.  Sometimes if a client doesn’t want to use color on the walls, I am able to show them how much the room will come to life with a more dramatic window treatment.


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