All About ReDecorating

Decorating Without Fear

written by Fruma Efreom
Originally published in Grace Ormonde, Marriage Magazine, 2003.

The Newport Daily News

“You don’t have to be wealthy to need professional interior design help,”explains Lauri Ward, author of Use What You Have Decorating and Trade Secrets from Use What You Have Decorating.

Based on principles like, “you can never have too many pairs,”Ward has founded her own personally-trained network of disciples who provide one-day inexpensive in-home advice. Ward’s redecorators, called refiners, physically arrange furniture and accessories, recommend purchases or renovations, and draw-up detailed room plans that even specify floral choices.

Jan Girouard, owner of All About ReDecorating in Newport, Rhode Island is a refiner, listed on Ward’s national website, and on her own business website, Clients pay by the length of the room and typically need help with only one or two rooms.

Girouard analyzes the space the couple is or will be living in, its intended function, their furnishings, life-style, personality and tastes. Furniture is rearranged to create balance, cohesiveness, easy conversation areas, and traffic flow.

Overall, rooms are becoming simpler, more serene and less complicated –“less is more.”
—Jan Girouard
interior designer

When prioritizing future choices, interior decorating is compared to dressing a person (the shell), then clothes (the furniture) and finally jewelry (the accessories). Working within the shell, the priority moves from the top, the ceiling and lighting to the bottom, the floor. Expensive changes involving painting, flooring or window treatments depend on a couple owning the home. Then, larger projects take precedence over smaller ones.

Choices are based on the philosophy that people are looking to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed in their own home. They want a pleasant area where they can be themselves in a room that feels like them. They want to use every room in the house and they want low maintenance. Overall, rooms are becoming simpler, more serene and less complicated –“less is more.”

What a couple develops over time represents who they are. With each purchase, they are also creating memories. If a couple looks at magazines and continually pulls out the same styles or colors, then they can zoom in on what pieces to purchase. Girouard sees her job as getting couples started in the right direction. Many times, they know something is wrong with a room, but they need a second set of eyes, an outsider, to help them correct the mistakes.

Girouard never tells a client that a beloved piece “has to go.” If she can’t make it work in the room, she simply moves it to another room. She will go out shopping with them to prevent expensive overbuying — buying more pieces than needed or pieces too large for the scale of the room.

Matching pieces are preferred over individual unique pieces. While Ward mixes furniture styles, she does not mix light, medium and dark woods in the same room. Groups of family photos or art are both displayed in frames with matching finishes. Lamps with similar bases become pairs through new matching shades once their uneven heights is corrected by placing books, wood blocks or marble beneath the shorter base.

Couches and chairs are moved away from walls into an ideal “U” shape around a coffee table (with rounded corners) facing the room’s focal point, a large painting, fireplace, picture window or entertainment center. Seating is tightly grouped so that no one has to stretch to reach the table. Furniture of similar heights is always grouped together avoiding a “roller-coaster” look that draws the eye up and down.

Collections are always grouped together. Paintings, hung low on the wall, are only used on walls wider than three feet. One wall is always left bare. Larger art collections are rotated seasonally. Books are stacked cleanly along the outer edge of bookcase shelves. No posters, dolls, cutesy bric-a-brac, potpourri, elaborate switchplaces, pleated shades or stuffed animals are allowed. Area rugs are never used over wall-to-wall carpeting.

Color varies, avoiding “sweet” tones like pinks and peaches. Only paintings are exempted from matching the basic color scenes. In living rooms, three-way bulbs are recommended, in dining rooms frosted bulbs with dimmers are preferred. Clip-on shades further diffuse chandelier glare.

“Most people have a lot of what they need,” Ward notes, “they just don’t know how to use it properly. We educate and empower them. It just takes an hour or two to transform a room.”

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