Can’t decide how to redecorate? Join the crowd


By Kim Cook

Full disclosure: I don’t suffer from the indecisive decorator affliction.

I take after my mother, who can nail the perfect paint shade from a hundred yards. We know what we like, and we know it when we see it.

But for many folks, who are more self-critical than self-confident, the journey to the ideal wall color or room style is fraught with angst. What if you choose wrong and visitors to your home snicker? What if you spend all that money and don’t get it right?

It doesn’t help that decorating options are so extensive today. Anyone who has stared down a six-foot-long wall of paint chips knows the feeling. There’s an encyclopedic sample book of sofa fabric. Wood flooring, tile, linoleum and carpet present hundreds more options. And what about window treatments, with a dozen versions of blinds alone?

We don’t know what we like, or we like everything.

That, experts say, leads to “decision paralysis,” whose sufferers just leave things as they are because choosing something different is overwhelming.

But they do have to paint that bedroom eventually. They have to buy something to sit on.

Here are five expert tips to make decor decisions a bit easier:

1. Look at yourself.

Seattle-based author and interior designer Nikki Willhite advises paying attention to what you’re drawn to in home magazines, other people’s homes and TV programs. Think about the colors in your wardrobe, too — chances are those colors and styles will translate into rooms you’ll love. If your closet is full of simple tones and clean lines, then neutral hues and tailored furnishings will appeal. If the drawers brim with pattern, let your home echo that exuberance.

2. Test-drive it.

Debra Kling, a color consultant in Larchmont, N.Y., recommends testing a large paint swath on all four walls.

“Observe the room over several days. You should especially like the color at the time of day, with the customary lighting, when you most often use the room,” she said.

The quality of light, the room’s orientation and the surrounding colors all have an effect on a paint shade.

“I also advise approaching color holistically — one room should work with the next in some way,” said Kling. “You can accomplish this by using related hues, or colors of similar value.”

As for furniture, some retailers will let you try a piece at home before committing.

Bring home samples of window treatments, wall and floor finishes, even cabinet doors. Live with them for a few days, moving them around to different vantage points.

3. Size it up.

Take a tape measure to the store, make sure the piece will fit your space, and sit or sprawl on it as you would at home.

A tightly-upholstered leather sectional might always look tidy, but nobody’s going to enjoy sitting on it if it isn’t comfy.

Willhite also recommends versatile pieces of furniture. “The more flexible the piece, the easier it is to place, and relocate,” she said.

4. Get a second opinion.

Always admired your neighbor’s decorating style? For the price of coffee and dessert, design-savvy friends are usually happy to offer ideas.

If you’re more comfortable putting yourself in the hands of a pro, ask around for recommendations. On Facebook, Benjamin Moore has launched an Experts Exchange, where you can talk to a designer or color pro before you choose your paint.

Benjamin Moore, Behr, Pittsburgh and Sherwin-Williams among others offer online programs where you can overlay paint shades on different room styles. Home magazines such as House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens offer similar options. Valspar’s website lets you download your own interior and exterior photos before trying out colors.

5. Show your personality, and relax.

After all, it’s your home, no one else’s. There are no design police. As many of TV’s home design shows point out, modern home decor doesn’t follow a playbook anymore.

However you arrive at your decorating decisions, trust your instincts, advises Mark Tyrrell, therapist and co-founder of the Oban, Scotland-based self-help program Uncommon Knowledge. “Don’t always insist on logical reasons for everything. Learn to say ‘because it feels right,’” he said.

He also urges people to use their imaginations. “Really sit down and envisage living with the decision. How does that feel?”

Tugend noted, “The only way to know something is to do it. And don’t worry about making a mistake — you might fall in love with it.” — AP