Let’s face it: It’s not brain surgery. It’s not even plastic surgery. No one will die if you get it wrong and the worst thing that could happen is that you’ll have wasted a little time and money. That’s why I’m always baffled by people’s fear when it comes to decorating. I have one basic rule of thumb: If you love it, you should have it in your home. I think that your house should be a reflection of who you are. Whether you’re a risk taker, a mother, a lover or a new Canadian, it doesn’t matter. Your home is yours to decorate and yours to love. Having said that, we could all use the occasional help. So now, in the dismal depths of Canada’s cold, cold winter, here’s a little advice on injecting a serious dose of happy into your house.
1. Repaint: It’s a $50 investment that pays off in a big, big way. Whether you’re touching up chipped and scuffed baseboards and doors, or choosing a deliciously juicy hue to paint a single wall in your dining room, painting is probably the fastest and easiest way to liven up your house. If you’re craving order and calm, try a rich white tone to settle your mind, like Benjamin Moore’s Vapour, with crisp white trim in a glossy Cloud White. If you need warmth and comfort, try CIL’s Scroll Beige, with just the right amount of gray to be both trendy and classic. If you’re a trend-seeker try something riskier, like Farrow & Ball’s deliciously daring orange, Charlotte’s Locks. The point is that painting is easy to do and easy to change.
2. Wallpaper: I can’t get enough of the wallpaper trend. Mind you, I wouldn’t suggest wallpapering an entire room (or two) the way I did when I embraced the trend six years ago, unless you have absolutely no issue with decorating commitments. There’s still something decidedly old fashioned about an entirely wallpapered room, unless it’s a tiny space like a powder room or a front hall. Instead, create a focal point like the back wall of your bedroom, the backsplash in your kitchen or the wall behind your vanity. And don’t be afraid of changing your mind: Many of today’s wallpapers are manufactured to come off in one single strip. Or better yet, try self-adhesive wallpaper, like the ones made by Tempaperdesigns.com, which essentially work like a giant post-it for your walls. Now that’s what I call fun!
3. Tidy Up: This one comes free and may be a thorn in your side, but tidying up clutter is the best way I know to make my place feel less like a depository and more like a home. I have two small kids, and my two nieces often come over for play dates, so most of the time the front hall looks like a small scarf-and-mitten bomb has gone off. But once everyone has left and my children are in bed (are they ever cuter than when they sleep?), I swoop through the house and put everything back in its place. Baskets throughout make clean up a breeze. For those few hours, at least, my house feels calm and beautiful.
4. Personalize: There’s one thing that I find seriously depressing in a house, and that’s a lack of personality. Every once in a while I’ll walk into a home that is beautiful on the surface, but soulless. What makes a house sing are all the little bits and pieces that tell a story about who lives there. The painted rock paperweight holding down a stack of mail, the family photos and the slightly-out-of-place hand-me-down chair that you can’t part with — those are the things that really make a home shine.
5. Accessorize: I always tell people that putting a room together is like creating an outfit. If you were to look at yourself in the mirror after putting on your socks and jacket, you wouldn’t look quite right. Same goes for a room. If you start by picking out the throw pillows before you have the sofa, it’s not going look cohesive. But once all the pieces are in place, adding a colourful vase is like a touch of lipstick. Pillar candles are like earrings. A gilded mirror is like a chunky belt. A plain room is good, but a bejeweled room is better.
6. Bloom: Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me or my home happier than a giant bunch of flowers. The more the better. I favour simple flowers, so I love a large number of a single bloom, be it tulips, roses, hydrangea or even carnations. Cut the stems short and fill a variety of vases or glasses, then pepper them throughout the house.
7. Edit: Maybe this is a little like tidying, but every once in a while I look around my house and feel like I’m drowning in stuff. We all do it; we see something fabulous, instantly bring it home and set it on the mantel. That’s fine for the first few things – one white ceramic bird on a pile of books is quirky and fun, but twenty ceramic birds might be a little Hitchcock-esque. So before the crew of Hoarders descends upon your home, get rid of two thirds of your stuff. Give it away, stash it somewhere to bring out later, donate it or have a garage sale. Not only will it make your space seem larger and somehow cleaner, it’ll also free up room for spring shopping!
8. Take a Risk: The size of the risk will depend entirely on both the size of your wallet and your confidence. Choose those wild turquoise dishes you love over the simple white ones you know are a classic, or upholster a side chair in watermelon velvet instead of safe camel; that little risk you let yourself take will make you smile every time you see it. Take a cue from Jonathan Adler’s Happy Chic books and add a little kitsch to your house. At the very least, it’ll be a conversation starter next time your girlfriends gather for a play date with the kids.
9. Add Colour: We’ve all been told over and over to play it safe and choose neutral colours for larger pieces of furniture. I couldn’t agree more. A lime green sofa might not be a good idea, but how about a lime-green pillow? Fa-bu-lous. Aqua ceramic table lamp? Amazing. A green 1970s-style glass ashtray to hold jewelry? Love it. Your home should be filled with the colours you adore. And if you’re a modernist and don’t generally go for brighter hues, try dark grey, chocolate brown or even black to give any room a little oomph.
10. Cue Your Senses: Add a little sensuality to a room — and not just the bedroom or the dining room. Catering to your sense of smell and touch, as well as sight, are easy ways to make a room feel more alive. Try playing with textures like velvet and silk, using subtly scented candles like the ones from Lucia, and don’t forget music as an easy way to help you reach nirvana in your living room at the end of a long day.