It’s officially official now – I’m engaged, and the contract has been signed on the beautiful Connecticut house with 15 acres! My husband has now finally seen it and thinks that it is spectacular. The place ticks all the boxes, but now I’m in this phase where I have cold feet. Did we make the right decision, or am I suffering from a typical case of ‘house fomo’? I’m trying to squash those thoughts, especially by getting rid of all communication with real estate agents in both areas we were looking to buy and getting rid of notifications about new listings online. I am avoiding buyer’s remorse at all costs, and things are starting to get exciting now!
However, I am a bit nervous because we closed on our current house on June 25th and move into our new home on August 17th. That leaves us with a considerable gap. I can solve that problem, except there is one more significant issue. I have fully designed the new space, taken measurements, and have everything listed out, but nowhere to ship items. I’m in limbo between both spaces for now, so let’s jump into answering some of our questions from the mailbag.
This episode, I answer questions about…
[6:39] Narrowing down a new style for a hallway (Nicola)
Hi Betsy! I asked a question earlier this year, and you gave me some great advice, but I now need help with my hallway! It’s going to be decorated in a few weeks (there are some serious holes in the plasterboard (drywall) that I need a decorator to repair anyway, so I’m taking the opportunity to redecorate. I just don’t know what to do with it! It has absolutely no natural light as I’m in an apartment, and lots of doors coming off it. It’s an L shape with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a living/dining/kitchen room off it, as well as a large built-in cupboard. The cupboard doors are completely flat, so I plan to treat them like the wall, but all the other doors are contemporary wood veneer. Eventually, I’d love to replace them with some nicer doors I can paint, but for now, the wood effect doors are staying! I’m going quite colorful in the rest of my apartment – the blue paint swatch you can see taped to the wall in the picture is the color I’m doing in my kitchen/living/dining room, and my bedroom will be pink. My 2-word phrase is relaxed preppy, and I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from Key West/Miami Beach for colors.
Do I embrace how dark the hall is and go dark? I’ve heard a lot of people saying to do that in darker rooms, but it’s not really my vibe. I’d considered using that same blue color in the hall, but somehow I’m just not really loving it there. I have also considered wallpaper, hence the sample on the wall – would that be too busy? I’d previously thought about doing some simple paneling to halfway up or 2/3 of the way up the wall, but I wonder if there are too many doors to make that look good. Basically, I just have too many ideas and, unusually for me, can’t seem to come up with a vision for this hall! Sorry for the essay, but thank you for your advice!
First things first, when it comes to wooden doors you want to consider the quality. If the wood is cheap, then you could paint it. However, if the wood is higher quality, then you may not want to paint those. Given that the wood is a cheaper material, I would recommend painting them the same color as the trim because it will give the whole area of beautiful facelift.
My second recommendation is that we want to keep in mind having too many colors within one view like my idea of the skittles effect. If I’m walking down the hallway and there’s no door to close off the pink bedroom or the vibrant blue living room dining room kitchen, we want to be mindful about not seeing this rainbow of fruit flavors. Ideally, I only want to see two ROYGBIV colors and the rest would be neutral or lighter, lighter versions or darker versions of those colors.
The wallpaper that you have in one of your images has variations of teal, like a caribbean or ocean blue, and moves into lighter tones in a scalloped pattern. The scalloped outer edge itself is a dark teal or turquoise, while inside the scalloped pattern has a fan design with a lighter teal. There is a lot going on with this medium-sized patterned wallpaper, but I’m pleased with your choice because the light teal paint that you have planned to bring in plays off the fan-shape color of the wallpaper. With the hallway being a utilitarian, L-shaped design, the wallpaper will be just fine as it has that medium-sized pattern. It would be different if the pattern was larger or smaller and you had to break it up with many cuts down the hallway to fit around the many doorways.
The idea of doing the same blue that’s in the living, dining, and kitchen areas isn’t something I absolutely love. It would be a lot of that blue color in that big open space. If you continued that color throughout the hallway, it will loose it impact and make the space seem neutral after using it so much. Facing these questions while designing a space, I like to do the process of elimination.
I would eliminate the idea that we are going to be using the same blue paint color for the reasons I just mentioned. I am open to the wallpaper idea as it is certainly growing on me. So I’m not really open to the idea of doing some kind of molding two-thirds of the way up or a third of the way up. This hallway is broken up by so many actual doors and so many openings that it’s going to be too much architecturally and molding is an architectural feature.
Another option for you is doing a painted a neutral, an interesting runner rug on the floor, some interesting art in a few specific locations along the L shape, and some amazing light fixtures to help add illumination to the space and serve as little sculptural pieces that provide visual interest. Either keep it neutral because this space is starting to sound a little loud, or go with the wallpaper option.
You said that your two-word phrase was preppy and relaxed. Key West totally goes with the relaxed word, but when I think of preppy, Connecticut comes to mind (not that I plan to go with preppy in the new house). The key with the two-word phrase is that it’s truly personal. You want to create a two word phrase that lights you up and is clear when you’re out shopping for items that you can say yes or no. Seeing as how we’re in different countries, you’re using the word cupboard for closet, I have a feeling we might be using different words for preppy, as well. So just dial in and make sure that the two-word phrase you pick truly resonates with you and doesn’t conflict with the inspiration you provided.
Key West and Miami Beach, to me, are two totally separate ideas. Miami Beach is more urban and fun. It may have some art deco but definitely 80s. I think Miami Vice, pastels, and some neons. For Key West, I’m thinking total beach vibe, laid back, shop-worn, and Ernest Hemingway’s kind of Key West with those Victorian style homes.
Make sure that you stick with one idea, not six. I’m worried based on the paint color, wallpaper, and loads of ideas that you have, that you may cram everything into one house versus stepping back to say, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to have a Key West bedroom, and a Miami Beach living, dining, and kitchen area. I’m also going to keep that flowing through the hallway, which is clearly visible from that area,” so pare down the ideas so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
You can have a different two-word phrase for areas that are closed off with a door, but open areas really need to feel quite consistent. The last word you want to think about when creating that two word phrase, the word I’m most worried about in this equation is sophisticated, is that those ideas can start to deteriorate. Sophistication can take away from that elevated idea we’re going for because even if you didn’t hire a designer, and you’re doing this on your own, you still want it to look like it was professionally done and look aspirational when people come in. I hope that helps Nicola.
[17:27] Recent move into a rental home space that needs more style (Erin)
Hi Betsy, thank you so much for the educational and entertaining content you provide, I just love it!!! My family and I recently moved into a rental home – like you, we wanted to take advantage of the hot, hot, hot real estate market! I have furnished and styled the rental with 100% existing pieces from my former home, which incidentally was a much larger Mediterranean-style home that we purchased and furnished in 2003. Since I bought everything before I “met” you, I am wondering if you could help me “Betsy-fy” my home retroactively?
I think I have a fairly consistent color palette, although I don’t know that it fits into the 60/30/10 formula, and I did my best accessorizing with what I have. What ideas could you share with me, ways I could change the decor to make the home look better? I’m willing to spend a little bit as we may be here 2-3 years, but in an ideal world, I wouldn’t buy anything. Also, what would you say my two-word phrase is? Thank you so much for your suggestions!
It is really helpful for me to understand what you have going on in your space, so thank you for sharing pictures of your family room, living room, entryway, and other small zones throughout the space. For starters, you’ve got the right mentality about not over investing in a rental that you’ll only be in for two to three years. Who knows what your next move will be, especially since you received a good bit of money from the sale of your home. Save that little nest egg and build it up so that when you move again, you are able to buy furniture that fits into your new cohesive vibe.
With the two different styles and spaces, I want to address how it doesn’t feel as cohesive. Let’s not worry about perfection here. Perfect is your next space in 2-3 years. We are going for good enough and you are there. For your family room and living room, in terms of style, I would call them contemporary. You have clean-lined pieces with geometric shapes. There are no ornate details. It looks as though everything is available right now, and that is contemporary design of the moment.
You have a big leather sectional in a camel color with the coordinating ottoman that has a tray on top. You have two tufted arm chairs that have extremely high backs so they almost make a dramatic style statement in the same room with a baby grand piano. That feels right at home with the word drama.
You also have a curved sofa, which is definitely of the moment. The entryway and the console in the family room start to move us in a different direction. Those pieces are not transitional, which is a combination of contemporary and traditional. The entryway console and the family room console are downright traditional. They have heavy carving and are very ornate like they came from a different time and era with a mahogany type wood tone. Does it feel cohesive with the other items going on? No. Does it need feel cohesive for 2-3 years? I’m not sure.
With the contemporary pieces that you have above the traditional pieces, I love that you have a contemporary abstract piece of art above the family room console. It brings out the red, green, and blue colors from the carpet in the family room along with the decorative pillows on the leather sofa. Nice job with that color scheme.
You can easily pull a 60/30/10 with the formula using the rug as the inspiration piece. If you used the art piece as the inspiration, you could easily pull 10 or more colors to create your color palette. You’re on the right track. Incorporating a few more things with those specific colors will help you make a clear statement. It appears that red is the 60 portion of the formula, but I’m not sure what the 30 and 10 are for you. These colors can be added by using secondary pillows, throw blankets, a colorful end table, a chunky painted basket, or any number of ways.
In terms of the entryway console that’s a three drawer chest, again, it is very ornate and very traditional. On top of that, you’ve put a circular transitional mirror with a black, geometric-carved frame that’s black. I don’t love that you put both the mirror and art piece above each console since both are wider than the console themselves. Typically, I love a piece above an art piece or a mirror or a wall hanging to be 50% to 75% of the length of the furniture piece it’s above. That goes for sofas, headboards, credenzas, buffets and your situation with consoles. Again, let’s focus on the fact that we’re making this good enough, not perfection.
In cases like this with clients, I believe it’s important to just shake things up with what you already have. For instance, above your curved sofa, you have a relatively small piece of art, it appears to be relatively transitional, so to change things up a little, let’s hang that abstract piece that’s quite large above the sofa instead to keep the traditional pieces together. I can’t see the whole layout, but I do love the idea that you’re mixing things.
Because you’re mixing pieces, you may want to create a style word that encourages the mix, like whimsical, or eclectic. For now, there’s not enough going on to truly label it eclectic, but I think the feeling word could certainly be whimsical. The style word could be contemporary, and maybe choose to ignore those two traditional pieces. It really is up to you in figuring out where your style is going and what pieces to ditch in the new space.
Oftentimes, randomly placed consoles are just crap collectors. Ask yourself if these things are just collecting dust, or are they serving a function? If the answer is no, I’m going to sell this on Facebook marketplace, or something like that to get rid of. We don’t want to fill a space just to fill it, especially if it’s causing a problem for the design of the room. That’s my two cents, Erin.
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