Sometimes, a better living space doesn’t need drastic change. It just needs the right touches, and that’s often with the help of smart design and some helpful guidance.
Some people are blessed with an eye for design; some people have other talents. If you fall in the latter category, your home may benefit from the meticulous eye of an expert who understands scale, proportion and style.
The goal of interior designers, furniture consultants and interior decorators is to listen to your needs before carefully curating a home that you’ll enjoy for years to come. What color should you paint your walls? What art should you hang on them afterwards? What couch makes the most sense for your lifestyle? Do throw pillows look nice, or do they clutter up the space?
All of these could be stressful decisions you make yourself, or they could be stress-free decisions you delegate to local experts who are passionate about creating inspiring spaces.
Falling in Love with Your Space
Having accessories and decor you love can make all the difference in how you feel about your living space, says Robert Madden, furniture design consultant at Benson Stone Co., 1100 11th St. in Rockford.
“A well-organized, well-executed interior design is crucial to one’s outlook and state of mind,” he says. “One’s home environment should evoke feelings of delight, comfort and satisfaction. I tell clients if you don’t love it, it’s not right.”
Interior decor includes “everything,” Madden adds. From rugs to bookshelves, each piece plays a crucial role in a room’s overall aesthetic.
“It’s literally a work of art,” Madden says. “Think of it as a painting. Having worked with an interior designer in Los Angeles for 20 years managing installations, receiving and placing rugs and furniture, staging bookshelves in home offices, setting up desks, setting up kitchens, hanging artwork, it’s all important.”
That said, the thing most people neglect, which makes a huge difference to the warmth of a room, is artwork, Madden adds.
“Bare walls make a room look flat and cold,” he explains. “Art is so important. After that, in my opinion, would be texture and color.”
Madden has noticed color palettes are trending toward greens and blues, shades of rose, and creams and warm earth tones lately.
Accessories can include anything that looks interesting, such as repurposed objects, sculptures, ceramics, glass pieces and more. The most effective accessories are things with a personal connection, “things that relate to one’s heritage or ancestors, or inspire one’s interests,” he describes.
Lamps are also an opportunity to express one’s personal style in a unique, fun, exciting and useful way, he adds.
At Benson Stone, Madden and his teammates help clients to coordinate, strategize and execute an entire plan for their home in one place. The one-stop shop covers all elements of remodeling and decorating from start to finish.
“We have experienced, knowledgeable people to help with every aspect of the process,” Madden says. “When helping someone discover their style, I ask how they live. I listen to what their preferences are and then begin to suggest things that speak to that. In this way, we begin to narrow down choices based on what they like, staying away from focusing on what they don’t like.”
The end goal is to love your space, so that you can ultimately live a better, happier life.
“Designing one’s interior space should be an enjoyable, exciting and fun experience,” he continues. “It’s the space from which we create the life we live, because our environment has such a strong influence on our attitudes, and our attitude is everything when we go out into our daily lives.”
Madden has the following advice for those seeking to redesign or redecorate:
- Find a design professional who will listen to your preferences;
- Talk to them about how you live and what is important to you;
- Listen to your designer, as they have access to many options you may not have thought to consider. “Work with your design professional, not against them,” Madden says.
His passion for helping clients stems from being an artist.
“I enjoy creating an environment for clients that best represents them and the way they live,” he says. “Our personal environments should uplift us and inspire us to live and be better. So, however I can contribute to that excites me. One’s home is the foundation of one’s personal experience. Invest in it. Love it, and it will nurture you.”
Avoid “Cheap” Furniture and Accessories
Not everyone needs to completely remodel their home to achieve a space they love. Many times, a space just needs an aesthetic update, and new furniture and/or accessories are just the trick.
“A lot of times when we get somebody in, they pretty much know what kind of look they want,” says Robert Wozniak, owner of Strode’s Furniture, 11707 Main St. in Huntley. “However, they don’t always know colors for accents, or things like that. We can help them make selections.”
In addition to owning the store, Wozniak personally seeks out decor and accessories to sell there. Sometimes, this involves traveling out of state to find the most unique high-quality pieces.
“We have a large selection of artwork, clocks and accessories for tables and hutches and things like that,” Wozniak says. “It’s not the usual stuff you would find at some of the bigger stores. When we buy things, we try to be a bit more selective.”
Whenever possible, Wozniak searches for products that are made in the United States, including Amish-made furniture. Sometimes, that’s not always possible, but no matter what, he stays away from accessories that look “cheap.”
“Our accessories look richer,” he says. “We stay away from throwaway furniture and find quality products that will last you a lifetime.”
A house can look plain when it doesn’t have any accents in it, Wozniak adds. Wall decorations, table arrangements, area rugs and other decorative touches can add a warmer feeling to a space and give it a homier impression.
Not to mention, these items can also cut down on the echo of a room.
“When you add accessories, especially on the floor and walls, it gets rid of any empty sound in a room,” Wozniak says.
Right now, he’s seeing more brushed brass being used to finish accessories, especially when it comes to fixtures like hanging lights or table lights.
“Before, polished brass used to be more popular, but it’s kind of outdated a bit,” Wozniak says.
Brushed brass has a more matte look than polished brass.
“And it goes with pretty much any stain color on furniture,” Wozniak says.
“We’re also going away from that farmhouse look and more toward a transitional look,” he continues. “But you can always mix some of your older pieces in with newer pieces.”
When it comes to advice, Wozniak tells people to avoid doing everything at one time. First, he recommends getting the main pieces in a room. After that, it’s good to accessorize and decorate around those pieces.
“I say that because sometimes you have to live with something for a little bit to get a feel for how it sits in your room,” he says. “In our house, my wife can look at a room and she knows exactly how it’s going to look. She’s really good at that. She can picture it in her mind, and when it’s all done it’s exactly what she was thinking. And every time she does it, it just turns out gorgeously. Some people are blessed with that, and others have to work at it a little bit.”
For those who need the extra help, Strode’s Furniture can connect customers with interior designers who do entire projects from start to finish. But when customers know what they want, they can also opt to simply ask Wozniak or his staff for assistance with furniture and accessory selection. Either way, Wozniak loves to see the final product.
“When we have someone help with decorating, we always ask the customer if they can send or bring in a picture of what the room is like when it’s finished,” Wozniak says. “We love seeing how it all turns out.”