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A Few of The Most Commonly Asked Decorating Questions

Here are some of the most common decorating questions that I have been asked over the years.

What Colour Should I Paint My Walls?

turquoise chair
You can take a cue from your wardrobe – what colours do you love to wear. Which ones get you the most complements? You may love Turquoise or Fuchsia but cannot imagine it in your living room.

My philosophy is not to be afraid of colour – embrace it! Colour is closely tied to our emotions so using the colours we love can only be good, right?

Well…. bright/strong colours look great as T-shirts, blouses and bangles – but head to toe… not so much!  One wall painted a strong colour can look amazing, but often a whole room can just be overwhelming.
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So choose a turquoise chair or pillow that you love, and look at the paint chips to see which colours work with that turquoise and consider using one of those on the other walls.

The colour you see on the paint chips is small and often hard to imagine over a large area. If you take the colour chip you like and place it on a sheet of plain white paper, you will see it separated from other colours and get a better idea of it’s true colour value.  If possible I always suggest painting a small area to be able to see it at different times of the day and at also at night in artificial light.

People also ask if they should paint the same colour on every wall, or even the whole house. Unfortunately there is no right answer. It is all about design, planning and personal taste.

A smart idea is to select a complete colour scheme or palette for the whole house, then these decisions are much easier. You have a family of colours you can choose from, and everything from paint and fabric colours to accessories and art colours can be referenced there.

Here in the jungle we are a lot more casual about these things, but if your home is beautiful and well put together, you will enjoy it so much more. (Watch for an upcoming article on “Why does my house make me feel crabby?”)

How Should I Arrange My Furniture?

furniture arrangementEvery room, house design and person is different but  ‘Function’, ‘Focal Point’, and ‘Flow’ are the big three considerations. Ask yourself how do I use that room, and how many other people will use it, where is the focal point (view, TV, architectural interest) and how do we move through the space. That will help you decide where to place your furniture. Start with the largest piece first and work on from there.

Do try and avoid placing it all around the walls unless it is a very small room. The chairs and sofas need to relate and ‘talk’ to each other, so allow an absolute maximum of 10′ between seating to create comfortable conversation groups.

Think about convenience too. Have some small tables near the seating, and plenty of table or floor lamps so you can set the mood and level of lighting depending on if you are entertaining, reading or watching TV.

For a dining area, you should allow at least 2’9″ clearance for each diner to access chairs, but you will need a minimum of 3’3″ to pass behind the chairs. Keep this in mind when choosing your dining table.

What Style Of Furniture Should I Choose?

Because we live in Costa Rica many people choose a more tropical style with bamboo, rattan etc. but others prefer  their home to be more along the lines of a vacation villa and style it as they would have back home. Others know they want something different, but just cannot fix on what that is.

furniture styles

Many fabulous rooms we see featured in magazines are not of a specific style, and they say more about the people living there, and reflect  their personality and taste.  I would never believe anyone who has chosen to live in beautiful Costa Rica is devoid of either of these attributes, but you can still have trouble discovering just how to interpret that personality into a design style.

There are many things to bear in mind. Try to avoid having everything match. Make your room feel as if it has been collected over time, and instead of a matching sofa and loveseat, choose a sofa, and a couple of interesting accent chairs. Add a funky or unusual side table, and there are no rules about matching end or night tables any more.  If you love something think about why, and how it makes you feel. If it is just because it is a bargain, or if it looks like something you saw in a fancy magazine, then you should probably think again. It always needs to work with the other furniture in that room.

More important than style perhaps is design. Whatever you put into your room should work happily with the other elements in that room. They can add contrast, but there should still be harmony. Ideally there should be a variety of heights and textures – but not to the point of distraction! Your local furniture store can often help with advice and design ideas.

How do I Arrange and Hang Art Correctly?

hanging artThis is another one of those you-can-break-the-rules situations. So many things used to be formally arranged and strict rules were applied to keep ‘orderliness’ in Victorian times. Conversely, they hated any surface to appear bare so art was often hung salon-style from almost the floor to the ceiling!

Today, we have much more freedom and as long as the art has a relationship to the space and its surroundings, it is usually fine. Unless you have a very high ceiling, you can hang your art so the bottom third is about eye level (58″ is considered eye-level). If it is a small piece on a large wall, think about making a grouping with similar themed art, or art that shares a similar colour, or frame.

Can I Mix Wood Colours?

As I already mentioned, our approach down here is much more casual, so mixing wood colours is not taboo the way it used to be. Some woods have a warmer tone and contain more red, some more yellow. As long as you stay in that range you can go lighter or darker and they will look fine.

Often the grain of the wood will show different tones too, so let nature help you decide. 

Can I Mix Different Metal Finishes?

mixing metalsWith metal, there are the warm tones, and the cooler tones. Warm metals are gold, brass, copper etc. Cool metals include silver,  chrome and steel. You can mix them, but choose a dominant tone and accent with the other .For example, if your style is modern then the cooler tones of chrome and steel would be your dominate metal tones, and you can accent with a few pieces in a warm finish without taking away the modern edge.  Also consider the sheen level. Mixing shiny and matte finishes can give you a great look, but remember they must always be in harmony.

I hope we have helped answer some of your design questions here, and if not – just let me know! There are many design tricks and tips to help create great living spaces, and this is just the tip of the preverbal iceberg. Despite what is written here there are design ‘rules’ – some can be bent, and some broken, and some of the most inspired interiors are often unexpected mixes of colour, pattern and texture expertly crafted using these rules.

Until next time…


Royal Palm Interiors – Uvita  – 2743-8323

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