DDH Decorating Ideas

Making the Most of Space

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Getting the proper framework of a home is essential to any decorative scheme. It is only logical that the first thing to consider is the use, and if necessary, the visual expansion of the space at your disposal. This should be thought out before altering or installing any lighting or essential services such as heating and air conditioning, and certainly before you begin to think of styles and color schemes because all of these things will be dependant on how you decide to use and enhance your rooms.

Sensible apportioning of space clearly depends upon lifestyle. Conventional wisdom has it that open-plan or multi-functional space has much to recommend it for the single or those without kids. But a family has to balance the need for as much elbow room as possible with the equally pressing need for occasional privacy and quiet, which means different spaces for work and play, for adults and children.

This presupposes a proportion of general areas for everyone’s use with private spaces for individuals; a ration of formal space and a ration of informal. All the same it may be easier, for example, to organize so-called reception room space into one large kitchen-dining-living-working-play space with bedrooms and bathrooms off it to which people can retire to sit and read, or talk or work whenever they need to be alone.

Assuming that major structural work is out of the question, the consideration must be how to make the space work to its best advantage and seem more expansive. Careful exploration of all the possibilities within an existing building can make all the difference to its feeling of spaciousness, if not to its square footage. At a very simple level, a home that is owned as opposed to being rented, might well be improved by the elementary expedient of changing the function of various rooms, or by changing the layout. It is taken for granted in many houses, that bedrooms are upstairs and living rooms downstairs, but if the view and the light are better higher up, why not live up there and sleep below?

Again, landings and hallways and under staircase areas should be used to their maximum advantage. It is surprising how often you can fit the odd desk or table for eating, a mural, or even a piano.

Expanding Space By Furniture Arrangement

The least expensive and most obvious way to gain apparent extra space is to be rigorous about the amount and type of furniture that is used and its arrangement. Pare down as much as possible, but not to the extent that all individuality is lost in the process.

As a guide:

  • Two small sofas look neater than four club chairs.
  • Two small seating units pushed together take up less room than two individual chairs spaced apart.
  • Storage all down one wall that includes desks, cabinets for TV, DVD player, stereo equipment and space for books, CD’s, drinks etc. will be better than a hole lot of separate items.
  • Corners can be used more for cupboards, desks and shelves.
  • Built-in corner units, window seats or seats with storage under them can be tucked in wherever possible to avoid clutter.
  • Tables, occasional tables and desks made of Plexiglas or glass or surfaced in mirror look much lighter and more insubstantial than the same pieces made in wood or topped in marble.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Expanding Space with Mirrors

Mirrors will always give depth and added length and width to a room.

If it can be afforded, a mirror may be used on one whole wall, in a dark corner, or used generously from floor to ceiling and right up to a corner if the space could do with visual doubling. If you have two tall windows, you can fill the space in between with a mirror extending from the floor (or top of a baseboard) to the top of the window height. This will make an enormous difference in brightness and the illusion of space.

If you do not like the look of a plain mirror, you can always edge large pieces with lengths of picture framing proportioned to suit the size. This will not give so much of an illusion of doubled space as floor to ceiling slabs, but it will still add substantially to the feeling of generous space and light.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Expanding Space Cosmetically

There are various simple rules for exaggerating or diminishing a given area:

  • The same floor covering running through a whole apartment or small house maximizes floor space.
  • If walls and ceilings are kept the same color as well, the space will appear to flow uninterruptedly. Even variations on the same color scheme from room to room (i.e., putty color walls and white trim in one room; white walls and putty colored trim in another and so on) will give an illusion of more space because of the continuity.
  • The lighter the floor and wall color, the bigger the room will seem. Pale colors recede; strong, intense or dark colors tend to come towards you. If a ceiling is too high for the proportions of a room, a strong color will appear to bring it down. If it is too low, a light shade or white will appear to heighten it.
  • A continuous border or band or stripe of a contrast color, or a subtly contrasted cornice or picture moulding around a room, will make a room look “finished” but spacious.
  • Shine and reflection will increase a sense of space. A matte surface will slightly diminish it.
  • An over-scale piece of furniture, large painting or mirror in a small room, contrary to convention, will actually make a small room look larger, mostly because one would not imagine a piece of this scale would fit into a small space. Equally, small living rooms can take in more furniture than you could imagine if you treat them like comfortable studies or dens.
  • Patterns with a strong directional or geometric feel appear to push out and therefore extend floors and walls. Patterned carpets or floor and wall coverings with a light ground give a feeling of depth. Patterns on a dark ground are more enclosing. If you choose an all-over motif on walls, try the same motif in a much smaller scale for curtains or shades, slipcovers and cushions. This will appear to push the walls out.
  • Take advantage of any long view to be had from a window. Window treatments or furniture should not be allowed to impede the view in any way that would prevent the eye from being drawn into the distance.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Think consciously of creating a foreground, middle ground and background to create a sense of perspective. A mirror on a table or mantelshelf with a plant or object reflected in it; a hinged screen with a table and lamp in front of it; a window with permanently tied-back panels and a window shade used as the covering; diagonal stripes on floor. All draw the eye out or through to create the illusion of more space.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

What tips do you adhere to to make the most of your space? I’d love to hear from you!


International Designer Mary Gilliatt


Contrasting Scale and Balance
May 14, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Wild prints can modernize a traditional space. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The importance of developing a good sense of scale and balance is often underestimated in decorating. By this I mean knowing how to contrast height and width with furniture; when to use large designs or patterns in fabrics and wallpapers and when small; when to balance solidity with delicacy; and when to offset an angle with a curve. All of these things are just as crucial to the final effect of a room as a sense of style and color, and the sort of sensitivity to a building and its internal proportions which will intuitively suggest the way it should best be treated.

Some people are born with an accurate sense of scale and balance just as others are born with perfect pitch or a useful color sense or automatically knowing what style to use where. But although perfect pitch is an absolute and is either there or not, a sense of scale and proportion can be developed with time and experience, just as one can develop a good sense of color and style, which is, at the very least, encouraging.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

A study in balance and contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

As for all issues of decorating I would advise looking through books and magazines and analyzing rooms that you particularly admire, but this time for the arrangement of furniture and accessories and for the various contrasts of patterns and colors. Look too, at your own rooms and ask yourself these questions:

  • What flashes of color would be enhanced with a little repetition here and there? Could, for example, the color of a chair at one end of a room be repeated in a painting or decorative object, or flowers, or a throw cushion or a rug somewhere else in the room? Or could the colors in say a vase or a ceramic table be picked up by the ceramic base of a lamp?
  • Are there any nice contrasts you could make to vary the pace a little? Like a hard-edged marble of glass coffee table in front of a squashy sofa; a rug on a large expanse of Coir matting, or polished wood or limestone floor; a pattern on fabric repeated in a different color way, or in reverse effect, or in a larger or smaller scale?
  • What shapes can be effectively juxtaposed? A rococo or Louis XV1 chair with the straight legs of an upholstered stool? A tall, vertical screen with the jagged edges of a low, spreading plant set in a basket beneath it?
  • Do you have only one large piece in the room, say a long sofa, with a lot of smaller pieces? Or just one tall object, say a long case clock, with a lot of low pieces?

Although there is definite contrast here, in both cases it is a rather awkward contrast.
It would look better to balance such a sofa with a big desk or a sofa or work table, so that you have several anchor pieces around which the rest of the furnishings could revolves.  Equally, a tall piece should be balanced by a bookcase or storage unit, an armoire, a large mirror, or a big painting, or a group of paintings that starts high on the wall. Do not, however, choose a piece of art or mirror that is actually bigger than the piece of furniture below (like a chest, side table or dresser) or the effect will be top heavy.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mix styles for dramatic contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

  • Do you have just one lonely mirror or small painting on a large expanse of wall? If you do, try to expand the items into a group, or series of groups. A very large mirror or painting are fine on their own if the wall is not too large.
  • Are your pieces of furniture and accessories all one level or all on one scale? This can look needlessly boring. Always try to vary the height of furnishings. Have at least one or two taller pieces such as groups of art or a large painting or mirror as mentioned above, or a tall plant or two. You could offset a tall piece of sculpture or a screen in one corner of a room with a large plant, or a plant standing on a column or pedestal in another
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mixing scales and textures. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly, one fail safe way to make sure a room will work to its best advantage as far as scale and balance are concerned is to draw up the room to scale on graph paper, similarly draw to scale and cut out the various pieces of furniture and large accessories and move them around until you have found what you think is the best juxtaposition.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

Mother’s Day Make-Over Contest Winner
May 7, 2010, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Contest, Decorating | Tags: ,

Congratulations Stephanie!!

DecorDreamHome Contest Winner

Stephanie is the Grand Prize Winner in our Mother’s Day Make-Over Contest. She wins a $500 Gift Certificate on http://www.DecorDreamHome.com and consultation with a Decor&You decorating professional.

We can’t wait to see the results, Stephanie.

Also winners are Hazel and Deb who each win $150 Gift Certificates to http://www.DecorDreamHome.com!

Thank You everyone for participating and casting your votes. You are winners too – Our Facebook fans get 10% OFF their orders when they use promo code FB10 when purchasing.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thank You for Voting
May 7, 2010, 11:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Voting is now closed for the Mother’s Day Bedroom make-over Contest!

All your votes will be tallied and the winner will be announced shortly!

DDH Mother’s Day Contest Finalists – VOTE NOW!
May 5, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Contest, Interior Design

OK, so we know this was a quick contest to pull together and we didn’t get the submissions we were hoping for but I think you’ll agree that all of these contenders are worthy of the Grand Prize – but it’s you who gets to vote for who will win the Grand Prize – $500 DecorDreamHome.com Gift Certificate and design consultation!

Our first Finalist is Stephanie. This is what her daughter wrote about her mom:

My mom deserves a bedroom makeover that lets her wake up each morning with a fresh start to her day and a comforting space to relax in. Both my parents, especially my mom, have fought through what life has thrown at us. Our family has been through a lot of up and downs and she keeps looking towards the future. She is extremely supportive and giving. When I moved out into the world on my own she gave a lot that she had to me, so that I could live comfortably. She has always extended her hand to others never taking care of herself first. I believe if you can sleep and wake up in a comfortable space it sets the tone for the rest of your day, and will give my mom the energy to keep striving and hoping for the best. Everything that my mom has been through, I try to be there for her every day. I always feel the burden of what they are going through and feel like there is nothing I can do to ease the pain. I wish I could take all the weight off her shoulders, and take care of her for once, as she took such good care of me. So if this can be even just a little way to help I am certainly going to try. My mom deserves to know how much her children appreciate everything she has done for us, and how much we love her. Thank you.

Here is Stephanie’s bedroom:

ddh mother's Day contest 1

DDH Mother's Day Contest 2
DDH Mother's Day Contest 3

Our next contestant is Hazel:

I’d like to nominate… MYSELF! We recently moved into our DREAM home out in the country. We love it here but it is a really old house in need of a lot of work. The needs come before the wants at the moment.
With all the stress of running my own business and trying to make the house livable, I would love to retreat to a cozy spot at the end of the day! Thanks so much for offering such a wonderful gift! Good Luck to all the entries! Sincerely, Hazel

Editor’s Note: Had to share this wonderful comment someone wrote about Hazel:

Dear Voters~ I just want to share why i voted for Hazel. I know her, and she is a nice woman. She works like a dog from home and rarely has time for herself let alone her house. She has young kids too and is often focused on them as well. A few months back, she gave me some side work through her business which helped me out. Most; recently, my own property flooded in Richmond, KY and Hazel came to our rescue and offered to watch my little boys while we cleaned up mud. I would have not gotten as much done as fast without help like that from a real caring friend.

About her house: well, this place is an old beauty. It deserved to be loved by a new owner like Hazel. The last person in it really ran it down and damaged it. Hazel fits in there perfectly with her eclectic visions.

I hope she wins to create the space she needs, because she is well deserving, and I would be more than happy to go there to help her pull it all together.

Good Luck Hazel

I'd like to nominate... MYSELF! We recently moved into our DREAM home out in the country. We love it here but it is a really old house in need of a lot of work. The needs come before the wants at the moment.  With all the stress of running my own business and trying to make the house livable, I would love to retreat to a cozy spot at the end of the day! Thanks so much for offering such a wonderful gift! Good Luck to all the entries! Sincerely, Hazel
DDH Mother's Day Contest 5
Finally, we have Deb:

I am a married mother of 2 beautiful, busy children, 1 dog, and 3 cats and while I am grateful for all I have, I would love to have a room that is a retreat to come home to.  As you can see from the pictures, my room is A MESS!  I NEED help!!  I’m not one to ask for help but after viewing your website and seeing such beautiful, inviting rooms, I’d be foolish to miss out on such a contest.  So please pick me, I’d be so grateful!!

OK, so use this poll below to vote – you have until Friday at 2pm EST to vote!

Mother’s Day Contest
April 30, 2010, 11:00 am
Filed under: Contest | Tags: , , ,

DDH Mother's Day Contest

Does your mom’s bedroom need a make-over? We can help!

DecorDreamHome.com has partnered with one of America’s leading decorating companies, Decor&You to help celebrate the two things you love most- mom and decorating!

To Enter:

  • You must be a DecorDreamHome Facebook Fan
  • Email us (DDH@decorandyou.com) at least 3 photos of your mom’s bedroom (you can nominate yourself) and tell us why you think your mom deserves to win this contest (500 words and under). Please include your name, phone, and address in your email.

We will narrow down the contestants down to 5 finalists based on the rooms we feel could use the most help and/or the stories about your mom.

Contestants will be announced on Wednesday May 5th at 12PM EST. Then it’s up to you, DecorDreamHome Facebook fans to determine who the winner is. A poll will be placed on our Fan page for you to vote.


The Winners are announced at 12PM EST Friday, May 7th.

Contest Rules

Ah, the Softness of Spring
April 5, 2010, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Product Round-Up | Tags: , , , , , ,

Inspired by the pastels of Easter, here’s a collection of some of our favorite new accessories that are a little softer of a color palette. What do you think?

DDH Decor Dream Home Home Accessories in pastel

Featured here is:

I feel calm already. How about you?