5 Tips for decorating your home for the do-it-yourselfer

1. Set the tone at the front door

Red front door

If you want your home to make a great first impression, paint the front door a fun, shiny shade. “Red is a lucky color in many cultures,” says Lara Allen-Brett, a stager from New Jersey. A red door meant "welcome" to weary travelers in early America, and on churches it represents a safe haven. Two others that are becoming increasingly popular: orange and yellow, according to San Francisco-based stager Christopher Breining. Both colors are associated with joy and warmth. One thing has to go: an outdated screen door. Get rid of it or replace it with a continuous-glazed storm door that you can replace with a screened panel.

2. Paint the walls light and neutral

Stick to colors like beige or gray, especially on the first floor, where flow is important. “You want to minimize jarring transitions,” says Breining. Neutral walls give you the greatest decoration flexibility, making it easy to change your accessories.

And if you have two small rooms next to each other, you can make them look larger by painting them the same neutral color. Look at a paint strip and move up or down a few shades for a subtle variation from room to room, suggests Allen-Brett

3. Living area: Make sure your sofa matches your chairs

Think of a beautiful hotel lobby: the furniture is arranged in groups that invite conversation. When you place the furniture in your living room, aim for the same sense of balance and intimacy. “A conversation area that is a U-shape, with a sofa and two chairs facing each other at each end of the coffee table, or an H-shape, with a sofa directly facing two chairs and a coffee table in the middle, is ideal,” says Michelle Lynne, a stager from Dallas. A common mistake to avoid: pushing all furniture against the walls. “People do that because they think it makes their room look bigger, but in reality, moving the furniture away from the walls makes the room feel bigger,” she says.

4. Let the sun shine in the kitchen.


“When it comes to heavy, outdated curtains, a bare row of windows is better than an ugly one,” says Lynne. Ideally, window treatments should be functional and elegant: think net curtains combined with full-length panels. If your room gets a lot of sun, choose light colors that will not fade. The most recommended lightweight fabrics for panels are cotton, linen and silk blends because they tend to hang well.

5. Hang at least one mirror in every room


“Mirrors can brighten a room because they reflect light around the room,” says Breining. But putting one in the wrong place can be almost as bad as not having one at all. Place mirrors on walls perpendicular to windows, not directly across from windows. Hanging a mirror directly across from a window can even reflect light directly out of the window.

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