A Clean Slate for your Home - Interior Design Advice

I like old houses well enough. In fact the newest house I have lived in during my adult life is 53 years
old. Like everyone says, old houses have ‘charm’. Mature trees, wide trim, quality construction, good
scale, history, and real materials are all desirable characteristics.

But, old houses also have quirks that drive most everyone who lives in them nuts. Poor insulation,
plaster cracks that never go away, drafty windows, and squeaky floors to name a few. But, the issue I
would like to address here is ‘flow’.

I am not talking about plumbing here. I mean I like a shower that pounds the crap out of me in the
morning but this isn’t about rust in your pipes. This article is about something just as insidious,
corrosion of your home’s ‘visual flow’.

Visual corrosion begins as homes age and they need repairs and updating. Usually, repairs are made
‘as needed’ and updating is done ‘room by room’ as owners have time and money. Rarely does a
home owner have a ‘Big Picture’ idea of what their home should look like when it is all redone. To
complicate matters, styles come and go over the years so one room may remain Victorian while
another is Art Deco, and the next is Mod. Even if variations are not that drastic, older homes tend to
have mismatched trim, light fixtures, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, paint colors, and flooring.

Old homes often end up looking like just a series individual rooms that have no relation to the next.
Perhaps the next time you want to make a home improvement, you should think about doing some ‘un-
decorating’. Below are some ideas to help you reclaim visual flow of your home. Whether you lean
toward traditional, contemporary, or modern style, the following advice will be just as effective.

  1. Create a ‘Big Picture’ plan of what your house will look like prior to any remodeling. If you have a
    plan, the second, third, and forth phases will have built in answers.  
  2. More visual flow comes from fewer elements. Most people want to have different colors in
    different rooms. I say go for it. But, think about having one trim color, one ceiling color, and the
    same primary flooring throughout.  
  3. Wood floors are the ‘blue jeans’ of your home. They are wonderfully deft at going from room to
    room, color to color, so if you haven’t uncovered your floors yet, you ought to do so. If you don’t
    have wood underneath, maybe you should think about installing it (or another natural material
    like cork or bamboo)
  4. Avoid wallpaper. It will soon be like those ‘disco pants’ you bought a few years ago.
  5. Keep the themes from room to room consistent. It is preferable to stay within the style and age
    of your home. It is kind of like wearing the right shoes with your jeans.
  6. Change your light fixtures. New fixtures can create consistency and update your home quickly
    too. To keep the clothing analogy going think of it as ‘accessorizing’. It is relatively cheap for big
  7. Change your light switches and outlets to all one color and style. You will be amazed how easy,
    inexpensive, and effective this is.
  8. When it comes to furnishings, think simple and timeless. One piece of simple furniture looks,
    well, simple. But add another and another along the way and soon your furniture will look great
    together. If you buy furniture that is too busy or trendy, your next pieces are less likely to look
    good with the first.

I’ve heard it said that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Perhaps if your house is too busy now,
you should create a master plan employing ‘un-decorating’ tactics. It will take patience to plan ahead
and see your simplification through but I promise your gratification from it will be much greater. Just
think of it as cleaning your room on a grand scale. Less mess always looks better.

Paul Livdahl is founder of Design QandA
For questions or clarifications, e-mail plivdahl@designqanda.com