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7 Things to Make Room for in a Small Home

Advice for decorating a small home is often about eliminating and deciding what to compromise on. But there are some things every home should have. Here are seven essentials that are always worth making room for.

A Landing Pad

You may not have a grand foyer, but you deserve somewhere to decompress for a moment when you arrive home. 
Take a little bit of space by the front door to include somewhere to drop your coat and keys, as well as a seat for quick moments such as when tying a shoe. A mirror and a glass table will open up the look of the space, and a bouquet of flowers will provide a welcoming touch.

Color & Pattern

 Sure, using lots of white and neutrals will make a small space look as big and breezy as possible. That doesn’t mean that all color and pattern should be strictly forbidden. Embracing some drama will make the look personal and inviting.

Try using a fun paint color on your ceiling, or go for a low-slung sofa or other piece of furniture, so it pops without overtaking the natural field of vision.

A Real Dinning Surface

 In a small home, you rarely find a dedicated dining room. That doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate somewhere for a proper sit-down meal that isn’t at your desk or in your lap. Try pushing a small dining table up against a wall or window to seat just two diners.

To be continued.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, Tustin, and Irvine, area in Orange County, California. 

Continued 10 Timeless Pieces of Decorating Advice

Size it Up

“Measure twice, cut once” is timeless advice. An often-neglected measurement is the arm height of dining chairs: Don’t buy chairs without it. Check the height against your tabletop if space is tight and chairs have to be tucked under when not in use. Having them protruding into a high-traffic space impedes movement around the table. In this situation, the best option may be going with armless ones.

A single inch can makes the difference between a perfect fit and a disastrous overspend. If you’ve had an architect or a draftsperson draw up plans for a renovation, keep the drawings for later reference, as their measurements are precise. Keep a tape measure in your bag to use whenever you shop; you never know when it will come in handy for spot-checking.

Face Facts about DIY

DIY delusion is a common ailment. Be realistic about your capabilities. “If I sanded that back and painted it and changed the knobs and shortened the legs, it would be just perfect,” you might say. But maybe you won’t. Maybe it will just sit in the garage because you realize you don’t have the skills — or tools — for the job. Unless you are handy at serious alterations, keep looking and practice patience until that ideal piece comes along.

Get Lights Right 

Don’t detract from a fabulous pendant light or chandelier with an awkward hanging height. It’s easy to get it wrong over a dining table: Allow a minimum of 32 inches between the light base and the tabletop, or it will visually intrude between diners. A general rule is about 5 feet between the light base and the floor. To avoid errors, consult a lighting designer, as other factors like ceiling height, strength of light sources, size of shades and chain length affect calculations. 

Guarantee Success

 In the excitement of unwrapping and setting up a new appliance or piece of furniture, most of us have all been guilty of discarding warranty details. Things break. Keep a warranty file and receipts. Clarify warranty details for big-ticket items. Is the construction covered but not the fabric? Are there special conditions? What’s the claim procedure?

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in Newport Coast, Laguna Beach Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Hills, area of Orange County California.

Continued 10 Timeless Pieces of Decorating Advise

Be Patient with Paint

 Testing a paint color sometimes takes longer than applying the paint. Don’t begrudge this time, because patience pays off. Experts advise that you should always test on the intended walls in the intended room. The surface texture of a wall is different from that of a sample sheet. Apply two coats and always use a primer coat when working with strong colors, then do test patches on every wall that’s to be painted. 

Balance Price and Quality

High-end furniture doesn’t automatically make a room beautiful, but keep in mind the adage that “something cheap is eventually expensive.” A poorly made, low-priced item will show its true colors sooner than you’d like, leaving you with a nonreturnable lemon. Always buy the best you can afford.

If you’re on the fence, calculate the cost of an unremarkable bargain-priced item plus the replacement cost for when it gives up the ghost. Then decide if you’d rather buy one quality standout piece that you’ll adore and use for years. A modern classic such as the Bertoia Diamond chair seen here, a genuine tribal rug or a luxurious sofa is a beautiful investment that will lift a room to stylish heights.

Cross Style Lines 

Even if you love a particular style, copying it down to the last detail leads to an unimaginative result. I prefer a natural, eclectic look that incorporates different styles and pieces from different eras. Don’t be shy about crossing style boundaries — you want your home to look lived-in and welcoming, not dauntingly styled.

Continued tomorrow  

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Irvine, Tustin, area of Orange County, California.

10 Timeless Pieces of Decorating Advice

As we work — and spend — to make the places we live in beautiful and functional, we sometimes make decor mistakes we come to regret. Unhappy choices nearly always stem from poor planning, rushed decisions, self-doubt or bad advice. Here I’ll show you how to take sound and sensible steps to create the home you want.

Find your Style 

 Lack of confidence leads to indecision, which leads to timid choices. Don’t end up with decor so middle-of-the-road it says absolutely nothing about you. Instead, stand up and express yourself. That comfort zone you’ve been sheltering in could be stifling the real you. Step into the design ring — there’s lots happening in there.

Exploring daring design options can be daunting. Signs you should call for help are feeling immobilized by indecision and losing trust in your instincts. A good option here is to consider an interior designer or a decorator; they are trained professionals who will see your home with fresh eyes. Be reassured, a good one won’t impose his or her taste

Choose Artwork because you Love It

 Never buy artwork simply because it matches your sofa or fills a wall — better a bare spot than an ill-judged picture. Art should lift your spirits, provoke thought, take you places or create a reason to pause and enjoy. Art is personal, so seek out what reflects you. Collect artworks individually, not in job lots. They needn’t be museum-worthy; there’s a world of choice when it comes to quality prints, professional and family photographs, wall hangings, kids’ art, gifts from artistic friends.

If you hang a stunning piece of art above a surface where you’d also like to show off other items, learn the art of the vignette. A simple trick is to hang the art low enough to be a cohesive part of the display, not an unrelated extra that hovers above it.

Take a Wide View of a Room

A striking wallpaper with a complex pattern makes a strong impact, but it also could throw off the balance in a room. Find images on websites of rooms using the same pattern to see its dominant lines and colors, how it repeats and how it reacts to various light strengths and directions. Get the largest sample you can — ask if you can buy a roll or half roll and have the cost credited if you purchase more. It’s an investment in a regret-free decision.

More tips continued tomorrow.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Irvine Tustin area of Orange County, California. 


Continued Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better

Build Layers of Lighting

In the kitchen seating area, the backsplash is lit, the artwork is highlighted and the cabinet interiors are filled with light. One central lighting fixture would not have had nearly the same dramatic result.

Professionals build layers of lighting to create interest, intrigue and variety. In a room where everything is lit evenly, nothing stands out. Pick a focal point and perhaps a secondary focal point and highlight those. Add general ambient lighting and some lower lighting, like table lamps, for interest.

Be Bold

Personality is what makes a space great. Make your own statement and have fun. The more you try, the more you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t. 

Incorporate unexpected elements for drama. The unconventional ottoman seats, library-style bookshelves and oversize chandelier here are all unexpected in a conventional living room, but the result has charisma. Eschew expected pieces and interpretations if you want a room that will really wow.

Be Creative

 Having some guidelines gives people a good starting point for furnishing and decorating their home, even if some of them aren’t practical for a particular space.

Go with something personal that makes you smile and, above all, is comfortable. Overly designed rooms don’t really translate in modern life. A pillow collection and an art arrangement that are seemingly haphazard, create a dressed-down look with plenty of style.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Irvine, Newport Coast, Tustin, Laguna Beach area of Orange County California.


Continued 12 Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better

Resist being to Theme-y

For example, the Cape Cod look is a very popular request. You know the hallmarks: beadboard, a blue and white nautical palette, some sailboat paintings. But this has been done so many times, it lacks individuality. In this room the coastal vibe was achieved through a palette, artwork and materials that give the effect without drawing on the obvious clichés.

Create a Focal Point

Your focal point should be free and clear from one room to the next, so that it feels like you’re being drawn between them. That’s why the best spot for a focal point is usually directly across from the entrance to the room.
 Don’t hang on to a piece that just doesn’t fit. I don’t care if your great-aunt Sally gave it to you. If it’s not working for you, then find a new home for it (maybe in a different room).

The unifying theme here is the use of black in the utilitarian pieces. The balance is almost perfect. It reminds me of something Coco Chanel said about accessorizing: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off. ” In design, know when to stop.

Vary the Scale
What looks good in the store may look like an elephant in the room when you bring it home. Or it’s too tiny to be of any significance. So always vary scale and proportion. 

The oversize sunburst mirror frame fills up the wall space nicely here, while the sand dollars make an interesting grouping below. They would be much too insignificant individually. Threes and fives make for more pleasing arrangements than even numbers.


12 Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better

Picking a Paint Color

I get calls all the time from homeowners who want to pick a paint color before they move in. I get the logic. Why not arrive to walls with a fresh coat of paint? Of course you can do it this way, but in my opinion it’s not ideal. 

There are thousands of paint colors with various tints, tones and shades. And each one looks different from home to home, because light sources vary, meaning what looks good in your current home might not in your new one. You want the color that best complements your upholstery, artwork, rug and whatever else. You can pick that color only if your stuff is actually inside your home.

Placing Furniture

 Resist overcrowding a room. Gracious living means space to maneuver with ease. This is really great news if you are working with a tight budget. You don’t need to fill up a space with lots of furniture. Spend more of your budget on fewer but better-quality pieces, and your room will look better than if it’s stuffed to the gills with flea market finds. The high-backed chairs shown here, for example, stand out because they don’t have to fight for attention.

Hanging Artwork

Galleries and museums hang artwork so that the midline (center) of each piece is 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor. (The average human eye level is 57 inches.) And you should do the same.  

In a room, where the ceilings soar, there might be a tendency to hang the art higher. But remember: It needs to relate to human scale, not the structure’s scale.

Arranging an Area Rug

There are basically three ways you can arrange furniture on your rug. 

All on: The rug is large enough to place all of the furniture legs on top of it. This creates a more luxurious feel. For this, bigger is better. Just be sure to leave at least 12 to 18 inches of floor surface on all four sides of the rug’s borders. rug, though, or it may look insignificant, like an afterthought. The rug should appear as though it could touch the front legs of each of the seating pieces. This approach is best suited when you’re layering a pattern over a larger solid or textured rug.

All off: If you have a small room, keeping all legs off the rug is a great cost-effective choice. You don’t want to pick too small a rug. 

More tips to be continue tomorrow.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Irvine, Newport Beach, Tustin, Laguna Hills area of Orange County, California. 


Open Up Your Room With Scenic Wallcoverings

If a basic paint job or run-of-the-mill wallpaper is too static for you and your home, consider a scenic wallcovering to add a unique narrative. Here’s how a two-dimensional indoor view can change your perspective dramatically.

Like a pictorial book, a scenic wallcovering has something to say. Whether it’s a favorite image of your family, a local map or a historic theme, a scenic wallcovering is expressive and memorable.

Besides adding a layer of interest to your walls, scenic wallcoverings look more spacious by making a flat, two-dimensional wall surface look like it goes on forever. 

Graphic illustration uses a one-point perspective to thrust your eye to the far back of the landscape, making you feel like you’re part of the view.

Ethereal vintage scenic wallpaper creates the illusion of distance by playing with the size and intensity of the imagery. The up-close motifs are larger, brighter and more detailed, while those farther away diminish in size, intensity and clarity.

Windowless spaces, such as basements, can benefit from scenic wallcoverings by creating a sense of a physical connection to the outdoors. Even though the scene is fake, the effect brings to mind peacefulness and a semblance of health. Without the mural, this basement workout room might feel sterile and bleak.

There are two basic types of scenic wallcoverings — hand-painted wallpaper and digitally made wallcoverings. The materials, manufacturing processes and costs vary greatly. Here’s the low-down on each.

Through a painstakingly rigorous process, hand-painted scenic wallpaper is made from thousands of carved hand blocks, each dipped in hand-mixed paint and often teamed with tonal backgrounds that are hand-painted with a brush. Each order is custom, is based on traditional techniques and tools — and is a work of art.

Digitally created scenic wallcoverings are everything that hand-painted isn’t — inexpensive and fast. They can be made on different materials, including paper wallpaper, canvas and vinyl, including the peel-and-stick variety. 

However, unlike hand-painted wallpaper, these aren’t made or meant to be enduring, treasured decor finishes. Digitally printed scenic wallcoverings will likely last just a few years. You’re more likely to tire of it and switch it out with something else.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Irvine, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Tustin, Laguna Hills area of Orange County, California.

Ways to Make Your Living Room More Luxe

If you’re contemplating giving your living room a high-end makeover, making the right design choices can be challenging. After all, what is it that really makes a room look luxurious? Is it replacing your sofa and coffee table with more stylish pieces? Not necessarily. While expensive furniture can elevate the style factor in a room, it doesn’t guarantee a high-end look, nor does it fit everyone’s budget. 

When helping a client efficiently revamp their living room, I turn to a couple of tried-and-true interior design tricks — going big and using luxe finishes — to create high style without overhauling the entire room and breaking the bank. Here are eight ideas to give your living room high-end style, along with some tips for getting that luxe look on a budget.

Whether it’s a table lamp, ceiling light or floor lamp, a lighting source can also be a statement piece. Try adding drama via oversized lampshades, a glamorous gold lamp base or a modern crystal chandelier. A shiny finish or a large size can give a room a high-style focal point.

Mirrors are the quintessential accessory to add light, the illusion of more space and a shiny, luxe feeling. Try hanging at least one large mirror above a sofa, credenza or showcase feature, such as a fireplace.

When it comes to artwork in the living room, the bigger the canvas or framed art, the more high-end the room will feel. Large artwork creates a gallery look, which appears expensive.

A rug that easily fits under all of your essential furniture (sofa, coffee table and any armchair) will make your room feel bigger. This is key when you’re looking to raise the bar on style and elegance in a living room. Here the large rug showcases all of the furniture. Its large size helps the eye travel and take in the expanse of the room, including the stylish accent chair and colored pouf. Compare the look here to how the space would look with just a small rug under the coffee table. A diminutive size might look like a bath mat, and would also make the room look smaller.

Hang window treatments as high as possible on the wall, or even from the ceiling. An elevated placement creates volume and gives the illusion of a higher ceiling, something many luxury living rooms feature. 

Make the small investment in throw pillows and throw blankets made of luxe textiles. Look for fabrics such as silk, metallic linen, velvet and even faux fur. These fabrics not only look and feel expensive, but their textured surfaces also will help create a layered and highly styled look when placed on your existing furniture.

Choose textiles in hues that add a hint of color and complement your current sofa or armchair. Or make a statement with your glam pillows and add a more dramatic pop of color.

Add a couple of large decorative accessories in the living room, like a wood sculpture or large vase containing one botanical piece. The oversized piece will create an artful silhouette.

Similarly, a minimalist featured accessory will create a focal point, helping to distract from the less-desirable aspects of the room, like a piece of worn furniture.

I think these are supers ideas on how to create designer looks in your home.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin, and Laguna Hills of Orange County, California.

Crowd-Pleasing Paint Colors for Staging Your Home

When prepping your home for sale, one of the most important tasks is giving your walls a fresh coat of paint. The standard advice from most real estate professionals is to keep them neutral with shades of white. But as a home stager and an interior designer, I prefer to take a more stylish approach. 

Remember, the overall goal of home staging is to make each room feel fresh, inviting and neutral enough so that prospective buyers can imagine themselves living there. That doesn’t have to translate, however, to bland, boring and devoid of style. Sometimes white can work, but a greater concern is making sure the room doesn’t look too stark. These elegant, crowd-pleasing neutral paint colors can help you stage your home to perfection.

Gray has been the new white for years now. But not all grays are created equal. “Greige,” a pale gray with a beige undertone, is one of the most versatile colors for staging. Essentially a pale taupe, greige is a cool, sophisticated hue that can elegantly complement and add depth to a mostly white room. It’s great in both large and smaller spaces. 

 A warm medium blue with sunny undertones, bird’s egg blue is an elegant choice for living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, particularly when the rest of the room is white, beige or gray.

Charcoal, a deep gray, is a perfect dark neutral that can raise the style factor in a room as well as add a refreshing cool tone that complements beige and orange wood hues. Adding subdued drama, it works well in light-filled rooms or on an accent wall, especially in smaller rooms or on walls where you want to feature an architectural element.

Let the sunshine in with a little golden yellow on your walls or fixed elements such as cabinets. A cheerful yellow can add warmth to a mostly white kitchen; it works well with white or stainless steel appliances.

Navy blue is an excellent paint color to add sophistication, drama and a feeling of refined maturity to a room. Similar to charcoal gray, navy works well in a light-filled room or on a featured accent wall, particularly in smaller rooms or walls with architectural details like a fireplace.

Coordinate navy with contrasting pale hues like whites, silver or beiges.

If your walls are already a shade of white and adding a new color isn’t in your comfort zone, look to neutral creamy whites to give the room a warm and refreshing look. 

Creamy white has an undertone of pale beige or greige, without being too yellow. The added warmth can give a stark room a welcoming glow without adding color.

These are some great ideas, and adding color gives you the most bang for the buck when staging a house or update the look of a room.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin Laguna Beach area of Orange county, California.