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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the May 10, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Quick Solutions for Home Decor

Face it, putting together "wow" inspiring rooms is a whole lot harder than it looks – HGTV miracles notwithstanding. If there’s money in the budget for a decorator, anyone can live in a beautiful, welcoming home. But what if there isn’t?

Lauri Ward has the answer. Well, really, lots of answers, tailored for everyone from corporate nomads who will only be in an apartment for nine months to five-child households ensconced in 3,500-square-foot Colonials.

The design guru, perhaps best known for her one-day home transformations, gives a workshop on Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m. at a Friends’ Health Connection event being held at the RWJ Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness on Quakerbridge Road. Cost: $15. Call 800-483-7436. She plans to focus on quick, simple, money-saving solutions to home decorating issues.

Ward’s 25-year old business, Use What You Have Interiors (www.redecorate.com), has offices in New York City and Boca Raton, Florida. The New York Times has hailed her as "a trailblazer among the one-day decorators, a small but diverse group in sync with frugal, scaled-down style. Mostly, the one-day specialists address decorating’s prosaic, but often confusing aspects – fabric and paint, furniture arrangement, space planning and other basics." The Times quotes Ward as saying "`a lot of people with great design ideas have problems with practical matters, like spatial issues. They see a color that looks great on a swatch but looks awful when it goes up on a wall.’ So business is brisk."

She has just written "Home Therapy: Fast, Easy, Affordable Makeovers." The doyenne of super-fast redecorators suggests using objects that are already in the home. In her new book she writes that "our homes reflect who we are. When we invite someone into our living space, we’re revealing ourselves, and if we’re not happy with what we show, or if we fell it isn’t a true reflection of ourselves, we’re uncomfortable. We’re reminding of that discomfort each time we walk through our front door. And to make matters worse, we may even avoid inviting other people into our homes, and, therefore, into our lives."

Ward has firm fiats concerning what she considers universally off-putting decor accessories. Some things simply must go. In her opinion, this list includes lucite frames – use anything but, she commands; they do nothing to enhance a picture. Refrigerator magnets, which make a kitchen look messy, are also verboten. Also on her hit list are cluttered windowsills – nothing but indoor flower boxes should rest there. She is not a fan of doilies either, seeing them as unsightly dust collectors. Perhaps surprisingly, she also takes aim at patterned and colored toilet tissue, napkins, and paper towels, preferring plain white, a color that will not intrude on anyone’s style.

She zeros in a typical 20something male decorating style when she degrees that over-sized audio speakers must go. Her rule of thumb: If they’re on the floor, they’re too big. A better design solution is the installation of small white speakers mounted in corners near the ceiling.

Generally found at the other end of the age spectrum, cute bathroom bric-a-brac is another no-no. Ward also comes down against a design error that could be found in any age group – the use of the same rug, wallpaper, or fabric in more than one room. Each room should be an original, she proclaims.

These are the small things. Most of these changes can be made in minutes. But there are bigger decorating issues, and just as no two people’s problems are the same, no two homes have exactly the same issues. But home decorating problems do tend to fall into categories. Her are some of the most common decorating mistakes that Ward finds:

Not defining your priorities. Before you begin, you need to determine your needs and your budget, which might be based on whether you rent or own your home, who lives there, and how long you intend to stay.

An uncomfortable conversation area. Are people able to sit facing one another? Can they chat without raising their voices? The ideal conversation area is U-shaped. The least desirable, because it is the most uncomfortable, is L-shaped. And beware of the dreaded sofa/loveseat combination!

Poor furniture placement. Avoid pressing all your furniture up against the walls as if there were a dance floor cleared in the middle, but also make sure you can pass through the room unobstructed by pieces of furniture.

A room that is off balance. A room is off balance when all the large heavy pieces are on one side and the smaller, more delicate pieces on another.

Furniture of different heights. When seating is of different heights, and/or artwork is hung on different levels, the effect creates a "roller coaster" that causes the eye to travel uncomfortably up and down around the room.

A room that lacks cohesion. The quickest and easiest way to achieve a cohesive "pulled-together" look is to use pairs of chairs, lamps, end tables, and so on-and, no, it’s not boring!

Ignoring the focal point of the room. A focal point can be a fireplace, a window with an interesting or attractive view, a large painting or group of pictures, or even a television in the family room-in effect, whatever is most eye-catching in the space.

Once you’ve determined the focal point, it’s important to "play it up" so that it attracts the eye, rather than minimize it so that attention is drawn elsewhere (or nowhere in particular).

Improper use of artwork. Hanging art too high and/or scattering it on every wall are two of the ways people most often display their artwork incorrectly. Art is best hung about three inches lower than you’d normally think is correct – generally below what you consider "eye level," and one wall should always be left bare to give the eye a place to rest.

Ineffective use of accessories. Over time, most people have accumulated more "knickknacks" than they have room to display, and some of them should probably be kept out of sight in any case. When it comes to accessories, one should gather like items together as collections and display only the best and most attractive of what one has.

These displays can be rotated seasonally or even annually, if necessary, to give each accessory it’s due, so to speak, but as a general rule, less is more.

Using lighting incorrectly. Each room needs task lighting, general illumination, and, in some cases, accent lighting for artwork. Many people make the mistake of underutilizing the lamps they have by using 60-watt bulbs instead of 3-way bulbs that go up to 150 watts. General lighting should be directed down where needed rather than up to the ceiling so that it illuminates the entire room without casting shadows.

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

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Residential Deals

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Princeton Borough

36 Pine. Petty to Kay. $845,000. Closing: November 2, 2005.

62 William. Princeton University to Logan. $636,000. Closing: December 5, 2005.

40 North Harrison Street. Barsky Homes to Andavolu. $629,000. Closing: November 30, 2005.

42 North Harrison Street. Barsky Homes to Cessaro. $620,000. Closing: November 21, 2005.

10 Bayard Lane, Number 6. Bayard Lane Holdings to Sowden. $600,000. Closing: November 16, 2005.

85 Erdman. Cendant Financial to Helmhill. $529,000. Closing: November 15, 2005.

88 Erdman. Murray to Cendant Financial. $529,000. Closing: October 31, 2005.

10 Bayard Lane, Number 4. Bayard Lane Holding Company to Abdallah. $522,500. Closing: November 14, 2005.

14 Cameron. Simmens to Vulchi. $462,000. Closing: September 9, 2005.

108-110 Witherspoon Street. Taylor to Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. $435,000. Closing: November 14, 2005.

115 Spruce Street. Williams to O’Connell. $400,000. Closing: August 30, 2005.

10 Bayard Lane, Number 7. Bayard Holding Company to Tyler. $360,000. Closing: October 28, 2005.

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Princeton Township

141 Hun Road. Okun to Niforatos. $1,900,000. Closing: November 29, 2005.

10 Walker Drive. Miller to Anderson. $1,660,000. Closing: November 17, 2005.

50 Pardoe Road. Frank to Sullivan-Crowley. $1,350,000. Closing: November 28, 2005.

83 Mt. Lucas Road. Richard to Lesser. $799,000. Closing: November 22, 2005.

1028 Kingston Road. Spencer to Hudson. $770,000. Closing: February 28, 2006.

558 Ewing Street. Morrison to Flemer. $685,000. Closing: October 28, 2005.

287 Mount Lucas Road. Lott to Wright. $585,000. Closing: October 28, 2005.

216 Bullock Drive. Beck to Cetel. $545,000. Closing: November 29, 2005.

30 Old Orchard Road. Webb to Thompson. $511,000. Closing: January 25, 2006.

33 Leigh Avenue. Kehres to Wu. $380,000. Closing: January 18, 2006.

521 Brickhouse Lane. Popescu to Duffy. $360,000. Closing: November 21, 2005.

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West Windsor

4 Thorngate Court. Hollander to Park. $526,000. Closing: June 14, 2006.


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