Tired of the same old stuff, but can’t afford to redo your entire house? Join the club! Listen as owner of Inspirations Interiors, Elena Johnson shares her tips on updating what you have (easy refreshes that cost hundreds instead of overhauling for thousands) and reveals the paint colors and warm touches that can make your home a place of comfort and joy.
My friend Elena Johnson embodies simple elegance, and was a natural choice to interview about making our houses into more beautiful homes. She is classy, discerning, sensible, budget-conscious — and best of all, fun! Just exactly what I want in a decorator.
The Holidays are Coming! We have limited time and money. What can we do to make our houses look better?
Put decor in well-defined areas for the most impact. Add a new mat at the front door, a wreath or some garland, light these and add ornaments, so your guests are greeted with cheer.
Inside the home, more is not necessarily more. Have one tree, maybe some mantle decor, a few hits on side tables or your dining table. But the trick is grouping displays together instead of strewing it all around the house. If you have a Santa or snowmen collection, make it a grouping for maximum impact. Same with the tree, heavily decorate it and be done.
Remember the smells! Put on a wax cube, simmering spices, maybe some cookies baking. A festive smell is just as important as the sight.
A little background: Elena has always been fascinated with design and construction. In 2000, she decorated her first home professionally. Even back then she was amazed and inspired by the amazing impact of paint and window treatments. She loves the drama of before and afters, and is enlivened by her work. (I love that!)
Updating Your Look without Breaking the Bank
What if we want an updated look that includes the current trends, but don’t have the budget to re-do everything?
Try the new transitional colors — grays, soft whites and softer tans that aren’t quite as gold. It’s easy and inexpensive to paint, and new color can transform your room with very little money and effort.
Try to remember that the media tricks us with their before and after shows, where we see a $400-600K home is transformed over a weekend — by adding another $50-200K. That’s just not reality.
Reality is — we need to use some of the things we already have, and edit out the things that don’t make us happy or are faded or worn. This refresh isn’t a total overhaul; it’s about incorporating a few new, affordable pieces.
Take a master bedroom for example. Since I can’t afford a whole new suit of bedroom furniture, I painted a feature wall in a rich intense color that coordinates with a new bedding set with soft teals, whites, rusts and creams — all current colors, a lot of pillows with different textures and secondary colors, and even added a little jewelry on the lamps. Also, think about a new piece of art over the bed.
This refresh cost a few hundred dollars, versus what could have been a few thousand, and I’m happy with the way it looks.
That’s the bottom line: We want to make where we spend most of our free time a place where we are relieved instead of grieved.
If you’re updating a family room, you probably already have some great pieces. Think about changing up the finish-outs. And don’t get overwhelmed by the advertisements in magazines and TV shows!
Fresh new pillows
some new lamps
an area rug
It really is small things like these — accessories and paint — that add flair and help to make you love where you live.
Master baths are another area where I’m asked to do a lot of work. They can be time consuming to retro fit — an investment of both money and time. The hot trends in the bath are to go spa-like and soothing, with granite, natural stone, pewters and stainless, or oil rubbed bronze.
A bathroom refresh can be as simple as fresh paint or as complex as a shower retrofit or a new free-standing tub. I’ve done some very successful baths for a few thousand dollars.
We get in there twice a day — we want to enjoy that space.
When is it time to hire a decorator?
So much of my problem is that I don’t want to choose. I don’t quite have the confidence in my own taste. I really don’t want to spend money on stuff I’ll regret. At what point is it a good idea to go ahead and hire a decorator?
When you’re stuck or don’t know how to proceed, especially if you’re going to tackle a larger project, like a kitchen remodel or new flooring for a bathroom, that’s a great time for an interior decorator.
They can see the project finished, and pull out of your head the ideas, the look the feel you want when you can’t even articulate it yourself.
— That is the gift of the interior decorator, to get you to the finish line when you don’t even know where the finish line is. —
What if I can’t afford a decorator?
It might not be as expensive as you think. Some decorators can be hired by the hour. In one hour, they’ll meet with and talk you through where to shop, what to get, and where to put it.
When I visit with clients, I bring my iPad so I can show the specific items I’m thinking of, so you can see what you’re supposed to buy when you shop. I list the items to get, the heights of what you should get, where to shop for the items, and what colors to choose — so you have a plan to implement as your time and budget allows.
But if you really just want to save your money to spend on the decor — if it’s one or the other — work with a friend who has a great eye, maybe barter with them, and use Pinterest and Houzz as your inspiration point for ideas.
Also, remember that the rooms you see in magazines and on TV shows were assembled by a professional photographers, a lighting crew, three or four decorators and their assistants. That’s a group of ten or twelve people! That’s not reality.
— We can use these pictures as inspiration but not comparison. —
When you mark websites like Pinterest or Houzz, be specific in the notes section on what you like about the photo — “Love the light fixtures”. Do this so you can have a record of what you like. This way you’ll begin to see patterns of what you’re drawn to.
More Holiday Decorating
If you’re working with inexpensive garland that’s not so full, go into nature and clip Christmas-looking greenery, tuck it into the garland, then add some bows and lights to create a thick, full, custom piece.
Elena Tells About Inspirations Interiors
I’m not the kind of decorator that comes into your home and says, “It’s my way or the highway.” I like to partner with my clients — I look at what they own, learn about their lifestyle, find out what what they like and want to keep, and how they use their homes and their hopes for it.
For example, I’ll give three ideas on decorating the mantle, and we’ll take the one you like and run with it. If you don’t like what I’m presenting, I’ll come up with more ideas.
I love to help people transform their homes by partnering with them.