I have never been officially educated in the art of decorating.  I am not a trained professional interior designer.  But, like I mention in my bio, I learned alot about putting together a home from my mother.  She really does have an eye for decorative design and she passed down some of that design instinct to me.

As my husband and I have moved from house to house over the 10 years of our marriage, I have had lots of time to practice also.  Along the way, I have learned some “Insider” tips that the real professionals use and know, and I would like to share some of them with you.

My first insider tip is : Never, ever, ever buy furnishings in a set.

It may seem like the easiest thing is to go to “Big Box Furniture Store” and buy their couch/loveseat/coffee table/side table combo, but what you make up for in ease  you majorly lose in interest.

Think about it–when you see those pictures of bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms on TV commercials that are priced by the whole set, do those pictures ever look really enticing? Those rooms are dull, dull, dull.  Variety, contrast, and complementation is what makes a room look interesting.

Take a look at these two professionally decorated rooms, and notice how nothing in the room officially matches.

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photo courtesy CusatoCottages.com

cottage-style-living-room-bhg

Photo courtesy of bhg.com

The chairs differ from the couch, and sometimes from one another, the side tables differ from the coffee tables, the lamps are different, pillows are different, etc.  But don’t these rooms look stunning?  If you want to furnish your home like a professional decorator, never buy the set!

In my own home, the room that is most “finished” is my living room.  It is a hodge podge of colors, textures, and wood grains, but they all come together to complement one another.

Now I know my living room doesn’t look quite as nice as those two pictures above, but it’s not too bad!  And, it was done for very little money, all things considered.

My two biggest expenses in the room are the Pottery Barn rug (which was purchased with a gift card off Ebay), and my sofa (purchased almost 10 years ago for less than $600). Everything else came from Craigslist, flea markets, antique stores, or were hand-me-downs.

My two leather chairs were Craigslist finds.  I purchased them from an older gentlemen and they were like new.  I paid $200 for both of them. When we moved into this house, I needed a side table to set between them, so I pulled one of my favorite pieces from my bedroom, the super shabby white cabinet.

Totally doesn’t “match”, but it works.  The wood underneath the distressed white complements the leather well.

You also need to feel free to experiment with various wood tones within a room.  Not everything has to be a dark stained mahogany.  Different wood colors add visual interest, and unless you go from super light to super dark, they almost always compliment one another.

My entertainment center was a hand-me-down gift from some former ministry supporters. It is a really nice Hooker piece, so it will stay with us for awhile.

The darker honey stain though isn’t exactly the same as the console table I inherited from my grandmother.

And neither of them perfectly match my floors.  But together, their tones play together well.

I also have used some non-traditional things as furniture in this space, like two old suitcases.  Stacked on top of one another, they are a small side table and hold my books and  magazines.

It has taken me years to collect and put together these things, and my room will continue to evolve as I find more unique furnishings.  So, decorating without the set requires some patience . . . but it will pay off!  Your space will look much more professional and much more interesting.  Look for things you like, and for things that complement one another, but don’t match.   Your room will develop over time, and each piece will have its own story and own value to the room.

So, if you have a bedroom set, dining room set, or living room set, I want you to go pick your least favorite piece and list it on Craigslist TODAY!  Then enjoy the hunt for something unique to replace it.  Have fun!

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