In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

How to Decorate a Small Room in 10 Very Easy, But Unwavering, Steps

These easy guidelines more or less guarantee success. You can certainly break all these rules – as I did recently in a 10’ X 10’ bedroom with moss green walls (that was their existing color. I didn’t feel like repainting. See: 80 percent solution), a white floor (which i did feel like painting), a cobalt-painted bed and a blue and white floral canopy -- and still come up with a great small room. But if you can pull that off you probably don’t need to be reading this.

Follow these rules you’ll have an an easy, restful room. How you trick it out – with one large edgy piece of art? – will give it life.

Assign the room a dedicated function. For sleeping (and snogging). Or working. Or painting. Or reading. Then the smallness makes sense. Don’t try to cram too much activity into the room. It will make you feel like you are bouncing off the walls: Should I writedrawpaintsewreadworksleepsnog? The answer should be apparent when you walk in. I sleep. I work. I read.

Use fewer, larger pieces of furniture – more functional and more calm. A big comfortable bed and a large dresser that serves as both storage and night stand in a small room are better than a twin bed and a night stand and a dresser and a bureau and a lamp and a rug and a coat rack and a book case. You want to give the eye a couple of places to rest in the room, but not too many – that’s overwhelming. So you walk in and see the bed or couch or desk, and then one other piece. And then it stops. If you’re so busy looking around at-all-the-little-pieces you’ll quickly feel crowded and then insane. Throw out the crap. This is my friend Dayana's bedroom (and my former bed!) recently featured on Apartment Therapy. It's all bed, but it's awesome.Pick a color and stick with it. The eye goes to contrast. So go monochromatic and your eyes will flow seamlessly around the room and make it feel spacious. Generally, in a small room, neutral is best. So paint the walls greige, get silk or linen drapes in a similar shade and hang them from or at the ceiling, drawing the eye up. They should skim the outer edges of the window frame (just obscuring the edges… it will give the impression that the window is much bigger). Dress the bed or upholstery in a lighter or darker shade of your chosen color. Or paint everything white, including the floor. Or paint it all a steely blue grey-blue. Or paint the walls black or deep chocolate brown, and paint all the wood in the room – floor, trim, furniture – white. (You can do strong color – not red, please not red, though I love it and it is my favorite color but it will make you feel like you live in the Amityville Horror house -- but it’s trickier and easy to overwhelm yourself).

Light it properly. That means lighting for task and ambiance, not flipping on an overhead bulb. Have a table lamp beside the bed that allows you to read, but leaves mysterious shadows that obscure the edges of the room. Have a task light on your desk. Light the closet. Wash the walls with light from spot beams. Just don’t light the whole room. Awful. (that’s not to say you have to remove the overhead light. But turn it on, then turn on the task lights, then turn off the overhead light. You’ll enjoy the space much more.)

If you must have additional color, bring it in with accessories – and not too many. Try to keep the room to one monochromatic shade with one or two pops of color. Like a couple of these, and maybe something green and growing to bring life and oxygen in.

Use a large mirror to bounce the light from the (I presume) limited windows around the room. Try to put it directly across from the window, if possible.

If your furniture isn’t special, don’t hesitate to unify it with a coat of white or black paint (or your chosen color, always in high gloss). They will become a single color block and design statement, and their complicating details will fade from view.

Minimize the tchotchkes. Don’t have anything in there that isn’t beautiful AND functional. (OK, you can have one purely decorative piece, like that horse in the room above).

Everything in the room must function well. Drawers have to slide open and have enough room. You should be able to get out of the bed and walk without obstruction to the door. The chair at the desk should slide in and out easily. You need a place to put your necessities. Minimize your necessities.

Above all, make the room -- its size, its decor -- feel intentional. "I DID THIS THIS WAY FOR A REASON." That’s what turns a space into a place – a place where, when people walk through the door, they know they have arrived; a place that is meant to contain and hold people and their business, warmly.

You’re welcome.

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