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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Monday, November 22, 2010

What to think about when you are thinking about redecorating

Approaching a new decorating (surface glossing) or design (rejiggering the space) project can be intimidating. Here's how to get started.

Ask yourself the following 10 questions.More will follow, but this will begin narrowing down your needs and wants. (Needs are more important, as tempting as your wants are. A room must function for you well before you start putting on the jewelry, so to speak.)

1. What don't you like about the room as it is?

Too small? Too big? Bad acoustics? Awkward to move around in? Doesn't get used enough? Too many checkered floor couches and J-shaped pipe lamps?

2. What is your budget?

Be honest -- and remember that a constrained budget actually leads to the BEST designs. When you have a lot of money, you can be lazy and buy whatever strikes your fancy. When you have to keep things under control, money-wise, you'll come up with creative ways to reuse what you have, you'll find unique pieces in thrift stores -- you'll make a space REALLY your own, rather than some showroom designers idea of what you should have. WELCOME constraints, be they financial or space or time. Each will inspire you to do things you would never think of otherwise.

Like in this one, someone's all: "Nice stained leather chairs loser." And the designer is all "just wait till I pair them with a slick modern white table, then you'll see."
OK, maybe they are cowhide and not stained. But they look stained, and they give you ideas what you can do with that battered set of 70s chairs you saw at Goodwill.

3. How would you like to use the room differently than you do now?

For a dining room: throw formal dinner parties once a week? For a living room: read and play board games in addition to watching tv? For a kitchen: cook every night, or have it ready for a caterer, or entertain around an island like in the Magic Bullet commercials I love so much and can never turn off?

4. What are your favorite colors?

Look in your closet -- what colors do you mostly wear? What do you get the most compliments in?

5. What time of day will you be using the room, primarily? That will effect lighting choices and paint colors.
6. How would you like it to feel?

Airy? Warm? Cozy? Rustic? Comfortable? Elegant? Sophisticated? Modern? Traditional? Cottagey? Eclectic? Tropical? Breezy? Cool? Lived in? Organized? Perfect? Neat? Packed with memories? Minimalist -- just what you need?

7. Do you have pets? Children?

That will help dictate finishes -- Scotchguarded microsuede rather than Belgian linen, for instance.

8. If it's a public room, how do you like to entertain?

How often? Casually? Formally? How many people typically? What do you do? (Make and serve dinner? Order in? Play cards? Watch movies? Try to seduce your future son, as above?)

9. If it's a bedroom, are you sharing it (or would you like to?).
Do you need it as a multipurpose getaway from grubby children, or is it just for sleeping (and snogging)?

10. How much existing stuff are you willing to part with?
Do you want to start over or just tweak what you have?

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