Home Decor Ideas & Decorators Near Me

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Eventually, even the best decorated home needs a lick of paint. Whether it is because wear and tear have got the better of the walls, doors, windows and ceilings or maybe you have just become bored with the same paint colour or boring patterned wallpaper. Then is the time to have your home redecorated. You can be like most people and do the job yourself or if you have some spare cash you can have not only the physical act of decorating done by professionals but you can also hire an established and recognised interior designer to choose the colours and patterns for you.

Some of us have the money but do not have the time, inclination or ability to choose the correct paints, wallpapers, colours or patterns. You want to keep your home looking nice and don’t mind paying to have the job done professionally.

If you decide to do the job yourself, it may be for a number of reasons:

  • You can’t afford to hire a professional interior designer.
  • You cannot afford to hire interior decorators.
  • You want to be able to choose the colours and patterns as you go along and let the project evolve organically.
  • You find choosing the colours fun and are fascinated by the contrasts and compliments of the different colours.
  • You find the physical act of painting and decorating rewarding, fulfilling or therapeutic.

Whatever the reason or reasons to have your home redecorated, it is a fact that it is essential, now and again, not just for appearances but also for repair and protection. But we will talk about that later.

What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

First of all we must know what we are talking about when we talk about interior designers and interior decorators. Although they are not the same thing, a person can embody both disciplines if he or she wants to.

An interior designer is someone who studies and practices the art and science of creating spaces within a building to accommodate and complement people’s behaviour. They often work alongside architects and deal with the aesthetics and accessories in a room. A designer can often work as a main contractor in a decorating project, subcontracting decorators and perhaps carpenters, together with choosing furniture, lighting and accessories to compliment the décor. Designers usually have a qualification or recognised degree followed by work experience or an internship. They will also be required to acquire a license to practice by, amongst other things, passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.

An interior decorator is someone who furnishes or decorates a room with beautiful things. Decorators do not design the spaces in the building but dress them stylishly and competently. Decorators do not require any formal training but often they have training such as an apprenticeship in painting and decorating. Decorators do not have any qualifications to alter wiring or structures so make sure you know the qualifications of whom you hire. Often decorators have a deep interest in antique or retro furniture and use this interest and knowledge in their work.
There is however some crossover. An interior designer may do the physical act of decorating but a decorator does not design.

What is home décor?

Every house contains rooms in which we live. The rooms have different purposes and have a different ambience from each other. A living room needs to be soft and welcoming, warm and cosy. A kitchen needs to be functional and clean. A bathroom needs to be functional and waterproof. A bedroom needs to be restful, peaceful and relaxing; a nest.

All these moods can be achieved by the tasteful and clever use of colour, lighting, images and furnishings.

An interior designer is able to take the bare room and give it a character all of its own by the tasteful use of the tools available. These are:

  • Lighting.
  • Colour.
  • Pattern.
  • Fabrics and drapes.
  • Upholstery and furniture.

Home décor is an art in the sense that the designer needs to be able to blend shapes and colour to achieve the finished product and it is a science in the sense that the practitioner can produce a product using established formulae and relationships between each individual component.

How do you go about designing your rooms?

The first thing to do is decide what you have to start with. Let us assume you have just moved into a new home and the house is bare. All your things are in storage and you have time to make your house into your home. You need to decorate and furnish each room to achieve the goal you set. It may seem a big job, maybe even daunting, but if you break down the work into individual packages then you will find that it is not so difficult after all. Luckily your house is already in individual and separate packages, these are called rooms and rooms are usually separated by doors and walls.

Ok, with some careful planning and budgeting it will be relatively easy to go about designing your home yourself. Don’t rush into anything because this will be taking valuable time and money and you don’t want to waste either.

Start with a neutral backdrop

A good place to start is with the colour of the walls, ceiling and doors; your canvas on which you are going to paint your picture. Choose plain, neutral colours. Whites, blacks and earth colours are a good place to start. You can always add a dash of colour interest later with rugs, curtains and cushions.

Make lists

Consider each room separately. You know the purpose of the room you are dealing with. Write down a list of all the things you currently own that you think would complement that purpose. Write a list of the things you need to buy to complement the room’s purpose, and write a wish-list of things you want to own in the future.

A budget

Just by making a list you are able to see how much things cost. You can see what you have and what you need immediately and what can be added to the overall scheme over time. When you go shopping for new furniture and furnishings, it is easy to become over excited and spend beyond your means. This is why a list is so useful. It gives you a chance to plan, do research, find out the cost of things and maybe substitute an expensive original for a cheaper alternative. Do not let a showroom salesperson push you into spending more than you can afford. That is their job and some are very good at their job. Do your research, stick to your list and shop around for the best value for money. If after buying everything on your list, you have some money left over then maybe you can treat yourself to something from the wish-list without feeling guilty.

How big is your room?

This may seem obvious but it is amazing how many people go out to buy a new couch, for example, only to find that it is too big for the room or even that you can’t get it through the door. Measure the dimensions of your room (as well as your hallway and door) before you choose your couch and make sure it will fit. Remember too that if you live in an apartment block, you may have to get the piece of furniture upstairs and around corners. Always take this into account too.

Don’t buy all the things at once

This is a natural progression from making lists. You obviously can’t afford to buy everything at the same time, but you can choose which items are going to make the most impact. Buy those first and then get the rest later after your next pay-day. It is also a fact that it’s best to live in a room for a while before you go out and buy other things. You can then find out what you use and what you actually need.

Do one room at a time

As said before, always split a large job down into smaller chunks. In this case, room by room. Not only will this spread the time and effort over a longer period, but also will spread the cost and allow you to learn as you go along.

Painting first

Painting is probably the easiest and most affordable way of creating an impact in your new home. Your new kitchen, cosy lounge and restful bedroom will immediately stand out and seem almost finished after a coat of well-chosen emulsion paint.

The bedroom

People say that we spend a third of our lives in bed so it would seem sensible to have a good quality bed, mattress and bedding. If, up to now, you have been making do with a ‘hand-me-down’ bed and mattress, maybe it is the time to invest in a new bed. If you want a good night’s sleep, you need a good mattress. What kind you buy is a matter of preference, but you must remember that it is recommended to change your mattress every eight years, so choose a good one.

Mix and match

If you aren’t sure how to go about choosing the design that is right for you, then keep the walls plain and subdued, and add smaller complementary decorative components such as rugs and cushions. These are easily replaced if you don’t like them and won’t cost a fortune.

Relax and enjoy!

You are hopefully going to live in your new home for a long time, so there is not a great rush. Decorate with care and if you don’t like how it looks then try a different theme.

Ten DIY interior design tips

You don’t have to go to a lot of trouble when giving your home a little pick-me-up. There are many little tips and tricks that professional interior designers employ to provide a cheap and quick alteration to your home décor.

Paint in light colours. A good way to maximise a small living space is to paint the walls and ceiling in soft and light colours. If walls and furniture are dark then the room has a tendency to seem small and cramped. The use of large windows, light walls and large mirrors give the impression of being in the open air and creates an optical illusion of space.

Mirrors. Decorative mirrors can be used to make a small cramped area appear larger. By placing mirrors opposite windows, you will give the room more daylight. Decorative mirrors can also be used in place of framed pictures to add interest to empty walls. Do not overdo the amount of mirror however, use everything in moderation and keep things balanced.

Mix and match. Just because you have decided upon a modern style, there is nothing to say you cannot add a bit of quirkiness by mixing the modern furniture with antique or retro. Even a few family heirlooms dotted around the room will give interest to an otherwise bland room. All the retro furniture and antique items tell many stories. They could be about the time when you went on vacation to Italy and brought back a reproduction carving. How about your grandfather’s antique clock or even the picture drawn by your daughter with crayons on a cereal box?

All these items have a place and if displayed correctly can enhance any room. Patterned cushions, rugs or bean-bags also add colour and interest to a room.

Slip covers. Removable slip covers can change the look of your furniture without spending a fortune. They are easily changed when you want to alter the feel of your room, perhaps between summer and winter? They also can provide a feel of sophistication without worrying about people spilling drinks or children using pens. When they have become a bit grubby, just throw them into the washing machine.

Wicker baskets. Wicker baskets of all sizes are an economical way to add storage to your room. They look good as well. Store books, toys, magazines, towels, blankets, the list is endless. Small wicker baskets are also a good way to store and display fruit and vegetables on your kitchen worktop.

Use what you already have. We all have bits and pieces, probably stored in a box somewhere. Why not get them out and see if you can use them to decorate your rooms. Hang plates on walls, frame pictures from old and torn children’s books and hang on the kids’ bedroom walls. The list is endless.

Use plant hangers. Macramé plant hangers are a cheap way of bringing greenery into the house. They can be bought cheaply from handicraft stores or why not borrow a book from the library and make one yourself. If you have a large ornamental bowl or wicker basket, put one into a macramé hanger and make a fruit bowl from it.

Use plants. Plants always look good in a living space. Not only do they add colour and texture to your rooms, they also soften sharp corners, help to purify the air and balance humidity.

Use wallpaper and paint in unusual places. If you have some old and drab bookcases or cupboards, give them a coat of white paint and infill panels with pieces of wallpaper to give a splash of colour. Why not paint the inside of alcoves or fireplace mantelpieces?

Use rugs. Throw rugs add warmth, softness and colour to wooden floors that would otherwise be cold and hard. Hardwood floor blocks or softwood varnished floorboards look good and are easy to maintain but lack warmth, especially in the winter. Use many rugs of varying colours and patterns or rugs of different sizes and shapes but the same colour. Throw rugs are cheap enough to be able to change the colour and textures depending on the seasons.

What is involved in interior decoration?

So far we have talked about designing the interior of your home with paint and furniture. But what is actually involved when it comes to interior decoration, and I mean the physical action of painting rather than the artistic designing bit?

There are many in depth websites and videos online together with reference books in bookshops and the public library explaining how to go about painting and decorating so I won’t go into much great depth here, and anyway there is so much information available it would probably take me ages to write about it all.

Let’s just talk about the basic skills involved in a decorating DIY project. Primarily the most important thing you must do is to prepare the surfaces properly. Paint will not stick to walls that are damp or greasy. Varnish and gloss paint will not adhere to woodwork that needs sanding down and preparing. Paint and varnish if applied hurriedly and with little care will run and form blisters, completely spoiling the look of your work and wasting your time and effort.

Even if you are not doing the job as a DIY project, it is still useful to know the steps involved in painting a room so you will know what to expect from a professional.

There are two types of paint:

Water based paint. Different types of water based paint will have different names depending on the part of the world you live and what they are used for. Whatever they are called, they have one thing in common, they are based on water. This means that they use water as a carrier for the particles of coloured paint held in a suspension. The brushes and rags are easily cleaned with water as are any spills you might have on your clothes or carpets. Remember though that once the paints are dry they will be harder to remove. Most water based paints are generally used to cover large expanses of plaster such as walls and ceilings and are called emulsions.

There are washable and wipeable emulsions with a gloss or a matt finish too. These are usually vinyl matt emulsions or vinyl gloss emulsions. Useful for application in bathrooms and kitchens. Non vinyl paints can be wiped but take care that you don’t wash the paint off the wall. It is often easier if there is a mark to touch the paint up with a smear of the same colour paint. Emulsion paints are generally not very hardwearing, but dry quickly ready for another coat. There are also modern water based finishing coats for wood but we will talk about those next.

Oil based paints. These are paints normally used to cover wood and metal (although they can be used to cover plaster as well). They are hardwearing and waterproof so often used outside as well as inside but they take a long while to dry. Brushes used with oil based paints are cleaned with an oil solvent such as turpentine or white spirits (once again these may have different names depending where in the world you live).

Although the problems of getting brushes clean are often worth the hardwearing properties of oil paints, modern technology has given us paints with the water resistance and hard wearing properties of oil paints combined with the ease of use and application of water based paints. Oil based paints need a primer as a first coat to bond with the surface, followed by an undercoat which bonds to the primer and provides depth and colour followed by a top coat to bond with the undercoat. The top coat is the one which shows and will have either a gloss, satin or matt texture depending on which you prefer.

Generally speaking then water based emulsion paints are used on walls and ceilings while oil based paints are used on woodwork, metal and other non-absorbent surfaces.

Before you apply the paint, the surface requires preparation to provide a surface free from bumps, indentations and contaminants. This is usually done by filling the holes with filler and sanding the surface smooth using different grades of sandpaper. Once the surface has been abraded, all traces of dust must be removed to allow the paint to adhere to the surface. If you are using a water based paint then you can wash with a damp cloth but if the paint is oil based then wash with a white spirit dampened cloth.

Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before giving the walls a base coat of paint. If you are using water based emulsion on plaster walls then you must apply a coat of emulsion diluted with water. This allows the paint to soak into the plaster and form a good bond. If you are using oil based paint then you must apply a coat of primer first. The sort of primer will differ depending on whether you are painting wood or metal surfaces. Once again this is to give the top coats something to adhere to.

After the primer coat has dried, give the surface a light abrade with a piece of sandpaper to give a key for the further coats. Apply the required coats of emulsion (usually two, but sometimes more than two coats are required depending on the surface and what the original colour of the wall was). If you are using oil paints, sand the surface lightly and give the surface a coat of undercoat and a coat of topcoat. Paint properties all vary so you must take my instructions as a guideline only and always follow the instructions given by the manufacturer, including any safety procedures specified. As a general rule always give the surface a light rub with sandpaper between coats of paint. Light enough to provide a roughening of the surface but not so hard as to remove the paint.

Interior decorating contractors

If you haven’t got the time or the inclination to paint your rooms yourself then you can always hire a painting and decorating contractor to do the job for you. If you want a job with the same quality as you would do yourself then hire a handyman to do it. If you want a superior quality then hire an interior decorator. Handymen are often chosen to do small jobs rather than contractors mainly because of the high rates contractors charge. Contractors on the other hand charge more because they have been trained, often by an apprenticeship, and know a variety of decorating techniques.

How to choose a contractor who offers good service at a fair price

Good interior decorators and designers are not hard to find.  Look online and browse through their websites if they have them. Don’t hold it against anyone if they do not have an online presence as they might have found they don’t need to advertise.

You will be having strangers into your home. Find out if the contractors and their employees have been checked for a criminal record. If they haven’t then it does not mean that all the company’s staff members are criminals, but you should find out from a senior manager why they have not been checked.

Ensure all employees are covered by third party insurance and have the appropriate license for the state in which you live. If you are in any doubt then contact your local City Hall and find out the licensing requirements for your area.

  • Find out what training and qualifications they have.
  • Research the average pay rates in your area for professionals.
  • Ask friends and family if they can recommend someone who has the required standard of work.

Who should you not choose

You are entrusting the decoration of your home to this person. Make sure that they have references you can check. If they haven’t then they are not suitable.

Do not choose anyone who comes knocking on your door touting for business. Someone who has to resort to cold calling, in person or on the phone, is someone who is lacking in work. Ask yourself why that might be.

After researching the average rates in your area, do not choose anyone who charges either too little or too much compared to the average rate.

Ask if there is a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the job. If there isn’t then think twice about employing this person.

What other services will a contractor usually offer?

Sometimes interior designers are primarily qualified architects. This means that all aspects of the house remodelling can be accomplished by one person.

Sometimes interior designers are decorators as well, especially if they have a company which provides designs, plans, project management and decorators.

An interior decorator will not only be able to provide and dress your rooms with furnishings and accessories they will also be able to apply paint and wallpaper to complete the job.

Sometimes designers and decorators will use the oriental art of Feng Shui to determine where and how the room and its furnishings should be placed. It is an ancient Chinese philosophy used in China for at least 4000 years and now is used widely in all countries. The philosophy is based on the idea that it is possible to manipulate the earth energies to produce a harmonious, beneficial and healthy environment by the careful positioning of a room and the selection and positioning of the items within the room. Feng Shui is too specialised a subject to go into in this article and needs its own article to fully explain and discuss the pros and cons of the philosophy.

A cost breakdown

If you decide to hire a professional, you have two options; hire an interior designer and let them plan and get the work done for you or hire an interior decorator directly to carry out your instructions. Obviously hiring a designer will come at a price but they will be able to keep the project on budget and on schedule. A designer is skilled at knowing which decorators are good quality workers and also would be able to take advantage of bulk purchases of painting supplies. If you choose a decorator, either you can supply the paint or ask the decorator to purchase it for you. Remember the professional will expect to make a profit on the cost of the paint so don’t expect to get it too cheaply.

Whoever you choose, the designer or the decorator, they will both supply you with a quotation on request. Don’t forget to allow them access to the rooms so they can see the existing walls and paintwork as this will have a direct impact on the quoted price. For example if the existing walls are crumbling and the plaster is ‘blown’ (sounds hollow when tapped), you cannot expect a decorator to give you a good quality, finished job without having a suitable surface on which to paint. You may need to bring in a plasterer to repair the walls or the imperfections may be small enough for the decorator to use decorating filler.

Also, a point that people often overlook is that a dark coloured wall is more difficult to paint over than a light coloured wall and will need additional coats before the existing colour stops showing through. In fact if we assume that we want to cover a dark purple wall with yellow paint, it is often easier and cheaper to cover the purple with two or three coats of brilliant white emulsion before attempting to use the yellow paint.

So back to the cost structures. Generally interior decorators and designers use one of the following methods to charge for their skills:

Cost plus. This is a method of charging for materials that the contractor is expected to pay for. Basically it is the cost to buy the materials plus a percentage of the purchase price to cover the contractor’s time and expertise. The added percentage is agreed at contract stage but often is 20% of the purchase price. For example if the products cost $10,000 then the billed amount to you will be $12,000.

Hourly rate. Some contractors charge by the hour or by the day, whichever is most convenient. Rates can vary from $50 to $250 per hour. Obviously in this case the total fee depends on the time spent working on the job. Most contractors reserve this charging system for small, simple jobs that are unlikely to spiral out of control if complications arise. The hourly rate will be charged in conjunction with ‘cost plus’ for materials.

Fixed rate. A fixed (or flat) rate is a single price charged by the contractor to cover all labour and materials. This is the simpler option for large jobs as all parties know what payment will be made. Often the fixed rate can cover labour only and is charged in addition to ‘cost plus’ for materials. You may find that the fixed rate is more expensive than if the job was charged by the hour. This is because the contractor must add in a factor to account for the unforeseen problems which may occur.

Area. Large scale contractors, especially ones specialising in commercial premises often charge per square foot. This obviously takes into account the size of the job and is used in conjunction with a fixed minimum charge, so that the contractor is not called out to paint a tiny room that wouldn’t otherwise be worth the effort. This pricing structure may or may not include the cost of materials.

Costs to hire a decorator or a designer can vary significantly depending on the skill and experience of the contractor. Other factors influencing price include location, size of building and scope of project.

Average costs for a typical project can be as follows:

Typical average combined costs for materials and labour
Range for average sized project$2,000 to $10,000
Average cost for project$5,500
Low end project$500
High end project$20,000

DIY or professional. Which is best?

Although anyone can dress a room and paint a wall, it takes a professional to dress a room and paint a wall with a finished quality you would be proud to show off.

There are many reasons for and against hiring a professional and we will be discussing these now.

Professionals save you time. Professional decorators know where to shop to get the best deals when it comes to accessories and paint. They have a lot of contacts they have made over the years and will probably be able to find exactly what you need to put in that alcove. Their inside knowledge allows them to get the job done while you would spend weeks hunting down a specific item, comparing prices or weighing up the benefits of one fixture against another.

Professionals have skills. Interior designers and decorators have professional skills that come with many years’ experience on the job. They have an artistic flair which allows them to complement colours, textures and shapes. While decorators know how to use paint and furniture position to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, a designer knows how to create the space using lighting, acoustics and temperature.

Professionals have the tools. Professional contractors have the tools and know where to get the materials needed to complete the job perfectly.

Professionals simplify a project. Interior designers have a deep knowledge of the building codes and regulations necessary to provide a safe building. They work alongside architects and others in the building trade to ensure the project runs smoothly. Decorators know when to use a cheaper alternative if the original choice was too expensive, and know how to present the finished article so no-one is any the wiser. Both professionals can identify potential problems before they become apparent and minimise expensive delays and wastage.

Before you hire either a designer or a decorator, make sure you know what it is they can offer and what it is you want from them. If you just want to freshen up your living room, maybe a designer is going over the top and a decorator would be perfect. If however you want to completely remodel and renovate your house then a designer is the person you need. If you have a complex project involving lots of trade professionals working as a team to produce your new house then a designer may be the right person for the job. They will be able to keep the job on track and ensure the other members of the team continue to work towards the required goal.

When you are looking around for either an interior designer or an interior decorator, don’t forget to get at least three quotations before you make a decision.

Don’t forget, if you are looking for a designer then employ one who is certified by the American Society of Interior Designers. If you don’t live in the USA then obviously you will have to search out the equivalent organisation in your own country. The point is to make sure they are qualified.

An interior decorator, if they are competent, will have a portfolio of satisfied customers who would be willing to vouch for their quality of work and their professionalism. Don’t undervalue ‘word of mouth’, it is often the best way to find a reliable and respectable contractor.

Ten questions to ask a contractor before hiring

How long have you been trading?

From the answer you will be able to determine how experienced they are. Don’t be put off if the professional is inexperienced, we all have to start somewhere, but make sure the fee and any guarantees reflect the person’s inexperience.

How many people will be working?

Find out how many employees they have and how many will be in your house. Usually designers are individual or work with a practice like an architect. Decorators can be lone workers or sometimes as many as three working together.

When can you start the job?

You will need time to get other quotes and prepare your house for the decoration. Often decorators and designers will not always be working on your property but may be out choosing and buy furnishings or in their office doing research and planning. Although they aren’t on your property they are still working for you and will expect to be paid for their time.

Do you see any problems?

The professional will be able to determine on their initial visit whether there are likely to be any problems. Finding a solution however may take a bit longer to sort out.

Can I have a firm quotation?

You will want to know how much all this is going to cost. If the project involves buying furniture and accessories then it is wise to set a budget and ensure the decorator sticks to budget.

Have you any references?

You will want to know the quality of their work and their professionalism. Ask for the contact details of three or four references and contact them. See if you can visit to see the quality for yourself.

What certificates and licenses do you hold?

Ask to see appropriate contractor’s license and documents proving membership of a professional body. Contact someone in the local building control office to find out if they have heard good or bad reports of your contractor.

What will you as householder be expected to do?

Will you have to move furniture, empty rooms, lift carpets before decorating starts? Will you have to provide facilities to clean brushes? Do you have to keep children and pets away from the working area? Maybe you can do some work yourself to reduce the amount on the invoice.

To finish

We have today discussed the interior designer, the interior decorator and the basic principles of home décor. A valuable asset like your house needs to be looked after and maintained properly and decorating is one way of doing this. Not everyone is able to dress a house to show it off to its best advantage, but those who can are worth their weight in gold.

Don’t confuse the skills and responsibility of the designer against the decorator. They each have their own skillset and you must decide which one you need for your project.

We talked about some basic principles of DIY decorating and how it is possible to decorate your own home if you have the necessary skills. We touched very briefly on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui and talked about how some designers and decorators incorporate the principles into their work.

Lastly we looked at a few questions to ask your prospective contractor to make sure they are a reputable trader and professional.

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