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Interior intervention
Experts Offer Tips on How to Avoid Common Design Pitfalls



The long and narrow great room posed a design challenge for Kelly Neumann of Vyolette Interior Design Consulting. She had the undersized fireplace rebuilt and chose furniture to fit the scale of the room and maximize seating.

If you avoid common mistakes, decorating your home can and should be a joyous, fulfilling experience, according to four area interior decorators. The following professional designers who operate home-based businesses shared their wisdom on mistakes they sometimes encounter and suggested remedies: Nancy Carriveau of Nan-C Design, Brookfield; Lise Lawson of Lawson Interior Design, Fox Point; Kelly Neumann of Vyolette Interior Design Consulting, Milwaukee; and Kirsten Termuehlen of French Country Pine & Design of Wauwatosa.

Impulsive shopping

All four designers agree the most common mistakes homeowners make generally result from impulsive shopping, perhaps, as Neumann cites, "to meet a deadline for a family holiday gathering." They purchase furnishings for an entire home or room in a rush rather than buying for a specific area, she says. Neumann also cautions against buying attractive catalog items that may not fit into the general "look" both client and designer are working toward.

Inappropriate scale

"People sometimes are unable to visualize the space needed and therefore purchase furniture of inappropriate scale," Lawson says. She advises against buying at first glance. Instead, measure the prospective sofa, chair or table in the store and later lay out a newspaper pattern at home for a reality check.

Neumann used color, window treatments and lighting to update a clientís outdated dining room.

Color choices

Hereís where the designersí multiple talents can shine by helping clients to select colors that transform their own personalities as well as enhance their homes. "Clients often want to paint first, but painting should be the finishing touch," Carriveau says. "All walls need not be beige." She has witnessed the exuberant effect of selecting bold colors on the personalities of clients as well as their homes.

Inadequate lighting

Termuehlen admits the biggest mistake she sees ó even in the most polished homes she visits ó is "the lack of uniquely, well-positioned and proportioned lamps." She advises installing dimmers on any overhead lighting and directional lenses on can lights to achieve a sense of intimacy. "Then enjoy the hunt for the lamp and shade that complements each niche of the room."

Lack of a road map

If all this advice sounds overwhelming, relax. Help is as close as a telephone call. The design professionals are available to help you sort things out. Their cardinal rules are: first, to assess your lifestyle and personality, then to determine the functions of rooms under consideration. Next, decide on a starting point by prioritizing ó social areas or private areas. Following these decisions, the designer will help you select color and lighting and, finally, will provide a "road map" to avoid the shopping pitfalls described.

"Itís a layering process that requires a harmonious blend of lighting, proportion, texture, color, humor, material and line," Termuehlen says. "Itís like painting a canvas," she says. "Enjoy the paced process of exploring your own likes and dislikes with a designer, then slowly layer each room with pieces that inspire you," she says. "It should be an enjoyable journey of discovery with your designer rather than a quick-fix relationship."