Decorating takes vision Don't do it alone: Experts advise homebuyers to get professional assistance with extensive redecorating.

November 12, 1995|By Deidre N. McCabe | Deidre N. McCabe,SUN STAFF

You've scrimped. You've saved. You've looked at a hundred houses in two dozen neighborhoods and finally found your dream home.

It's got the living room, dining room, den, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, foyer, hallways -- everything you've ever wanted.

Well, perhaps you could live without that animal print wallpaper in the den. And the black and purple master bedroom scheme is not really you. And that wallpaper in the powder room -- what were they thinking?

Whether they buy a new home, which is likely to be "builder's beige" from top to bottom, or a resale, which may be completely decorated but in someone else's taste, most new home owners do a fair amount of decorating.

"When you get a new house, you want to put your mark on it," said Ted Pearson, vice president of Rita St. Clair Associates in Baltimore. "It's a huge investment, and you want to make sure you're making wise investments."

The problem, according to professional designers, is that many homeowners are so overwhelmed by the process they go about it in the wrong way.

"I think many people don't have an overall vision. They kind of jump from room to room and then feel things don't blend, there's no flow," said Phyllis Alban Richman, interior designer for the Hechinger's Home Project Center in Annapolis.

Without an overall plan, master designers said, things can start going downhill fast. The rug, which seemed like such a good buy, clashes with the wallpaper. The couch is too big for the room and there's no place to plug in the lamps without tripping over the cords.

At this point, many homeowners turn to professionals for help.

And, whether they're high-end interior designers or professionals home improvement centers who offer their services for free, the experts all agree on one thing. Before you buy another single thing, develop a master plan for your entire home.

"If you're at all serious about this, you need a master plan," said Richard Taylor, of Taylor-Siegmeister Associates in Baltimore. "You don't want it to end up looking like a showcase house, where every room is completely different. There's nothing wrong with eclectic taste. But you don't want a frantic look, a mishmash."

If you have no idea how to begin a plan, go out and buy a half-dozen home decorating magazines, suggested Mr. Pearson. Start tearing out pictures of things you like and put them into a folder.

"It doesn't have to be the whole room you love, just something that strikes you," he explained. One picture might show a color scheme that appeals to you and another a piece of furniture. "Most people have some idea of what they like. It's a matter of organizing their preferences."

Once you have developed some sense of what you like, it's time to consult with a designer.

"No matter what your budget, I think it's always good to get another opinion," said Ms. Richman, adding that with the abundance of options these days nearly everyone can afford some professional advice.

Susan Dixon, an interior designer with Ikea in White Marsh, offers in-store advice for free and charges $50 for on-site consultations that last two hours.

"If someone has a predetermined budget, we always work within that budget," she said.

Generally, the first visit with a designer will be in the office or at the retail store, if the client is using an in-house service. Baltimore designer Gerry Ebert suggests that prospective clients interview several designers in person before they make a final selection.

"Most designers are going to be willing to give you an hour at their office with no obligation," he said. "You've got to be sure you're comfortable with the person you select."

"If you see homes you admire, ask who did the house," recommended Mr. Taylor. "Then interview those people."

Depending on the designer and the type of fee negotiated, designers will work with clients to develop "specifications" only -- decorating plans for a room -- or a whole lot more, including decorating an entire house and obtaining all the materials used.

A designer can help clients create or fine-tune their master plans; inventory what they have, deciding what to keep and what should be replaced; finalize color schemes; select paints, wall covers, window treatments and flooring; and determine whether "architectural details," such as moldings, are needed.

They can help clients consider things like built-in cabinets and bookshelves, how to improve the "flow" of their rooms, how to arrange furniture comfortably and aesthetically and how to provide adequate lighting.

Designers also are interested in the "scale of things," something many people get wrong, said Mr. Taylor.

"Lots of times, things are too big or too small for a space," he said, adding that Americans tend toward too big more often than not. "Big oversized chairs and sofas don't work in every room."

What worries most people about using professionals is they fear that the decorators will drive up the cost of the project or take one look at what they have and declare it all must go.

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