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40 shades of gray

Flood of redecorating options engulfs some clients by Cheree Franco | March 7, 2015 at 2:20 a.m.
"Shop your home," says Katherine Spicer, who recovered a chair her client already had for this Fort Smith living room.

Claudia Shannon of Jonesboro understands how stressful redecorating can be. "We didn't used to have all of those home shows and all of these Internet sites. ... My clients are having a much harder time these days because they're bombarded by what's out there, and they think they have to look at every bit of it before making a decision," says the 45-year interior design veteran.

One of her recent clients was agonizing over 40 samples of paint, most of which were some variation of gray.

"She was hearing from everyone how big gray was, but she didn't really want that, because her house was already dark," Shannon says.

When the woman came to Shannon, she had been trying to make a decision for weeks. Shannon guided her toward "warm, soft gray" ceilings paired with beige walls.

"Think about houses you've been in that you like. Everything on TV is over the top. Either it's being done in 30 minutes, which is impossible, or it's so expensive that it's unattainable," Shannon says. "But if you like what you see in a neighbor's house, that's probably something you can do in your own house."

To help others avoid the 40 shades of gray dilemma, Shannon and other Arkansas-based designers share some of their favorite tips.

1. Choose your paint last.

"If there's a sofa that you love, and the manufacturer only has 25 fabrics, you're going to have to choose one of those fabrics. But a paint company has 2,000 colors, so you can be more flexible there," says Joshua Plumlee, with Little Rock's Cobblestone & Vine.

2. Be impulsive.

"Sometimes people want to shop too much and find too many options and there's a lot of 'overwhelm factor.' Make a decision and live with it. People seem to most enjoy the things they decided on quickly. There's an impulse factor," Plumlee says.

"Go with your instincts. Don't try to conform to what everybody else does. Instead of trying to copy what you see, be your own person and do what you like. Usually when you do that, the room fits together better," says Jennifer Huett with House to Home in Hot Springs.

3. Make it work.

"It's important for a space to tell who people are. If there's something that you love, that you inherited or that you invested a lot in, let's make that your statement," Shannon says.

"Don't worry about the piece matching everything around it. ... You can place accessories around it that tie it into the rest of the room," says Meridith Hamilton Ranouil with MLH Designs in Little Rock.

4. Shop your house.

"When you're redecorating, before buying something new, shop your own house," says Katherine Spicer, a Fort Smith designer. "If you have a favorite chair, maybe all it needs is new upholstery. Or if you inherited a landscape, maybe it just needs a new frame."

5. Hang your drapes from ceiling to floor.

"It makes your room appear taller," Ranouil says.

6. Dim the lights.

According to Ranouil, "Designers love dimmer switches. You can add them on anything -- floor lamps, table lamps, the built-in house lighting. It will create an ambience ... a softer, much more friendly light."

7. Separate space.

"Open space plans are a great look, but sometimes it can go too far, and you can

feel like you have your kitchen, your living room and your dining room all in one space. I like to find subtle ways to separate one function from another," says Little Rock designer Kaki Hockersmith. "You can change the wall color or finishes, you can use area rugs to define and anchor the space, you can make changes with architectural features such as light fixtures, where, if you use one kind of fixture in the living area, you should use completely different ones in the dining area. ... You're sort of making subtle visual walls."

8. Simplify.

"Don't have a lot of tchotchkes sitting around. If you want to redo your space, take everything out and put maybe 30 percent back," Ranouil says. "Put back large, key elements first -- groupings of books, a big vase. Then add just a few more things, to keep that negative space. Negative space will make everything seem more clean, open and larger."

"Use larger-scale accessories and fewer of them, for a simple approach rather than a messy, overdone approach," says Julie Fryauf with Julie Wait Designs in Rogers.

9. Keep it clean.

"Very often, I see people struggling with paint colors. They don't know what color to paint their walls or if it will coordinate with the rest of the furniture. Go for a muted, neutral palette and solid colors. It's always better to use lighter colors than a mishmash of dark, light, whatever. ... And don't paint walls purple," Spicer says.

"In terms of case-good pieces and upholstery, I stick to clean, classic lines -- things that are going to translate in both traditional settings or could go into a condo, if you downsized. With a clean palette, you could put any kind of pillow or throw and dress it up or down," Plumlee says.

10. Be forward-thinking.

"The functions that happen in rooms change. ... In my own home, we had an attached garage that we remodeled into a playroom when my children were little. Then, as they got older, it became a music room where they played instruments, and I needed to have a door on that room to keep the sound contained, which I hadn't considered ... you may not need those built-in toy shelves for forever," Fryauf says.

11. Invest in the spaces you use the most.

Fryauf doesn't believe in scrimping on the kitchen. "Kitchens are my No. 1 spot that I tell people, go ahead and do it how you want to do it. You're going to live in that space and enjoy it a lot. Don't be afraid to do what you need to do to make the spaces that you use the most right for your family," she says.

12. Live in technicolor.

"Some people are too afraid of color," Ranouil says. "I'll do a lot of the big things neutral, and then I'll do colors in pictures and art."

"Dark color is sometimes good for small rooms, because it conceals the corners and opens up the space," Huett says.

13. Think about flow.

"Think about the flow and, from a real practical standpoint, how it needs to function," Plumlee says. "Does it need a sofa rather than a sectional? Does it need a table where a chair might live? Just kind of walk into it and think about how you might physically move about the space."

HomeStyle on 03/07/2015

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