There's a difference between rooms finished by those who are professional designers and decorators and those who aren't.  Most of the time those differences are subtle.  They are little things like ribbon trim on lampshades to the arrangement of pictures on a wall.  But when all these things come together you get a room that looks finished.

Here are some ways to achieve that look in your home without having to pay a professional;

Simple Tips

>     Opt for open shelving or glass doors on a cabinet rather than closed storage. Let people
        see your things!  Just make sure to arrange your accessories in a nice way.

>     Mix ambient and task lighting in every room.  You should always take a 'layered'
       approach to lighting.  Mix table lamps, sconces, floor lamps, overhead lights and more.


>     Add dimmer switches to every light in the house. Seriously!  Instant atmosphere!

>      Always mix materials & textures. It's what gives a room depth.

>      Avoid an impersonal look with matching sets of accessories... instead co-ordinate
        pieces by picking up a common accent colour or details of your living space.

>     Paint your walls a dark colour. This can make a small room look and feel bigger
       (the opposite of what everyone seems to think!).


>     Use a really bold print somewhere in each room.  It could be as small as a throw
       pillow or a piece of fabric framed on the wall.

>     A round coffee table or ottoman can actually make a room look bigger. And there's
       no chance of banging your legs on a sharp corner!

>     Don't be afraid to mix and match your dining seating. You wouldn't have identical
       chairs in the living room, so why would you do it in the dining room?  It will give
       your dining room an eclectic and relaxed look!


>     Don't buy everything brand new.  You should always have at least one or two
       vintage pieces to give your home some character.

>     Use artwork, heirlooms and do-it-yourself projects as key accessories. The best
       accessories are those that tell a story and reflect a side of your personality!

>     Bring in some flowers....this can't be said enough!  A couple of small and simple
       arrangements breathes life into a room in a way that nothing else can!


Whether it's a sofa table, a coffee table, a bookcase or a mantel,  there are certain things you can do with surface displays (as opposed to wall displays) that will make them look great.

>     Group items together.  Rather than have a number of items randomly placed
        on a table or shelf,  create groupings.  It reduces the cluttered look and makes
       your  space  look more grounded.

>     Odds are usually better than evens.  Placing similar objects together in a group of
       three usually works better than grouping in pairs!

>     When displaying only a few objects make sure they are in keeping with the
        overall style of your room.

>     Layer items in front of one another to create depth in displays and 'vignettes'.
       Unlike a photograph, people won't always be looking at your display straight on.
       Items in the foreground should overlap those in the background.

>     Make some of your displays eclectic... random items look great together as long as
       there is enough variety to keep your display interesting + engaging.  Two mismatched picture
       frames might not look great together,  but a dozen will look fantastic!

>     When creating a display on a long table or mantel - you can make it look formal by
       placing matching items on each end  (lamps, candlesticks, vases etc).

>     Create some balance in your vignettes - but remember that balance doesn't have to mean
       matching.  A few lightweight items on one side of a mantel or table can be balanced
       with a  larger or heavier item on the other.


Much like table displays arranging art takes a little practice.  The best way to do it -- is to start by placing your pieces of art on the floor and creating a pleasing arrangement of how you want it to look on the wall.

>     When hanging several pieces together treat them all as one unit.  For instance, if you were
       hanging a single piece over a sofa you're likely not to want it to extend past each side of the
       sofa.  With several pieces you would follow the same rule.  If the  centre point of a single
       piece is hung at eye level, then the centre point of an arrangement of several pieces would
       also be at eye level.

>     In a grouping of art, each piece should be placed approximately two inches from the one
       next to, above, and below it.

>     Mix large and small pieces together.  Do not hang a number of large pieces together on one
       wall and a number of small pieces together on another wall.  If you do... one wall will look very
       heavy while the other looks too light.  The key is to create balance.  The same rule applies to
       frames.  Mix styles and colours to create visual balance.

       There is nothing more depressing or empty looking than a blank wall. But before you start
       buying and hanging art,  check out these do's and dont's! 

>     DO use your walls as a showcase for your own photographs.  Have your photos blown
       up and then use a spray adhesive to mount them on either canvas or whatever you fancy.

>     DON'T  hang artwork too high.  The centre point of a single picture or a grouping should be
       at eye level.

>     DON'T  think that art has to be expensive.  Put up your childrens drawings, hang family photo-
       graphs and mount  memorabilia,  fabrics,  dried flowers, or whatever you fancy to enhance
       your living space!

>     DO hang art in every room in the house!  Don't forget about the bathroom, utility and even
       the downstairs loo!

>     DON'T  hang a tiny piece on a big wall!  If you have a small piece to hang put it in a frame that has
       a large surround.

>     DO  use picture-hanging hooks rather than nails or screws.  Picture hooks can take a lot of weight
       (up to 100 lbs for some sizes)... using two hooks per piece, definitely helps pictures remain level.

>     DON'T  try to hang art by yourself.  It's always better to have at least two people so one can hold it in
       place and the other can step back and make sure the position/placement is right.

>     DO  lean artwork against a wall in some areas... A piece sitting on a console table or mantel, leaning
       against the wall looks very stylish + creates interest.  Layer a few pieces together for a striking
       display... or buy a small table easel for an instant impact wherever you choose!

>     DO  plan out a photo wall in advance... place pictures on the floor in front of the wall and play around
       with the arrangements until you find the display that satisfies you.

>     DON'T  hang pieces too far apart from each other.  Approximately 2"  (sometimes less)  is ideal;  above
       below and side!

>     DON'T  forget about balance.  Don't hang all the large pieces in one area and all the small ones in another.
       The same applies for similar frames... mix things around until YOU feel they're visually pleasing!


>     The rules for hanging sconces are fairly similar to those for hanging art. 
       The placement will always depend on the size of the wall.  If you're hanging sconces on either
       side of a  mirror or piece of art be sure to leave enough space for the piece in the centre to 'breathe'!
       The amount will depend on the size of the space, but be sure not to overcrowd & squish the art or mirror.

Don't forget to think about where the sconce is going... is it safe?


>     Curtains and drapes should always 'kiss'  the floor (or puddle on it).   A very common decorating mistake
        is to hang curtains that are too short  and don't  reach the floor. 
       This looks truncated and out-of-proportion!

>     When hanging a curtain rod or track it should be installed at least 2" above the window frame and anywhere
       between 6" and 16" beyond each side.


>     When trying to decide where to put  your television remember this: the bottom of the screen should be at
       chest level when you are seated.  While hanging a television above a mantel is a bit trendy right now, it's
       not the best place because it can strain your neck.
       If possible in your space, multiply the diagonal width of the screen by three to determine the
       optimal viewing distance. 



Decorating on a budget is a chance to let your creativity shine!  These fun, easy (and cheap!) decorating tips
will help to re-invigorate your home without breaking the bank.

>     Clear clutter and get organized.  It's the first step to achieving a beautiful home.

>     When decorating,  set a budget & stick to it!

>      Sometimes all you need is an extra set of eyes to gain some perspective about how to decorate
         a room.  When you've been living in a space for a long time,  simple solutions can remain
         obscure!  Get a friend, whose taste you admire... to lend a critical eye and a helping hand.

>     Move decorative pieces to different places around a room or to a different room altogether.  Rotating
       your existing accessories will help breathe a new life into rooms without spending a penny.

>      Concentrate your redecorating attention on one room or area in the house at a time.

>      Create a focal point in a room.  This could be a singular item displayed proudly or a collection of items
        grouped together.

>      Don't buy  'stuff'  just to fill empty spaces.  Think about your purchases and buy only what you
        really love.

>       After you 'think' you've finished decorating a room... step back + take away a few pieces!

>      When decorating around a theme,  don't go overboard.  Include just one or two pieces that act as 
        focal points and allude to your theme. 

>       Don't feel obliged to display items you don't like.  If there's a piece of decor that holds little value 
         (sentimental or otherwise),  get rid of it... or pack it away. 

>       Re-arrange your existing furniture;  move and interchange pieces right throughout your house.

>       Give old and unused items a new lease on life... either by giving them away, selling them or trans-
         forming them into something new.

>       An accent or feature wall is an easy starting point when decorating.  Pick a blank wall; preferably
         in a fairly visible location like at the end of the hall, and paint it a 'stand-out' shade.  

>       Add shelving behind the toilet to create storage and display space.

>       Use ceramic paint to create a unique design on the tiles of your  kitchen/ bathroom  backsplash.

>       Decorate according to your interests... if you like music,  frame some sheet music or hang album
         covers on the wall as art!

>       Give a bathroom a breath of fresh air with the addition of humidity-loving plants like bamboo stalks.

>       For a  'nature- inspired' look,  fill in floor gaps with grouted pebbles.  This works especially well in
         a doorway/thresholds.

>       Knitted woolen throws are a wonderfully warm accent in a family room or on the end of a bed.

>      Perk up your bathroom decor with beautiful pieces like a heavy cut-glass tumbler as a toothbrush
        holder or a pretty Victorian-inspired tea saucer as a soap dish.

>     Keep big price-tag items like a bed frame,  sofa or dining table simple.  Pick something with a  clean design
       that will work for you with almost any style.

>     For an instant update to cabinets in the kitchen, bathroom or wherever you want,  change the door/drawer
       knobs and pulls.

>     Install mirrors opposite windows or doorways in dark narrow spaces like hallways to create an illusion
       of space.  If it's a bigger bathroom you're after, again, it's all in the mirrors.

>     Remember mirrors add glamour; create more space and reflect light right throughout your home!

>    Paint dry foliage/flowers/branches in toning colours to suit your habitat... create beautiful accents
     for a dramatic minimalist  'style statement'  that will last indefinitely!

>    Odd glasses and bowls make wonderful votives +candle holders!


There are a few important things to remember when arranging living room furniture!

>     ESTABLISH a focal point of the room and arrange furniture around it.  In some rooms the focal point will be
       an existing feature such as a fireplace or window, and in some it will be something you bring in to
       the room such as a television.

>     USE the furniture to create conversation areas.  People should be able to comfortably talk to each
      other without straining their necks or shouting.  If the room is particularly large... you might want to
      create a few different  con- versation areas.

>     DON'T forget about traffic flow.  Leave enough room for people to walk around furniture so they can easily get
       from one side of the room to the other.

>     PULL furniture away from the walls.  Having all the furniture backs touching the walls is one of the biggest
       mistakes people make in the living room.  If the pieces are closer together it will create a more 'intimate setting'.
       As long as the backs of the pieces are finished,  there's no reason not to show them off!

>     SOFA and CHAIRS  --  These are often the big-ticket items so it's important that they suit the space.  The most
       important thing to do is measure the space before buying any of these pieces.  You don't want them to be too
       big or too small,  so it's best if you draw up a floor plan ahead of time.
       Sketch out the room on a piece of graph paper using all the appropriate measurements. Try putting the sofa
       and chairs in a few different spots and see what works best visually and in terms of leaving space to accommodate
       traffic flow.

>     RUG......Using area rugs is a great way to define seating areas,  but the number one mistake people make in the living room
       is using an area rug that is too small.  Remember that all of the furniture should be able to comfortably sit on the carpet.
       If space doesn't allow it,  make sure that at least the front legs of any upholstered pieces are on the rug.  (Small
       pieces like side chairs and tables should always have all four legs on the rug).

>     COFFEE TABLE.....Coffee tables are practical pieces that are often found in the centre of conversation areas.
       If you choose to use one,  remember that the height should be slightly lower than the seat height of the sofa and
       chairs around it.  The length of the table should also be roughly one half to two thirds the length of the sofa.
       If you don't want to use a coffee table you can try using a couple of smaller tables or benches to achieve the same
       look.  Just make sure they're not too small.  People sitting around them should be able to lean over to put down
       or pick up a drink without having to get up from their seat.  At the same time be sure to leave enough leg room
       between seats and tables:  14 to 18 inches should do the trick.

>     ACCENT TABLES....An accent table is much more than the matching end tables or stands that we would normally
       find in a home.  Accent tables are more 'artsy'  and can be used to create depth and add colour to an otherwise
       drab living space.  Accent tables come in all shapes sizes and materials -- you can find them just as prevalent in plastic
       as you can in wood.
       Buying a fabulous accent table is one thing...but to truly make this a  'statement piece'  add your own personal
       touches!  Whatever your can create a table that is stylish + a natural conversation piece.  As long as the
       table is not  'gaudy'  and detracts from the ambience of the room.  Accent tables can be made of many types of
       wood  from  Mango, Teak, Walnut to Mahogany.  Don't shy  away from other mediums like metal, plastic or even glass.
       Accent tables are an excellent way to ' showcase'  your collection and other memorabilia  --  move away from the
       ordinary and make your room extraordinary by using a classical or fun accent table!