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Planning Your Next Home Decorating Project

Planning a decorating project or remodel can be a daunting task if you suffer from daily chronic pain so I’ve taken some of the pain out of planning for you today. I get it. You need your home to support you with the degenerative changes that arthritis brings. You want to choose things you’ll love and enjoy for years down the road. 

In writing this week’s blog, I hope to help my readers learn how to plan ahead and prioritize their home design projects. I’ve done several articles on various types of home improvements but how this one differs from the rest is that it’s aimed specifically at how to prioritize improvements for your special physical needs so you can build your own personal action steps, budget and timeline. This in turn, hopefully, will give you clarity as well as impetus to take those first daunting steps.

Universal Design

As an arthritis sufferer, you may already be familiar with the term Universal Design. It’s defined as the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size ability or disability. 

The following items fall under this classification and can greatly ease day to day challenges for you particularly with arthritic hands but also when your sense of balance is impaired.

Swing handle kitchen sink faucets

Rocker style light switches 

Remote controls on lighting, window shades, heating and air, Alarms and sensors 

Lever-style door handles

Push button front door entries

Low-profile thresholds for transition from  carpet to flooring. 

In some cases it’s also advisable to use different colors when transitioning from one flooring type to the next. 

Space Planning 

Space planning is one of the best services interior designers offer their arthritic clients. First, identify traffic patterns. Place largest pieces first. Don’t place furniture on an axis. It destabilizes the space visually. For arthritis sufferers, we want stability. We want at least one large piece to act as a visual anchor. 

Resist the urge to use end tables at the end of your sofa. This is one of the areas where our hands and feet get caught up, turning a corner or rushing to answer the phone or door.

Test sofa and chair heights before purchasing. Make sure the seat height is comfortable for you. This varies from person to person. Test the depth  of the seat cushion so the knee breaks where the cushion ends. Today’s sofas are often too deep to sit comfortably for any length of time. 

Avoid seat cushions that are too soft. Go for a solid core with a dacron or down blend wrap.

Inspire Yourself  

At about four o’clock one day this week or whenever the light is prettiest in your home, turn on some of your favorite music, light a few candles, and get a tablet and pen. I like Pink Martini or Frank Sinatra for home decorating, background music. And I mention four o’clock because that’s when the shadows are longest and the light is warm and golden. Please make sure your home is clean and tidy for this exercise.

Walk around and look at things objectively. Since you’re doing this during the prettiest time of day hopefully you’ll be able to observe the positives. Try and look at things in different ways, maybe try looking at the room in the reflection of a mirror. The idea is to get a fresh perspective: to see the room with new eyes, like a visitor would see it.

Focus on just one room at a time, preferably the living room, to start. You can move to the dining room next, and then the entry since it’s relatively small. After that move to the master bedroom, guest rooms and so on.

As you’re walking around the room, identify the features that are really lovely. These are the things you want to call attention to visually. If it’s a handsome fireplace, a striking painting will help define it. If the fireplace is lacking a mantel, consider making that one of your next investments. If it’s a beautiful view, note if anything is detracting from it. Think of ways to call more attention to it. 

Now identify the things you don’t like. Maybe the room’s worst feature is its carpet, or paint, or sofa. Or maybe it’s as simple as outdated table lamps. Write that down too.

Now comes the planning part. Pull up a chair and sketch out a rough draft while it’s fresh in your mind.

Rules of thumb…

I believe prefer to have my client’s refurbish whenever possible (painted, polished, recovered, cleaned, or refinished) rather than replacing them. My philosophy is about “building” a home’s décor over a period of decades. Not replacing everything every ten to twenty years. I always say a home ages gracefully with a variety of eras and styles in it. One way to achieve this is to keep what you have in good condition and occasionally refurbish it. If there’s no hope in refurbishing the item, then you know it will need to be replaced. It will probably take a bigger chunk out of your budget and that’s why you have to plan this out and prioritize well.

Prioritize it…

You’ve identified the room’s best and features and how to call attention to them. You’ve identified the room’s worst features and know whether to paint, refinish, recover, or completely replace them. Go through the lists and identify the most important three to four projects and plan to update them for fall.  Having these projects identified and prioritized is a good step forward. Good for you. Always keep in mind the items that made the cut. They are your starting point. As you make decisions, always be thinking “how will this work with what’s already in my home”.

You’re ready to put your plans into action.

Tricks of the Trade

·        Buy yourself a binder and a set of divider pages. Label the divider pages with the project’s name such as paint, carpet, sofa or lamps. You’ll use these for receipts, estimates, orders, magazine clippings, paint chips, etc.

·         Start a page of contacts and phone numbers.

·         Make a list of tools, products or materials you’ll need.

·        Write up a projected budget based on the priorities you’ve listed and a corresponding, projected timeline.

·        Make contact with any sub-contractors or outside help you’ll need. Get references. Be sure and let them know if you have a deadline. Educate yourself on the current prices in home décor, and then share your budget up front to save you both from being frustrated.

·        Keep projects on task by calling or emailing your contacts daily or weekly. Treat your subs and professionals like you hope people would treat you or your family if they were in similar situations.

·        Do the necessary shopping via local retail stores wherever possible.

·        If you have a finish date in mind, allow plenty of time. September, October and part of November are the busiest time of year for home decorating projects. Measuring, getting estimates back, ordering materials and arranging delivery and installations take time. 
     Click “Pain Free Design and Wellness” for a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day because home is where it all begins.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully,