Dear Debbie: I am not very good at setting up a room. I don’t like shopping, I have no color sense, and don’t much care for what is trendy. I just finished college and I’m tired of my student digs. Please help me pull together a space that is comfy and relaxing, and looks good too. Thank you. — Helena
Dear Helena: You haven’t had much of a chance to decorate, and I think that many of your negative thoughts will turn around once you set your mind to it — you will be so pleased with the results. Don’t be despondent. There are many decorative elements that help us to relax. The overall scheme plays to our senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. So, if you imagine a setting where your cares fall away and you are comfortable and content, then that’s your goal. Before you sit down your eyes take in your surroundings. Is there a luxurious texture, a soothing color palette, and sofa or chair that beckons? The room setting shown here from www.jysk.com demonstrates how a simple selection of furnishings combine to create a gentle oasis.
Start with a seat that supports you and fits your body build. If the sofa seat is too big your legs and back won’t be comfortable. Select cushion fabrics that are soft and soothing to the touch. Perhaps combine shaggy with satiny smooth. Nubbly carpets are therapy for the feet, especially bare feet. A blanket or throw is a must and adds to the inviting feeling you are creating. Choose a multipurpose table that will hold your favorite books, a snack tray and whatever else you want close at hand. When it’s time to turn the lights down low, the flicker of candles — real or the safer battery-powered ones — always heightens the ambiance.
Plants and flowers are good companions. They contribute to a healthy environment and remind us of the tranquil beauty of nature. Provide a whisper of a fragrance that you love; lavender is known for its relaxing qualities, while soft music quiets your thoughts.
Dear Debbie: We have a wood-burning fireplace that is surrounded by white silica rock right up to the ceiling. To minimize the backbreaking work of removing the rock, which doesn’t appeal to us, can we paint it, perhaps sponge it to look more natural? — Bettina
Dear Bettina: I am often asked about painting a dark fireplace or brick wall in a lighter shade to brighten up a space. It’s interesting that here you want to do the opposite. I am not clear what it is about the rock you dislike, whether it’s too much white or you don’t like the look of stone. You can paint it, but making the wall smooth would be difficult unless you build up layers of stucco. You could also partially hide the stone by building a drywall surround, but leave the stone open around the firebox. Yes, you can paint stone successfully with proper preparation. Clean with vinegar and water. Let dry. Apply a masonry primer to ensure the paint will stick. Mix a paint wash in the gray or brown shade you prefer. Brush it on and wipe back with a rag to remove the excess.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Debbie’s website is www.debbietravis.com.