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Clean and Well Ordered: How to Make Any Room Look Better
Over the last year, largely in response to the recession, I have been regularly asked about how to make rooms look fresh without major re-decoration. Well, of course, this is impossible and everyone must re-decorate immediately and at huge expense to have appropriately beautiful room. However, an answer besides that stock one that only fiscally driven decorators would give, is that rooms that are clean and in good repair--no matter what style they are in--look best. I think too often we just let rooms wear down to the point of no return and become forced into wholesale redecoration. With an editorial eye and basic maintenance, a well-decorated room can look good for hundreds of years. I like that old-fashioned approach to cleaning of removing everything from a room once a year, cleaning it, repairing the paint, then going over everything that is returned to the room, asking if it is needed and if it in the best affordable shape possible.
Last week I was in a room we decorated 15 years ago. This spring it has been treated just this way. Every object had been recently well dusted and washed and the room simply sparkled. A year's worth of old books was sent to charity, a few lampshades were replaced, and everything was perfectly placed after a year of drifting out of position. Of course this is a well-decorated room and responded particularly well to the attention.
However, I have seen the same net affect on summer rentals. My friends took a house on Long Island in a sylvan spot, with a mixture of cast-off furniture the owner thought might be passable. Out came all the furniture. The landlord was convinced to take a third of the things away, the rest was cleaned and replaced. It almost looked stylish, and became so with the addition of some of the renter's own artwork and a few vintage posters, and, I have to admit, some low lighting...
My point, however, is that virtually any space can be made better by cleaning it up, then taking a second look and some rearrangement--this by far is the most economical way to good decoration.
The legendary decorator Mark Hampton used to say that everyone can have polished floors and clean windows...
Photos: a house we decorated 15 years ago in The Hamptons; photographer unknown