DECORATING Careful planning yields ideal look

Match your paints and carpet to pre-chosen fabrics, rather than vice versa.
Decorating isn't easy, even for the pros. You can come up with a plan but still not get the look you wanted back at the start of your project.
The pros often succeed by improvising on their original concepts, taking chances and adapting as they go. But how can you build a flexible plan that will guide you to a stylish decor? Follow these five steps before you tackle your next decorating project:
Magazines and books provide the cheapest form of decorating advice. Pick up armloads of books at the library, buy stacks of decorating magazines, and find a book at your local bookstore that is about the design style you're after.
Read them. It is fun to flip through the pages and look at the pictures, and if you actually read the text, you'll learn volumes about interior design.
Copy them. Find the style you like, identify it, create a notebook or scrapbook with the photos and refer to it as you continue your design project. The more you know, the more confidence you will have when you need to adjust the look midproject.
It's important to do this before you go further. Choosing fabrics upfront helps the design process because it is much easier to match permanent elements such as paint and carpet to fabrics than the other way around.
Choose eight to 10 fabrics for a room. Sound like a lot? It's not, really. Solids and neutrals go on the large furniture pieces, but you'll want to use lots of brights and patterns for throw pillows and accents.
You can rely on coordinated lines of fabrics if you're decision-impaired, but you'll get a much more sophisticated look if you match fabrics yourself.
Remember, whites don't have to match exactly, and colors can be a tone or two off.
Refer to your theme. Take your fabric samples with you. Brick and wood are perfect for country styles, bamboo and sisal for contemporary and tropical.
Carpet is best for cozy spaces, such as bedrooms and family rooms. Flagstone and slate go with any style.
Pack the fabric and carpet samples again and don't be in a hurry here. It is very hard to determine what colors will look like on your walls from the tiny paint chip in the store.
Try a quart or two at home before you commit to the gallon sizes.
As with any major project, the fun part comes last. Now you are going to layer on the color with lots of throw pillows, artwork for the walls, and tabletop accessories. What bold color do you really love? Time to throw it on now.

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