joy of nesting

joy of nesting
Shiree Hanson Segerstrom Design and Wellness for Women with Arthritis and Other Chronic Pain.

Living an Amazing Life With Arthritis: Let's Get You Proactive Again!

Have you lost much of the joy in your life? Do the smallest tasks seem like a chore even if completing those means you’ll have happier circumstances? Would you like to live a life full of meaning and purpose? Do you know what that looks like? And let’s be truthful, do you even know what ignites your spirit anymore?

I’m talking to you today about living a vibrant, rich and full life and this is how it looks!

You enjoy life. You heart overflows with love for your circle of friends and family. You have the energy and enthusiasm to meet your responsibilities, you give back and you still have plenty of energy left over for play. Your home is beautiful and functional and supports your lifestyle and your self-care systems. It’s a comfortable haven for gathering friends and family. Your skin, body and hair glow from the great nutrition, exercise, down time and sleep you lavish on it. But man, it’s almost impossible to achieve or even maintain these things when you live a life with pain! I get it because I have been diagnosed with half a dozen degenerative bone diseases myself! You most likely take medications and if we can be truthful once more, they add to your problem. Cutting edge arthritis specialists now know that bone builders and pain killers create more problems than they solve! I’m not saying go off your medication, but if your doctor doesn’t know this by now, maybe it’s time to begin searching for one who does.

In my book Pain Free Decorating: Creating Nurturing Spaces for Women with Arthritis we talked about creating your self-care space and about the things you do for self-care.

Well I’m here to tell you the key to getting your joy levels humming, being happy in your own skin and in your relationships, stems from one thing… well two things that are essentially the same: how you live at home and…how you take care of yourself while there.

Living at a higher frequency, looking gorgeously healthy in your own unique way and living a richer life is at its roots, about taking excellent care of you! It’s about valuing yourself enough to keep agreements with yourself. It’s about offering yourself the best lifestyle choices. In your case they are a plant based, 75% raw, organic eating plan, devoting yourself to the right kind of exercise for arthritis sufferers; and plenty of rest and rejuvenation.

So let’s talk a bit about the steps to take to make them happen for you. I’m not talking about perfection. In fact, perfection is a joy killer! But there is a certain level of advance planning and implementation that goes into designing a life you love. Let’s get started.

Develop a plan

Living with higher levels of joy requires some planning and implementation. These steps should be exciting. They should make you stretch your comfort zones a bit, like going on vacation to a foreign land. But please don’t go on a labor intense mission that’s going to make everyone around you miserable! That’s counterproductive.

These plans should be enjoyable in themselves, like when you take a vacation. You have to put yourself out there to experience new things and explore. So remember these words, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”! This is a new experience you are exploring. Strive for balance!

Action Steps for Home Design

Develop a budget
Develop a timeline
Develop a solid furniture layout with one or two great anchoring, large scale pieces that give you a sense of stability.
Use cooling colors like light grayish taupe, pale gray, light lavender, pale skin-toned “blush”, muted celadon green and pale cool blue.
Use warming textures and soothing elements like throw blankets, books, baskets and feather pillows into your plan.

Action Steps for Excellent Eating

Identify all the areas in your eating plan where you most often fall short.
Identify what tools you will need to inspire and give you the daily impetus you’ll need to follow through with them such as an easy to clean, easy to use juicer for green juicing, a sink basket for washing produce, etc.
Develop a sustainable eating plan that you will stick to and then hold yourself accountable!

Action Steps to Help You Prioritize Exercise

Identify all the areas in your exercise plan where you most often fall short.
Identify what tools you will need to inspire and give you the daily impetus you’ll need to follow through with them such as a stationary bike, a rebounder, two or three days a week with a personal trainer.

Develop an exercise schedule that you will stick to and then hold yourself accountable! I love to break mine up, rebounding or stay-biking in the morning, Yoga in late afternoon before dinner, weights on alternating afternoons.

Schedule Rest and Rejuvenation Time

The body’s healing mechanism is sleep and rest. With arthritis, it’s imperative that you get a good night’s sleep. The best sleep comes from keeping your room as a place for rest. Cool, restful colors, comforting elements and textures like throw blankets, feather pillows, books, good reading lamps, light blocking window coverings, and the thermostat set at a cool temperature create an ideal environment for a good night’s sleep.

Mindset tips

Once you have identified what a joyful life looks like to you, only then can you implement and sustain it.
Finally, once you have achieved it, be happy with what you have my friend and maintain it joyfully! Gratitude is energizing for you and everyone around you!

Live Beautifully. Eat Beautifully, Shiree'

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.

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,

Questions to Ask When Hiring an Interior Designer

“Successful people ask better questions” says life coach, author and consultant Tony Robbins, “and as a result they get better answers”. Whatever you do, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, accountant or retired teacher much of your success in life relies on the “quality” of your questions. I experience this myself every day.

I was recently looking for a doctor specializing in the holistic care of arthritis. Should I call an allopath or an osteopath? I’ve been working on my marketing plans for 2015 and need a way to organize its many facets. Do I create a “flow chart”, a narrative report or a spreadsheet? In 2007, an accountant suggested to a friend that she invest her life savings in second mortgages for a 10 per cent return. Certain it was too good to be true, she got a second opinion from someone who said that if those homeowners she loaned money to defaulted on the mortgages, she would be stuck with the properties. She declined the first accountant’s suggestion and ten months later, the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Without “quality” questions, questions that are already somewhat informed, you’re like a ship at sea without a compass.   

Occasionally someone will call and say “I’ve worked with a designer before and I’d like you to help me with….chairs and window coverings” or something equally precise. But usually calls come from people who haven’t a clue what they need. They don’t know the right questions and they are relying on me, someone they’ve never met, to essentially tell them which ones to ask.

Questions to Ask Your Designer  

How can I be sure you’ll understand my tastes and lifestyle? How can I be sure you won’t try and sell me something I don’t need? Can we start out slowly, till I gain a comfort level with working with a designer? How do you charge for your time? How will I be able to “envision” the changes you’re suggesting for my home? How do you know I’ll like the changes?

The answers to these questions exist in a transparent, give and take conversation between client and designer. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. If the person you’re entrusting is trustworthy, they will “want” to reassure you. If they’re not, you’re better off without them.

In answer to the above, the designer will ask you questions about what you like and dislike in your home currently, how you live in it now versus how you’d prefer to live in it, and based upon your input, he or she will build a variety of optional design schemes for your approval. In your first consultations with the designer you’ll be able to tell if she is self-serving or client-serving. One clue that she’s serving your best needs is she will ask a lot of questions as opposed to pushing products without getting enough information from you. Visual aids in the form of pictures, 3D floor plans and drawings, and over sized fabric swatches will help ascertain you get the right things for “you”. On presentation day, you’ll be able to envision the plans from these aids. If the schemes are right for you, something usually clicks. The possibilities of the design schemes and visual aids will excite you.

Ask quality questions again on presentation day such as “are the sofa cushions good quality”; “do the curtains allow enough daylight”; “will my napping dog damage the fabric for the chairs”; and “does the dining room table have leaves.”

Questions Your Designer Will Ask You

What do you love about your current home? What do you dislike about it? Do you get a lot of sun in this room? Will you be doing any entertaining? How many children or grandchildren do you have? Any pets? What colors are you drawn to? What’s your budget? Do you have any deadlines? What do you use this room for? Can we work around this antique table or do I have to omit it from the plans? Any rooms you don’t use in the home? Do you like your home to feel formal, casual or a little of both? Do you like pattern and color? Any physical disabilities or challenges? All of these questions may not seem vital but a designer uses many of them as perimeters for myriad decisions from planning furniture layouts to choosing fabrics and window covering styles to lighting plans.

His or her questions and subsequent answers are only as good as your designer’s listening and communication skills. If you don’t understand something, stop the conversation and ask for clarification. If you or the designer are jotting down notes while the other person is speaking, stop writing, and ask the person to repeat themselves. If you or the designer is writing or thinking about what they’re going to say next, they’re not really listening. Take copious notes. Clarify uncertainties. All of these are key in good communication.

Quick Tips

Start out slow the first time you work with a designer till you get comfortable. As your project proceeds from initial consultation to proposals, design schemes, orders, fabrications and installations you will become more familiar with how designers work and charge for their time.

It really helps if a client has at least some idea of what they like and dislike. We can gain a lot of knowledge from some of the simplest visual aids: pictures of things you like; swatches of fabric; or even a framed painting can act as a catalyst in your project.

The aesthetic quality of the project will be evident in the designer’s presentation. Look for outstanding fabric combinations that also have some flexibility; tear sheets of beautiful, high quality furnishings; well written plans that evolve around your existing furnishings and architecture; and professional, clean looking estimates and budgets with branded logos and signature fonts and colors.

Look for designers who have workrooms with at least fifteen years of experience. I have seen many otherwise beautiful projects look amateurish and silly because of poorly crafted upholstery and window treatments.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree

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.

Energy Boosts for Tired Interiors

Being at home should be a positive experience especially for those of us with chronic pain like arthritis. But if you find yourself looking for ways to get out of the house rather than ways to enjoy yourself while there, you might want to consider buffing up your domestic act with one or more of the following improvements. Look at it this way: if your home is a drain on your energy, it’s time for a change and that time is now.


Fabric is one of my favorite ways to update and refresh a tired space. Reupholstering the sofa, dressing the windows, slipcovering the chairs, and having some coordinating throw pillows done up will revive a tired room into something wonderful.

Combining fabric is tricky. If you’re a person who shies away from pattern, using high quality, beautifully textured fabrics will be your best bet. You can start with a beautiful, softly prewashed linen and add subtle luxury fabrics like velvet and silk ticking. When choosing floral fabrics choose a pattern with a limited number of colors (2 to 3) in it. I love using Midi or awning style stripe fabrics as an accent. ’m not a big fan of checks mainly because I feel they wore out their welcome in the 80’s but I do like wool or cotton plaids if they’re well designed.


Every ten years or so, have one or two fresh coats of paint. Whites are generally cooler now, with more gray undertones than before. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and Dunn Edwards offer designer colors with a less expensive cost per gallon while Pratt and Lambert, Fine Paints of Europe, and Farrow and Ball have beautiful, timeless colors, high pigment content and long lasting quality.

Always use a flat finish in the public rooms and master bedroom; satin or eggshell in bathrooms, kitchen and children’s areas; and satin, gloss or semi-gloss on cabinetry, doors, windows and casing. If “white paint” isn’t your idea of redecorating, choose your colors carefully. Today’s homes have open floor plans and they usually don’t look right with multiple changes in color without the visual dividers of doorway frames.

Light colors like pale yellow, pale gray-blue, and light celadon green are good options for colors that “travel” well from room to room.

Keep in mind warm colors advance, making the room appear smaller while light, cool colors recede, making the room appear larger.


A great way to improve and beautify your home is to give it a makeover using the things you already have. A makeover is economical because it saves you from unnecessary purchases. It helps you make the most of what you already have. Big bonus: once your makeover is complete, you’ll really be able to see what purchases are truly needed.

Makeovers for the living room usually take one day while the other rooms take half days. Experiment with furniture placement, placing the sofa and other large furnishings first. Anchor conversation areas with furniture then create focal points with accessories. Move things around till you get it right. Fireplaces are built-in focal points and are nicely balanced with an opposing sofa. Don’t place furnishings on an angle. You want your furniture to provide an anchoring, stabilizing effect and angled layouts are discombobulating.


While accessories like pillows, baskets, throws, books, vases, pots, plants (faux and real), and lamps are comparatively inexpensive next to buying new furniture and window coverings, when put together they are not a small expense. As an example, to prepare for a home tour several years ago, I purchased new accessories to add to my existing ones in the living room, dining room, and master bedroom and spent close to $2,000 on accessories alone.

I purchased ten framed prints, five large pots, two table cloths (for permanent use, not for dining), silver picture frames, and a small area rug. This supplemented the things I already had. The tour was a success and the changes provided me with so much joy, satisfaction and even healing. Your home has a huge effect on your psyche.

When shopping for accessories choose things that work around your architecture and existing furnishings, not just your personal taste. Don’t strive for perfection. Often it’s the quirky piece or item that’s a little off that provides visual interest and tells a story.


If your personal belongings are collecting dust that never seems to get cleaned, if your spouse or children are embarrassed to have guests over, or if “Hoarders” has contacted you recently to guest appear in an upcoming episode (teasing) it’s time to reduce or repurpose.

Don’t take your unwanted stuff to the thrift store yet, however. Do your makeover starting with the living room first, dining room second, master bedroom third, and so on. You’ll be amazed by the things you can repurpose in other areas of your home. Change is harder for some of us, but your quality of life at home relies on healthy, sustainable changes. A home isn’t static. It needs regular attention to keep it functioning and attractive. Just like you!

A Clean Sweep

One of the things I’ve noticed being a home maker and using a professional coach in years past is that the cleaner and tidier the home, the more motivated I feel in general at work, in my relationship, in my self-care and in my personal development. When you eliminate or change things that are a nuisance to you, you get a tremendous energy boost. This is true of many things in life such as excess weight or a job you have outgrown. As someone smart once said, nature abhors a vacuum.

Get rid of the things that drain your energy to make room for better things to come.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree

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.

At Home with Arthritis: A List of Design Priorities Part II


It just amazes me how the right accessories, or more specifically the right combination of accessories can affect the look and feel of a home. 

My Spanish style home built in the 1930’s has some significant architectural features like a vaulted barrel ceiling, a stunning plaster fireplace with original tile; wall to wall casement windows; original handmade iron fixtures, stair rail and drapery rods; a curving staircase and original hardwood floors. Yet it looked cold and dated without the mix of old and new accessories I put together. When choosing and placing accessories the trick is to group things in chosen areas so your home will look more planned and less cluttered. I’ve been a designer for twenty years and I owned, shopped for and merchandised five different design stores of my own and I swear to you, getting the accessories right requires way more art than space planning and furnishing a home. They make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of your home. I’m not saying choosing furniture is easy. When you make a mistake on the size of the sectional it’s an expensive one! Choosing the right paint and cabinetry and getting it to look right… it’s all challenging and you need to know what you’re doing. But the accessories are much less forgiving I find.

Don’t skimp on the quality of the lamps. When in doubt about size, go larger. Simple lamps are always the best accent. They’re easiest to choose. Christopher Spitzmiller has a great, classic style but be prepared to spend around $2,000 per lamp. I also love the reflective finish of mercury glass, particularly in small spaces. Having the perfect lamp in your design scheme really finishes the room and makes the rest of the space easier to accessorize.

I love decorating with stacks of books, baskets, plate collections, plants in interesting pots, trays of liquor where appropriate (living room, dining room) and even soup tureens and stemware. Throw pillows and throws add comfort and are a nice place to interject some pattern for pattern-shy women.

The best place to get fresh ideas for accessorizing your home is via Pinterest. You can visit my board Living Well at Home, Shiree Hanson Segerstrom. The last time I redecorated my living room, dining room and entry with accessories I spent around $1,200.00. Granted I already had a lot of accessories from my design stores and from collecting over the years. It took me two days to get it right. I hung several new framed prints too. I like to empty my rooms of accessories completely before placing the new ones. I turn on some inspiring music. I adore rock and roll but for decorating I prefer jazz or classical. I especially love Rod Stewart’s Song Books and Pink Martini. I pour myself a nice drink such as an iced tea and make sure the household has some place to be.

Creativity can’t happen in tense environments!

I’ve created an accessories list for you to make things a little easier.

Assorted pots, vases and jardinières
Candlesticks, votive and poured candles
Framed prints, art and mirrors
Hard bound books
Framed family photos
Throw pillows
Lap blankets
Trays of liquor and decorative glasses
Plants and topiary
Novelty items and faux foliage and fruit (use discretion), collections should be saved for personal spaces.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree'

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.

At Home with Arthritis: A Quick List of Design Priorities Part I

Home is where we find our sense of balance and stability. It’s where our most effective self-care happens every day.

With arthritis, you want a home that’s comfortable, functional, meaningful and yes, beautiful. Beauty, particularly in your surroundings has a huge impact on your psyche. I can attest to this personally. After losing my husband of twenty five years, my beautiful 1930’s Spanish style home and terraced garden was a healing respite for me. I love homes that are comfortable and beautifully evolved with just the right amount of furniture and accessories. It’s those types of homes that I create for my own clients who have chronic pain.

To prepare you and your home for the degenerative changes of arthritis, your main concerns will be with comfort; function; ease of use; and ease of access. If you’re building or remodeling your home, familiarize yourself with the principles of Universal Home Design typically found in kitchens and baths and American Disabilities Act compliant layouts if your illness is further along so you can converse with your contractor and/or architect. Universal Design is 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 age, size, ability or disability”.

If your budget allows you might want to explore new innovations in technology such as in-home hubs, or intelligent automation, or the new smart refrigerators and faucets. Because you have heat generating arthritis and because you live with chronic pain every day you will want to include cooling colors in your scheme like soft blues, grays, tones of blush, soft greens, taupe and cool whites. Textures like plastered walls, baskets, antique rugs, blankets, throw pillows, and beautiful fabrics add comforting elements while books, mementos and framed family photography add sentiment and meaning.

Again when planning and decorating your home keep in mind comfort, stability (both physical and emotional) function, ease of use and ease of access first and foremost. Begin with space planning and once you have the layout dialed in you can choose furniture, fabric and colors and last by not least, accessories.

Space Planning

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Without a good floor plan nothing else you do will make much sense. A contractor or architect can vastly improve the layout of your existing home. Or try one of the easy space planning apps that do 3D walk-throughs. A 3D walk-through is super helpful in visualizing how the spaces will flow. To simplify things, I like to think of a home as a series of boxes. The size and shape of the boxes, how they connect with one another, and what we put on the walls (windows, curtains, doors, trim, sconces), ceiling (crown molding, paint, light fixtures) and floors (base molding, choice of flooring and rugs) elevate the boxes from cottage to mansion. These elements are often the ones an interior designer chooses in the building process.

Kitchens and baths require the most planning but I’ll do a multiple part feature on that another time, either for sale as a book or as part of my blog.

The furniture layout begins by first identifying door to door traffic patterns. Always keep those clear of furniture and cords. I especially dislike walking around end tables with lamps. My balance is off due to arthritis in both knees and feet and I tend to wobble a bit! Place the largest pieces of furniture first.

Repetition is comforting to the eye and creates a sense of stability. You can achieve repetition through many means such as flooring, paint, cabinetry, crown and base molding, window styles, etc. Scale creates a sense of stability too and the fireplace and built in units are both nice ways to display the principle of scale. If you don’t have a fireplace, some kind of large scale piece adds that scale or ‘visual anchor’. And bonus… having a large scale piece or fireplace makes the job of choosing and placing the rest of the furniture so much easier.

Always place the largest pieces first such as the sofa, then the armchairs, then tables and lighting. For small living rooms, choose sofas and chairs without skirts. This allows light to flow underneath them and it will visually enlarge your space. Conversely, sofas and chairs with skirts create a cozier, fuller look in large spaces. Sofas and chairs without skirts in large spaces tend to look cold and impersonal. Choose sofas under 90 inches for small rooms. For large rooms, choose sofas over 90 inches.

I don’t care much for end tables next to the sofa. There, I said it. End tables are cumbersome. Instead, use the cocktail table as a place to set drinks. If lamps are needed next to the sofa, I usually do apothecary style (swing arm) lamps. They come in a variety of metals like polished stainless steel and brushed brass. They don’t disturb the look of the sofa, they don’t tip over easily and they’re easy to reach. The light source is just near the shoulder when seated.

Too much furniture is just as disconcerting as too little. Too much looks silly and too little feels impersonal. For the average size living room you need one to two sofas or loveseats, two armchairs, two wood framed accent chairs, one to two cocktail tables, and one to two end tables for between the armchairs. I like to do two armchairs and two open wood framed accent chairs in large living rooms. Never place sofas or chairs directly against the wall. If the sofa needs to be near a wall, always pull it out about six inches. This is a little designer trick. Call it Feng Shu…call it added dimension… I don’t know! But for some reason, pushing the sofa smack dab against the wall feels uptight. 

The space planning app I like to recommend is Chief Architect. I’ve used it myself.

See you back here Wednesday for Part two!

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree'

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.


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