6 Simple Home Decorating Tips for the Design-Challenged


Some folks have a natural eye for design and can create a beautifully decorated room in their sleep. The rest of us need a little help. If you have trouble envisioning how a room should look, stick to a few simple rules of thumb.


First, you want to start with the function of the room you’re decorating, says Warren Sheets of Warren Sheets Design. “For example, you want a living room or the kitchen to be conducive to gatherings. The décor should suit that not only in the items you place in there but also in the aesthetic,” Sheets tells mental_floss. “You want these rooms to feel lively and fun. Conversely, you want to create a sanctuary for your bedroom and decorate with the aim of making it calm and peaceful.”


Sheets says the next order of business in decorating is to find a room’s main focal points. “Remember that our eyes are often drawn to a focal point,” he says. “So whether it’s a fireplace, the windows, or built-in units, you will want to achieve symmetry around them.” This could mean adding tall pillar candles to each end of your fireplace's mantel, or finding eye-catching bookends for your shelves.

Amy Bell, a professional interior decorator and founder of Red Chair Home Interiors, agrees. “Never underestimate the power of pairs,” she says. "Pairs of matching lamps, curtains, chairs, and artwork add a pleasing symmetry to a room.”

She says that symmetry is especially important in rooms than are “architecturally asymmetrical.” So if your focal point, like a fireplace, isn’t exactly centered on a wall, you can make the room feel a little more cohesive by adding decorative pairs.


Lighting might not be the first consideration in decorating a room, but it’s an important one because it can totally change the mood. Design Expert Abbey Pettit says the key to proper lighting in design is to layer your lighting. Lighting serves various purposes, so it should come from different sources that account for those needs.

“As a general rule of thumb, lighting can be bucketed into three layers: ambient (general), focal (task), and decorative lighting," Pettit says. "Ambient lighting provides overall illumination without glares or shadows. Focal lighting concentrates brightness in a specific area, and decorative lighting allows you to express your personal style and add some sparkle to the space.”

Ambient lighting might be a ceiling-mounted light, for example, while lamps and under-counter lights are considered focal lighting (because you generally use them to light specific tasks, like reading or cooking). Again, this is why it’s important to consider a room’s function when decorating: If you’re decorating a room that's dedicated to a specific purpose, like your kitchen or home office, you want to be strategic about where you place your task lighting.

When choosing the brightness of your light sources, Pettit says it's important to consider two factors: lumen output and color temperature. “Lumens are the measure of brightness, so more lumens equal more light,” she says. “Color temperature is measured in Kelvins and determines the warmth or coolness of the light. For a warmer light (ideal for bedrooms and living rooms) look for a color temperature between 2000K and 2700K. For a bright, white light (ideal for bathrooms), look for 3000K to 3500K, [which] resembles daylight.”


Use the color of the room's dominant wall—the wall that takes up the most visual space—as your jumping off point. “You can establish that color by painting it yourself,” Sheets says. “You can then ‘bounce’ off this main color by using variations of the shade, in solids or prints, within the room as a running color palette throughout the space and this will effectively pull the design elements together.”

If the dominant wall is a light shade of gray, for example, you might mix in a darker charcoal gray in elements throughout the room. Taylor W Murphy, an interior designer from Austin, Texas, suggests going neutral with larger items and then accenting with brighter colors.

“Don't be afraid of color and pattern, but give yourself limits,” he says. “[Use] neutral colors in your big-ticket items, such as sofa, chairs, and drapery, [then] you can pull in color and pattern with pillows and artwork ... Pillows are always a great way to add color and texture to a room without fully committing to an idea, plus they can be changed out seasonally when you get tired of them.”


To give your room some dimension and personality, don’t just stick to one or two textures: Mix them up. Choose brass lamps and a fuzzy pillow, or a plush throw with a chrome coffee table.

“To enliven the room, consider textures on decorative pillows and patterned wall covering,” Sheets suggests. “There are so many kinds of prints available. And the best news is you don’t even have to commit to one—there are many wallpapers today that can be easily and conveniently applied and removed within minutes.”


Finally, you want to consider the size of the room and make sure your furniture and other items are scaled accordingly.

“If your room is on the small side, look for items that have a smaller footprint and command less space,” Murphy says. “Smaller chairs and tables make the room feel larger and more inviting. Instead of one large coffee table, think about multiple smaller ones you could pull up to the sofa or chair leaving more room to get through the space.”

Murphy suggests then finding a rug that’s large enough for all of the furniture to sit on. “A rug that is the correct size also makes the room feel larger and more complete,” he says.

Sheets adds a final word of advice for novice decorators: Keep it simple. “If you are just learning how to decorate and still finding your own sense of style, try to keep your choices as simple as possible. Make it easy on yourself to alter things when necessary without having to undergo a complete do-over.”

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

The Force Field Cloak
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.


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