Seriously? Your old house is no museum

Gina Pogol

Home design was so heavy and sombre during the last decade. Dark cherry cabinetry, weighty granite, hardwood flooring in gloomy tones -- unless people pay you money to tour your house, you needn't obsess about period this, authentic that, and flawless the other.

Phoeniz, Arizona's New Times design blog says it's time to show off your sense of humor with irreverent accents in fixtures, lighting, artwork and linens. Dig up some of the special things you've acquired while traveling or check out sites like Fab.com, which promotes cool, goofy brands like Molla Space.

Start with vintage

Vintage style begins in an authentic place, with period architecture, machine-drawn glass, classic exterior finishes, and interior wall and floor coverings. You want to lighten up the mood of your home, but don't throw the baby (or claw foot tub) out with the bathwater. In many cases, your home's basic elements should be respected, not painted or carpeted over. If they've been neglected, clean and restore them to give yourself a nice starting point.

Vintage and antique are often used interchangeably, but decorators reserve the label "antique" for anything over 100 years old, and use the term "vintage" for younger things. Begin by identifying the antique or vintage elements of your home that give it its character and deserve "senior" status. Get everything else out of sight -- store it or get rid of it.

Add eclectic

Now that you have a serious canvas on which to work, you'll add pieces that lift your mood. "Eclectic" means a mixture of styles and periods pulled together by balancing colors, textures and finishes. Eclectic decor is light-hearted, creative and confident. However, eclectic is not a free-for-all license to acquire undisciplined piles of possessions. Eclectic pieces must be, if anything, more ruthlessly edited than a homogeneous assemblage. That's why it's important to start with as clean a slate as you can.

Begin with color. Chances are that you, in deference to the wisdom of real estate agents, have kept to a fairly limited set of neutral colors. You can, however, add some fun. A classic palette loaded with gold and cream, for example, can be punched up with brighter accessories in modern shades -- aqua, tangerine, grape, sunny yellow or honeysuckle pink.

Next, choose and arrange your furniture. Antique furniture combines amazingly well with modern elements if there are common characteristics. Furniture can be heavy, spindly, primitive or modern, and it can all work together. Paint it to "match" or tie it together with fabric in similar textures and colors.

Finally, experiment with rugs, artwork, lighting, accents and fun. Play light against dark, rough against glossy, rustic against sleek -- but look for common ground.

Whimsy and humor

Eclectic decorating is not serious, and you are not enslaved by any one style. So don't be a kitsch victim -- a few sly elements, judiciously positioned, are all you need to say "charming eccentric," not "garage sale." Don't stuff your entertainment space with a bird cage adjacent to an old dentist's chair flanked by two vintage bicycles in front of a wall-mounted 1950's surf board. Use zany pieces the way you'd add very hot spices to a dish -- for a splash of "wow." Your classy antiques and simpler furniture ground the look and will play up its quirky fun.

About the Author
Gina Pogol loves writing about personal finance, career and lifestyle topics. She has a BS in Financial Management from the University of Nevada.

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