Home Alterations and Changes to Interior Design
Preparing a Master Plan
Once you have worked out whether or not any structural work is required, you can decide upon the decoration and furnishings. Again, rooms must be considered in order of priority: usually the priorities are the kitchen, bathroom(s), master bedroom, living room and hall, followed in due course by the other rooms. This order of priorities is what distinguishes a thought-out scheme from the all-too-usual patchwork process. As with most set plans, you can vary the order so long as you understand that doing so may well increase your costs and take longer. If you are planning to ‘camp’ in your house or apartment while the work is in progress, it will help to keep your spirits up if right away at least one room can be made comfortable.
To go back to the master plan, when the most important points have been decided (or mostly decided, because fresh thoughts will always be occurring) make another list for every room and include every single thing that you think you will need to install or replace or which could be improved or refurbished. The sample list supplied on Interior Design – Getting the Framework Right might be useful as a guide; you can add or subtract as necessary. However obvious the items on the list might seem, so many things are all too easily overlooked in the grand scheme: a lot of minor items generally add up to a major problem — and a major expense. If you read the list you will probably start thinking of other things that ought to be done: note them all. Sensible decisions at the start will prevent much confusion and regret later on.
When it comes to deciding upon the actual decoration, plans should be dictated by the proportions and historical style of a house or apartment, its situation, condition and natural light. This is not to say that all buildings should necessarily be decorated according to their period, but rather that they should be treated with sympathy and that their natural ingredients should be used to best advantage. ‘Natural ingredients’ are not only doors, windows, view, and staircases, but also the different proportions of rooms, decorative flooring or mouldings (if there are any) and all the architectural details of a house.
Normally this sort of ‘feeling’ for a building can be achieved only after a number of relaxed visits to it while it is empty, or after you have ‘camped’ in a minimally decorated house for some time. After a period of time it should be possible to absorb the house’s shapes, proportions, details and potential so that certain types and colours of furnishings can be visualized in their appropriate settings. Also, you should come to recognize those features to emphasize and those to diminish.
If you find it hard to settle on a starting point for a scheme, ruffle through relevant books and magazines looking for congenial arrangements. Investigate local shops, stores and showrooms (or catalogues, if you have a shortage of time) in search of wallpapers, carpets, rugs, hard flooring and fabrics, and collect or send off for samples of anything that accords with your impression of how your home should look. You may want to collect all these samples together in a file or stick them all up on a notice-board. Once you see them all together you should find yourself starting to have some definite ideas — if only on what to discard.
Get into the habit of carrying around a notebook in which you can jot down descriptions or make quick sketches of anything that appeals to you. A ceiling treatment, a particular way of covering a wall or of arranging a group of pictures, a certain juxtaposition of colour — all of these can spark off a train of thought. At the time this may lead nowhere, but you will find that later on many of these ideas will click into place alongside other ones, thereby contributing to your overall scheme. Remember that ideas hardly ever stay in your mind unless you have made some kind of a record of them in writing.
Draw up a plan of the order of work before you begin, even if you are only tackling one room at a time. This will help you to coordinate the services of contractors.
Crucial to your overall scheme is flexibility. A lack of flexibility inevitably leads to frustration. Pieces of furniture or light fittings that you have set your heart on may turn out to be too expensive, or they may have been discontinued. Fixed ideas may prove to be impracticable because of space or time or light or money. If you have lived in the city for years and then move to the country — or to another country, continent or state — your tried, tested and loved belongings may suddenly become unsuitable. All such difficulties may seem insuperable, but they can be overcome if you retain an open mind.
Never be bound by fixed ‘rules’. Never think that it is absolutely imperative to have a certain item or a particular colour. Good interior decoration should ultimately be a background, an impression of personality, not an end in itself. It is therefore important to create an environment that is most comfortable for you, within the limits of practicability. It is never impossible to substitute what you can get for what you originally conceived — although of course it is important not to make a thoughtless substitution.