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Ask the Decorator

Q. I’m considering having shiplap put up in my family room. Am I making a big mistake? Is it too trendy; will I be sorry? Help!

-Valerie, Moorestown

A. Shiplap is trendy, but lots of good things are, and there is nothing wrong with that if the trend lasts. My prediction is that it will last for some time to come, because of its subtlety. The trend now is for a more casual, unfussy lifestyle which differs greatly from the more formal one of days gone by.

Keep in mind though, if you have swags and jabots adorning your windows, the shiplap won’t work. However, if you have a Coastal, Farmhouse, Country French, or even contemporary style going on, it will be perfect. It will add the much-needed architectural elements and textures that are so often missing in a room. It serves as a wonderful backdrop for any artwork, or for that complex grouping of family photos you’ve been promising yourself to have resized and framed! And don’t forget: you don’t have to shiplap the entire room. If you’re nervous about making a total commitment, then why not just try one feature wall to begin with. Here are some great examples from one of our clients in Avalon who chose to shiplap the fireplace wall in their Great Room, and the bed wall in their Master Bedroom.

Q. What can I do myself that doesn’t cost a lot of money, but will add a designer touch to my home?

-Betsy, Surf City

A. Well Betsy, it depends on how much nerve you have! The first thing that comes to mind is to paint a wall in horizontal stripes. We used that technique at the Hotel LBI in the corridor from the Lobby to the restaurant, and people have really responded to it. In that case we used striped wallcovering and had it hung horizontally, but you can get the same nautical effect with paint and Frog Tape to keep the lines crisp (and for a fraction of the cost.)

Another thing you can do is to paint a piece of furniture. Why not? It’s certainly no news that “brown furniture” is out. I credit Restoration Hardware for that. They jumped in with both feet a few years back and introduced the world to Reclaimed wood, which in my mind started the trend that made brown furniture look passé by comparison. So why not rescue a piece that you already have by painting it a rich color? And for Pete’s Sake, keep in mind that BEIGE is NOT a rich color. Maybe choose a color that is found in the artwork, fabric or pillows that are in your room. I bit the bullet and painted a brown breakfront in my Dining Room a French Blue/Gray, and I must confess to you that even I was very nervous about doing it. But it turned out to be a really great pick-me-up for the room. It also serves to remind me that big rewards come with big risks. So now that I know it works, and have seen for myself the effect that it’s had on my dining room, I feel confident in saying to you: Go buy that paint, Betsy!

Q. I have lived in a 55+ Community for 12 years. What can I do to make it look more current without spending much money?

-Debbie, Barnegat

A. Debbie, You’ve got to put your home on a diet! How? By getting rid of the “heavy” and focusing on “lite.” For example, you probably still have swags, jabots or heavy side panels, perhaps even in a dark, jewel-toned colors, right? OK. Listen to me. RIP ‘EM DOWN! NOW. (I’ll wait.) See? Wasn’t that a catharsis? Doesn’t the place look better already? And so far, you haven’t even spent a cent!

Light and airy is the goal. And by the way, if you want to maintain a traditional vibe without being so literal with mostly large, classic brown furniture, you can. The trick is to inject pieces with clean lines that will let the room breathe, like maybe an iron and glass side or cocktail table. One of the other elements that dates a room are lamps, especially those with bell shaped shades. If you still love a lamp, pop on a new barrel shade (the same height and diameter as your current one)—et voilà! —you’ve got a whole new look.

How about toss pillows? If your current pillows are faded, or have lost their shape, be sure to find new ones (down-filled only) that will inject a current color combination to your room. And now check out those prints that have caught the afternoon sun for those 12 years. If they have a blue gray cast to them, get the trash can. Add some freshly colored ones, and you’re on your way to relevant home decor. Get going, Debbie (and buy a can of white paint while you’re at it).

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