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Redecorating tips: How to choose furniture, colors, textiles, more

Redecorating a space in your home can be a daunting task — especially if you’re doing it yourself. Long Island interior designers offer some of their tips for getting started.


Living room in Wainscott beachouse, designed by Elsa
Photo Credit: Bob Frame

It’s important to make sure your foundation pieces — sofas, chairs, tables — are of good, durable quality, says Elsa Soyars, president of Elsa Soyars Interiors in Southampton and Manhattan. You can change the look of a room by buying accent pieces, which can be changed more easily. She advises buying foundation pieces that are versatile and can be easily moved around.

Rather than ordering online, Soyars suggests testing seating before buying. Sit on it, look at how the material is wearing in the store and see if it is comfortable. Another tip — find out if sofa cushions are stuffed with foam only, or if they are foam wrapped with Dacron and feathers, which makes the cushion look more luxe and feel softer, she says. 
Make sure to leave enough space between the sofa and coffee table (12 to 15 inches) and don’t push furniture against walls if you can help it, she says. Another piece of advice: “Don’t go too underscale,” she says. “If you treat the space as smaller than it is, it makes it look smaller.” 

The furniture in this living room in Wainscott designed by Soyars features upholstery in a blend of cotton, rayon and polyester. 


The master bedroom prior to being updated in
Photo Credit: Family photo

Before: When helping people choose paint colors, Linda Levine, Aboff’s Design Studio manager in Huntington, says she needs to know what kind of sun exposure a client gets in the room that will be painted, such as this before photo of a master bedroom.

The master bedroom recently updated in the home
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

After: If a room gets southern sun exposure, it stays lit with natural light almost all day. If it gets northern exposure, the natural light in the room tends to be grayer. In this case, Levine says, “you might not choose a blue-gray because that will make the room feel cold. If you’re going to choose a gray, choose a warmer gray.”

(Walls section) - A bathroom using wallpaper as
Photo Credit: Leva Visconti Designs/Kimberly Gorman Muto

Eastern sun exposure provides morning sun and little sun in the afternoon, so if that is the room you spend a lot of time in, choose a color that’s on the lighter side so it doesn’t feel so dark in the afternoon. For western exposure — which is no sun in the morning but intense sun in the afternoon — a yellow color would be inadvisable since that exposure tends to make a room glow in the afternoon.
Here, a bathroom uses wallpaper as an accent on the ceiling. 

(Walls section) - A bedroom decorated by Leva
Photo Credit: Leva Visconti Designs/Kimberly Gorman Muto

If you want to paint more than one room in your house, Levine advises choosing a color for the room where you spend the most time, then building from there. “You shouldn’t have very different colors in every room, unless you have furniture that incorporates all those different colors,” she says. “No matter what style your house is, the colors should flow.”  Here, a room features faux plantation shutter wallpaper as an accent wall. 


(Textiles section) - A child's room designed by
Photo Credit: Noli Design Inc./Ivy Neal

When choosing textiles, start with a color palette, says Susan Calabria, owner of Noli Design in Cold Spring Harbor. “Color is the first thing people notice when they walk into a room,” she says. “It sets the mood.”
Once a palette is chosen, a main pattern, secondary pattern and plain, textured pattern come next. Based on your aesthetic, pick a main pattern that can be used throughout your decor — such as on an accent chair, or as a smaller accent, such as throw pillows, if you would like to be more low-key with the theme. Then choose a secondary pattern that ties the main pattern and the textured, plain pattern together.

(Textiles section) - A child's room designed by
Photo Credit: Noli Design Inc./Ivy Neal

Calabria, who designed this child's room, notes that a textured pattern is generally a plain, woven fabric, such as chenille or velvet, that is used for larger-scale pieces like sofas and chairs.

Families with school-age children could consider indoor/outdoor fabrics or faux leather for sofas. Linen, cotton and linen-cotton blends are also durable, Calabria says, adding that tighter weaves of fabric are stronger than looser weaves. Another way to tell how durable a fabric is would be to check its abrasion test rating, which can be found on the back of the fabric tag The higher the number, the more durable the fabric is (10,000 is more delicate and probably suitable for window treatments, Calabria said, while 25,000 is more durable and considered upholstery weight).

Rugs and flooring

(Flooring section) - Dining room designed by Marie-Christine
Photo Credit: Marie-Christine Design, LLC/Eric Striffler

“Carpets delineate how people perceive a space, so if you have a little, tiny carpet in the middle of the room and you leave a lot of exposed wood margin around the perimeter, you will end up creating a lot of dead space around the perimeter,” says Marie-Christine McNally, designer and owner of Marie-Christine Design, with offices in Manhattan and Sag Harbor.
A better approach for creating a spacious feeling in a room, says McNally, is leaving less wood between a carpet and walls — about 8 to 16 inches, depending on the size of the room, such as in this room she designed. She adds that if you have a small carpet that you really love, you can layer it on top of a larger natural-fiber carpet, such as jute or sisal.
In terms of wood flooring material, domestic oak is probably the most versatile and durable. “It’s a great hardwood and can be stained light or dark,” McNally says. Soft woods, such as the pine used in wide-plank flooring, look beautiful but are easily dented, she adds. 
If you’d like to use tile in bathrooms and basements, McNally says, marble is good in low-traffic spaces since it tends to be pricey and is not stain resistant. Ceramic tile is best for durability and price. 


(Accessories section - first shot is
Photo Credit: Drew Patrick Home Designs/Drew Allt

Before: Using a few smaller accessories in a room is preferable to showcasing a single large item, says Drew Allt, owner of Drew Patrick in Bay Shore. “Even in a big space, something small and special draws your eye,” says Allt, who designed this living room.

(Accessories section - first shot is
Photo Credit: Drew Patrick Home Designs/Liz Glasgow Studios

After: Along with appealing to your visual senses, scent and greenery are important components to setting a room’s mood, Allt says. “Ferns, topiaries or succulents, which are easy to take care of, are good choices.”

Interior designs by designer Drew Patrick
Photo Credit: Drew Patrick

And, he adds, “Don’t forget when you’re accessorizing to pick the right scents for the room, whether it’s a candle or something else.”

Interior designs by designer Drew Patrick
Photo Credit: Drew Patrick

Group accessories in threes, or at least in odd numbers, he says. “And, of course, the scale of the items should be complementary,” he says.


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