Formal furnishings have a time and place, but the majority of the home should reflect the whimsical nature and inviting spirit of the homeowner. Everything from the smallest accessory to the largest sofa can have an affect on the feeling of a room. So before you set out to design with comfort in mind, follow our tricks of the trade.
Architecturally, rooms feel casual when the details are simple. They tend to have a horizontal feel that draws your eyes across the room as well as low luster surfaces. By contrast, formal rooms are known for their elaborate details like moldings, a vertical feel that draws your eyes skyward and shiny surfaces like dark hardwood floors.
Reinvent Formal Furniture
Many first-time homeowners receive pieces of furniture from friends and relatives, and sometimes the relative's gift is more formal than the new homeowner wants the room to be.
Casual furniture is often soft, comfortable, horizontal and oversized. Formal sofas are more dignified than they are comfortable. They generally have tight upholstery with a shiny fabric like silk or glazed cotton. It might have buttons, fringes or pleats.
To make formal pieces more casual, find a simple slipcover in a comfortable fabric like cotton, linen or wool. Look for slipcovers in neutral colors, like tan or beige, or in soft pastels. For a durable, easy to clean solution, try covering chair cushions with towels. The material is soft and textured and adds a funky yet functional look to a space.
Pillows also help add to the casual feel, as well as add to your color options. Mix and match pillow patterns with sofa and chair patterns to draw the pieces together.
A table made from dark wood, with thin legs and intricately carved accents gives a formal feel. Soften this up by either painting it a lighter color, or by covering it with a tablecloth.
Furniture in a formal room is arranged at right angles to each other and the four walls of the room. Pieces are often paired in sets. A sofa might have the same end table on either side of it, and might be placed directly across the room from a similar sofa and end table.
To create a more whimsical feeling in a casual room, arrange the furniture diagonally from each other and the walls, cutting off sharp corners. Don't worry about having sofas, tables or chairs that are too similar, though it always makes sense to have similar or matching colors.
Lighten the Lighting
To create a casual feel, you might need to replace light fixtures of brass, porcelain, china and crystal with fixtures made from wrought iron, tin or wood. Casual lighting is much more likely to have a lampshade. Chandeliers should be simple; definitely not crystal.
For another decorative way to give your décor a casual new look with lampshades, try adding a touch of color by hot gluing the ends of wire ribbon to a canvas lampshade. Using two dowel rods, glue each ribbon piece over and under, creating decorative loops. For a really polished, finished look, cover the top and bottom edges of the shade with ribbon as well. Wait until the shade is mostly done to flatten your ribbon loops. This will give you a better idea of what the finished piece will look like, letting you concentrate on getting the details just right.
In a casual room, window treatments are almost solely about the need to control light and privacy. Where in a formal room, you might have intricately designed fabrics layered over silk lining with tassel and fringe; a casual room is simpler. Shutters, blinds and shades work fine.
Accessories in a formal room are usually pieces of fine silver, brass, china or fine wood; accessories in a casual room can be of anything. This is a perfect spot to showcase items you've found throughout your life, from garage sales to supermarket checkout aisles. And accessories in a casual room would never be arranged in a way that approached any sort of symmetry.
Personalize with Pictures
A great aspect of casual decorating is that you should feel encouraged to use pieces that show off your personality. Photographs of friends and family, or your own amateur efforts, should be displayed in simple wooden frames. Artwork can also be in a wooden frame.
3-D Photo Collage
To dress up any wall in your home, try displaying your favorite photographs in simple picture frames mounted three-dimensionally.
- Picture frames, uniform in size
- Wall anchors
- Plan out the composition of your frames in a large, open space like the dining room table or your living room floor. Begin by creating two identical rows of frames, which will serve as the "base" layer of frames. Next, position your additional frames ("extended" layer) between the two rows, resting them on top of the corners of the base frames.
- Once you are content with your design, use a pencil and level to mark the hanging points for each of your frames on the wall.
- Hammer a nail into each marked point, then apply your wall anchors. Mount the base layer of frames first, hanging them flush against the wall.
- To achieve a sense of depth, hang the extended layer of frames slightly away from the wall with longer nails.
By positioning the frames closely together but at different extensions, you create subtle dimension that brings any wall to life.
Individualize Your Décor
Use a silk screen to add bold patterns to curtains, pillows, frames and other items or surfaces in your home. The design and pattern possibilities are endless.
- Drawing fluid
- Screen filler
- Fabric or Acrylic paint
- After choosing a pattern, tape the pattern underneath a screen and trace with drawing fluid. Let dry completely.
- Squeegee screen filler onto the screen and let dry.
- Rinse the screen on both sides with high-pressure cold water to remove the drawing fluid.
- Apply fabric paint or acrylic paint to the screen, depending on the surface you are stamping, and squeegee to transfer the image onto your desired surface.