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Ask McEnearney: I’m moving into a new home; how do I decorate the space?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Susan Craft of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Susan Craft at 703.216.4501 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: I’m moving into a new home. How do I decorate the space?

Answer: Determine the purpose and vibe!

First of all, congratulations on your new home. Now, think about the purpose of each room and the vibe you want to feel. Build your décor much like an artist paints a masterpiece — start with a blank canvas. Are there fabulous features to highlight, architectural interests, original heart of pine floors, interior brick walls, vintage details or extra high ceilings?

Pick a color palette. You know what speaks to you — it’s what stops you while paging through a magazine or scrolling through Instagram. If you’re not sure what color palette you like, here’s a hint: look inside your clothes closet. What colors are you drawn to? Then, don’t think match. Instead, think blend, layer and coordinate. A recent buyer client who purchased a new home told me she never met a shade of blue she didn’t like. We are kindred spirits!

David E Gordon Tuscany Row, 2005

On the blank canvas, start with the walls, ceiling and the fifth wall: the floor. If you go with a light neutral paint or wallpaper (yes, wallpaper has made a comeback), consider painting the ceiling the same color as the walls. Then the fifth wall can add some drama (in a good way) with original heart of pine floors, teak parquet floors, hardwood planks installed in a herringbone pattern or tile that looks like wood. Then, dress them up a bit with area rugs. Vary the shapes and sizes while keeping to the same color palette.

Before adding furniture, consider adorning the walls with art because that will dictate the furniture you buy. Whether your style is more Jackson Pollock (26A Black & White, 1948) or David E Gordon (Tuscany Row, 2005), establish the vibe and let the furniture take a back seat (couldn’t resist) so you don’t detract from the art.

Jackson Pollock 26A Black & White, 1948

Less is more. (Thank you, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.) For your investment in furniture,  consider neutral earth tone colors like white, ivory, gray, black, tan and olive. Then, accent with your favorite colors in pillows and throws (less expensive items) so you can switch out color schemes or simply give away less expensive items when you are tired of looking at them. You’ll know if you are attracted to blues or reds, greens or yellows.

Remember my advice about kitchen renovations: Everyone can’t be the star of the show. Don’t detract from your impressive pieces with competing décor, and if the clash is too great, banish one to another room.

Should the whole house be the same color palette? It depends on the size of the house. A smaller house, townhouse or condo should have a blended theme throughout. But for a large house I say blend the colors throughout, but then have a surprise room — a shock of hot pink and orange in a sea of grays, blues and tans. Surprise can be a good thing!

I’ve collected strategic pieces over the years, and yes, I will bore you with the details of each purchase if you’ll let me, but with each piece, I am transported back in time to the great adventure of finding just the right treasure. So now, walking into a room exudes my vibe and, just as important, takes me on a trip down memory lane. And while it may take a lifetime to achieve the look and feel I want, the joy really is in the journey!

Left: Maximilian under octagonal table during its purple phase. Right: Octagonal table in Benjamin Moore Wedgewood Gray with plants.

Consider whether your furniture needs to be child-friendly or pet-friendly. I remember my beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maximilian, always took “no” as an invitation (or a dare), so everything quickly became a yes! There was a dark band across the side of my upholstered white chair where he wiped himself off daily after a walk, all while I’m telling him not to touch the chair. But now it’s a loving memory of our time together even if an outsider just sees it as a soiled chair (most of it came out with steam cleaning). Don’t even get me started on my 10-foot circular Tibetan olive rug. Max immediately took ownership of it. (Laurie, I’m sure you remember!) And this treasure is the foundation of my design.

If you’ll indulge me in one more Max story… I have this octagonal table that belonged to my grandparents. He would hide underneath if I was petting (aka annoying) him too much. We had an understanding that this was his private space when he wanted it. A friend of mine (who passed away in 2020) lacquered this dark brown oak (I mistakenly painted it purple first) with a fabulous pale gray/aqua (Benjamin Moore Wedgwood Gray). I will treasure it forever as a reminder of two great friends!

So, while you can have things you love, some things love you back, and that’s a home! And remember to top it off with Mother Nature and bring the outside in with plants, plants, plants and maybe some herbs.

Susan Craft is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town. Her success has been built on the art of listening and providing excellent personal service to deliver the results people want, expect and deserve. For a no-obligation consultation, call or text 703-216-4501 or email [email protected] today!

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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