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Home Trends by Melissa Birdsong

RISMEDIA, September 1, 2008-Buying a house is the first step; after the move, it’s about making it your home, with personal expressions and affordable, easy-to-execute upgrades.

When I moved into a new home a few years ago-a spec home finished with safe, neutral-and-marketable décor-I was happy to be there but soon realized that I had some work to do to add character to my new spaces. When it comes to home décor, a just-purchased home falls into two camps: new but somewhat benign, like mine; or older and in need of updating and refreshing. With a new house, simple changes such as more expressive color, more unique lighting or window treatments may be all that is needed. If the home is older, there may be some serious “un-decorating” to do before the re-decorating begins. Either way, to avoid a random approach and also create the most impact, I usually organize the first level of planning around a few basic themes: colors, finishes and lighting.

Colors and finishes are the first two keys to unlocking the door to personalization. Creating a coordinated palette is one of the most cost effective and efficient ways to personalize a home because it also provides a map for planning everything else. When selecting colors, it’s important to consider wood and metal finishes as part of the palette, too. For example, wood tones may have yellow and orange, red or pink tones. Metal finishes range from warm, dark tones like oil-rubbed bronze to cool, light tones like brushed nickel. Considering the compatibility among all the elements as well as the contrast between them is the best way to achieve the look and feel you want.

The third-and I believe one of the most underrated decorating tools-is lighting. The right combination of lighting reveals unexpected possibilities for creating ambiance in your home. I often speak about “layering” lighting, which is combining general, task and accent lighting wired with dimmers to allow flexibility in light levels. The same room takes on a completely different mood under bright, overhead lighting versus when softly washed with accent lighting. And because colors and finishes appear differently in natural light vs. incandescent vs. different types of fluorescent and LEDs, it’s important to view them under all conditions.

Turning a house into a home that reflects a homeowner’s personality is a journey that can take time, but it all begins with the first few steps. By focusing on these three basic areas with a few doable and affordable projects, much progress can be made within the first few weeks. And achieving early successes will yield long-term results in satisfaction and feeling good about finally being home again.

Melissa Birdsong is vice president for Trend, Design & Brand, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

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