Fresh eyes and free advice |

Fresh eyes and free advice

Retro shag carpeting seemed like a great idea on Total Home Makeover, but when you replaced the hardwood floors in your living room on impulse, you couldn’t tell if your own retro rug was chic and unique, or a horrible gauche mistake.

Your neighbors didn’t say anything negative, leaving you pretty confident the shag was fab – but thankfully your common sense reinforcements arrived to set you straight..

"It looks like someone sheered Dennis the Menace’s dog and threw his coat on your floor," your best pal says frankly, adding for good measure that the paisley slipcover you bought to match it reminds her of a giant ameba. Your other ami opiniâtre sympathetically agrees, but she also raves about your new landscape painting, noting that she thinks she has the perfect frame.

The honest of friendly advice is one reason gal pals and home design go hand in hand, says Andrea Damiano, owner of furniture store Sticks and Stones. (As an interior designer, she has also decorated many new homes built in Park City, including the Caldwell Banker open house featured in Deer Valley in April.)

"Your friends tell you the truth," she says. "Sometimes you need those extra eyes to say, ‘I love you, but that has to go.’"

Damiano suggests forming an informal design club among friends, choosing a room of the house each month to redo together. Designing with friends brings more opinions each room and pools resources as well, either through furniture swapping or buying resources in bulk.

"It also keeps you motivated when you have a million other things going on," she adds.

While redecorating this season, Damiano also offers a few suggestions:

1. Get focused. Pick a single, focal piece to begin the design of the room. "It could be anything," she says. "A color you really love, a piece of furniture, a picture frame." The rest of the room then falls more easily into place.

2. Embrace color. Stark, white walls are now replaced by soft earth tones and sometimes even richer colors. Damiano recommends saving bolder hues for accents.

3. Flow with the seasons. Simple changes, like nixing heavy curtains for lighter fabrics, or introducing fresh flowers, revitalizes tired rooms without breaking the bank or spending too much energy.

4. Theme carefully. Don’t get too gimmicky with the kids’ rooms. "They grow – fast," Damiano says. "The Buzz Lightyear theme they love today, they may not necessarily love tomorrow." So, unless it’s in your budget – and patience – to redo the room every year, stick to a few, easily replaced theme pieces and design the rest with an eye on the future.

5. Be yourself. "Choose things you love, and make your home your own," Damiano says. And while not many designers will applaud universal monstrosities – like the wagon wheel coffee table a la "When Harry Met Sally" – even faux pas can inspire fashion.

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