Organization keeps nightmares at bay

It is exhilarating to take on any design and decorating project, but it also can be terrifying. We all know how things can go wrong, resulting in disillusionment and, of course, a depleted wallet. Whether I am decorating my own home or working along with homeowners (some unsuspecting) for my TV shows, I have learned the hard way that an overall plan is very necessary.

Here’s how I get organized, and I think you’ll discover that by taking the time at the beginning to put your thoughts, dreams and realities in order, your finished rooms will excite you even more than you imagined.

Begin with your budget; there’s nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through and running out of money. And believe me, you can work miracles on any budget, so don’t be dismayed if you can’t afford everything on your wish list.

Choose a mood or style for your room and go through magazines and books, even photographs of holidays and restaurants you love, and gather together your favorites.

Research is next. What’s the latest in lighting? What are your options for floors and tiles? Which sofa works for your space?

I have produced an ingenious DIY decorating kit complete with tips and tools that will help you every step of the way. You’ll find budget sheets, ideas for research and successful shopping, and my favorite techniques for choosing the right moods for your rooms. And to help you on your decorating journey I have given you real samples of a variety of materials that can make up a space, including flooring, fabrics and paint swatches. These are guides to how a variety of materials can work together.

Unlike decorating books, this kit is your own personal design bible that you can keep with you at all times. You never know when you’ll see something that inspires you. Now you have somewhere to immediately file away that information until it’s needed.

DEAR DEBBIE: I have never been a rash sort of person, but after living through a nasty breakup and an illness I have sold everything, and I do mean everything, including bed, furniture, dishes. I’ve bought a small condo with a sensational view of the ocean. I’m a 55-year-old man eating on the kitchen counter and sleeping on a futon. I want peaceful. Any ideas to get me started in a new direction? — Albert.

DEAR ALBERT: Decorating might seem trivial to many, but your surroundings are your life, and now you want peace and somewhere to recharge your batteries.

First, I would choose a color palette that enhances this calm mood and also frames your incredible sea view. I’d paint the walls a delicate pale, pale green. This serene color will make your view stand out even more. Then add a cheerful color to one space; perhaps your bathroom could be a sunny yellow.

Buy yourself a proper bed so you’re not feeling like a student. There are so many cool, modern platform beds that are low, and their Japanese influence again enhances the relaxing effect. Soft flowing sheers on your windows and a few candles, and you will have a wonderful place to call home.

I have one more idea; it’s something I have just done. We are hearing a lot at the moment about “vision boards.” Take a notice board and put it somewhere that is always near you. Stick on pictures of what you want for the future, maybe a picture of a mountain stream, a desert sunset — whatever you would like to aim for during the next few years. You might not be ready for this yet and might think it’s silly, but I love to look at my vision board and dream. Mine has a picture of the most beautiful farm in Tuscany — my dream.

Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at

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