How to Cope With Major Challenges in Home Decorating

No matter how perfect it may seem at the outset, nearly every room in the house comes with its own particular decorating challenge. It could be a long, narrow room. It could be an enormous great room that needs to define specific living areas. It could be a small, cramped room with one solitary window.

Fortunately, many of these major challenges often can be fixed with some quick solutions. Here's a collection of some of the most common challenges and their quick fixes.

Focal point: Every room needs a focal point to give the eye a place to start; to tie the room together. To create focal points, try installing these:

• Beautiful oriental rugs or solid rugs in bold colors

• Dramatic mirrors, especially good to give small rooms a sense of larger space

• Tables holding interesting collections

• Large armoires or other cabinets

• Large open shelves displaying family photos, collectibles, books and plants

Coordinating Prints and Patterns: Putting together prints and patterns can result in a room bursting with visual interest or it can bring a dismal mismatch. To get a professional look with these fabrics, follow these tips:

• Keep background colors all the same, such as all white or all ivory. This can be easy to accomplish if using toile fabrics, that are typically printed on solid ivory backgrounds.

• Repeat the same colors in the prints and patterns. Choose a dominant color and pattern, and use the other patterns to accent the main fabric. For example, a chair that's done in a green-and-black plaid will go well with solid green rugs.

• Use a mix of pattern sizes in small, medium, and large. Think in terms of the scale of the pattern when choosing its size, and whether it will be used on large or small furnishings.

Avoid Boring with a Change Of Style: The last thing any decorator wants is a room that matches so completely that it's "too perfect." Surprise elements, such as shaped rugs add that unexpected touch that keeps things from being bland.

Choose Fabrics Right for the Room: With so many fabric choices available today, it can be difficult to know what will fit best in the function of any room. Here are some ways to select fabrics appropriately.

Cotton may be "the fabric of our lives," as the ads say, and it can have specific uses in home decorating. Cotton makes up into beautiful draperies, slipcovers for furniture, tables linens and pillows. It's best for rooms with more casual decor.

Velvets work wonderfully for formal rooms. They come in many jewel-toned colors and are surprisingly durable despite their luxurious feel. Care properly for a velvet sofa or chair and it can last for generations.

Nylon and polyester fabrics are the workhorses of home decorating. They can be made into any kinds of furnishings, from sheer draperies to synthetics that resemble straw, leather or suede. These fabrics are best for rooms that will see a lot of use. Another good fabric for high-activity rooms is denim, which can be dyed in many colors for use in family rooms and children's bedrooms.

Finally, silk is one of the most luxurious, yet most fragile, of fabrics for home decorating. Silk oriental rugs would be a terrific choice for a formal den or a home office without lots of foot traffic. Silk can come in many textures as well, making it a good choice for drapes or pillows.