Happy Home, Happy Life

Aug 31, 2018

Do you ever wonder what the effect of your home’s design and decor has on your emotional health? Turns out, how we interact with our environment plays a definite role in our lives. Special guest speaker at the downtown Raleigh Home Show, Katharine Kaye McMillan works in the sweet spot of psychology and interior design and home decorating. She guides people on designing their lives and interiors using design thinking and emotion redesign principles to empower, beautify, and promote personal style and branding. 

Here’s a some of her home decor advice in advance of the show:

What’s an easy DIY project homeowners can tackle to improve their space?
Painting can be one (relatively) quick and easy way to powerfully transform the mood of a room. Some popular wall colors are past their prime (like Beige!). Pick a newer neutral. Go with a gray tint for a mindful room, a barley-there blue  for creativity,  a gold tint for energy, a green for a spark of refreshment,and orange for rooms where decisions need to be made quickly. Don't be afraid to go dark or bold, either. You just need to add more lighting if you choice espresso rather than cream. Home Decorating For Dummies-2E (http://bit.ly/2KAQ9Md) has lots of ideas on how to use color in a room to achieve a look. My book, Painting Do-It-Yourself for Dummies (Wiley),has dozens of creative ideas on how to transform space with color. (It's available on Amazon.com) You can also go online to any of the paint companies for online color selection help. Re-painting furniture can be  transform a room's look. Pick an accent hue from a pillow or bedding for a fun pop of color.  Another way to go is to blend away the furniture by painting it the same color as the wall or, a bit lighter if the wall is dark. This tone-on-tone trick works well for updating old bookcases and bulky pieces. Download my Paint Tips and Tricks PDF from my website, KatharineMcMillanPhD.com.

What’s a common mistake homeowners make when they take on a home improvement project themselves?
Poor planning and poor implementation will wreck a project. If you're doing an ambitious project, be sure to follow the steps, have all the right tools, and allot twice as much time as you thought it would take. One last piece of advice--go to your city's website and make sure you don't need a permit to do your project. Some municipalities are very strict, and homeowners associations don't look kindly on any improvements not made without approval.

Fill in the blank: The three things I can’t live without are:
My iPhone, a journal for recording all my ideas and prayers, and social media--Facebook and Instagram are my favorites.Those three things have been tools to help improve my life. I like social media because it connects people in potentially meaningful ways. A number of life changing friendships were created or nourished through social media. My journaling has transformed my life. I use a different journals for different domains of my life. Journals don't have to be anything special--any kind of paper works! My prayer journal has been an amazing tool for helping me through some very difficult times, and I am sharing my prayer protocol--it's my blend of mindfulness meditation with traditional prayer forms--on my website, katharinemcmillanphd.com.

What’s one thing you wish every homeowner knew?
Every homeowner needs to know this one thing: Yes, you can have the home of your dreams! Stop settling for less if you are buying a new home. Get an architect to design your home. It is less costly than you thought. If you can't build your dream home, then take advantage of an architect's or an interior designer's services to remodel your home. Professionals can help you re-imagine your home and make the most of it. Professionals often work by the hour or by a flat fee, so it is more affordable than most people think.

What are your best small space living hacks?
Visually, you can make a space look bigger by keeping contrast to a minimum. Go with a monochromatic color scheme. Pick a light, liveable neutral color for walls, paint the ceilings the same color, and select flooring in a slightly deeper or lighter shade. Furnishings and accessories can be variations of your color--lighter or deeper. Pick furniture with sleeker lines and smaller footprints--proportion is key. Avoid heavy texture, very dark colors, shag carpets, chunky upholstered pieces, and heavy drapery--they visually hog space. Organization and storage are key--lots of clutter make any room maddening and that goes double for a small space. Wall-hung cabinets will let you have floor space while giving you a place to store stuff. Invest in the best closet organizing system all through your house, and make sure you can take it with you when you move. Lighting can be a problem, even in a small space, and if you don't have room for tables, consider using floor lamps or installing wall sconces, track lighting, or adding lighting to a recessed cove.

What’s something that folks should watch out for when working with a contractor or interior designer?
For any project you have, get three bids from contractors. Call the references. Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. Check online to see if they are being sued or have annoying habits of placing liens on properties. You will need to check on the project as it comes along, so schedule time to ensure that things are going as planned. You don't want to spend thousands of dollars only to find out that the cabinets installed were not what you ordered or that someone made a change on a whim. Your project may be last on their priority list if a higher paying project comes along. It's a nightmare if you get ghosted. Examine the contracts carefully and find out what happens if the project is going to have a cost overrun. Be prepared to deal with circumstances such as higher wages or higher prices on supplies. You don't want to find yourself over a barrel. Years ago, friends of mine had their kitchen re-done. Why, I am not sure as it was a very small apartment-sized kitchen in a vacation home. There was no contract with the contractor or kitchen designer, and the project took a year to complete and cost over $100,000. Contractors can be your best friend or worst enemy, so choose wisely!

What décor items are worth splurging on?
Curtains need to be posh. Cheap curtains look--cheap! They don't block the light well, either.

What advice would you give to your 10 year-old self?
My message to any 10 year-old and anyone alive is: Value yourself and value your time--take yourself seriously. You are a special person with a unique combination of talents with a passion and a purpose and a mission and a message. Never waste time, talent, and your gifts by entertaining negativity and pessimism.

Would you rather upgrade your closet, bathroom or kitchen?
The three toughest rooms are closets, baths, and kitchens because they have functions to perform. Closets need to store objects and keep them organized. I love big dressing closets that have enough room for chairs and dressing tables--some people need to dress seated and like to have a table to place accessories. Be sure to splurge on great lighting! A chandelier in even a small closet will make it fit for a princess. Cabinets, racks, and other organizing furnishings make getting dressed an easy and enjoyable process. My dream makeover is a total master bedroom closet re-do. For the last 9+ years I have had to store my own clothing in an upstairs bedroom because my husband can't throw out tee-shirts from the '80's!

 You’ve been interviewed many times. What is the one question you always wish someone would ask?
"What's next?" That's the question no one has asked me, and I am happy to share with you that I am moving more into personal development and emotional intelligence in design and living. A lot of creative opportunities are coming my way in various forms. I am working on some new lines of designs and accessories. My next book, "Christmas By Design" showcases the private homes of designers and their clients, and it comes out this September. 

Katharine McMiliian is the author/co-author of over 13 books on decorating and partner at Strahan + McMillan Architecture & Interior Design, including three books in the “ For Dummies®” series. She co-authored Home Decorating For Dummies® and Home Decorating For Dummies-2 Edition®, and Painting Do-it-Yourself For Dummies® . Katharine appears on Friday, September 14 at 6 p.m., Saturday, September 15 at Noon and 6 p.m. and Sunday, September 16 at 1 p.m. Get your tickets online and SAVE $3.


SEPTEMBER 14-16, 2018