New floors, lighting make an immediate impact
Many people, when they think about updating and improving rooms in their house, only focus on painting the walls and switching out the furniture. But two other often-overlooked aspects of room décor -- floors and lighting -- also have a strong impact on the look and comfort of a room.
IMAGINE A ROOM without lighting -- either totally dark or only illuminated by a ceiling fixture. It would be bleak, indeed. Table and floor lamps give a room personality and offer an insight into the homeowner's personality. In addition, it is important to illuminate different areas of the room, not simply wash an entire room with a single light source shining from above.
"Today's home lighting is pretty eclectic. There is no one right or wrong fixture. Midcentury modern lamps are still very popular, but coming close on that style's heels are modern, industrial-look lamps and lighting fixtures as well as those with a contemporary farmhouse look," said Deb Watson, owner of Acanthus Design of Barrington.
"We are also seeing the influence of art deco sculpture in some modern lamps," she added.
But, generally speaking, today's lamps feature clean, minimalist lines and are often made of wood, cork, clay or bamboo because homeowners often want to purchase natural materials. Rusty and antiqued looks with a touch of gold, as well as chrome, are also finding favor as people tire of the brushed nickel look. Still others are choosing to "bling up" their lamps with classic details like black shades and crystals.
Many homeowners today equip their lamps with ambient bulbs that transform a house into a "home" by glowing warmly with muted tones instead of projecting high-definition light, Watson said. Old-fashioned Edison-look bulbs with exposed elements are another popular look in both modern industrial and modern farmhouse fixtures.
Some homeowners are also choosing to incorporate isolated elements from other parts of the country into their Midwestern homes, Watson said. Modern California lighting from the Napa Valley is one that many choose to import.
"People may not be able to change the location of their home or the climate it is surrounded by, but they can remind themselves of other places they love with their lighting and other unique decorating elements," she explained.
CASTING YOUR EYES toward the floor should not be a painful or boring experience.
The hottest flooring "look" today is floors made of repurposed barn wood. They are filled with character, thanks for the mineral deposits the planks have picked up over the years while outdoors and those mineral deposits can imbue a room with a wonderful look when they are planed down. These floors are particularly popular with those who like the modern farmhouse or industrial look, Watson said, but they are very expensive.
Homeowners also have the option of installing prefinished wood right over top of existing floors they do not like. But keep in mind that while hardwood floors are always beautiful, not everyone can afford even those made of recently cut wood boards, explained Watson. That is why flooring companies are creating cheaper flooring, made of manufactured wood, vinyl or porcelain, which looks like the real thing and can fool many visitors. You literally have to get on your hands and knees to look closely if you want to know if one of these floors is real wood or something else, Watson said.
These materials are most popular in kitchens and on lower levels. Homeowners with big dogs also tend to gravitate toward one of these choices.
Another timeless flooring choice is tile -- particularly those made of flagstone (for kitchens) and pebbled stone (for showers). Granite and marble are also still popular in luxury master baths, but has lost favor as a material for foyer floors, she said.
Homeowners can also change their decor and re-create their space on a more comfortable budget by using area rugs.
"People love to use carpets in bedrooms and family rooms. Sometimes it is wall-to-wall carpet but more often it is an area rug over a hardwood floor. People like these because they can be periodically changed and today's homeowners are less focused on permanence," Watson said.
"They want to spend less on items like rugs so they can periodically change them and freshen up the look of their home. They usually donate the used items to charity so they can justify the expense to themselves and their spouses," she added.