James Swan hates your house. So much so that he wrote a book about it, in fact: "101 Things I Hate About Your House" (HCI, $18.95).
You, on the other hand, are rather partial to your house. But do you love it?
"I want to show people that just by rolling up your sleeves and putting in a little effort," he says, "you can truly fall in love with your space."
And his 18 years of crafting interiors for high-end clients, writing a trends column for House and Garden magazine and partnering with Ballard Designs may have taught Swan a thing or two (or 101) about transforming humble shelters into love-worthy dwellings.
Even if you choose to ignore the majority of Swan's nitpicking, er, advice, consider these five ways to beautify your home right now.
1. Adjust your lighting. "The first thing I look for when I walk in a house is dimmers on every light switch in the house," Swan says. "If it has a switch, it should have a dimmer." Swan is a big fan of floor lamps, table lamps and other options that allow you to adjust a room's light levels with ease.
2. Stop jamming your furniture against walls. "Anyone can walk into a room and drop a sofa against a wall," he says. "Pause for a moment and think, 'This is my primary sitting area in the room, and what is it I'm going to be looking at? Is it the fireplace? A view into the garden?'
Conversations flow more freely and guests feel more at ease when your furniture is arranged intimately, he contends. Where to start? Swan recommends a smallish sofa grouped with two pull-up chairs or two slipper chairs facing each other at the fireplace.
3. Cover your walls. "Once we get past the whole 'support the roof and adjoining wall' thing, walls exist as opportunities for self-expression," Swan writes in entry No. 51 of the things he hates, "Artless Walls." "The absence of art speaks of either fear or laziness." He urges you to buy what you love ("even if it's poster art") and properly frame it.
And he's a huge fan of displaying photographs of yourself and your loved ones.
4. Fix your curtains. Functional and economical are Swan's window-treatment musts.
He offers these pointers: Place the curtain rod as close to the ceiling or molding as possible. Look for curtains that are lined with cream or white cotton. And mind the length.
Curtains, he says, should "break (like a gentleman's trousers) one-half inch from the finished floor. No more and no less. Period. End of discussion."
5. Splurge on storage. "It seems so easy and obvious, but if there's mess and clutter you've sacrificed a degree of beauty and grace," Swan says.
Ottomans with hinged tops can double as toy boxes. Labeled cubbies or cabinets keep shoes from piling up. A buffet in the dining room houses your dining utensils and offers a surface from which to serve.
Falling in love yet?