Create a DIY Homework Station with Sabrina Soto
Sabrina Soto on How to Make Your Home More Inviting
In Sabrina Soto's New York City apartment, you won't find a single coaster. "I don't want my guests worrying about where to put their glass," she says. "I want them to relax. Put their feet up! Dance on my table, for all I care! People come over to talk, enjoy food, play games—not to live in a perfect space.”
That's not something you'd necessarily expect to hear from a home decor guru. But for Sabrina, who's best known for her it-only-looks-expensive room designs on HGTV'sThe High/Low Project,ease is key. When she swaps out a costly piece for a more affordable one, the result is more livable as well: less delicate, simpler to care for.
Her inspiration, she says, is her close-knit Cuban family, who she visits as often as she can. "My sister and I talk every day. She has four kids, ages 2 to 18, so I know what havoc they can wreak on a room," Sabrina says. "But home decor is all about creating an inviting space and sharing it with the people you love. Otherwise, why do it?"
Here, a few of her favorite tips for creating a pretty room that's easy to keep that way—without squashing anyone's fun.
Before redoing a room, think about what kind of family you are. Do all theprimoslike to come over to watch the game? Then your room's focus could be plush seating facing the TV. Measure about three times the diagonal length of the screen—that's about how far back the piece should be. Like to play board games? Go for a combo of sofa, coffee table and easy chairs.
This is one thing I run into a lot. Maybe you bought a whole living room set and feel like you have to use the sofa and the two armchairs, or over the years you've just added and added. Take a hard look. Invite over that one friend who will tell you the truth. If a piece doesn't have a specific function, get rid of it.
A storage ottoman can hide clutter and turn into extra seating. And a few grouped together can even serve as a coffee table.
Threshold Round Tufted Storage Ottoman, .99;
Maybe you have folk art, textiles or mementos from home that your parents gave you. Hang or place them together, rather than around the room, so they'll feel like a single work of art.
I just gave my sister a huge wicker basket to put in the corner of her TV room, so toys or magazines can be thrown in there. You can see them peek out a little, which is why some people like the ones with lids. But to me, unless it's really accessible, your family won't use it.
It sets the tone for your house. Mimic the decor inside while offering people a place for their stuff: hooks for coats, a little tray for keys. If you're having a few folks over, set glasses of champagne or punch on a table right at the door to your house, so they can grab one as they come in. For a bigger party, though, put drinks far inside, so they have to mingle on the way.
Gold Athena Key Tray, ; JaysonHome.com
Especially coming from a Latin background, I love bright colors—orange, rich blues, tangerines, kelly green. The key is balance: My art, furniture and accessories are really vivid, but my walls are neutral. If you have very bright walls, then you want to keep all the furniture neutral—glass, Lucite, light wood or white.
Threshold Pinch Pleated Toss Pillow and Floral Print Decorative Pillow, both .99;
On furniture, patterns can be tricky—they date pretty quickly. If you're going to get a patterned piece, keep in mind that the bigger the object, the bigger the pattern should be.
When I was growing up, my grandmother's kitchen was always gossip central, and I loved the smells and energy there. So I like putting stools around a kitchen island to let everyone squeeze in.
Shopping outside of traditional retailers can mean great bargains—if you know what you want and can wait for the right deal to come along.
CraigslistBeat the lunchtime rush by checking in before 10 A.M. every day. (Don't forget Saturdays: Traffic drops by about 40%, so there's less competition.) As a reminder, you can set up an RSS feed that auto-delivers search results to your email inbox.
BEST FOR » Recently used furniture and housewares.
EtsyThis crafter's market has deals and piñatas, so know your item's going rate. To avoid being tempted by out-of-budget luxuries, set a price cap for your search.
BEST FOR » Handmade goods, vintage.
Flea marketsThink reinvention: An old birdcage could become a cool chandelier; an unattractive lamp might be transformed with a new shade. Buy an ugly glass table for the glass, which is often worth more (and can be placed on a new base).
BEST FOR » Dirt-cheap bargains, fixer-uppers.
Pay full price for a mirror? Never!
"They're among the most common items at flea markets, yard sales and thrift shops," Sabrina says.
Video: Sabrina Soto on Small Space Living Solutions
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