Q. Nicola and Irwin, all interior design magazines scare me to death! How can I find the best look for decorating my new living room? (Rita in Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania)
A. Good question. Our advice is to pick a design magazine that doesn't intimidate you (or intimidates you less than all the rest). First, decide on what you're looking for and where you live. Then hone in on magazines that deliver inspiration specifically tailored to your lifestyle and tastes. Looking for a high-end interior? Then go to Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, or House & Garden. If you're looking for decorating that's quirky, fun, and stylish, find imports like our favorite British mag The World of Interiors. Urban homeowners and renters should check out Metropolitan Home. If your style runs to formal, period, and classic interiors, examples abound in This Old House, Traditional Home, and Cottage Home. Southern Accents and Veranda will give you more sophisticated country and traditional looks. More mass market magazines like Oprah Home, Better Homes and Gardens, and Women's Day are perfect sources for fresh, casual, family-friendly interiors.
Don't feel intimidated by any magazine. Open it up in the middle and start browsing. Don't read anything! Just look at the pictures and see what appeals to you. Start tearing out pages and cut out specific pictures that attract your attention. After awhile, you'll start to see some themes forming. Use these magazine pictures as springboards to your decorating project. Use photo spreads to help you focus on your tastes in furnishings, wallpaper and paint treatments, rugs and accessories, artwork, and overall room arrangements.
Supplement magazine research with some online resources, too. Many of the magazines we mentioned above have their own websites, so please check them out. We also recommend House & Garden Television's www.hgtv.com website and Better Homes and Gardens' www.bhg.com site for design inspiration, DIY videos, and home projects that fit all budgets and tastes. We highly recommend www.DesignSponge.blogspot.com as one of the best sites for researching different decorating looks, styles, and design resources. Rita, you are on your way!