Yesterday, I wrote about how Susan Heller, my own Princess of Chintz, is helping me with fabrics and colors. I have the basics--couch, chairs, rug, and so on. And those basics are nice.
The reason my basics are nice is that I read a book a while back that explained how to USE WHAT YOU HAVE. In fact, that's the name of the book.
Lauri Ward recounts how she became unhappy with the traditional mode of interior design: urge the client to throw everything out, replace with stuff that's not necessarily nicer, and charge according to how much the client spent. This book--and she has others, but the first is the best--explains how to organize (and at times eliminate) what is in your space to make it look more coherent.
The two that were most useful to me involved how to arrange your sofa and chairs (and Lauri explains why she loathes love seats--you will too) and how to use pairs to establish a sense of symmetry and order. She says that if you do what she says, your room will look better in a few hours. She is correct.
I have to say that this is one of the UGLIEST design books I have ever seen. Unlike most design books, this one features furniture that is no doubt mostly worse than what you have. The photography is hideous.
But persevere and do what she says. She is right. In fact, once you read this, you can analyze the zillion dollar spaces in fancy magazines, and see the symmetry, and so on.
Now Lauri isn't great on color (that's why I need Susan). But this book is a great start in getting a space shaped up.
I bet your library has it, though it's mighty cheeeeep on Amazon. And I warned you: the photos are hideous.