Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Constructive criticism (?!)

Do you Rate My Space? It's a fantastic spot for inspiration over at HGTV. I used to be quite obsessed with it. Like, blogging obsessed. I would post my rooms and wait by the computer for those first few comments and ratings, biting my nails....all a-flutter.

Well, it wasn't quite like that. But it was exciting to get decent ratings. But about a year ago I was a little over it. There was so much drama on that site...weirdos who would post a room over and over and over (and over). And whooeee, people could be mean! I got some really nasty comments, which always seemed to override the bunches of sweet comments.

But the not-so-nice comments would stick with me. And eventually I would realize, they could be right! (Dang it!) So I would move the furniture, change the drapes, remove items, and I would fall more in love with my space.

There are a few decorating tips I have learned through RMS and elsewhere that started out with a big fat "What? They are sooooo wrong, I am sooooo right, my room is perfect, they don't know what the heck they're talking about." I have hesitated to mention these, because I never want to come off as trying to tell you how to decorate your home. They are just things that helped me to grow, decorating-wise.

The first is rug size. Most of the time, we buy rugs that are waaay too small for our space. I have done it, mostly because I don't want to spend a load on a large rug. Here's our family room, a couple years ago:
This was right after we got our floors installed, and I was happy as a clam! I was soooo happy that I had found a new spot for this rug. Then I posted the room on RMS and I got railed on for my small rug. :)

Eventually, after looking at it, I agreed, begrudgingly. I found a GORG rug at JC Penney's and still love it:
This is the room today. (It's like one of those comparison games in the kiddo magazines -- can you find all the changes?) Honestly, I feel like it's still too small. I got this size so we could still see the floors in this space. (And because I'm cheap. Shhhh.) Now, I want a larger one so the furniture will all sit on it. The consensus seems to be your furniture should either be all on the rug or all off.

The next one is a doozy. The owner of the decor firm I work for told me this a couple years ago and at the time I was all "Oh no she didn't," wagging finger in the air, taking off my earrings. But, she was right -- I challenge you to find something other than a mirror for above your fireplace.

I know, I know! Stop yelling at me! I know! We ALL do it, I KNOW! Think about this though -- what is the reflection that turns into your "art"?:
See that ceiling fan in the before pic of our bedroom fireplace? That was our "art" -- it could be the light fixture, the ugly ceiling, whatever. Obviously, this happens because it's hung so high.

This one is hard, in my opinion, to get around. Mirrors are easy to find, they are affordable and they can be found in pretty much any size you need. It is a challenge to find something else that works. Hence my wallpaper art I've shown you before:
And my molding and iron work on our family room fireplace:
Again, this is all relative. I have seen plenty of mirrors over fireplaces that I think work well -- my girlfriend has a gorg round one with really thick framing that I've always loved. I love it because it is so large and such a statement.

My last one is another one I feel I'm bad at -- hanging pictures at the right height on the wall. The recommendation is to hang everything at eye level. Well, I'm a monstrous 5'9" so "eye level" for me is like, two feet above everyone else's.

OK, not two feet, but it feels like it. I feel like I'm 11 feet tall sometimes, serious. So when I hang, I deliberately hang my art shorter than my eye level. And even then, I think it's still too tall.

So what do you think? You know above all else, I believe you should do what makes YOU happy in your home. These are all just things to think about, because when you get over "Awww, heck NO! I can't believe she said that I'm hanging my pictures too high!" and are talking to me again, you may change your mind.
Wringing hands. Crossing fingers.
I'll leave you with another caa-ute baby gift for a friend. I took this:
And turned it into this:
Adorable, eh?


  1. I've been to RMS a few times and have found some great rooms and some not so great rooms! LOL!

    I am not a big fan of mirrors. I have one over my dresser and my daughter's dresser, but that's it. I hate seeing everything in the reflections of mirrors.

  2. I love the big rug... but honestly, i like the small one too!

    Your decor is fab.

    I love the simplicity, yet the classic touches.

    :) that frame you made? So cute!

  3. I used to be on RMS constantly but then got tired of it. People were way too nasty for no reason and like you said, some people were just plain strange posting rooms 100 times. I've had some not so great comments but I tend to shrug them off. The important thing is for us to be comfy in our own space, regardless of what someone else thinks. Posting rooms does get me to really look at it more closely and make changes. Maybe I should post more often then huh?!

  4. Those are great tips. I do the eye level picture hanging as well, except I have the opposite problem- I'm only 5'0. I stand on a stepladder to try to be everyone else's height, and they still feel too low to me!

  5. I loved RMS until I got a really bad comment. I shouldn't have taken so personal but it hurts! Theyy have great ideas there but from now on I have decided to live with what I love. If I rearrange my rooms I just want to make sure I love it. Nobody else needs to love my house but me and my family. If they're happy and happy too!

  6. HEHEHE! Toatally laughing with you here. I know of one person in particular that posted over and over the poor thing...:)
    I felt bad for her.

    I had an overall great experience with RMS last year but decided to take mine down since I thought we were moving. Plus I think I got everything out of it I needed anyway.
    One small snippy comment would stick in my head like glue. You're right. Sigh. I also got tons of helpful advice that I ended up using. The small rug was one of them coincidently. Our formal dining room in particular. I still haven't changed it out yet. I'll have to wait until the next home I think. Besides I kind of like seeing more of the dark hardwoods around the edges of the room. Your family room does look amazing. LOVE the bigger rug! ~Beautiful!
    Mirrors are hanging above firplaces all the time.
    I didn't realize that until I read this post. HMMM... It is nice to see something different.

    I remember your laundry room and really liking it. I gave you the 5* rating. It feels strange thinking about them again. Uh-oh...
    I think I may need to go and pay RMS a visit and see some old friends.

    Have a great night Sarah!

  7. Wow! It's like you and I were separated at birth! Two thrifty gals, proud owners of compound miter saws, once obsessed with RMS, bared our rooms/souls for all to see/comment, sitting fat & happy with our room creations, and in the end, amid the kicking and screaming, found that our rooms/selves, were meant to be ever evolving. I too, was disenchanted with the harsher reception to new spaces posted there, but after going through RMS detox, had a reality check with my own spaces and found myself reworking what I thought I already loved, and would never EVER change. For the good the bad and the ugly experienced on Rate My Space, I'm grateful. It has opened my eyes to creative possibilities I'd never dreamed of. Every so often I toy with the idea of posting the updates, and just the thought of it gives me butterflies/ulcers in my stomach. It's been over a year since my last posting, but maybe for now, until the halls of RMS return to a little kinder and gentler environment, just flirting with the idea keeps me on my toes in my own space, and has really opened my eyes to realize new potential for my tried and true rooms. Thanks for this incredible blog Sarah!!!
    Your sista-from-another-mother, JULES (a.k.a. dzynbyjules on Rate My Space)

  8. Holy crap! Jules, I remember you!!!!! That is sooooo funny! I loved your spaces, serious!!! I know I commented and rated your spaces -- I was saucey2. :)

  9. Great tips! I try to be creative when decorating, but you're right, the most important thing is that you are comfortable in your own home.

  10. Crap...you always motivate me, and how am I supposed to do anything about that while I am on vacatino with the family??? I guess I'll save all my creative energy and put the beatdown on the boring spaces in my house when I get home :)

    I really enjoy your posts btw :)

  11. Your blog post is.....100% correct! It's true...everything you recommend, I sooooo love or luuurve as you say ;) Your paintings in your bedroom. lovely.

  12. My pet peeve is pictures hung too high!! I want to rearrange my friends' pictures and tell them the problem. It seriously irks me to see them too high--anywhere.

    Oh, and thanks for the rest of the tips. I'll take them to heart!!

  13. I love it all! Now come do my home ;)

  14. I have never been to RMS, but have been on many other public forums and found that there seems to be an abundance of those that are mean spirited and seem angry at the world as they never have anything nice to say about anything and try to bring people down to because they are depressed, and even more so if they can do so anonymously. I feel sorry for them, but take their comments with a grain of salt.

    In the end it comes down to what make you happy and what you like.

    When I was married and had a house, I bought what I thought was hutch top - it had a huge mirror and shelves and two storage spaces and I thought it was perfect to hang on the wall to not only make it seem bigger and display my pictures and store important things in the storage spaces, only be told to be asked by nearly everyone who visited "why do you have a waterbed headboard on your wall"? To which I would reply that it was to be edgy and avante-gard and made a statement and end up having them nod their head in agreement after my spiel (really, I had no idea it was a waterbed headboard when I bought it for $3 at a garage sale, just knew I liked it).

    I have visited your blog many times and have gotten many inspirations from it and think you have good instincts on what looks good - don't worry about what strangers on the internet say anonymously, trust your own insticts and go with what you like!

  15. The best indicator I've always had to whether a room or setting looked good or not was to take a picture of it.

    A picture gives a different perspective to the area. You note clutter, the size of something as to whether it's too big or small.. it really does work.

    Sarah, I personally think you're bang on to actually listen to that voice that we don't like to hear. Generally when something is said, there may be a shred of truth to it. Maybe not as well, but it doesn't hurt to listen and learn from it, one way or another.


  16. This is great! And I love that we have a specific description of obsession as bloggy obsession...so sad but true! lol! Man...you have me itching to try RMS but I am not sure I could stomach the criticism. we will see... ;)

  17. I haven't checked out RMS in eons because of the people nonsense and I've never posted there, uh, because of the people nonsense. What I learned today is that I want you to decorate my home! You are one talented girl who makes magazine vignettes in every corner! Cudos!

  18. You always have such great ideas, and these tips today are very helpful. I love how you really stretch a dollar, too! I had the same problem with a mirror over the mantel - but there was so much other wall art going on in the room, that I didn't need another "interesting" thing over our fireplace. So I found a great mirror at HobLob that seems to have the mirror divided into squares and it really does the trick - doesn't reflect the ceiling in a large blah way. Thanks again. Linda

  19. That mold work abouve the fireplace is so pretty!

  20. I linked to a blog showing off my kitchen a month or so ago and did exactly what you said you did. Waited and waited for comments--and got NONE! I knew folks were visiting because I had the Live Traffic Feed (which I've now taken off). So why weren't they saying anything? Was the room that bad? Put me a funk all weekend.

    BTW, I've heard that one rule of thumb is 12 inches above a piece of furniture.

  21. You're so right.. taking the criticism is tough, but sometimes it's just what we needed to hear!

  22. I love your tips and I agree with all of them. Especially the mirror one! A mirror is so much better served reflecting ACTUAL art than just blank space.

    As for the height thing, I feel ya sista... I'm a whopping 6'1"

  23. Loved this post. I have heard about RMS, but I don't need more drama in my life...there's enough here in blog land. :) Thanks for showing us some of your tips. :)

  24. I just added pictures to RMS for the first time last week and was extremely nervous about the responses I would get. My room was empty and it's akward so I was definitely looking for a little inspiration. Hopefully I will only get constructive feedback!

  25. OK, I totally read your post and enjoyed it, so don't think that I didn't , but I have to tell you randomly that I always pictured you as short, like 5 foot 2 or something. I have no idea why...

  26. Oh no you didn't!!! ;) You're completely right, of course. I've steered clear of posting any of my own rooms from RMS (though I've been tempted) because I'm not sure I could handle the "constructive" criticism of people who may or may not have huge mauve and country blue fake floral wreaths with gigantic chintz bows hanging over their fireplaces. And of course I would assume that anyone who didn't like my room DOES have one of those. I just don't need that kind of drama. :)

  27. We're a tall family and have the same problem---I'm 5'9" and hubs is 6'6"! So friends will come over and just look uuuuuuuuuuuuup at the pics on our wall! haha! oh well! =)

  28. Clearly I am egotistical or self-centered or just plain WRONG, because I love it when folks decorate with mirrors. It gives me ample opportunity to check if my hair looks okay or if my nose is shiny or if I have something in my teeth.
    I know. I'm a bad person. Sigh.

  29. Such great tips! You are the best!

  30. I've been on RMS and loved looking at everyone's rooms. I, personally, have never put any photos on the site. I think it's hard to get a complete feel for a room in a picture. Sometimes, you just walk into a room and it feels right, and other times, not so right.

    I don't really follow decorating rules. I go by what feels right to me. I, too, have a rug in my living room. It's a 5x8 cream shag rug that I put at an angle between two couches that face each other (the flooring is carpet). Technically, the rug is not big enough, but I think it looks good.

    After all, it's my house :)

  31. Boy can I relate to the RMS statements. Some of them were right on, but all the drama and the nasty people was just too much for me. I havn't been there in over a year. In fact I should log in and delete everything. It was a fun place to get started and there are some beautiful rooms, but the bad vibes from that place is just sad. I love your changes and I think your home is lovely. I think we're all a work in progress and it's really nice to have constructive critiques, but someone slamming you is not constructive. Hugs, Marty

  32. Cute baby gift idea and I also like the wallpaper art over the fireplace.

  33. I always am VERY sweet and tactful when redesigning a room. I am a designer that doesn't mind sharing why I do something.
    Such as letting the client know that a mirror should reflect something of beauty. (Yes, your ceiling fan is nice but...:)

    In design school it was drilled into our heads that at the very elast the front feet of furniture should rest on the rug to anchor or ground the area.
    Of course rules are made to be broken. :)

  34. I wrote today about the fact that there's no accounting for taste. But it's true that there are some principles of decorating that are good to follow, and you've touched on some really good ones here. Thank you!

    And by the way, I really, really like YOUR taste. I admire what you do. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  35. Your house is adorable (in the nicest way). I know there are do's and don'ts in decorating but I also think it is about liking your things and putting them where they make you, the person in that room daily, happiest. You've done a nice nice job of making your home what it is. Thanks for sharing great things on this blog!

  36. Ok, so here's my question (love all of your suggestions, by the way!) I'm getting ready to hang a grouping of pictures on my walls (which, by the way, are very bare since I'm always scared to hang things!!) How do I know the height? Should the center one be at eye level and everything go out from there? So, in the case of a grouping it would be ok for some to be higher and some lower than eye level???
    HEEEEELP!!! =)

  37. Great to know I'm not the only one that found RMS a bit of a crocodile pool. In general, people are 100 times kinder in blog land.

    I did get a couple of useful pointers from posting my bedroom, but in general the whole thing left me feeling depressed to even be in the room, which was a shame as it was only in need of a few finishing touches.

    One huge problem was that colors didn't show up well, either through my photography efforts or perhaps the viewer's screen. My dusky plum came out brown and deep pink looked red to some people. Hence, well-meant suggestions on color combinations were all over the place!

    I still love to look on RMS for ideas, but it'll be a long time before I post there again.

  38. I love that you admit to not being patient with drying times on paint projects (do as you say, not as you do) and that you remind everyone to live with what they love over what designers on TV sometimes dictate.

  39. I've never been to RMS, but I don't think I could handle the feedback...I'd probably cry! ;) I love the little sign you made. :)

  40. I hear you on the picture hanging. I am 6'2" And there are times when I am at someones house and it is WAAAAAy above my eye level. I have learned to compromise at home. I do hang them slightly above recommended height but lower than mine. After all it's my home and I want it to "fit" me

  41. I can't believe that anyone would have anything negative to say about ANYTHING you do. Everything is so wonderful and cute.

    I love your style.


  42. My name is Michelle and I am a decorating ditz. PHew. That felt good to get off my chest. (:
    I had NO idea about hanging pictures at eye level. I just did two walls in my house and they are MUCH higher than eye level because my ceilings are SO high. I felt like I needed to fill up the space. OOps. Guess I was wrong.

    Can I just say you are so funny! I love reading your posts it makes me feel like you are my long lost friend that I can hear speaking out loud! (wagging my finger)

    I am so pleased that you have such fabulous advice and it REALLY helps a decorating ditz like myself!

  43. I never was a fan of RMS. Too much drama for me. I think that is why I like blogs so much...lots of wonderful decorating (with a budget) and lovely people to make friends with.

  44. I think your room looks awesome. I also think that putting your pictures at your eye level is a good thing. You are the one who looks at them on a regular basis.


  45. I love your decor.. I also like to call RMS.. Rip my space... ;) Jen

  46. It takes guts to stick it out there...some people are just waiting with the hatchet to lop it off. Just 'cause they can.

    I like your ideas. They are at minimum a jump off point and at maximum an idea to steal.

    Thanks for always sharing.

  47. Love your blog!! You always post great ideas and I always learn something!

  48. Never done the RMS thing...too scared of the critism. So you are a brave soul. The after's above were really great though.

  49. ohmygoodness...i've sat by ratemyspace just like that ready for comments and felt so crummy, but after a while, I realized the critiques were just what i was posting the pictures for-i wanted to better our space, our home.
    great lessons learned and shared!
    i'm having a blog party this week-very thrifty decor tutorials yesterday & today! like $0.00! i'd love it if you stopped by-there are giveaways!

  50. What a smart cookie you are! You have to be a smart one to take those lemons and turn them into such GORGEOUS rooms!

    I am simply in awe....

  51. You know, I love to use mirrors in odd places, like lining the back of a book shelve or laying on top of a table with candles, etc. I'm not big on seeing them on a wall, except for in bathrooms and then I want them to be dramatic, all though mine never are. There's SO much I want to do all the time, I just don't have time. As far as rugs go, there's a reason I put down real hard wood! I'm not going to cover them all up so, a little bit of rug is enough for me. I'm still dying to start doing molding! Why does it feel like something I'm going to screw up???

  52. Love your family room fireplace corner - really unique & interesting :)

  53. I love how humble you are in this post! I think it is great that you were brave enough to even put on there! I don't think I could be brave enough. Then to take the critism and pass it on to us! Thank you! Oh, and BTW my family room still has NO rug because I love me new(ish) floors way too much. I'd get ripped to shreds on RMS! ♥ Jen

  54. I learned when working in an art gallery that "eye level" is when you're sitting down! Crazy isn't it? And its the bottom of the picture that should be at eye level, not the middle.

    I think you do a great job of hanging your artwork. And I love your decorating ideas! Thanks.


I LOVE your comments, thank you! (I read every single one.)

If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here! Be sure to check out the FAQs tab at the top of the site and my Projects page for paint colors and DIY projects as well.

THANKS so much for reading!