20 Things to Consider for Successful Row House Living

Although I don’t typically watch that much television, recently I have been watching a good deal because the Olympics are on and I like to watch while I crochet and I recently embarked on project New Sofa Cushions. Like anyone interested in home design, I can’t help myself but to check out HGTV. Usually I don’t spend more than a few minutes but last night I got stuck like a fly on fly-paper to the August 17th airing of “25 Biggest Decorating Mistakes.”

I will be the first to tell anyone that they need to take what designers say with a grain of salt. After all, design and style are subjective. A “look” may be generally accepted as stylish and good design and yet, you may hate it entirely. Anyway, the list inspired me to adapt it and present the 20 Things to Consider for Successful Row House Living. I don’t like saying mistakes because, in the words of the immortal Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.” Besides, I like to think that sometimes you have to try something to know it’s not right so mistakes are just steps to a better success.

HGTV Mistake #25 – Toilet Rugs

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #1 – Furry things probably don’t belong in the bathroom.

Toilet rugs are those rugs that go around the base of the toilet. I have to agree with HGTV. Toilet rugs collect bacteria. If you do have one, wash it a lot. Actually, all bathroom rugs should be washed a lot. Throw in the furry toilet seat cover as well. Less furry surfaces are easier to clean so naturally I’m going to say plush doesn’t below in the bathroom.

HGTV Mistake #24 – Too Many Photos

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #2 – You can display a lot of photos if you do it right.

I’ve seen large collections of photos, displayed creatively, that look great. Pottery Barn and IKEA think so too. Specific to row houses, you can decorate your stairwell with them, along the wall. It’s a risk since if someone falls, they might take down half your gallery with them. The trick is to be artistic about it. See how the frames relate to each other and the space. Maybe make sure the frames are all the same color or two coordinating colors. Maybe only use black and white photos and pictures. HGTV suggested looking at catalogs and magazines for ideas. I agree – I’ve seen this done in several places.

HGTV Mistake #23 – Ignoring The Foyer

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #3 – Make the first place people see, welcoming.

Many row house dwellers don’t even have one. If you do, I agree. Maybe add a nice light fixture and nice wall color. Neither should brake the bank. Have a bigger budget? Add a mirror. I saw one foyer that had the cutest pineapple wallpaper. Often row house foyers are their own rooms with doors separating the space entirely. If you have a separate foyer, why not have some fun? Use a color that might be too overwhelming in a bigger space. Many foyers, especially those from the 1920s and 1930s, have intricate hexagon tile work. In a small space, you can afford to be creative.

HGTV Mistake #22 – Messy Cabling

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #4 – Cabling should not resemble a bird’s nest.

I like this rule too. Shove wires and cables behind your desk. It looks horrible exposed. If you want to go a step beyond, organize. You don’t need anything fancy when twisty-ties will do for tidying up loose wires. Use paper and transparent tape to label each bundle of wire.

HGTV Mistake #21 – Being Too Theme-y

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #5 – Don’t be a stranger in your row house.

I won’t say that you are confined, style wise, to the period or geography in which your row house was built. That’s ridiculous. It’s your house. However, the closer you can stay to the overall feeling of the period and location of your row house, the more cohesive your decor will be. Don’t worry about perfect adherence to a style. You can interpret the look in your own way. Suppose you went on vacation and wanted to bring the style of the place you visited into your row house. For example, you visited Mexico and want to add a Latin American flavor to your Victorian row house. You could go overboard and redo your entire house where there is a risk of things turing out like either a Disney World ride or a Mexican restaurant. Or, you could clip pictures of things you liked in Mexico. Perhaps it was the colors or the furniture. Maybe is was the terra cotta tile. Think of very specific things you liked rather than the overall look. Add one or two things, maximum, to a room, at a time. This way it’s unlikely you’ll go overboard.

I see a lot of beautiful homes and the first thing I want to do when I see something I like, is to run to Home Depot and go bananas. I can’t so I’ve been keeping a scrapbook of things I like for the past six years. This way I can edit out things that are impulses and separate what is really my style from what is passing insanity. Your style will develop organically, including new influences, and you will be amazing to see how things work together. And decorating on paper first is much easier on the budget.

HGTV Mistake #20 – Outdated Accessories

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #6 – We are not all millionaires. Prioritize the use of accessories.

Who wouldn’t love to get the total look when remodeling? Who wouldn’t love to be able to buy everything down to the last perfect detail? However, if it still functions don’t feel like you have to update everything at once. Especially if you’re on a budget, food is more important than new drawer knobs. If they’re clean and not driving you nuts to look at, keep them. Save the money for replacing inefficient appliances.

HGTV Mistake #19, #15, #12, #6 – Lopsided Furniture Arrangements / Furniture Obstacle Course / Furniture That Doesn’t Physically Fit in the Room / Pushed Back Furniture

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #7 – How you arrange your stuff is up to you, except for a few things.

If you find your furniture placement relaxing, then it works. Especially if you have to bunch things together because of space issues or a weird space. You can’t sit guests on the floor because you can’t fit enough chairs in the space to achieve perfect balance. Sometimes you have to sacrifice balance to make sure the room is accommodating to your lifestyle. However, if there is a chance that someone will fall down the stairs because they were trying to get around the coffee table, you need to rethink your arrangement. A good way to see if you’re ok is to make the room as dark as possible while still being able to make out some shapes. Then walk from one end to the other. If you make it without tripping, you’re fine. Or, throw a party. If several guests get injured, move the furniture around, get rid of a few things, or replace with smaller pieces. To see if your furniture is too far apart, invite a friend over. Sit on different chairs and see if you can have a conversation at a normal volume. If you have to shout, move the pieces closer together.

HGTV Mistake #18 – Keeping Something You Hate

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #8 – HGTV is preaching to the RowHouse choir.

Your home is too important to be mere storage for things that promote angry thoughts. Hate it? Toss it! Or better yet, have a stoop sale and buy something you really like with the money. Of course, consider if getting rid of something will cause a family rift. You can always store things and pull them out when someone visits.

HGTV Mistake #17, #16 – Overall Decor is Too Formal / Uncomfortable Dining Room Chairs

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #9 – Remember to live life in your row house.

In a small space you can’t afford to have rooms that you can’t live in or furniture you can’t sit on. Nothing kills a dinner party faster than the shrieks of pain as guests rise and realize their derrieres and legs have fallen asleep because the dining room chair cut off blood circulation. Thoroughly try out furniture before you buy it.

My exception is if you have a period row house. Then you might want to decorate it to suit the original fashions of the day which would mean that some rooms are very formal. But unless you have a historic grand town home of a row house, a huge budget, and extra rooms for actual living, keep it casual.

HGTV Mistake #14 – Everything Matches

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #10 – No one lives in your house but you. If you like matching, why not?

I have seen enough toile rooms, in very high profile publications I might add, with matching fabrics and wall coverings to know that having everything match is ok. If you are going to do this, don’t act on a whim. Make sure you really like it and keep things simple as this look can get overdone very quickly.

HGTV Mistake #13 – Following Fads

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #11 – Today’s fad could be tomorrow’s priceless antique.

Do you love it? Can you keep it clean? Yes? Does it turn your house into an obstacle course? Does it annoy your neighbors? No? Then go for it. Do your budget a favor and don’t go overboard, just in case you hate it next month.

HGTV Mistake #11 – Too Many Colors or Patterns

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #12 – Dressing your house is not unlike dressing yourself.

I agree. How to avoid this? Think about what you wear. If you wouldn’t wear all the colors and textures together, than don’t decorate that way either. This goes double in a small space where you need to be extra careful about overwhelming people. Ask friends, who know you well, how the room makes them feel. Is it a statement about your personality or does it question your sanity?

HGTV Mistake #10 – Floating Rug

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #13 – Everyone needs friends. This goes for rugs too.

Put your rugs near furniture so they won’t get lonely in the middle of the room all by themselves. An added bonus is that they’re easier to vacuum when a heavy piece of furniture is holding down one end. However, if having the rug slightly away from the furniture works better in the space, then don’t worry. There are worse things to do.

HGTV Mistake #9 – Improper Lighting

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #14 – Proper lighting is very important in a row house.

Rules about lighting go double for row houses where you typically have less windows and limited natural light. In many row homes, you have rooms without windows. Make sure you have enough lighting to see what you’re doing in the room. However, no one wants to feel like fast food under a warming light. Several sources of indirect lighting is preferable to one overhead light.

HGTV Mistake #8 – Frames Hung Too High

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #15 – Make sure looking at your art collection doesn’t injure your guests.

RowHouse Magazine is all about promoting a home that is comfortable. If you pull a neck muscle when you look at your art, it’s hung too high. However, sometimes you have limited space and lots of art you just have to display so don’t be afraid to utilize all the space. See consideration #2 about having too many photos.

HGTV Mistake #7 – Tacky Couch Covers

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #16 – Plastic wrap is for sandwiches not sofas.

Does having the backs of your legs stick to a vinyl sofa cover sound like fun? I don’t think so either. Nothing is more important than being able to live in your house and enjoy it. This means you have to make it comfortable – not sloppy but comfortable. If you think sealing your sofa in plastic is the best way to preserve it, think again. Fibers need to breathe or they’re subject to becoming brittle and moldy. Try washable slipcovers instead.

HGTV Mistake #5 – Ignoring The Windows

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #17 – When you live close to your neighbors, keep in mind that they can see in your windows.

Even if they don’t want to, your neighbors can see and hear you. Even if you’re an exhibitionist, your neighbors might not want to see you eating dinner in the nude. Put something over your windows in the name of neighborhood harmony. Although HGTV says no to sheets, sheets are often an inexpensive way to have curtains that coordinate with your bedding. Choose sheets that don’t look like sheets. Also pay attention to how you hang them. Try to make them look like curtains and use a rod. For heaven sakes – do not staple gun the fabric to the wall.

HGTV Mistake #4 – Fear of Color

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #18 – Color and you. It’s ok to love it… it’s ok to hate it.

Bad HGTV. I am surprised this was their #5 mistake. It’s certainly not as bad as having a home you can’t walk through. There is nothing wrong with a monochromatic palette or a lack of color. When it comes to color, do what you feel comfortable doing. Don’t be afraid to use color. Sometimes using a monochromatic palette, or shades of one color, is a nice way to start. But don’t be afraid to omit color from your house either.

HGTV Mistake #3, #2 – Knick-Knack Overload / Too Many Pillows

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #19 – It’s ok to keep your stuff but make sure you can take care of it and your home.

Designers hate knick-knacks unless they pick them out for you. I think a better rule to stick with is keep whatever you can dust on a regular basis. If you have a really big collection, rotate. But if you can keep it clean, show it. Again, I think having your furniture in an arrangement that can cause bodily harm is a worse mistake. However, there are two things to consider. One, is that pillows can collect dust mites and other microscopic beasties. Make sure you can keep on top of cleaning them. I remember a certain Star Trek episode called The Trouble With Tribbles in which little furry creature took over the Enterprise. A few fluffy things are nice to have. Too many and it becomes cumbersome and annoying. If you have to devote too much time to pillow or knick-knack management, you have too many.

HGTV Mistake #1 – Fake Flowers

RowHouse Magazine Consideration #20 – There is a place for everything, even fake flowers.

If this is the worst they can come up with… well, life in designland is pretty good. Fake flowers collect a lot of dust so they need to be cleaned regularly. However, real flowers are expensive and honestly, we feel a little bad that something so beautiful is being killed for mere aesthetic value so perhaps a few fake flowers are not the end of the world. The ironic thing was that the designers were ok with dried flowers which are the same dust magnets that fake flowers are and yet can’t be cleaned as easily since they’re typically fragile. Our alternatives are a potted houseplant, which will clean the air and bring life into your row house, or a nice sculpture.

And there you have it dear friends, my 20 things to consider for happy row house dwelling. Remember, they’re just ideas. I know I make about, nearly all of the HGTV mistakes in one way or another and yet no one has taken away my house. I wanted to write about them because the designers on TV couldn’t hear me objecting. In the end you need to feel comfortable in your own house especially when you’re attached.

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