5 Tricky Decorating Dilemmas

By Melanie Radzicki McManus

Most people have some areas of their home they’d love to improve, whether it’s an outdated space or uninspiring room. Luckily, there are many ways to fix decorating and design dilemmas, and they don’t necessarily involve major renovations. Here are five such problems, plus creative ways to solve them.


You can always modernize an old bathroom by installing new fixtures and mirrors, then giving the room a fresh coat of paint. But the solution may be a lot simpler than that, says Nicole Fulton, founder of Nest Interior Design in Sun Prairie.

“Honestly, lighting is the No. 1 change you can make,” she says. “Almost all of our Wisconsin bathrooms tend to be underlit and shadowy.”

Showers should have a recessed can in the ceiling, Fulton says, while the vanity should be well-lit. “Giving yourself more light options will make the bathroom feel brighter, fresher and cleaner, even if you don’t do anything else.”


Does your home sport bland tile or vinyl flooring? You can easily get a new look using luxury vinyl planking, says Nichole Abbott, an interior designer with FLOOR360. Luxury vinyl planking mimics the look of hardwood, and comes in a large variety of colors such as gray, honey, maple, chocolate and ash. Even better, the planks can be easily installed on top of your existing flooring.

“You can probably save a good 20% floating the vinyl over your existing floor versus ripping it out,” Abbott says. But even if you have to remove your existing flooring due to water damage or peeling vinyl, overall, luxury vinyl is still an affordable product.


Soffits were initially used in kitchens to hide wiring, ductwork and vents. Starting around the 1960s, they became a popular decorative accent. Today, however, they make kitchens look dated and waste space that you could use for more storage. But removing the soffits doesn’t necessarily require an entire kitchen remodel.

When Nest Interior Design was faced with this issue in a client’s kitchen, they came up with this affordable hack: remove the soffits, move the existing cabinets up to the ceiling, then add an open shelf to the cabinet bottoms. While this solution required hiring a carpenter, Fulton says it was an easy, not-too-pricey fix. One caveat: If your kitchen is large, this solution may not be practical.


You may love your kitchen’s work flow and cabinetry, but wish you had a few of today’s innovative features, such as a spice drawer. That’s easy to achieve with a partial kitchen remodel, says Abe Degnan, president of Degnan Design-Build-Remodel.

In addition to swapping in a spice drawer for a regular one, you can retrofit a cabinet to hold your trash can and recycling bin, install roll-out trays that replace half- shelves and more. If your kitchen has a built-in desk that no one uses, Degnan says you can remove it and have a custom cabinet manufacturer create new cabinets that emulate the look of your existing ones. “Or you can mix and match painted cabinets with stained cabinets to create a beautiful, integrated accent,” he says.


Does your living room seem bland, or lack personality and warmth? Then you may have neglected to add finishing touches to the room, says Fulton. Living rooms should have proper furniture, curtains, artwork, lighting and rugs. “But I often see a mosh pit of upholstery, with a shortage of tables and lamps.”

Texture problems are common, too, she says. If everything in your living room is the same texture, with unreflective matte finishes that soak up the light, it won’t be able to sing. So consider incorporating furniture and accessories in metal, glass, natural fibers, faux fur and more.

“A lot of variety keeps a space interesting and dynamic,” says Fulton, adding, “there’s no problem that’s not solvable.”

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