Is there a perfect home out there that matches your design style? We sought advice from Los Angeles-based interior designer Lindsay Pennington, whose brand of classic designs and comfortable spaces can be found in the homes of clients from New York to Los Angeles.
Q: When looking at homes, is it optimal to start my design once I’m in my home or should I buy a home based on how I would design it?
A: Everyone who is in the market to buy a home probably, by a certain age, has an innate sense of what she’s looking for. You should keep in mind what’s important to you when you’re buying a home, what you want it to ultimately look like. That doesn’t mean going out and buying things. Just try to have a vision. You can make those changes overtime. Keep in mind it would be very difficult to put a square peg in a round hole. If you want an English, country look with wooden floors and comfortable furnishings and antiques, you don’t want to buy a house that has concrete floors or floor-to-ceiling windows. If the home contains lots of contemporary finishes, it’s going to be very difficult to make those meld.
Q: So once I have an idea in mind, what is the next step?
A: Part of the process involves taking into consideration what furnishings you already own. If you’re buying a new home, chances are, at that moment, it’s not going to be financially feasible for you to spend extra money within the first month of moving in to buy new furnishings, window treatments, new rugs. You want to harmonize what you already have with what you’re looking to buy.
Q: So what should I be looking for?
A: Some things you should take into consideration or pay attention to are things you may not like, but are easy to change, and those that are difficult to change. If you walk into a home where all the floors have ’70s shag carpeting that is burnt orange and avocado, it’s pretty easy to change carpeting. Chances are there’s already hardwood flooring underneath the carpeting that you can re-stain to match what you want. The wall color. It’s easy to go to Lowes on a Friday and spend the weekend painting a few rooms and giving them a whole new life.
Q: What are the hard things to change?
A: Everything that is already in a fixed location: the dishwasher, sinks, usually items in your bathroom and kitchen. However, changing the hardware on the cabinets in the kitchen is a really inexpensive fix that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. And put down area rugs. Add accessories to make it until you can pay for the kitchen of your dreams. A smart thing to do is to factor it into the purchase price. If the kitchen and bathroom are run down and haven’t been updated, that should affect the price when you’re negotiating to make an offer on the house.
Q: At the end of the day, is it a fairly easy process?
A: At a certain point, you may be somewhat limited in what you can do because there might be a certain school district you want your kids to live within or you want a higher quality of life. The bigger challenge is what to do when you’re confronted with those obstacles. Keep in mind it’s an ongoing process that never really ends. In my experience, it’s hard for people to feel their house is finally done. It’s like in life—experiences, friendships, relationships, work—there’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s a journey. The process should be fun and enjoyable for you.
This piece has been edited for brevity and clarity.