Frana Louttit of Barrington was a stay-at-home mom 20 years ago when she parlayed her artistic interests into building a successful custom sewing business, making everything from crib sets and window treatments to bedding. She has spent the past eight years working as a sales consultant for Window Works in Swansea, which provides customers with complimentary design services for window treatments. Frana also has her own home interior consulting and staging business. We talked about easy winter projects, white sales and Frana’s dos & don’ts.
January is a popular time for white sales. What do you recommend buying to warm up an interior?
My theory on winter decorating is everyone wants to stay economical. One way is to buy toss pillows with upholstery type materials that are warmer like fleece and chenille. There is nothing better than a cozy throw on the end of a bed, a couch or a chair. The fleece ones are very affordable. Look for down comforters and duvet covers, which are the best for providing warmth while not being heavy as you sleep. Polar fleece or flannel sheets are fabulous for the winter. Lighting is really important in the winter obviously because we have less of it so add electric candles or small lights to warm up a space.
What is an easy DIY interior design project?
Rearranging furniture costs nothing and is a great way to make a change. Give yourself a different look, particularly since you are going to be inside a lot more. Play with what you have and you might end up making a better flow. Keep in mind the winter sun is different so you might want to move furniture out of that direct sunlight. De-clutter is always good. Less is best!
For the winter, what project tops the list?
Painting. There is nothing fresher than a painted room. Winter is the perfect time for painting: it dries quicker, everything smells fresh and everything looks that much better with a fresh coat.
Where do window treatments fall on the “to do” list?
With new construction or a move to a new home, window treatments top the list. It all starts with wanting a layer of privacy but unfortunately when homeowners start with a blank palette they tend to over-decorate. I try to back them up and tell them that they don’t want people to walk into their living room and say, “Great blue roller shade.” Keep the shades neutral to get started and then after a bit we’ll look at valance, a roman shade and fabrics but it should be done at the end of the decorating scheme.
What are some trends you are seeing in window treatments?
Cellular shades also known as honeycomb shades are very popular. They are like a blanket for your window – energy efficient, with a white backing, which keeps most of the warm or cold air out of the house. Cellular shades come in colors and can be light filtering or room dark- ening. They are modern looking but you can pull them up and show the whole glass window. They cost a little more but save money on your heating and cool- ing. We sell more cellular shades than anything else right now. They look great and they are environmentally smart, too.
What are some of your rules of thumb with decorating?
I have my Frana’s do’s & don’ts. For people who are unsure what color to add to a room, I always tell them do use green, it is a neutral. Like grass in the garden, every color of flower looks good with green, but don’t mix the greens – for example sage and lime. Pick one shade of the green.
Another do I encourage when my clients are painting a room is to take the lightest shade on the paint swatch, which is the color at the top of the card, and paint the ceiling that color. It is the lightest version of the wall color and it bumps up the room a notch and looks fabulous.
Do wallpaper; while not as popular as paint, it is lovely in a bathroom or a hallway. It breaks up a lot of blank wall and there is no need to fill the wall up with anything on it.
Another big do - paint that ‘50s “or- angey” brick fireplace! Customers fight me every time about it but they are so glad when they do. Paint it and it will completely change and modernize your room.
And my big do: I always say if you are not sure you will like something then do store bought versus custom made. You can buy it, bring it home, be sure to leave the tags on and you have 30 days to try it out. It’s so easy to outfit a room from HomeGoods or Overstock.com. We are so fortunate with the excellent selection of local antique and second hand furniture shops. But often you can buy a couch second-hand, have it reupholstered for winter and have a slipcover made for summer, getting two looks for less money than buying brand new.
Which design aesthetic are you so glad is no longer popular?
Mauve and blue, and peach and teal color combos. I call it the Don Johnson. It worked once but now there are so many more options.
What colors are trending now?
Gone are the recent popular coco browns and blues. Now it is the grays - gray walls and gray furniture. Gray is a more neutral color that you can work with. So instead of a blue room it would be a gray room with a blue pillow. People are getting away from plaids and floral traditional patterns. Geometrics are big now. That is where you are seeing the neon colors which work great with a natural color like a shade of gray. But you are not going to love that neon look in ten to fifteen years so that is why I like to work with people – to make it affordable so they are not in- vesting in a look they are going to grow tired of. I always say beer budget for a champagne look.