Loi Thai, co-owner of Bethesda, Md., antiques store Tone on Tone, gives these tips:
• "White floors create a nice foundation for furniture to rest on," says Thai. "To lighten dark floors without the expense of refinishing them, cover them with the largest sisal rug you can find."
• Paint different rooms in variations of one color. "I start out with Benjamin Moore's Classic Gray and then go lighter or darker depending on the amount of light in the room," says Thai. "The trim is painted the same color as the walls." (The walls are a flat finish; the trim is low luster.)
• Freshen rooms with painted furniture. "Instead of replacing your entire dining room furniture set, keep the dark table but get new painted dining chairs."
• Stay away from formal, fussy fabrics. Instead, keep it simple with cotton and linen or indoor-outdoor fabric. "Solid fabrics are more conducive to changing throws, pillows and artwork seasonally."
• Group like items together. "It makes more of an impact, and it's not as scattered or haphazard," says Thai, who collects many things, including ironstone, lusterware, ceramics, Swedish folk horses and mercury glass.
• In the kitchen, leave bare wall space for found objects. Thai uses a walnut French sideboard to store flatware and everyday dishes. A tall Swedish cupboard is used as a pantry.
• When arranging furniture, start with one large, quality investment (sideboard, case piece, console table). Place it in a prominent spot, then put less-expensive furniture around it. "One nice piece sets the tone for everything else."
• Avoid a neutral palette that is flat and dull by using different shades of beige and by picking fabrics and finishes with varying textures. Mix metal furniture with wood pieces. Add sparkle with accessories that have gilding. Use area rugs made from natural fibers.
• Affordable doesn't mean unstylish. Thai's favorite chain stores are Crate and Barrel, Target and Ikea. "Crate and Barrel makes good design accessible," he says. "Target has some great designers designing their housewares. I love them for tabletop: trays, place mats, laundry baskets. And I love Ikea, of course, because it's Swedish."
• "Grandfather clocks can be very serious and very boring. But Swedish grandfather clocks are nice because they are whimsical and can be an architectural element," says Thai, who has three in his house. "They are wonderful for corners and walls at the end of the hall."
Replace fussy, old china with simple white ironstone. "I like to use inexpensive white dinner plates from Crate and Barrel or Target, which can go in the dishwasher, then mix in antique ironstone serving platters, bowls and pitchers," says Loi Thai, antique store co-owner.
Replace fussy, old china with simple white ironstone. "I like to use inexpensive white dinner plates from Crate and Barrel or Target, which can go in the dishwasher, then mix in antique ironstone serving platters, bowls and pitchers."