get it together: home makeover tips from jason martin

two weeks ago jason martin shared a gorgeous set of before & after room makeovers from his portfolio of custom work. in the comment section below the post people started discussing if the “after” results pleased the home owners, as their “before” pictures are often very different from the final product. jason was intrigued and wanted to share his thoughts on the topic, as well as his tips and process for creating a successful makeover in your home. he’s a pro so it’s fun to hear what he has to say on the subject. he’s shared some great images in addition to great advice, so i hope you’ll enjoy his post on getting your home makeovers going.

CLICK HERE to read jason’s makeover tips after the jump!

Get It Together by Jason Martin of Jason Martin Design

The best way to start a design project is to photograph it. Not only will this help with the before and after pictures but it will give you a clear view of what your working with. Because we live in our own home, we become accustom to how it looks and seeing the rooms in flat, two dimensions actually helps open our eyes. Believe me it can be sobering. Assess the room, take some notes on what you want to change and then start pulling out magazine pages, photos, etc – anything that attracts your eye. Don’t get too into the details just amass the info. It can also be a huge help to pull together images that you don’t like too. Once you have a pile of images together, you will start to see similarities. Maybe there is a similar sense of color, style or period – those will be easy to find but also look for commonalities in the use of lighting, formality of the placement of furniture and the overall mood of the room.

stripe rug, lamp, swirl rug

Think Globally Act Locally

Rarely do we have the opportunity, money or time to make over the whole house but if you are thinking of redoing one room it is helpful to have a plan for the bigger picture. Let’s say you are going to update your living room. You should consider the rooms that connect to it and if you will be changing them eventually as well. Even if you are only changing one piece of furniture in a room you should plan for the entire space. Often people make the mistake of putting a room together bit by bit but that can quickly become disjointed. Many times when we make a spur of the moment purchase – – a piece that seems like it “might work” – – we end up spending a lot of money and time making it fit the room. If you have a clear idea of your overall design, you are less likely to make that mistake. When that once in a lifetime piece comes up you can grab it and be confidant that it will work.

Example: These rooms all flow into each other so we planned them all at the same time. Even though the rooms were completed separately over a long period of time we knew where they were headed overall so it was easy to determine how bold or quiet each area needed to be in relation to the next.

Make Your Case

Once you have an idea of the style of the space you want you should get as organized as possible. Edit down your collection of magazine pages and photos to put together a notebook. The notebook should also include notes on what you want to change, a list of measurements, paint chips, fabric cuttings, etc. It is hugely helpful to have your ideas together in one place before you start a project. You can always refer to the measurements or swatches and if you have inspiration pictures with you, you cut out the need to explain to a sales person what you are looking for. A picture is worth a thousand words and you never know when someone will know just what you are looking for and be able to point you in the right direction.

Example: Here is part of a notebook I used for a client. Because I had the photo of this vintage sconce, I was able to show it to a dealer who told me what it was called (the Chrysanthemum) and he sent me to a shop where he had seen it. Rather than having to explain to the upholsterer how I wanted the tufting on a new chair I could show him a picture and not have to just hope it came out in the translation to the actual piece.

Spread it around

At some point in your project expect to get tired and feel overwhelmed by the process. This is usually when the temptation kicks in to just get it done but resist. Have you ever been to a friend’s house and noticed all of the furniture came from only DWR or Pottery Barn or worse – Ikea? That is the end result of the “just get it done” temptation. Yes, there are people who love any number of shops but just like in fashion you should avoid looking like a victim of one-stop shopping. To be clear, I am a big fan of all the above stores and I don’t hesitate to combine a West Elm console with a rug from The Rug Company and I encourage you to take this high/low approach too. It not only creates a sense of character but also gives the importance to the room, not the price tag.

Examples: 1) Custom made bed and side tables with Ikea drapery panels and Pier One Lamps. 2) Rug Company rug and West Elm console. 3) Silk Trading Company custom draperies, antique wool rug and dressing table from JC Penny.

Be open to change but not too open

As finish your project, take stock in how the design is shaping up. Is the paint color that you thought was perfect a little too dark? Does that new side table take up more space than you thought? More times than not– no matter how well you plan– a project can take on a life all its own. You can let this stress you out or it can be an opportunity to let the design evolve. Sometimes the best designs start out as mistakes. All of my favorite projects have an element of off balance-ness– a pillow that is too formal for the sofa, mismatched dining chairs or a painting that clashes a bit with the room. All of these things create a story for the room. However, all that said if you hate the color of your walls and you just can’t move on sometimes you have to trust your instincts suck it up and head back to the paint store. Chalk it up to a lesson learned.

Example- These chairs were originally red, which would have work fine but we wanted the furniture in the room to be subtle shades in relation to the vibrant Paul Smith rug. We tried to make it work but in the end it was too bright and actually matched the red in the rug too well so we had to bite the bullet and put out the money to reupholster them. In the end it made all the difference and we were able to use this amazing vintage green sofa that would have never worked with the red chairs.

  1. good – exactly what I need – I thought I needed to spring clean but I think I actually need a makeover – yes I do(and so does my house!)

  2. Don says:

    Awesome post Grace and Jason. Do you have a larger version of that George Nelson, Charles Eames, Herman Miller group pic? That NEEDS to go on the pin up board by my desk!

  3. erin says:

    i love that white pouf. so fresh, so comfy!

  4. Renae says:

    OMG! I love, love, love that Paul Smith rug!!!!

  5. Annick says:

    Great post! Very well said!

  6. Stephanie says:

    That was so informative. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I may have just missed it but can anyone tell me where to get the curtains from behind the bed in the very first picture? Thanks!

  8. AmyA says:

    This was a great post! Loved all of his tips and suggestions.

  9. kbd says:

    This page is totally bookmarked. Thanks to you both.

  10. Tara says:

    Oh I want these images to be larger so I can see DETAIL!!
    Lovely indeed!

  11. Donna says:

    Elizabeth- the curtains are from Ikea, nice mediumweight linen, and lined!

  12. kelly says:

    Where is the floating shelf from? Love the designs!

  13. Sabina says:

    I love spring make-overs and I’m already planning mine!!

    Wonderful post!!

  14. Sahil says:

    Great designs. They really remind me of these new hotel concepts seen at .

    Great work!

  15. e says:

    What a great post – The ideas Jason suggests are right on point. As my wife and I move into a new house, and start with what is basically a clean slate, we sometimes feel lost with where to begin when it comes to ‘designing’.

    I know not many people get to plan their entire house out at once because it is too much work or too expensive, but having an idea about the entire master plan, is very helpful.

    Thanks for a great resource.

  16. Telfair says:

    Jason Martin is awesome. I’ve followed his work for years…always fresh, grounded and chic. Fun to hear from him directly and get tips. Thanks for the great post DS!

  17. Sheila says:

    I love the multi-colored stripe pillows on the bed – they have great texture. Where can I find the them?

  18. no1uno says:

    Thanks for the solid useful advice Jason. The interiors shown speak volumes to me. I can’ believe you had those red chairs recovered but it gives me strength to do the same when something just doesn’t work not matter how much I want it to or try.

  19. chrissy says:

    I know there are a bazillion comments already, but as a long-time stylist/home design pro, I had to chime in and say that Jason’s shared the Holy Grail. Read it and live it. Thank you so much! Am sharing this with my clients (even though they won’t need me, now).

  20. Jennifer "JR" says:

    Here’s a link to the mid century designers group photo. Such a classic!

  21. alice says:

    That is really helpful, thanks!

  22. Mo says:

    Love this. I never thought of doing a notebook, but it all makes sense. More, please.

  23. This information is invaluable and so well put. Greatly appreciate Jason’s professional expertise and perspective here. Well illustrated with the chosen imagery. Beautiful design makeovers throughout. And no cookie cutter approach. Demonstrates Jason’s design breadth and flexibility and his ability to work with his clients as individuals and not apply a “one size fits all” solution. As previously stately, wonderful before/after section on his website. Perfect. Thank you both Jason and Grace!

  24. Michelle says:

    I’ve been looking for some chairs similar to the ones in front of the fireplace but more at a 90 degree angle, anyone?

  25. Tara says:

    I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of “great post”. The information was really useful to me, since I’m planning the re-do of my dining room at the moment. Taking photos is a great idea that I’ve never thought of (or remember coming across). So is the reminder that even if you aren’t doing the whole space – its good to plan like you are. My husband & I didn’t do that and now have a lavender room, leading into a yellow room, leading into a chocolate brown room (and yes, its as horribly easter-y as it sounds)!

  26. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!


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