Could a few changes to your living space help you land the perfect mate?
Good decorating can't guarantee happy romance, of course. But if a new date finds your home appealing, he or she is more likely to spend time there -- which means spending time with you.
And if your home expresses your personality, you and your date can discover more quickly whether you're compatible.
Fortunately, it's not expensive to make your space more date-friendly, says interior designer Betsy Burnham. The goal isn't to redecorate; you're simply presenting your home at its best.
With Valentine's Day approaching, Burnham and interior designers Brian Patrick Flynn of decordemon.com and Kyle Schuneman of Live Well Designs share advice on making a new date's visit a successful one.
"The obvious things really are worth saying here: Cleanliness is free, and it's appreciated," Burnham says. "Do all the dishes before the person arrives. Scrub the sinks. Clean out the fridge. If you don't want to do your laundry, get a couple of beautiful baskets and throw your laundry in there."
Schuneman suggests walking through your home as if you were a stranger, assessing it room by room to see what needs cleaning up or adjusting. What is outdated and isn't you anymore? What might give the wrong impression?
Every room matters. Even if your guest won't be entering your bedroom, they may glimpse it on the way to the bathroom. So make your bed, and consider what the room says about you.
"When single people are getting to know one another, you can really tell a lot about who they are from their more private quarters," Flynn says. "I often use prints in bedrooms, either on the walls behind a bed or near the bed, in the form of wallpaper or fabric. Someone with more traditional prints may be a bit more old-fashioned and reserved, whereas someone with bold geometric prints may be much more daring."
FEED ALL FIVE SENSES
Schuneman, who wrote "The First Apartment Book," due out in August from Random House, says many of his younger clients focus on the visual without considering the sounds, scents and feel of their living space. People often think decorating "is just about paint on the walls," he says, "but it's really about creating an experience."
Soft textures will make a chair or sofa more inviting, and a fluffy rug can delight guests who will be taking off their shoes. Candles or fresh flowers can make the scent of a room more appealing, whether the fragrance is crisp and energizing or soothing.
And music isn't the only way to set a mood or banish silence, Schuneman says. "Maybe it's the crackling of a fireplace" that helps create a good atmosphere.
Burnham likes to light rooms with table lamps or floor lamps when guests visit. If you must use overhead lights, she advises dimming them to avoid glare.
"People want to feel that they look their best, and you want your things to look as good as they can," Burnham says. "Overhead lights flatter no one."
LAYER ON THE STYLE
"Just like a great person has many layers to their personality, a well-layered room speaks volumes," Flynn says. "In my own living room, I layered texture everywhere, including grasscloth on the walls, a linen print on the draperies, a nubby tweed on the upholstery, and a thick charcoal wool shag." Guests, he says, are "instantly drawn to the space, and end up staying for hours on end just relaxing and unwinding."
One option for bachelors: "I've been upholstering guys' walls with pinstripe suit fabric," Flynn says.
"It packs sex appeal, and can remain should their gal pal become their spouse in the future."
INFUSE YOUR PERSONALITY
Burnham suggests decorating your main living area with items that reveal something about your personality or experiences. Arrange a stack of your favorite books on a coffee table. If you play an instrument, consider displaying it.
"If you're out of the room, these things tell your date something about you," she says. "They're a jumping-off point for conversation."
Schuneman encourages clients to decorate with items collected during their travels, either from exotic places or closer to home.
CREATE A LOUNGE SPACE
"Since the kitchen is where most guests seem to feel the most comfortable, I like to turn small kitchens into more intimate, lounge-like gathering spaces, where conversation and flirtation is encouraged," Flynn says.
"In a small condo, I covered all of its walls with $8-per-square-foot glossy black penny rounds (tiles), and added three chrome-and-crystal pendants," he says. "Then I brought in barstools upholstered in a red-and-white chinoiserie fabric, which had a bit of a Vegas feel, but still had enough traditional flair to remain classic."
ADD FRESH TOUCHES
All three designers suggest adding just a few new details to energize your space. For minimal expense, you can brighten your sofa with new throw pillows or add fresh hand towels to the bathroom, Burnham says.
Scout around for sales and buy a beautiful, oversize bowl to display fresh fruit in your kitchen, or a new vase for flowers.
Don't worry that you'll come on too strong, she says. "Men, it doesn't mean you've gone completely off the deep end for someone if you buy fresh flowers. It just means you're making an effort."
This advice applies to anyone. "Even if you've been married a long time," Schuneman says, making an effort with your living space before a special evening can have a huge impact.
"Adding that spice, that 'Oh, wow, you did something special,'" he says, "goes a long way."