“I redecorated Donald Trump’s apartment once, before he built the original Trump Towers,” recalled designer, artist, and Weehawken resident Janet Tava. “He wanted gold leaf on everything. When it was done it was the tackiest apartment I’d ever seen.”
The anecdote was one of many Tava shared with a roomful of homeowners and design buffs at Weehawken’s public library Wednesday night during her lecture on budget-friendly home decoration. Tava, now 57, has worked for various design firms since she was 22, and is one of the most prominent female interior designers in the industry today.
After working with was she described as “over 200 of the best artists” in recent history, Tava claimed to be more knowledgeable and flexible in her skill set than any of them.
“The good thing about working with so many of them is that I was able to pick all of their brains about all of their skills and ideas,” she said.
“Red is something we need to talk about.” – Janet Tava on redecorating your home
“Essentially what they’ve done is cut out the middleman,” she explained. “Now you don’t get an interior designer unless you’re really up there in what you’re willing to spend.”
Therefore, the theme of her talk, which was sponsored by the library and attended by over 20 township residents, was overcoming that lack of expertise and still succeeding in redecorating without spending a ton of cash. Tava discussed artwork, painting, and, almost surprisingly, rugs.
“You always want to start with the rug,” she told her audience. Tava explained that once you’ve laid out a rug, it becomes much easier to figure out the rest of the room. She also advised against spending too much money on one.
“You should never really be spending too much on anything, because you don’t want the cost to keep you from changing it in the future,” she said. “If you’re going to spend a lot of money on something, spend it on a couch.”
But be forewarned: couches can be expensive, so be sure about your choice before you make the purchase. If you plan on having a couch for many years, she said, make sure it’s one around which you can decorate, and then redecorate.
“Never spend too much on anything that’s too trendy,” she said, pointing out that 2013’s “trendy color,” purple, is already going out of style in design circles.
“I’m already working on 2014,” she joked. “You’re going to be seeing a lot of designs in plum and raspberry.”
Color schemes made up another large section of the lecture. Tava is a bit of an expert on colors; Benjamin Moore’s entire decorative paint line is based on hues she created years ago while painting a mural with some of the paint giant’s mixers. But for the massive, and frankly daunting, variety of colors available to consumers today, her advice on painting was simple.
“When you wake up in the morning and open your eyes, whatever color you see is the color you should paint your room,” she said. “Everyone instinctively has a favorite color. Just go with your gut.”
However, there are some limitations. Red, unless you’re painting a bathroom, is usually a no-no, especially in a bedroom.
“Red is something we need to talk about,” she said sternly. “If you’re going to paint something red, don’t ever sleep in it. The average homeowner repaints a red room in an average of two years.”
One audience member commented that she had painted her bathroom red.
“Well that’s fine, as long as you don’t sleep in your bathroom,” replied Tava.
Another woman in attendance asked about painting a ceiling something other than the customary white. Tava explained that it’s a gutsy move, but if your ceilings are high enough, you might be able to get away with it.
Audience members, who ranged in both age and gender, seemed to enjoy the lecture.
“I thought Janet was great,” said Weehawken resident Ron Dillon. “I’ve known her for a while. We share an interest in antiques. I liked her anecdotes.”
Sade Balwant, a recent college graduate, said she enjoyed Tava’s commitment to taste over style.
“I really enjoyed what she said about loving how you decorate,” she said.
Miryam Cera, whose daughter’s house was ruined by Hurricane Sandy, said the talk gave her lots of ideas on how to improve her situation on a budget.
“My daughter’s redoing her entire house, and hasn’t received any money the government yet, so now I can give her some tips and ideas,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org