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The final touch is the most important

Ask any professional soccer player – there’s no point in running the length of the pitch, dribbling the ball around the opposition players and tantalizing everyone with your incredible skills if your final touch lets you down and – instead of burying the ball in the back of the net, potentially burning a hole in it due to the sheer force that you struck it with – you belt it right up, over the goal mouth, up further still and over the stand where the spectators stand, ready to cheers, but now looking incredulous as the ball catches the wind and sails completely clear of the stadium, across the road outside, over the roofs of the bars where clients are watching the game on TV, across another road and straight through the window of the local job center.

The same logic applies to renovating and decorating your home. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what you do if you get the final touch all wrong. It’s a bit like spending all your money on a beautiful mahogany dining table and chairs and getting out your finest silverware only to light the room, not with a tasteful chandelier, but with a solitary lightbulb, hanging loosely from its cord, as if it were mistakenly put there, and there’s a crystal chandelier illuminating some bewildered inmate’s cell somewhere.

Of course, there are many instances which are much harder to spot than that. It’s generally more difficult for the home owner to identify missing final touches as they are so used to their surroundings that everything starts to feel comfortable. If you’re not sure, invite over a trusted friend who hasn’t been round before and ask them to point out what they don’t like.

It might be something as obvious, but easy to overlook, as an old or rusty faucet. The design might not match the basin, it could be oversized or undersized. It might just be ugly. Make a list of such things and then find out what would look better there. If you don’t trust your own taste anymore, have a look at one of the most popular choices and see if that works for you.

Other areas where people go wrong when it comes to decorating, include abusing the foyer. This part of your home is the first thing visitors see when they enter. Far too often that first impression is one of dirty or worn sneakers and other footwear, kicked off carelessly and piled up, keys loosely slung onto an old table and a coat stand trying to support enough coats to dress the whole street. It’s far better to invest in a discreet, but classy shoe cabinet, keep coats in a separate closet and hang your keys elsewhere. You can then add the final touch by putting up a beautiful work of art – an original, of course – which you feel in some way represents your family’s ethos. Think of Jaques-Louis David’s ‘The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries’, or Hippolyte  Delaroche’s ‘Bonaparte Crossing the Alps’, for the effect you want.

Another factor you might not have considered is the amount of whiteness in your home. Whiteness is great, when used to deliberate effect, but far too often it just suggests emptiness – indicating that the person who decorated the house, perhaps you, have an empty mind. Try repainting white walls in gray to add depth, or beige if you’re not quite as adventurous. Using a different, bolder color on the far wall of a room, entices people to look through the room itself, making it feel more alive and full of character. Keeping the walls and the ceiling the same color gives the feel of a model home – blank, unlived in and unloved.

Sometimes your mistake will be having tried too hard. You might have cluttered up your rooms with too much stuff, as if people were supposed to look at everything one by one, like exhibits. To really make a statement, take your favorite piece, or perhaps the most interesting piece, and set it in the center of the room. You can even keep the walls bare and devoid of any further ornaments. People enjoying a cup of tea in a room dominated by a sculpture of a giant pelican will always have something to talk about.