Living spaces today are more diverse than ever, ranging from large houses subdivided into apartments to industrial structures and warehouses, ecclesiastical and farm buildings, all of which are being requisitioned as exciting environments in which to live. The possibilities now open to the home decorator are limitless, but whatever your personal environment, it should complement your particular lifestyle. Take into consideration at the outset any special needs and the activities that each room will have to accommodate. Does the layout work or could it be better organized? This may be a simple matter of re-arranging the furniture, or a more substantial structural alteration such as lowering a ceiling, closing off unnecessary doorways, opening up two small rooms into one, or converting loft space into an extra room. Decide which rooms should be in close proximity - a kitchen and dining room, for example - and which rooms should be kept apart, such as a children's room and a study. Apart from answering your own needs, a room should be decorated sympathetically to reveal its true character, with an interior that complements the exterior of the house. Assess the potential of a room before you start planning a decorative scheme: are there special features, such as architectural details, which might be highlighted, or problem areas like radiators which need to be disguised? Are the size and proportions of a room aesthetically pleasing? Is it flooded with natural light or does it have a darker aspect? Having established the character of a home and what changes need to be made, you can now start to look at the solutions to the problems.

The framework

Windows, doors, moldings and fireplaces are all a part of the architectural framework of a room and when in proportion with each other, and with the walls, they help to create a sense of order and balance. Shallow skirting looks mean with high ceilings, which may look all the higher in the absence of a deep cornice or picture rail. An open- tread staircase or picture window looks out of place in a home with intricate cornices and ceiling centres. Conversely, elaborate panelling and a picture rail are inappropriate in a cottage where a plain skirting and colourwashed wainscot with a plate rail will be more in keeping with its rustic idiom. In a modern apartment, ornate details are equally incompatible; keep to clean, classical lines and wide expanses of sheet glass or maximize the architectural bones of a room by emphasizing natural materials such as brickwork and wood.

Change of use There is no rule which says that the living room should be downstairs or beneath the bedroom. Indeed, in a tall terraced house the first-floor rooms are often brighter and have a better view than those on the ground floor. If ground-floor rooms are gloomy, keep them for evening occupation - as a study or dining room, perhaps- or for use as a guest bedroom, which will not be in constant use (ground-floor rooms are particularly beneficial where visitors are likely to be elderly).