Mama Tweedle’s Sample Box

April 28, 2014

This is probably the best lifetime decorating habit I have developed. It has saved me countless hours of frustration, and some horrendous decorating mistakes.

It is simply this: keep records of everything in one place!

In my case, I found this red leather box at Winner’s (and it matches my bedroom décor). I keep it sitting on my chest of drawers. I like to see it out in the open rather than in a closet somewhere, so I will remember to use it.


When I’m heading out on a shopping trip, I either take the whole box and leave it on the back seat of the car, or select what I need from the sample box and put the smaller items in a big envelope in my purse.

So let’s take a look inside.


Firstly, I have hundreds of paint chips, which you can pick up free at any paint department. It is surprising how many times I have spread them out in order to find an appropriate colour for something – not only paint, but fabric, furniture and other accessories.


But I also have the specific paint chips for each room in my house. That way, I can colour match anything without trying to remember the exact shade.


Here’s one example. My downstairs bathroom is a pretty but very unusual colour of lavender – not pink and not purple, but something in between. When I went shopping for new towels last week, I took my paint chip and found the perfect colour! I would never have been able to remember this shade in my head.


As well as paint chips, I have samples of tiles and countertops. The cream colour is my bathroom counter, and the blue glass tile is from my kitchen backsplash. This was really helpful when looking for fabric to recover my kitchen stools.


As for upholstery fabric, I kept the sample from my upholstered armchairs that were ordered from Sears. This sample has been invaluable over the years, as the colours in my living room are rust and blue. The blue fabric remnants are from the toss pillows I sewed myself.


Most decorating departments will provide samples, especially if you buy the item. Sometimes the samples are for sale. I haven’t bought any yet, but I really think it would be worth a few dollars to pay for them.

Here’s the sample for the area rug in my family/media room, and the drapery sample for the heavy drapes that keep out the daylight while we are watching television.


Finally, the sample box, if large enough, is also a great place to keep receipts and care instructions.


I have another resource as well – a nice big exercise book where I have made notes of all my house information. When building our dream home ten years ago, I kept meticulous records of sizes and shapes, floor plans, and paint numbers.

This page shows a list of paint formulas. It’s less important to keep paint formulas now that colours can be computer-matched, but it’s still easier to give the paint department your colour chip, rather than try to scrape or dig a bit of paint out of the wall in a hidden place.


I put the book away thinking I would never use it again. Boy, was I wrong. 
The fact is that decorating a house is an ongoing process, as things wear out and your tastes change. I have consulted this book dozens of times over the years.

Enjoy your spring decorating. And remember, it’s never too late to start keeping records!

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