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Designers Share the Decorating Secrets Only Professionals Know... Until Now

Get ready to take notes.

decorating secrets
Annie Sloan

Some people have a natural eye for design, but if you're more in the camp of those who can't do anything without consulting Pinterest board upon Pinterest board before making any major changes, we feel you. And even those of us who leave and breathe interior design, some inspiration and guidance never hurts. We'd love to have an interior designer on speed dial before deciding exactly where and how hang to hang that sweet new wall art we bought on a whim so we don't make any major mistakes. But until we win the lottery, we'll have to settle for trusting our guts, and taking plenty of decorating tips where we can get them. We've compiled some secrets straight from the pros to help you with all your decorating needs.

Interior design, Room, Furniture, Pink, Ceiling, Wall, Building, Table, Floor, Architecture,
CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
1 of 58
Transform Eyesores

"In this basement remodel, we would've had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HCVA air duct. Who wouldn't go with ballet-slipper pink instead?" — Max Humphrey

designer tips
Aldous Bertram
2 of 58
Add Faux Molding

"There was no ceiling molding and no molding around the doors in this apartment, so I added them with paint!—Aldous Bertram

Living room, Room, Furniture, Interior design, Purple, Property, Coffee table, Violet, Couch, Building,
Dustin Halleck via Edyta and Co
3 of 58
Don't Be Afraid to DIY

"If punk rock has taught me anything, it's to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught."—Max Humphrey

decorating tricks
Annie Sloan
4 of 58
Fake It 'Til You Make It

"Do something groovy on the actual steps! The bolder you go, the bigger the smile when you see them." — Fawn Galli. Here, a painted on runner by Annie Sloan looks just like a carpet.

Room, Dining room, Furniture, White, Interior design, Property, Table, Ceiling, Living room, Building,
Lark and Linen
5 of 58
Mix Old and New Decor

"Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires."—Caleb Anderson

Blue, Ceiling, Room, Property, Building, Architecture, Interior design, Wall, House, Molding,
Richard Powers
6 of 58
Liven Up Ordinary Spaces With Wallpaper

“I love to use wallpaper in mundane spaces. Hallways, pantries, powder rooms—all become moments of joy and funkiness. Areas of transition can be places you enjoy spending time in.”—Fawn Galli

Blue, Living room, Room, Furniture, Interior design, Couch, Table, Floor, Wall, Coffee table,
Black Lacquer Design
7 of 58
Choose the Right Bulbs

"Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great."—Paloma Contreras

Blue, Furniture, Room, Living room, Interior design, Yellow, Wall, Table, Home, Porcelain,
Nathan Schroder
8 of 58
Try Out Wicker

“Wicker is an element I love for its texture and versatility. Wicker baskets are so functional for storage, but a wicker animal brings a sense of whimsy.” —Amy Berry

Yellow, Fashion accessory, Illustration, Jewellery, Ear, Party supply, Invitation,
Courtesy of Courtney Hill Interiors
9 of 58
Upgrade Your Light Switches

“Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” —Courtney Hill

Room, Red, Property, Furniture, Door, Interior design, Bedroom, House, Floor, Home,
Keita Turner
10 of 58
Even Rentals Can Get an Upgrade

"These doors were uninspiring and ugly," says designer Keita Turner. See how she hacked a custom upholstery job here.

Furniture, Room, Blue, Interior design, Yellow, Table, Property, Building, Ceiling, House,
Julie Soefer
11 of 58
Invest in Antiques

“Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.”—Chandos Dodson Epley

Dining room, Room, Interior design, Property, Yellow, Furniture, Green, Ceiling, Turquoise, Home,
Old Brand New
12 of 58
Trust Your Intuition

"Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don't."—Olivia Erwin

HBX020115_004
Maura McEvoy
13 of 58
Use the Ceiling to Redefine the Room

“Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.”—Julio Salcedo

Cabinetry, Furniture, Room, Kitchen, Countertop, Yellow, Hutch, Cupboard, Drawer, Material property,
Anne Schlechter
14 of 58
Add a Bar

"Every house should have a great bar. It is the central point of a party, and if you entertain a lot, it will be celebrated, so put some thought into it."—Jordana Joseph

Living room, Room, Furniture, Interior design, Purple, Property, Couch, Window covering, Yellow, Home,
Annie Schlechter
15 of 58
When in Doubt, Paint It Out

"Never underestimate the power of paint. You don't have to break the bank to achieve a new look. A fresh coat in a vibrant color takes an old piece of furniture or empty white room and gives it new life."—Chauncey Boothby

Orange, Room, Kitchen, Blue, Yellow, Furniture, Cabinetry, Countertop, Interior design, Building,
Courtesy Anthony George
16 of 58
...and Paint Doesn't Have to Be All One Color

Can you believe this rental kitchen makeover done with just paint and tape? See how designer Anthony Gianacakos did it here.

Room, Floor, Furniture, Property, Interior design, Ceiling, Building, Kitchen, Yellow, Wood flooring,
Heather Talbert
17 of 58
White Kitchens Are Forever

“Classics never go out of style. I hesitated about doing a white kitchen in my own house, thinking I’d been there, done that. But I’m so glad I did. I will never tire of it.”—Alexandra Kaehler

Living room, Furniture, Room, Blue, Interior design, Coffee table, Table, Couch, Floor, Property,
Lark and Linen
18 of 58
Live in Your Pretty Spaces

"Actually use your beautiful things! I have a chocolate lab and white furniture in my living room. It took some training, but now he knows the furniture is off limits."—Lindsey Lane

Furniture, Room, Table, Interior design, Wall, Turquoise, Chair, Home, Living room, Dining room,
Black Lacquer Design
19 of 58
Get Inspired by Ancient Buildings

"Pull floor patterns from ancient buildings. One inspired the checkerboard pattern of the marble floors in my Los Angeles home."—Nate Berkus

White, Room, Dining room, Furniture, Interior design, Yellow, Table, Wall, Lighting, Chair,
Courtesy of Larette Design
20 of 58
Go Dark

“Don’t be afraid of dark. I used this rich Benjamin Moore Midnight Blue on an accent wall—darker than I’d ever dared. It made the whole space come to life.” —Jean Larette

Room, Interior design, Yellow, Green, Dining room, Property, Furniture, Building, Ceiling, Table,
Old Brand New
21 of 58
Collect Art From an Early Age

"Art, art, art! Start young and buy the best you can afford. Its ability to transform a room is unlike any other design tool."—Jean Liu

The study's sofa and armchairs are upholstered in a Jasper stripe. Throw, Hermès. Annika lamps, Mary McDonald for Robert Abbey. Inlaid chair, Singh Imports. Garden stools, JF Chen (left) and Mecox (right). Walls in Benjamin Moore's Monterey White.
Victoria Pearson
22 of 58
Don't Be Afraid of Clutter

Advice from designers? Take Marie Kondo with a grain of salt. "I think it's true what she says, but all this stuff brings me joy. Ever since I was little, I liked to collect things, even unimportant things," says Mary McDonald. Read about why she and other designers think you should embrace stuff.

White, Room, Property, Furniture, Floor, Tile, Interior design, Bathroom, Building, Home,
Katie Hodges Design
23 of 58
Splurge on a Master Bath

"The splurge everyone should make is a fabulous master bathroom. I used hand-painted porcelain sinks in mine."—Todd Richesin

Living room, Interior design, Room, Furniture, Property, Curtain, Home, Coffee table, Wall, House,
Erin Nail
24 of 58
Don't Underestimate the Coffee Table

“In an open seating plan, always use a well-proportioned statement coffee table to ground the arrangement and give it a sense of place.”—Sean Michael

Sarah Winchester Studios
25 of 58
Be Creative!

“Get creative when thinking about form and function. A client in a traditional Georgian home needed it to work for her modern way of entertaining. We opted for an asymmetrical, organic space that encourages guests to float through the room while engaged in conversation.” —Kate Coughlin

Shelving, Shelf, Bookcase, Furniture, Room, Book, Interior design, Building, Wall, Table,
Black Lacquer Design
26 of 58
Make Ceilings Look Higher With Tall Furniture

"Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground." —Jason Oliver Nixon

Living room, Room, Furniture, Interior design, Property, Building, Home, Purple, Wall, Ceiling,
Edyta and Co.
27 of 58
Figure Out a Floor Plan

"The most important first step in design is a good floor plan."—Jessica Helgerson

Room, Dining room, Interior design, Furniture, Table, Curtain, Floor, Home, Chair, House,
Heather Hawkins via Studio Ten 25
28 of 58
Invest in Upholstery

"My clients ask about the most important pieces to invest in: I believe in upholstery and art! They help anchor a room."—Ashley Darryl

Room, Furniture, Property, Floor, Interior design, Building, House, Home, Ceiling, Door,
Studio Ten 25
29 of 58
Have Fun

"Make sure you're having fun. What's more fun than making your own home more beautiful?"—Eche Martinez

Countertop, Room, Orange, Property, Red, Ceiling, Cabinetry, Kitchen, Interior design, Building,
Sargent Architectural Photograph
30 of 58
Create Your Own Light

“When you're given a dark space that doesn't have great light, create your own light. In this kitchen, we used Sherwin-​Williams's sunny Ener­getic Orange, and it turned out just fabulous— so cheerful.”—Matthew Boland

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Summary | 29 Annotations
"In this basement remodel, we would've had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HCVA air duct. Who wouldn't go with ballet-slipper pink instead?" — Max Humphrey
2020/08/18 13:06
Don't Be Afraid to DIY "If punk rock has taught me anything, it's to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught."—Max Humphrey
2020/08/18 13:06
Transform Eyesores "In this basement remodel, we would've had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HCVA air duct. Who wouldn't go with ballet-slipper pink instead?" — Max Humphrey
2020/08/18 13:06
Mix Old and New Decor "Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires."—Caleb Anderson
2020/08/18 13:06
Choose the Right Bulbs "Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great."—Paloma Contreras
2020/08/18 13:06
Upgrade Your Light Switches “Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” —Courtney Hill
2020/08/18 13:06
Invest in Antiques “Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.”—Chandos Dodson Epley
2020/08/18 13:06
Trust Your Intuition "Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don't."—Olivia Erwin
2020/08/18 13:06
Use the Ceiling to Redefine the Room “Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.”—Julio Salcedo
2020/08/18 13:06
When in Doubt, Paint It Out "Never underestimate the power of paint. You don't have to break the bank to achieve a new look. A fresh coat in a vibrant color takes an old piece of furniture or empty white room and gives it new life."—Chauncey Boothby
2020/08/18 13:07
Live in Your Pretty Spaces "Actually use your beautiful things! I have a chocolate lab and white furniture in my living room. It took some training, but now he knows the furniture is off limits."—Lindsey Lane
2020/08/18 13:07
Get Inspired by Ancient Buildings "Pull floor patterns from ancient buildings. One inspired the checkerboard pattern of the marble floors in my Los Angeles home."—Nate Berkus
2020/08/18 13:07
Collect Art From an Early Age "Art, art, art! Start young and buy the best you can afford. Its ability to transform a room is unlike any other design tool."—Jean Liu
2020/08/18 13:07
Don't Underestimate the Coffee Table “In an open seating plan, always use a well-proportioned statement coffee table to ground the arrangement and give it a sense of place.”—Sean Michael
2020/08/18 13:07
Make Ceilings Look Higher With Tall Furniture "Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground." —Jason Oliver Nixon
2020/08/18 13:07
Figure Out a Floor Plan "The most important first step in design is a good floor plan."—Jessica Helgerson
2020/08/18 13:07
Switch Out Pieces That Take Up The Most Surface Area "When clients want a quick, impactful update, I recommend the pieces that take up the most surface area, like rugs, paint color, or window treatments."—Tina Ramchandani
2020/08/18 13:07
Make Sure It All Fits "Being able to visualize the scale of a piece is critical. In our office, we say, 'When in doubt, tape it out!'"—Kylee Shintaffer
2020/08/18 13:07
Collect Unique Pieces "The strange bust from the flea market, the weird painting you are drawn to: Buy them all. Curate a space that is truly one of a kind."—Stephanie Sabbe
2020/08/18 13:07
Make the Most of Natural Light "There's no substitute for natural light. Create opportunities to let the sun shine in—the bigger the windows, the better!"—Catherine Kwong
2020/08/18 13:08
Don't Stop Editing "The least expensive action: edit, edit, edit!"—Katie Sutton
2020/08/18 13:08
Establish a Color Scheme For a head-to-toe makeover, the first step is creating a palette. "I come up with a basic color scheme for the whole house, and then I take that from room to room," reveals Gary McBournie, a designer based in Boston. "It plays itself out in different ways in different rooms."
2020/08/18 13:08
Play With Textiles "Straw, jute, rush—natural materials and neutral tones are always chic. They're the white T-shirt of interior design."—Meg Braff
2020/08/18 13:08
Extend Your Backsplash Eye-catching tile can make a statement in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom. Cover as much of the wall as the budget allows, recommends designer Angie Hranowsky. Matthew Quinn, also a designer, agrees: "It feels more like a French bistro this way," he says of this blue-gray backdrop.
2020/08/18 13:08
Add Texture Neutral decor can be interesting if you include a variety of materials. "I used a range—from fine-gauge and open-weave linen, to raw silk and taffeta, to cotton velvet and distressed velvet," says California-based designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano. "Not only that, there's also the contrast of matte sheens that absorb the light, and lustrous sheens that reflect it."
2020/08/18 13:08
Use the 50/150 Rule For the perfect color family, mix one batch of paint 50% lighter than the base and another 150% darker. "That's a fail­safe method for striping a wall. It's also a very architectural way of using color."—Mary Douglas Drysdale
2020/08/18 13:08
Don't Skimp on the Sofa "Put your money into a comfortable, well-made sofa that you'll have forever. You don't have to deny yourself that expensive designer fabric you love—just put it on something small, like a pillow."—Krista Ewart
2020/08/18 13:08
Try a High-Contrast Palette "I'm really into saturated color with white to balance it out so it doesn’t feel overwhelming,"—Joanna Gaines
2020/08/18 13:09
Pile on Pillows "I don't do dinky accents...small pillows look like something that came with the furniture."—John De Bastiani
2020/08/18 13:09