To soften the modern edge of stainless steel, decorator Alisa Bloom put a traditional spin on the kitchen cabinetry of her 1920s Chicago penthouse with brass inlays. With the help of a local hardware maker, she even designed her own hinges and drawer pulls. “I would never go into a store and just buy something,” she says. “It’s all about the process and the hunt.”
Regardless of the type of space you’re decorating, there’s nothing more important than paying attention to details. Here, we share decorating pointers from our archives and tips from top designers to help you make sense of what good design really means. If you’re open to mastering a few basic decorating principles and putting your creativity to the test, you’re sure to enjoy a home that’s both comfortable and stylish.
“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
“Make sure you’re having fun. What’s more fun than making your own home more beautiful.”—Eche Martinez
Rather than art, a high-impact wallpaper can give a subdued room some wow-factor. The 19th century wallcovering from this luxe Milan apartment was purchased at auction in France and adapted to the room. “We created the missing parts, the plinth and the ceiling frame, to depict an Italian capriccio, a fantastical and bucolic landscape with architectural features,” Laura Sartori Rimini of Studio Peregalli says.
Slide a stool next to the bathtub. Not only will the extra surface space help with organization, but it’s also a great way to make the whole space feel more luxe.
“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
If there’s anything that can single-handedly polish off a room, it’s a light fixture. Case in point? That brass pendant light. It feels much more refined and sophisticated than a table lamp would and contrasts with the more traditional elements throughout the bedroom.
$225, Safavieh Adirondack Round Area Rug, Bed, Bath & Beyond
There’s a fine line between kitschy and curated. Rebecca Robertson unifies vintage and new pieces by grouping them by color.
$170, Skyline Furniture Linen Talc Nail Button Storage Ottoman, Overstock
“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
“Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don’t.”—Olivia Erwin
Allow your space to continuously change—as your life does. “Remember that your home should always be evolving, just as you are,” says Kelly Framel, creative director, stylist and founder of online magazine The Glamourai. “I am constantly picking up new treasures on my travels. Your nest should always be a place of comfort and inspiration, and it’s a constant work in progress.”
Putting a colorful throw blanket at the end of your bed or flung over the sofa is an easy but transformative design trick. It’s also a great way to experiment with colors and prints before fully committing to them.
If your home is due for a design update but you have a limited budget and even less time, you’re in the right place. We thought of 50 home décor ideas to help you start. With something as simple as an accent wall, colorful light bulb, or new throw pillow (or 47 other home décor ideas if those aren’t calling your name), your entire space can feel fresh, on-trend, and refined. You can tackle each of these decorating ideas in one day, even though the results will look like it took way longer to pull off.
This probably isn’t what you want to hear since we don’t think of cleaning up as fun, but adding a few pieces that ease organization can make a huge difference. Consider installing coat hooks or bringing in a stylish coat rack coat by the front door. Then place a small folding chair underneath it to sit on when you take off your shoes. This will prevent those dreaded (and previously inevitable) clothing pileups.
“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
Floor-to-ceiling shelving never fails to add character to a room. In his Los Angeles home, acclaimed chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre opted for this shelving style for his collection of more than 1,000 cookbooks.
“The splurge everyone should make is a fabulous master bathroom. I used hand-painted porcelain sinks in mine.”—Todd Richesin
“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
Make a simple wall a little more exciting with oversized artwork. Choose large-scale photography or something abstract and vibrant to really make a statement.
For a graphic statement, color-block your wall. Paint half of it a bold color or opt for two neutral tones. Here, black creeps up about a quarter of the way while the rest is a nice shade of steel gray, creating an understated-yet-unique statement.
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. 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, but until we win the lottery, we’ll have to settle for trusting our guts, and taking plenty of design tips where we can get them. We’ve compiled some secrets straight from the pros to help you with all your decorating needs.
If any area in your home is feeling austere, sheepskin throws are the easiest solution. They bring in warmth, texture, and comfort while also being super affordable and easy to move throughout your space as your needs and moods shift.
You don’t need a footboard. A bench will get the same job done. It’ll help anchor your bed, act as a spot to sit and put shoes on, and serve as storage for extra pillows and blankets.
It’s easy to gravitate toward the usual suspects like wood and leather when trying to craft a textured living space, but branch outside of your comfort zone. Emilie Munroe of Studio Munroe recommends drawing from your own personal style, especially the articles of clothing and patterns you’re attracted to.
Instead of meshing a color scheme with a sense of place, designer Irakli Zaria used rich gold and turquoise as an antidote to gloomy London days in this chic pied-a-terre. “In a place where there are such cloudy skies, it makes no sense to have a gray interior,” he said.
Adding a nice floral arrangement can beautify a whole room on it’s own. The shapely vase, accompanying artwork, and unique rose gold faucet in this bathroom don’t hurt either.
Graphic prints can have a major impact in small spaces such as a powder room. Here, an Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper is the star of a powder room a New Orleans manse designed by Sara Ruffin Costello.
If the walls in a hallway are feeling tired or lackluster, add a gallery wall. Bring in antique frames, or hit up a thrift store or flea market, and arrange a ton of hand mirrors into a gallery wall.
Allowing unique items to dictate some design decisions can lead to unexpectedly beautiful results. On the hallways leading into this Art Deco Chicago apartment, dramatic doors and paneling were inspired by a special stack of uncommon lumber. “There was a guy out in Oregon who had a barn full of exotic wood and everything was marked ‘NFS,’ as in Not For Sale,” architect Phillip Liederbach recalls with a laugh. “It gave us a responsibility to elevate it. We obsessed over it.”
“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
For an unexpected fireplace display, swap logs for stacked books or magazines.
“Don’t settle. If you have your heart set on a piece, don’t try to find something similar just to save money. Chances are, you’ll never be completely satisfied with the substitute (or its quality).”—Brian Watford
“I love to see the layers of time and renovations,” says California-based interior designer Patrick Printy. “To me, it deepens the effect.” Achieving a sense of harmony that feels organic is key.
The best way to balance out sleek lines and contemporary furniture is by adding a few unique natural elements, from drift wood to greenery. “I don’t like to look around a house and not see touches from the outdoors,” interior designer Tamara Magel says.
“Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.”—Chandos Dodson Epley
If you’ve been collecting something for a long time and aren’t sure where to put your knick-knacks, install a floating shelf in your room of choice and then line them up. We love the sense of nostalgia these vintage glass bottles add to the bedroom.
“Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” —Courtney Hill
Every room can benefit from accessories that have a history. Rather than showcasing your collectibles on a shelf, set them out on a table, as seen in this Italian apartment. Just be sure your collection is highly curated to maintain a sense of balance in your display.
“Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground.” —Jason Oliver Nixon
Throw pillows are the easiest way to freshen up in the bedroom or living room. Introducing a new color, print, or shape with a throw pillow can make the whole space feel new again.
“Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires.”—Caleb Anderson
“If punk rock has taught me anything, it’s to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught.”—Max Humphrey
You don’t have to wallpaper your entire room—just pick a wall and accent with it. It’s fast, easy, and makes a big difference.
Plaid? For winter? Not even close to groundbreaking, but we’re still here for it.
Art director Vivia Horn’s zen upstate New York home makes use of an unexpected gift to give her traditional kitchen a dose of fun. This breakfast table made of a refurbished hibachi—a present from the late wrestler and Benihana restaurateur Rocky Aoki.
Reupholstering your furniture will automatically freshen up an entire space. And if you love eclectic decorating, take notes from this impeccable living room. All the juxtaposition in this room is working so well—the angular mirror, vivid orange photography, marble fireplace, rustic stool, and geometric pottery are all unexpectedly complemented by the softness of the blush pink chairs.
This is not the time for e-shopping, people. “It’s just so hard to tell on a computer screen what the color really looks like,” Arnold says. “You might think it looks red, but in reality, it’s watermelon pink.” Not to mention the texture of the rug may be totally different than what you were expecting.
“The most important first step in design is a good floor plan.”—Jessica Helgerson
“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
“Buy one good piece of furniture every year, and in five years, you’ll have five pieces. Everything else may change, but these will remain constant.”—Jeffrey Bilhuber
“In the master suite, decor can deviate from the common areas and really reflect your personality.”—Ali Vanderpool and Ariana Villalta
Can you imagine how simple this bathroom looked before it had a bright blue floor? The quick change allows the tub to take center stage. We’d want to soak in there all day long.
$3,295, Rococo Iron & Crystal Chandelier, Restoration Hardware
When renovating a building that already has plenty of character, like this 1920s Spanish Colonial home in Los Angeles, it’s all about striking the balance between what you add and what you leave. “We wanted to make it feel more holistic while still honoring its heritage,” designer Steven Johanknecht says of the decision to keep the original hand-carved ceiling beams and wrought-iron chandeliers while removing mismatched materials from previous renovations.
Looking at your home from a holistic perspective—seeing how each room works in balance against the others—can help craft a welcome variety in your spaces, like this emerald and charcoal dining room that adds a touch of formality to an otherwise contemporary Los Angeles home.
You don’t need to go bright in order to create visual impact in a room. “[My wife] wanted to dial it back into her aesthetic, away from the color,” says David Kaihoi of the 400-square foot New York studio he renovated for his family. “I agreed, but suggested we do that with texture and pattern.”
It’s exactly what Jenny Cipoletti, founder of fashion, beauty and travel blog Margo & Me, did in her decidedly Parisian office (which is actually in West Hollywood). “Just like when you walk into a cafe in Paris, and you see all the details and the golds, silvers and light blush tones, all of these elements in this space really sing to me,” says Cipoletti. This lets you travel to your favorite destination without stepping outside.
Symmetry, who? Your chairs and couches don’t have to line up—in fact, you don’t even have to have chairs. Put your side table in the corner flanked by two sofas, and if you don’t have enough arm chairs for a classic living room setup, just place floor cushions by the coffee table.
If you tend to be more reserved when it comes to color choices, step outside of your comfort zone by choosing a bold hue, like purple, for a hallway. It’s unexpected and can be a chic backdrop for showcasing an art collection like this design by David Hicks.
No formal reading nook? No problem. Add a bench with a pillow in front of your bookcase and call it a day.
Want to make a variety of bright colors cohesive? Think about how you would arrange a flower bouquet, as Sasha Bikoff did in this SoHo apartment. “The same can apply to a space, but you need to find a connection,” she says. “Here, that connection is the fabric on the dining room chairs, which showcases colors also found throughout the room.”
Layering patterns in a range of styles and scales is an easy way to add visual interest to a room. Here, Refinery29 Global Editor-in-Chief Christene Barberich pairs black and white pillows with green chevron bedding in her Brooklyn Heights bedroom.
“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
“Bringing a touch of the Old World into the mix creates a home that will never feel dated,” designer Alex Papachristidis explains of the art-studded Manhattan apartment he designed for a family friend. For example, the silver leaf–and–rock crystal chandelier from Liz O’Brien that he hung in the otherwise modern dining room.
“You mix things up with old and new,” suggests textiles and interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland, as she did in the living room of her Santa Monica home; a room where the furnishings include 17th-century French chairs, an 18th-century Mexican console, and a cocktail table from her furniture line.
It’s easy to overlook a room when it’s super tiny, especially because there simply isn’t enough useable space for décor. But it’s definitely possible—and well worth it—to show these nooks some love. Take this powder room, for example. With a light blush pink wall color and a surrounding gallery of eclectic artwork, the small room packs a lot of punch.
A bold patterned/colored tablecloth can instantly make a traditional space a little more eclectic. This one picks up the blues in the wallpaper.
“A lot of people love the idea of really simple, modern living—it’s appealing, it’s nice and it seems serene,” says Erika Yeaman, a Homepolish designer and owner of YES Associates. “But the reality of maintaining that is a little tricker. Mixing Scandinavian design with bohemian style warms it up and makes it feel more homey and attainable.”
This space is rich with texture, which creates warmth and dimension. There’s also plenty of character even though it’s sticking to a strict color palette. For a similarly inviting and grounded environment, get inspired by nature. Think seagrass, rattan, jute, wood, brushed concrete, and marble.
If Chip and Joanna Gaines have convinced you that your abode needs shiplap, you’re usually best off installing the boards horizontally rather than vertically. “It can really expand a space, making it feel larger than vertical boards can,” says Jason Arnold. “Horizontal boards also feel more contemporary.” Vertical boards, however, can be ideal for rooms with high ceilings.
$5,400, John Stuart Clingman for Widdicomb Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs, 1stdibs
“My clients ask about the most important pieces to invest in: I believe in upholstery and art! They help anchor a room.”—Ashley Darryl
“Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great.”—Paloma Contreras
Black might sound scary, but it looks totally sexy in a bedroom. To keep it from feeling too dark, opt for white bedding and make sure you have enough natural light in the room.
This exquisite living room is playing with shape and scale in so many ways—each design detail offers a universe of inspiration. For extra impact and proportional intrigue, hang an oversized mirror. Keep it simple and sleek, opt for a cool shape or color, or keep it classic with an antique.
Kate Reynolds, co-owner of Studio Four NYC, believes in pairing big-ticket items with budget finds. “I think a room balances out better when you have different levels of price and craftsmanship,” she says. “It helps you notice the statement piece more.”
“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
“Pull floor patterns from ancient buildings. One inspired the checkerboard pattern of the marble floors in my Los Angeles home.”—Nate Berkus
Instead of fighting against rusticity, embracing the natural character of a home can create a natural richness in the space.”My father found artisans to decorate the bathroom in red limestone, a typical Rajasthani material,” Siddharth Kasliwal, heir to India’s famed Munnu the Gem Palace, explained of the former-cowshed-turned-home he inherited from his father. “All the other elements—the brass sink and hardware, the mirror— are vintage or antique.”
“Black works with any style. The misconception is that dark colors make spaces feel smaller; they actually recede.”—Carrie Fundings Land
If you want to transform your bedroom into a palace fit for royalty, add a canopy. This white gauze fabric hangs so beautifully and brings an ethereal look to the minimalist bedroom.
“Faux paint, lush lacquer, or wallpaper on a ceiling will garner that ‘Wow’ response.” —Leslie May
Pare your stuff way down and your room will look totally different. This doubles as a makeover and spring cleaning all in one.
For an unexpected (and easy) pop of color, trade in your classic bulb for a bright one. It adds the same vibe as a neon sign without taking up any space on the wall. Try it in a hallway or entryway, where décor moments are precious and square footage is limited.
To avoid being locked into a single style, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman switches up the fixtures in her Park Slope home on a regular basis. “It’s part of my creative process,” she explains, “I love to see things in context, in real life—to live with them.”
$375, Arturo 8-Light Rectangular Chandelier, Ballard Designs
“Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.”—Julio Salcedo
To create interesting contrast, replace one thing in an otherwise totally traditional room with something super modern, like this geometric coffee table and abstract-painted floor.
Looking beyond the traditional with wallcoverings can create a truly standout design presence. “I do think I might have scared [architect Ken Linsteadt] a little bit when I announced I was planning to install two levels of green floral fabric on the walls of the grand salon,” says Ken Fulk of his Sonoma Valley lakeside retreat, yet the fabric gives the high walls a richness that wallpaper alone might not have achieved.
Sure, your eyes may want the most modern, chic couch in the showroom. But your back may not. “In my experience, it’s really better to test out seating and take the time to look at the dimensions,” says Sharon Blaustein. If you’re tall, for instance, you might want to opt for a depth of between 40 to 42 inches for a sofa (rather than the standard depth of 36 inches).
“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
“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
“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
If you don’t have a grand foyer—or you do but it needs some love–introduce a small console table. For a formal yet modern aesthetic, opt for a traditional table and then hang modern abstract art above it. Then lean some portraits against the wall for a laidback take on the gallery wall.
$1,688, Interlude Home Lestari Petrified Wood Side Tale, Houzz
This little corner is sleek, stylish, and perfectly handsome as is, thanks to the modern leather lounger and graphic rug. But that floor-to-ceiling lamp is an architectural stunner that really brings in that added wow factor. Look for a floor lamp that doubles as artwork for a similar vibe.