Top 10 Designer Tips
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Top 10 Designer Tips

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

All You Need Home Show is bringing you the top 10 designers tips, so you can design your own place like a pro. Enjoy!

1. Barry Dixon

Embrace infinity . . . expand your horizons “To make a room feel larger, use a round rug on the floor. The circle represents infinity, and a round rug brings that esoteric idea of ‘no boundaries’ into reality as a visual element. In this client’s dressing room, I used both a round rug and an over-scale round tufted ottoman to create a sense of unending space. Besides helping to increase the perception of space, the round ottoman provides a panoramic view of that gorgeous Virginia countryside.”

Dixon shares another horizon-stretching tip: “So often when we decide to do built-ins for our dressing rooms and closets, we just presume they must go floor to ceiling and have conventional doors. A much more interesting look is achieved when you build quasi-furniture for your storage. As built-ins, I designed five large armories that fall a few inches short of the ceiling and are raised, on bun feet, a few inches off the floor.”

2. Darryl Carter

Live large, open up “Opening an enclosed staircase can create interesting display options in most any venue. Here the walls that had run floor to ceiling, encasing the staircase, were removed. This relatively simple change added architectural interest and a far greater sense of space in this kitchen.”

3. Jan Showers

Think sunny "Sun-rooms should have a feeling of openness and be bathed in light. That's why I typically recommend not obscuring the views with curtains, particularly in a sun-room like this with windows on three sides. I like to use a very warm ivory palette because it reflects the light so beautifully. The addition of glass [vintage Murano glass is a favorite of hers] is wonderful because it sparkles brilliantly in the light. There's no better accent color for a sun-room than sunshine yellow. It's that punch of happiness this room needs."

4. Alexa Hampton

Do the math “Chandeliers are famously tricky for people to figure out because they’re hanging in the middle of the room with no points of reference against which to gauge for size. A great rule of thumb that I learned years ago is to take the width of the room in feet, double the number, convert it to inches, and that is the minimum dimension for your chandelier’s diameter. I say minimum because it can always be fun to oversize a chandelier, but one should never have it look dinky. Finally, for utility’s sake, make certain that a chandelier never hangs too low over a dining room table. Always keep in mind that you want to look at your dinner companions, whether they’re family or guests.”

5. Thomas O'Brien

Map it out “Start a map collection and decorate with it. Decorating with maps is one of my favorite things to do for clients. Maps of the region personalize any interior. Use them as art or blow them up and use them as a whole-wall covering. This one’s sepia tone is beautiful—that wonderful ‘colorless’ thing—but hand-colored ones can be a room’s colorful accent. I’ve been a collector of old New York, Long Island, and Hudson River maps for years. I buy maps from around 1833, the year my house was built. You can find old maps from $60 to $200 on up to $10,000 for early ones.”

6. Barbara Barry

Be strong, soften up “Use a patterned wallpaper to strengthen a room, and an unpatterned paper to soften a space. One of my favorite patterns is this floral, with its creeping branch and blossom designs in chocolate, blush, and green. It’s a perfect example of how a patterned wallpaper, as a single design element, can enliven a space and set a new decorative direction. Be sure other design elements play down to the paper. When wallpaper is unpatterned, it can wrap a room with color and texture and soften the space.”

7. Barclay Butera

Find your “little black dress” “Design is like fashion. Every home, like every woman’s wardrobe, benefits from a little black dress. In my family room, the oyster-colored Belgian linen sofa, along with the raffia on the ceiling and the sea-grass rugs on the floor, work like the little black dress—they are a versatile starting point for building a fashion statement. They create a neutral palette that allows me to accessorize with a mix of patterns on the throw pillows and on the chair cushions. These are my punches of color. Pattern on pattern works best when you go all the way—don’t fear it. Variations of blue and white work in my family room. I could change the ‘fashion’ of the room in one day with loden green and chocolate on pillows alone, because the raffia, sofa, and walls are all neutral. Don’t try to match exact colors; don’t be afraid to layer patterns or texture. The subtle changes in wall color, blended with rich textiles, can be compared to fashion where a blue paisley silk blouse and chocolate wool gabardine slacks are worn together blending texture and color. Just think ‘fashion’ when decorating.”

8. Tom Stringer

Get a grid “Deciding what kind of art is right for the big wall behind the sofa is an easy problem to resolve when you remember that there’s power in numbers. Groups of similar images in matched frames add graphic punch and interest to the behind-sofa wall—which really is a blank canvas…an opportunity. This also solves a problem when a suitably scaled painting isn’t available. Here, a collection of antique bird prints are framed in a simple contemporary molding that echoes the style and finish of the side tables. I like to hang multiple images in a tight grid, just shy of the length of the sofa, with equal margins at the top of the sofa and bottom of the ceiling molding.”

9. Celerie Kemble

Soothe yourself “To create the most serenity in a bedroom, use a tone-on-tone palette of a restful blue or green, then make it dynamic by using a wide variety of textures. Here the wall color is what I call a ‘tall glass of water’ aqua blue—which also happens to be my client’s favorite color. Except for whites and creams, it is the only color in the room. That’s soothing, but to keep things interesting, I’ve used probably 25 different textures, including flannel curtains with striated woven bamboo sheers, a hammered-metal coffee table, Lucite lamps, a tufted cashmere bed [headboard and footboard], wool carpet, a Belgian linen sofa, lacquered side tables with inlaid steel, and peeling paint on an antique Swedish settee—mixing slick, soft, rough.”

10. Charles Faudree

Mix freely “I’m a big believer in the mix. A single object on a tabletop or a single work of art on the wall can be nice, but for me, mixing collections provides the most excitement. Instead of grouping the pieces from only one collection, which typically limits you to ‘like’ objects, I like to combine different collections to ensure a mix of textures and shapes and even history, to increase the visual interest of the arrangement. The mix in the girl’s bedroom shown here is more about pattern than collectibles. Pink toile on the little chair and bed curtains mixes with stripes on the wall, a hand-painted floral design on the commode, and florals on the lamp and lampshade. Start with a pivotal fabric, then mix other patterns of different scales from the same color family.”