I do a lot of media interviews where I am asked what my biggest/best design tips are. I rattle them off quickly and then they are published in random magazines or websites – but rarely have they made it here, on to this blog. In fact, when I brought up the subject of this post, 1/2 of my team didn’t even know what my answer would be. So, it seemed time to put them into one place, here on the blog.
If you are a seasoned home decorator, or hell, if you are a designer, then you know that there are no rules, ever, BUT these are guidelines that will help anybody decorate their home with confidence and avoid some big pitfalls at the start. Also, read on to shop a sale I’ve curated with Gilt.com that features my favorite items to get you started as you decorate with these principles (P.S. there’s a discount code at the end to make things even easier).
Tip #1. You can mix however many styles you want, mid-century-country-hollywood-regency-industrial-traditional – ALL OF THEM together as long as you have a consistent color palette peppered evenly throughout the space. This is the number one problem I see – not telling a cohesive color story through furniture and accessories. Choose a few colors that you’ve always loved, add some neutrals, throw in some accent colors, and then shop and style ONLY within those colors.
Now if you are a color genius, or an extremely confidant diy-designer then of course you can do whatever you want – and I’ve seen rooms look great with 94 colors in them. Most of our clients, as well as myself, like an eclectic mix of styles, right? But I warn that if you have a ton of different styles in a ton of different colors all thrown together in a room, it can look like a thrift store (especially if you have lots of vintage) or even worse a big, busy, messy, cluttered mistake.
Keep it consistent, cohesive and pepper those few colors around the room evenly with a good dose of a neutral spread around. I’m going to write a whole post/video about how to choose the right color palette for you, but the quickest way to do it is to look in your closet, see what colors you seem to be most attracted to, (make sure it’s a combination of cool tones and warm tones so it feels balanced), then add some highlights (lighter versions of some of those colors) and lowlights (darker, more muted version). Then neutrals, black, and whites are you friends in most color palettes.
Tip #2. Finding the right scale can be tricky when building a room, but there is something simple that I always go back to: A large room should have large furniture, medium rooms should have medium-sized furniture, and small rooms, (you guessed it) should have more petite furniture. Once the sofa is chosen, scale the rest of the furniture and accessories to that sofa.
Take Nicolette’s makeover, for instance – that room was big, that sofa is large, and therefore we had to get larger club chairs and a nice big coffee table (although that coffee table was glass which is good because it’s visually light in a room of heavier furniture). You can have some smaller pieces – or we could have done two petite chairs in place of one of the larger club chairs, but there should be a few pieces that are in scale with the room, that really make it feel intentional and balanced.
Now, Joanna had a smaller living room, big for New York, but smaller than most new home living rooms in the rest of the country. Her sofa is medium sized both in length and “visual weight” and has slimmer lines keeping it looking in the middle-sized range.
Tip #3. Every room needs a combination of vintage and new. While I love a ton of vintage, it can start to look like you bought it all at a garage sale (unless it’s all high end name-brand vintage). At the same time, if a room is full of all new things, it can look generic and lose personality. Mix vintage and new, and even mix brands and makers to get the room with the most soul.
This room started with an antique dining table and that vintage console – we added that wallpaper, chandelier, chairs (all new) then filled it in with some vintage and new accessories. The contrast/mix is what makes the room look lived in and full of soul.
In this project the new sofa, coffee table, and rug are mixed with the vintage chairs, accessories, art, etc. The vintage pieces have new upholstery which help it look more high end. Again, please note the consistent color palette (black, gray, ochre, brown, neutrals with some green to add life through plants).
In this vignette, the vintage dresser is accessorized by some vintage paintings (in new frames) some old books, and a new geometric lamp and new vase. It’s the mix that really creates the most interesting rooms full of personality.
I do have a few more design principles up my sleeve, but those are my three most favorite, most published, and most helpful to those problems that cause all your design agonies.
Alright, to help you guys get the ball rolling with implementing these principles into your own spaces, I have curated a sale on Gilt.com around each of these principles, featuring some of my favorite items (both big and small) to get you guys on the right track when it comes to following these principles. And even better, you can use the code EMILY at checkout to get an extra 20% off your purchase.