28 New Decorating Secrets the Pros Swear By

Throw the old rulebook out the window.

Francesco Lagnese

You know those people who seem to have great taste without even trying? You're about to be one of them. Here, top designers share the best insider tips and tricks in the business.

1 of 28
<p>Whether you're reviving planks with a fresh coat or adding a herringbone pattern.</p>
Start with your 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."

Shop a similar look: wooden bar stools ($125 for two, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
2 of 28
James Merrell
Fake height with low furniture.

"Create strong verticals and avoid the horizontal," recommends designer Todd Romano. "I adore large mirrors because they add scale to a room. I also kept the furniture low-slung, so the rooms seem taller."

Shop a similar look: tall mirror ($59, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
3 of 28
Window casings painted in Fine Paints of Europe's 7495 and DeVenco shades relate to the colors in Patterson Flynn Martin's Royal Edition rug, without matching them exactly.
Thomas Loof
Give window trims a splash of color.

"Window trim is an often-overlooked opportunity to make a statement," says designer Meg Braff. Jeffrey Bilhuber agrees. "I often end up painting them green, to blend in with the landscape," the eclectic decorator says. "Or sometimes I paint them pitch black, so the muntins practically disappear in the evening."

Shop a similar look: green paint ($50,

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
4 of 28
contrast palette
Try a high contrast palette.

"I'm really into saturated color with white to balance it out so it doesn’t feel over-whelming," says Joanna Gaines, the star of HGTV's and mastermind behind in partnership with Kilz. Having trouble picking out a bold color? Gaines recommends green, because it's found in nature and timeless.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
5 of 28
<p>"Use and enjoy your antiques and unique finds, especially in a utilitarian room like the bathroom. Keep cotton swabs in a hand-painted tin or sea-grass box; hang art that can survive a splash." —Bunny Williams</p>
Francesco Lagnese
Put investment pieces front and center.

If you truly love something, you'll want to put it on display. "Use and enjoy your antiques and unique finds, especially in a utilitarian room like the bathroom," advises designer Bunny Williams.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
6 of 28
Courtesy of Jan Showers
Warm up a room with mirrors.

Mirrored panels like the ones lining this alcove can be elegant — but don't just slap them up, designer Jan Showers warns. Large sheets of mirror will look commercial, so try a sectioned pattern in the traditional French style instead.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
7 of 28
painted trim
Getty Images
Embrace decorative finishes.

"Decorative finishes, like glazes, will warm houses next year," says Doug Wilson, a designer on the upcoming Trading Spaces reboot. Here, a charcoal gray trim breaks up the white, but doesn't stray too far for conservative tastes.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
8 of 28
Douglas Friedman
Don't skimp on the sofa.

Don't postpone a makeover because of naturally messy kids. "Put your money into a comfortable, well-made sofa that you'll have forever," advises Krista Ewart, a designer based in California. "You don't have to deny yourself that expensive designer fabric you love — just put it on something small, like a pillow."

Shop a similar look: pink pillows ($16, [link href="https://www.amazon.com/CaliTime-Cushion-Covers-Vintage-Mandala/dp/B016ISK926/" target="_blank" 0="data-tracking-id="recirc-text-link"" link_updater_label="external"]amazon.com), green pillow ($13, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
9 of 28
Amy Neunsinger
Amplify neutrals with texture.

Neutral decor can be interesting — just 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."

Shop a similar look: green bedding ($96, ), sheer curtains ($11, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
10 of 28
Francesco Lagnese
Implement 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," says Mary Douglas Drysdale, who designed this bold blue kitchen. "It's also a very architectural way of using color."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
11 of 28
Getty Images
Add velvet decor.

"I don't think it will last too long, but the look of velvet is a big trend," says and designer on the new season of Trading Spaces, Sabrina Soto. She embraced this material by buying a deep blue velvet couch for her formal living room, but if you want a safer choice, go with a soft gray.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
12 of 28
Bold aqua and freewheeling patterns bring cheer to a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. The Nonchalant lounge chairs by Barbara Barry for McGuire are covered in Lulu DK's Dancers. 

<em>Hexagonal table from Mecox. Rug, ABC Carpet &amp; Home.</em>
Ngoc Minh Ngo
Go deep in small spaces.

Small living spaces don't have to feel cramped. "See how these living room chairs have smallish arms," says designer Elizabeth Pyne. "Most of their square footage is given to the seat, so you can curl up in them. They feel luxurious and roomy even though they're not big."

Shop a similar look: arm chair ($240, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
13 of 28
martha angus and katie mccaffrey bedroom desk
James Carrière
Don't settle for "flood warning" side panels.

"For classic side panels, you really have to go all the way to the floor," designer Scot Meacham Wood says. "If you're looking at ready-made drapes, make sure that they touch the floor, even if you have to buy the next size up and have them hemmed."

Shop a similar look: side panels ($57, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
14 of 28
Although his Manhattan studio apartment totals just 525 square feet, Max Sinsteden conjured up a gracious "enfilade" extending from the foyer, in Fine Paints of Europe's Cave Creek, to the curtained off bed alcove. The stunning Art Deco console is by Bermingham &amp; Co.

Ngoc Minh Ngo
Favor value-add paint colors.

A temporary space can look beautiful, even with a small budget. "We are so used to having painters sand for ages to produce mirror-smooth walls, but I wasn't about to spend the money to do that in a rental," says designer Max Sinsteden of his bright green entryway. "It turns out the irregular surface just sparkles all the more."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
15 of 28
Look to the ceiling to brighten things up.

Kitchens with floor-to-ceiling cabinets can look dark, but here's how to fool the eye: Designer Caitlin Moran will paint the ceiling a slightly paler version of the walls, so the room seems brighter even with just a few windows.

Shop a similar look: dark paint ($20, ), light paint ($45, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
16 of 28
<p>Look online (and in thrift shops) for beautiful sets of antique china and silver flatware sold for less than a contemporary place setting. They often feel more special to guests than a brand-new one.</p>
Francesco Lagnese
Mix, rather than match, your tableware.

Matching can be so overrated — and expensive. Look online (and in thrift shops) for beautiful sets of antique china and silver flatware, recommends Williams. You'll save money and the place settings will feel more special to guests than brand-new ones.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
17 of 28
Joe Schmelzer
Let gold and silver hangout together.

Metallic finishes already add plenty of sparkle, but the sheen will make a bigger impact in a variety of colors. "I don't know why people don't mix gold with silver more often — they look so smart together," says designer John De Bastiani. "The key is to use a lot of both; you can't be shy with one or the other."

Shop a similar look: gold lamp ($60, ), silver vase ($20, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
18 of 28
Francesco Lagnese
Think of a straw rug as your perfect basic.

You might think of straw as an outdoor textile, but it'll look just as good indoors. "Straw, jute, rush — natural materials and neutral tones are they always chic," says Braff. "They're the white T-shirt of interior design."

Shop a similar look: jute area rug ($118, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
19 of 28
Paul Raeside
Go big with dark color.

Taking the plunge on a strong hue can be intimidating, but the best way is to dive in head first. "One of the most successful strategies is to paint a strong color on everything, from the baseboard and crown molding to the walls," says Garrow Kedigian, a designer based in New York. "It works well because it's not contrasted against a different trim color."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
20 of 28
pillows on a sofa
Victoria Pearson
Pile on the pillows for extra luxe.

One pair of pillows always looks skimpy, says Melissa Warner, a California-based designer. Use two pairs, in contrasting patterns, colors, and textures. De Bastiani agrees: "I don't do dinky accents...small pillows look like something that came with the furniture."

Shop a similar look: orange pillows ($18 for two, ), tan pillows ($40 for two, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
21 of 28
Fake square footage with a glass shower.

Most people opt for a frosted glass or an opaque curtain for extra privacy, but there's something to be said for transparency. Glass shower doors, like in this guest bathroom by designer Amy Meier, add instant square footage. To complete the illusion, run the floor tiles straight into the stall. "It makes the room feel larger," adds designer Alla Akimova. "If I had changed materials, it would have interrupted the space."

Shop a similar look: glass shower doors ($529, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
22 of 28
Courtesy of Jan Showers
Put thought behind your mirrors.

When hanging mirrors, think carefully about what they'll will reflect, advises Showers. You want to pick up a great scene, like a pretty chandelier.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
23 of 28
matthew quinn kips bay
Joshua McHugh
Be generous with your kitchen 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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
24 of 28
Eric Piasecki
Play the field with dining room seating.

Dining room benches might not be conventional, but they sure are cozy. "You automatically feel more friendly when you're sharing a seat," points out designer Thom Filicia. "It could quickly become corporate if you were looking at a room full of chairs." Vicente Wolf, also a designer, agrees on mi it up: "You wouldn't have eight identical chairs in your living area."

Shop a similar look: dining bench ($146, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
25 of 28
<p>"I love the New York Public Library, where pairs of lights illuminate the tables," says Redd.  He turned an underused library into his mother's office and helped her organize her desk. "My mother is the kind of person who writes a letter to someone who leaves her a voice mail," he says.</p><p>Redd skirted a dining table in Lee Jofa's Althea chintz, with Samuel & Sons fringe. "A table skirt hides a multitude of sins: correspondence and shopping bags," he says. "We snaked the lamp cords through the table leaves and under the rug."</p>
Peter Murdock
Anchor a room with skirted furniture.

Too many chair and table legs can make a room "nervous," advises Warner. A skirted piece or two will make the space more grounded, and provide additional storage like in this office designed by Miles Redd.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
26 of 28
Francesco Lagnese
Try a "more is more" mindset.

It's counterintuitive, but the trick to pattern is to use more. "It's all about symmetry," reveals Meg Braff. She uses prints in pairs, so that there is the same textile on one side of the room as on the other. "It's comforting to the eye — you don't have to 'work' to take it in," she adds.

Shop a similar look: rug ($158, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
27 of 28
James Merrell
Let space size dictate furniture placement.

If the size of the space mandates where the furniture goes, think about the pieces strategically. For example, if a bed has to go against a window wall, choose a headboard that still lets sunlight in, like this Florida bedroom by Todd Romano.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
28 of 28
<p>"Show, don't tell, what you're serving with a well-appointed bar. Guests feel more at home when they can help themselves." —Bunny Williams</p>
Melanie Acevedo
Welcome guests with a bar in plain sight.

Cleaning up clutter can be a good thing, but there's one thing hosts should never stow away. "Show, don't tell, what you're serving with a well-appointed bar," says Bunny Williams. "Guests feel more at home when they can help themselves."

Shop a similar look: bar cart ($203, )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Designer Tips