Some people have a natural eye for design, but we're more in the camp of those who can't do anything without consulting Pinterest board upon Pinterest board before making any major changes. And even then, expectations don't always meet reality. We'd love to have an interior designer on speed dial before deciding just 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 complied some secrets straight from the pros to help you with all your decorating needs.
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."
"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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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 mixing it up: "You wouldn't have eight identical chairs in your living area."
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."
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.
"I don't think it will last too long, but the look of velvet is a big trend," says TV personality 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.
Don't postpone a makeover because of 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."
"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 Fixer Upper and mastermind behind Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines Paint in partnership with Kilz. Having trouble picking out a bold color? Gaines recommends green, because it's found in nature and timeless.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.