Decorating Tips Every Design Enthusiast Should Know

Decorating a home can be an incredibly fun process—but it can also be a daunting one. After all, there are tons of decisions to make. There are walls to paint and rooms to furnish. And there’s a fair amount of hardware, décor, and upholstery to pick out, too.

Thankfully, you’re not alone in your quest to craft a stunning space. There are tons of interior designers who have done what you’re trying to do, and many of them are more than happy to give you advice.

To help you navigate your home décor project, we asked interior designers to share some of their favorite decorating tips with us—and they delivered. So, whether you’re giving your home a quick makeover or tackling a full-blown renovation, you’re bound to find the inspiration you need to get started, take the next step, or finish up your project.

Stock Up on Essentials Before Choosing Your Palette

A living room filled with black, charcoal, brown, and white furniture

When decorating a space, many people start by committing to a palette. But Richard Petrie, interiors expert at Thomas Sanderson, recommends putting this step off until much later in the process.

“Don’t choose your color scheme before you move in,” he says. Instead, stock up on essentials—like rugs, upholstered furniture, and more—and let them inform your palette.

Layer Different Light Sources

A monochromatic bedroom with several light sources: two white table lamps, a small task lamp, and a woven chandelier

No room is complete without a light fixture. In fact, according to many designers, no room is complete without at least three light fixtures.

“Many people don’t pay enough attention to their lighting,” Amy Bell, interior decorator at Red Chair Home Interiors, says. “Living rooms and bedrooms should have at least three light sources in addition to the overhead light.”

This set-up should give youplenty of ambiance options, and you can make it even more flexible by adding dimmers to your lights.

Put a Focal Point in Every Room

A living room with a vibrant blue fireplace

Statement-making pieces can take a home from simple to striking, but snag too many, and you may overwhelm your space. One rule of thumb to follow? Put a single showstopper in every room.

“Create one design focal point, like a fireplace surrounded by large format tiles, a gorgeous stair carpet runner, or a kitchen tile backsplash,” Nichole Abbott, interior designer at FLOOR360, says.

Stray From the Trends

A narrow home office decorated with pieces pulled from different design movements

Trends can be incredibly tempting. But talk to any designer, and you’ll hear the same advice: Focus on what you love—not what everyone else loves.

“Don’t follow trends. They come and go,” Alice Chiu, principal at Miss Alice Designs, says. “If you keep it simple and decorate with items you love, your space will stand the test of time.”

Build a Timeless Base Layer

A dining room filled with sleek wooden furniture and striking blue accessories

When decorating, break down the room into a few different layers. Your base layer should include your biggest furniture—the pieces you’ll take with you from home to home. Your second layer includes smaller furniture. And your third layer includes textiles and accessories. Since these layers are more flexible, you might swap them out as you move from home to home.

“Always make sure a room has layers,” Charli Hantman, interior designer and owner of August Black Interior Design, says. “Core pieces—like a sofa, cocktail table, and rug—ground the space. Secondary options and accessories—like side tables, decorative objects, textiles, and art—are the elements that transition a house to a home.”

To give yourself more flexibility with your second and third layers, many designers recommend keeping your base layer as classic and versatile as possible.

Factor Traffic Flow Into Your Layout

An overhead view of a living room filled with spaced-out modern furniture

When laying out your furniture, be sure to give yourself and your guests plenty of room to move around—designers call this circulation.

“People always want their furniture to fit. But, you don’t want a room to feel crowded or cause traffic jams,” Elyse Moody, kitchen design expert at Designer Appliances, says. “When you have sufficient circulation, a room just feels more comfortable to be in.”

She recommends leaving a 4-foot-wide walkway between larger pieces of furniture, and leaving 14–18 inches of breathing room between smaller pieces of furniture.

Curate Your Clutter

A sitting room decorated with a tassel-lined mirror, a globe, and several other fun items

Most designers will tell you to edit down your stuff, but that doesn’t have to mean going all-in on minimalism. “For me,’less is more’ is less about minimalism than it is about curation,” Mona Ying Reeves, founder of Bay Area design firm Re:modern, says. “When you bring more intention into curating a space through décor choices, you end up with spaces that have meaning, feel authentic, and outlive passing trends.”

So don’t force yourself to get rid of stuff just to get rid of it. Instead, focus on buying—and making space for—items you love.

Play With Different Proportions

A dining room with sleek furniture and an extra-large globe lantern

Don’t be afraid to go big with some pieces and small with others. “It’s important to play with different proportions,” Hantman says. “Proper scale has the power to completely transform a space. There needs to be synergy and tension between the different elements in a room.” 

Jen Pinto, senior interior designer at Jackson Design and Remodeling, notes that this rule won’t just add drama to your space—it will also keep it from getting too cluttered.

“Many people are afraid of big accessories, lighting, or furniture because they think it will overwhelm the space. But in many circumstances, their items end up being too small,” she says. “To compensate for their mistake, they will often add more items to fill the space, which can lead to the space looking more cluttered.”

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