55 Designers Share the Decorating Secrets Only Professionals Know...Until Now
"If someone draws on it, it’s a lot easier to repair than real lacquer!" — Corey Damen Jenkins
"In this basement remodel, we would've had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HCVA air duct. Who wouldn't go with ballet-slipper pink instead?" — Max Humphrey
"There was no ceiling molding and no molding around the doors in this apartment, so I added them with paint!—Aldous Bertram
"We were able to work in a lot of pieces from their previous home, which made it feel layered." — Jean Liu
"Do something groovy on the actual steps! The bolder you go, the bigger the smile when you see them." — Fawn Galli. Here, a painted runner by Annie Sloan looks just like carpet.
"Murals are a way of bringing more people into the house, so even when it’s just the two owners, it never feels lonely." — Raji Radhakrishnan
"Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires." — Caleb Anderson
Improve health and temporarily turn a room a different color with "top-of-the-line smart circadian rhythm lighting." — Breegan Jane
“I love to use wallpaper in mundane spaces. Hallways, pantries, powder rooms—all become moments of joy and funkiness. Areas of transition can be places you enjoy spending time in.” — Fawn Galli
"If punk rock has taught me anything, it's to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught."— Max Humphrey
"Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great." — Paloma Contreras
“Wicker is an element I love for its texture and versatility. Wicker baskets are so functional for storage, but a wicker animal brings a sense of whimsy.” — Amy Berry
“Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” — Courtney Hill
“Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.” — Chandos Dodson Epley
"These doors were uninspiring and ugly," says designer Keita Turner. See how she hacked a custom upholstery job here.
"Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don't."— Olivia Erwin
“Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.” — Julio Salcedo
"Every house should have a great bar. It is the central point of a party, and if you entertain a lot, it will be celebrated, so put some thought into it." — Jordana Joseph
"Never underestimate the power of paint. You don't have to break the bank to achieve a new look. A fresh coat in a vibrant color takes an old piece of furniture or empty white room and gives it new life." — Chauncey Boothby
Can you believe this rental kitchen makeover done with just paint and tape? See how designer Anthony Gianacakos did it here.
"Actually use your beautiful things! I have a chocolate lab and white furniture in my living room. It took some training, but now he knows the furniture is off limits." — Lindsey Lane
“Don’t be afraid of dark. I used this rich Benjamin Moore Midnight Blue on an accent wall—darker than I’d ever dared. It made the whole space come to life.” — Jean Larette
Take Marie Kondo with a grain of salt. "I think it's true what she says, but all this stuff brings me joy. Ever since I was little, I liked to collect things, even unimportant things," says Mary McDonald. Read about why she and other designers think you should embrace stuff.
"The splurge everyone should make is a fabulous master bathroom. I used hand-painted porcelain sinks in mine." — Todd Richesin
“In an open seating plan, always use a well-proportioned statement coffee table to ground the arrangement and give it a sense of place.” — Sean Michael
"Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground." —Jason Oliver Nixon
“Get creative when thinking about form and function. A client in a traditional Georgian home needed it to work for her modern way of entertaining. We opted for an asymmetrical, organic space that encourages guests to float through the room while engaged in conversation.” — Kate Coughlin
"The most important first step in design is a good floor plan." — Jessica Helgerson
"My clients ask about the most important pieces to invest in: I believe in upholstery and art! They help anchor a room." — Ashley Darryl
"Make sure you're having fun. What's more fun than making your own home more beautiful?" — Eche Martinez
“When you're given a dark space that doesn't have great light, create your own light. In this kitchen, we used Sherwin-Williams's sunny Energetic Orange, and it turned out just fabulous— so cheerful.” — Matthew Boland
“Don't settle. If you have your heart set on a piece, don't try to find something similar just to save money. Chances are, you’ll never be completely satisfied with the substitute (or its quality).” — Brian Watford
"When clients want a quick, impactful update, I recommend the pieces that take up the most surface area, like rugs, paint color, or window treatments." — Tina Ramchandani
"Buy one good piece of furniture every year, and in five years, you'll have five pieces. Everything else may change, but these will remain constant." — Jeffrey Bilhuber
"In the master suite, decor can deviate from the common areas and really reflect your personality." — Ali Vanderpool and Ariana Villalta
“Faux paint, lush lacquer, or wallpaper on a ceiling will garner that ‘Wow’ response.” —Leslie May
"Being able to visualize the scale of a piece is critical. In our office, we say, 'When in doubt, tape it out!'" — Kylee Shintaffer
"Embrace mixed metals. It can feel like the fixtures are curated and bespoke." — Shelley Johnstone
"The strange bust from the flea market, the weird painting you are drawn to: Buy them all. Curate a space that is truly one of a kind." — Stephanie Sabbe
"Don’t be afraid to use inherited antiques. Add a backdrop with exciting wallpaper: The combination is simply the best.” —Sara Gilbane
“It’s a bit of an investment, and you can’t take it with you when you leave, but nothing brings va va voom like vibrant wallpaper in a conversation-topic pattern.” —Emilie Munroe
"The least expensive action: edit, edit, edit!" — Katie Sutton
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."
"Use and enjoy your antiques and unique finds, especially in a utilitarian room, like the bathroom." — Bunny Williams
"Straw, jute, rush—natural materials and neutral tones are always chic. They're the white T-shirt of interior design." — Meg Braff
Neutral decor can be interesting if you 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."
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. It's also a very architectural way of using color." — Mary Douglas Drysdale
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.
"Put your money into a comfortable, well-made sofa that you'll have forever. You don't have to deny yourself that expensive designer fabric you love—just put it on something small, like a pillow." — Krista Ewart