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From Start To Furnish

Please enjoy my musings on all things interior design!

30 Tried and True Interior Design Tips

30 Tried and True Interior Design Tips  

Good interior design doesn't have to break the bank, take hours of your time, or give you a migraine.  Here are a few tips I can share from 35 years of interior design experience and hundreds of projects:

Don't Start With Paint Color

I can't count the number of times I've been asked for help "just to pick a paint color."  Guess what, peeps?  Choosing a paint color is not that difficult. If you think it is, you're probably going at it backwards. The best way to do it is to start with your art, fabric, china, or other focus.  Match or coordinate the wall color to a color in that focus pattern.  Don't Start With Paint Color

Design Your Entry With A Welcoming Attitude  

You want your guests to feel welcome, so don't ignore the first place they'll see as they enter.  If it fits with the architecture of your home, paint your front door with a bold color.  Set a welcoming scene just inside with a small grouping of furniture including a mirror and spot to drop keys or a handbag, good lighting and a rug for guests to wipe their feet so they're not paranoid about bringing dirt into your lovely home.

Create Your Own Moodboard

Don't skip the research before getting started. Look for inspiration from websites such as Pinterest or Houzz. From there, you can save your favorites to a mood board or digital file.  This step will help give you focus for your design. 



Float the Sofa

Don't automatically line up furniture against the walls of the room.  It makes for a much more inviting space to arrange furniture with conversation in mind. 5 Crucial Concerns For Your Living Room Furniture Layout

Invest in a Quality Sofa

Your sofa will be one of the most used pieces of furniture in your home. Splurge on a good one.  The support pieces can be bargain buys.  

Mix Old and New

A mix of antiques and quality new pieces makes for a more unique and non-"furniture store" look, to a room.  This will help make a setting warm and inviting.

Try Wallpaper

Wallpaper got a bad rap a few decades ago from removal nightmares and pattern fatigue.  But wallpaper is back better than ever.  There's nothing like it to add texture and pattern to an otherwise uninteresting space.  Wallpaper Is Back

Use a Bold Color

Don't be shy with color.  If you have a favorite bold color, use it anywhere from throw pillows to a piece of furniture to the wall color.  The result will be a room that speaks of your personality.

Design A Guest Room To Rival The Four Seasons

To welcome overnight guests, make their room as inviting as any four-star resort.  It's not that hard - just think of all the amenities they'll appreciate and check them off your list.  A comfortable bed, a place to sit, reading material, a closet of their own, and a mirror for grooming are a good start.  

 5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Prepare Your Guestroom For The Holidays

Top the Room with Color on the Ceiling

Just because it's called "ceiling white" doesn't mean it has to go on every ceiling.  Sometimes a design calls for color on the ceiling.  I like ceilings a half-tone of the wall color.  In a small bath or powder room sometimes it brings the room together to paint the ceiling a bold color from the wallpaper.  Painting the ceiling a bold or dark color visually lowers the ceiling reducing the tunnel effect of the room.


Do this often.  Sometimes we get so comfy in our homes we might overlook the clutter that's gathering.  Every so often, take a critical look around and throw away anything that doesn't make your heart sing  

Invest in Art

This is another place for an occasional splurge. A great art piece could be that exciting focal point you're looking for.  How To Select the Perfect Artwork For Your Home

Buy a Stunning Lamp

Yet another splurge. This is a small item that can make a big statement.  Place it in a prominent location and let it be the conversation piece of the room. 

Replace Tired Throw Pillows

An easy and budget-friendly fix to an uninspiring bedroom or living room.  Take a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and purchase some bold and beautiful pillows.  

Use Mirrors 

Mirrors can make a room.  They can make a small room feel bigger. A large beautifully framed mirror can act as a focal art piece.   

Fill the Bookshelves

When arranging bookshelves I always focus on filling each shelf not only horizontally but also vertically.  Adjustable shelves help you do this one by one and individually.  Separating shelves in different heights for a more interesting outcome. Let the items dictate the heights.  

Rule of Threes

If you haven't heard of it by now, arrangements of items in odd numbers are usually more visually interesting.  Arrange accessories in odd numbers.   

Real vs Faux

When I was studying interior design in college, a professor drilled into our young brains the principle of "integrity of materials"; not using materials that are trying to emulate something in nature, such as laminate doing a bad job of pretending to be granite.  I still mostly hold to that principle, but - a big but - rules are made to be broken.  There are some fabulous faux's being manufactured now.  I've used ceramic tile that does a decent job of emulating natural stone. And there are some beautiful polyesters that look every bit like silk.  The integrity of materials is still important though.  I still would rather have nothing instead of a fake ficus tree. There's just nothing as beautiful as the real thing.

White Linens

Go simple and clean with plain white sheets and towels.  Spring for nice towels in plain white to give your bathroom a spa atmosphere.

Make A Hallway A Family Picture Gallery

An otherwise boring hallway can become an interesting gallery of family memories.  Make them monochromatic and put them in identical frames for a clean look or mix and match for a more traditional style.  Place them on a background of a popping wall color or textural wallpaper.

Try Less Is More  

Don't feel that you have to have every corner of your room occupied with something or that every tabletop must be displaying a collection.  Less is more is an age-old idea that still makes for a classic design.     

Bling Out the Powder Room 

A powder room is a small but important room.  You want your guests to be wowed by this room.  Deck it out appropriately leaving nothing to chance.  A bold wall color or wall covering, a fabulous cabinet and mirror and perfect lighting will be certain to impress.

Install Draperies High to Accentuate Height of The Room

This is one of the most important rules and is often done wrong.  Don't install your drapery rod right above the window.  Dress your windows more strikingly by taking the rod high (I often go about halfway between the top of the window and the ceiling or crown molding).  This will make your window treatment investment more of a statement in the room and add to the drama of height.

Hang Art at Eye-Level

While we're on the subject of heights, don't hang pictures too high (God love my late mother-in-law).  Have you ever seen art galleries hanging the works hugging the ceiling?  There's a reason.  Bring the pictures down to average eye-level or even lower in some cases.  I hang them around 60" from the floor to the center of the piece, not my eye-level.  I'm vertically challenged.  My eye-level is low.  



Warm Colors for Bathrooms

You might Googlize a little color theory for this one.  Cool colors are blues and greens.  Warm colors are reds and yellows.  I like to use cool colors for their relaxing qualities in bedrooms.  And I prefer warm colors in bathrooms for their ability to complement skin tones.

Be Bold 

An important rule to remember is to be bold with your design. Don't be afraid to go for a striking piece of art or a bright wall color. These are the types of additions that make an interior uniquely yours.


Go Big With Rugs

No postage stamp-sized rugs.  Always err towards larger.  At least the front legs of the sofa and chairs should be on the rug.  A rug under a dining table should allow at least one and a half to two feet on all sides to allow for the chairs to be pulled out.  

Layer Lighting

Lighting is fun.  Style your layers with the correct combination of ambient (general) and task (reading) lighting for a livable room.

Measure Before Buying 

Measure your room before buying the furniture.  You want to be certain that the furniture that you're investing in is the correct scale for the room.

Don't Design For "The Joneses" 

Maybe the most important rule.  Design your home for you and your lifestyle, not what anyone says it should be...not even HGTV.

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Jill OrnelasAmbiance