six design tips

The only class I enjoyed in high school was lunch, so when it was time for college, it wasn't easy for me to decide what to study.  I began taking general classes, thinking I might want to be an elementary school teacher, or just marry someone filthy rich and be a lady of leisure for the rest of my life.  Then half way through the semester I signed up for an interior design class.  It was upon the completion of my first project board that the heavens parted, angels sang, and I found my calling. 

I took two more years of classes and was lucky enough to land a job at a high end design firm near my home.  I worked with all kinds of colorful personalities from celebrities, to flamboyant, permanent botanical designers.  It was there that I learned how to design and carry out everything from flooring to window treatments, architectural design, and detailed space planning. I even got really good at talking clients into ridiculously expensive silk chairs and antique secretaires for for their master sitting rooms.

Over the past several years, I've consulted many people in many homes and have found countless, frustrated house wives!  Most of them knew what they liked, they just didn't know how to bring it to fruition.  I want to share some of my favorite design tips so you can be confident designing your next room. 

1.  Make a plan.  No one, not even the best designers in the world tackle a room with out a plan.  Get a three ring binder and start tearing out your favorite magazine pages.  Get on Pinterest and start pinning.  Take pictures of something that excites you while you're on vacation.  It doesn't really matter where you get your inspiration, just make sure you have a really good idea of what you want the outcome of your room to look like, before you start it. 

What is your budget?  What colors will you use?  What furniture do you already have?  What furniture will you need to purchase, and where will you put it?  Which Fabrics will go where?  Do you need functional window treatments, or will they just be aesthetic?  After you've got all the details figured out, start shopping.  Since I shop for good deals, I don't always get exactly what I'm looking for, but It's usually close, and something I can still work into my plan.  Since I've spent the time to come up with good, solid ideas, I don't deviate (very often). 

It's a one in a million chance that you'll decorate a room without a plan, and end up loving it.

2.  Stacey London always says there are four ways to add interest to any outfit: color, pattern, texture, and shine.  I say the same is true when designing a room.  Paint an end table bright yellow, place a funky, geometric throw on a chair, put a sheep skin rug on your ottoman, use pewter drapery rods.  Spaces are much more appealing when you create some eye-catching interest. 

3.  Nate Berkus and I agree that every room needs a balance of traditional and modern pieces.  This might seem a little intimidating to pull off yourself, but look at the pictures you love in all your favorite magazines for some inspiration. Nine out of ten times, you'll find the juxtaposition of curved lines mixed with straight.  If you don't know where to start, replace a traditional lamp with something more contemporary, or add a side chair with clean lines.  It could be the one thing you're missing that could turn your room from fine, to fantastic.

I'm a traditional girl at heart, but my family room was starting to look much like Queen Latifa with all it's curves.  Remember this piece we transformed on the {Nate Berkus show}?

It now sits perfectly between my two sofas with a pharmacy lamp on top, and adds just the right balance, plus some extra storage, to my traditional room.

4.  Every room needs something natural and organic.  Ladies, I hate to say it, but it's time to get rid of the silk plants.  There, I said it, and I mean it!  If you have a plant that looks so real, you have to touch it to decide, then you have my blessing. But if it's siting on your plant shelf in a wicker basket, and has so much dust on it that it looks gray, it's over. 

Don't fret, this doesn't need to be an extravagant or costly change.  A few twigs in a vase from the back yard, shells you collected last time you were at the beach, a bowl of fruit, or some wild flowers from the garden.  It is one of the best ways to create balance and bring a bit of nature inside.

5.  Don't stop decorating before the most important part!  Accessorize.  Use objects all around your house that you've collected from your travels.  Find an assortment of mis-matched frames.  Use a stack of books paired with other interesting items, or a collection of something you love. 
When I accessorize a room, I like to pack it full of options.  Then I step back and put a few things away.  If you've had the same accessories in your home for a while and you think it might be time to edit but you're not sure, ask a friend (who is good at this kind of thing) to help you.  Chances are it will be a great  cleansing experience.

Here is my library, accessorized with a bird's nest, an organic pot, and some coral I found while vacationing at Newport Beach.  I also used an urn I found at Savers (and painted blue) and an old corbel from a salvage yard.  These things, mixed with a few of my favorite books add interest, but don't over crowd the shelves.

Remember {Jilly's living room book cases}?  Before I took this picture, there were twice as many accessories on these shelves.  We spent at least an hour editing, then painted the ampersand peacock blue for a punch of color.  It's one of our favorite reveals to date.

6.  Use personal photos to make a house your home.  There are a million ways to display pictures of family, friends, your kids artwork, and vacations.  Your home should tell a story about the people who live inside, so put things up on the walls that represent who you are.  Save the living room for artwork and use your family room to let all who enter, exactly who lives inside your home.

Our friend {Elizabeth Banks} keeps everything on her family room wall clean and uniform by using simple, black frames, and printing her family photos in black and white.   It doesn't get any easier than that.

Right now, I've found myself on a break from working out in the design field, but Jilly and I are in the process of coming up with a little plan.  We want to be able to help you tackle all you design questions and concerns, so stay tuned for all the details as we launch some big ideas next month!  We're super excited, are you?


  1. Super excited! I wish I could just have someone like you come to our home and make it beautiful! You tips will help though - I have no clue about design, but I can follow your 6 tips and see what results! Thank you so much!

  2. I have never left a comment on anything before- but I LOVE reading all your great ideas!!! You both have inspired this mom of five to think out of the box and have fun decorating my home. I can't wait to hear about your new plan next month!!! Thanks for taking the time to blog all your great ideas!!:)


We LOVE comments and we read every single one. Go ahead, make our day!
Mia & Jilly

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