As you study vignettes on design blogs, flip through pages of magazines and binge-watch HGTV shows, it’s easy to imagine design details transforming your own home.
Winter, when you spend more time indoors scrutinizing your four walls and your furniture assortment, is a good time to make changes to enhance your living quarters. Design professionals have a lot of tricks that can enliven rooms, whether it’s to make the most of a small space or add a dimension to a larger one.
You can choose to break the rules or honor them. But everyone needs a little inspiration.
We asked top designers to share a best practice with us — ideas they are incorporating into their own work right now, as well as those that have stood the test of time.
1. Look to your travels for texture
“My design aesthetic has always been intensely personal. As you look to update a room you’ve lived in for years, or if you’re starting fresh in a new home, begin by curating what you have. I like to bring together groupings of well-traveled objects, textiles, decorative accessories and furniture … things that represent the people who live there. Think hand-woven elements, thick textiles, objects that have patina and mix in with beautiful, neutral upholstery and furniture. A well-designed room is one that is layered and feels assembled over time.”
— Nate Berkus, New York. The designer and author launched his TV career on “Oprah” in 2002.
2. Choose a big mirror for big impact
“Whenever presented with a narrow, unadorned space or merely a blank wall, remember that a large mirror acts like adding a window to a room. This simple trick works because the reflection gives the perception of another space beyond, and as you move around, so does the view.”
— Patrick Sutton, Baltimore. The designer’s work can be found in homes, hotels and restaurants, including Azumi and Loch Bar at Baltimore’s Four Seasons hotel.
3. Think beyond recessed lights
“One of my go-to design techniques that I find adds a timeless touch to modern interiors is the use of flush-mounted lighting and wall-mounted sconces in lieu of a sea of recessed ceiling lights, which can often feel impersonal.”
— Thom Filicia, New York. The designer and author was the interiors expert in the Emmy-winning “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
4. Hang your collections in a grid
“Almost anything becomes interesting when hung in a grid. We renovated our office from a grocery store into a storefront design firm on a truly shoestring budget, and we hung the mugs in a grid pattern. This provides both a tidy way of storing mugs and visual interest, at virtually no cost. Children’s rooms are great places for this. A child’s hobby, such as tennis, can inspire a fun wall covering. We once glued a grid of used tennis balls to a wall in a bedroom.”
— Carmel Greet, Washington. The architect and designer’s firm is District Design in Washington.
5. Max out your sofa length
“My go-to is loooooong sofas. Equally perfect for sprawling and napping as holding a gaggle of friends and family for cocktails or a buffet. I don’t watch much football, but great for a Super Bowl party, too!”
— Jamie Drake, New York. The designer for Michael Bloomberg and Madonna is the owner of Drake Design Associates.
6. Build a gallery wall around the largest piece
“I usually start with the largest piece first; in this case, it is a large, antique convex mirror from Paris that I’ve had on my wall for more than a decade. The next step is to build around it with both vertical and horizontal pieces, small and large, mixing frames and colors until you have a composition you like. It’s always a good idea to lay everything out on the floor first. Just be careful not to step on anything valuable!”
— Sheila Bridges, New York. The Harlem-based designer for Bill Clinton also created the popular Harlem Toile de Jouy wallpaper.
7. Wallpaper the ceiling
“One of my favorite ways to combine wallpaper and passemanterie is to paper the often-ignored ceiling and finish it with a tape trim, which adds such a surprising and luxurious detail. In this case, I used a wallpaper in a painted linen texture and added a small tape trim with faux nailheads around the edge of the ceiling where it meets the crown. Depending on the paper and trim that you use, it can be an affordable and easy way to dress up your ceiling or walls. I actually think a trim would be the prefect thing for dressing up a peelable wallpaper and making it extraordinary.”
— Michael Hampton, Washington, D.C.. The designer’s projects include homes around the country.
8. Line your bookcases with fabric
“Lining the back of your bookcases with wall covering or fabric is a wonderful way to add depth, layering and richness to a room. This detail is visually unifying and helps bring together a disparate collection of objects and books. Also, adding a beautiful lining such as a grasscloth or velvet elevates your collection into something even more precious.”
— Jose Solis Betancourt and Paul Sherrill, Washington, D.C. The pair co-authored “Essential Elegance.”
9. Complement the view with paint
“In rooms where the view is paramount, the paint colors should blend with the exterior and be an extension of the exterior — in effect a seamless transition.” For a beach house interior she designed, the “master bedroom has a very light gray blue ceiling to look like the sky and water. The wall color is a warm sand color that is a reflection of the sand on the beach just outside the windows. Also, the overall color palette and fabrics are in unison with the view and environment, not in competition.”