Timeless Home Decorating Tips
Looking for design inspiration? Consult this advice from legendary decorating experts.
Edith Wharton’s Advice: Stick to a Muted Palette
What she said: "The fewer colors used in a room, the more pleasing and restful the result will be," said Edith Wharton (1862-1937), in The Decoration of Houses (1897). Before winning a Pulitzer for The Age of Innocence, Wharton was a decorating pioneer, advising people to steer clear of the overstuffed furniture, the gloomy colors, and the
multitude of knickknacks characteristic of the Victorian era. The Mount, her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, was restored
in 2002 and is currently open to the public.
Why it works: With a restricted palette, colors recede into the background, allowing the furnishings and the accessories to take center stage. Here, the limited color scheme lets the curves of the table and the chairs stand out. The walls are painted in a tone similar to that of the area rug, and the moldings are painted a bright white to echo the curtains and the upholstery.
More of Her Advice:
- On switching things up: "It (is) not unusual to have several…sets of curtains and slip-covers…changed with the seasons. This simple form of decoration has the additional charm of variety. The hangings…of the queen's bedroom at Versailles were changed four times a year."
- On stair carpets: "(They) should be of a strong full color and, if possible, without pattern. It is fatiguing to see a design meant for a horizontal surface constrained to follow the ins and outs of a flight of steps."
- On streamlining a space: "Decorators know how much the simplicity and dignity of a good room are diminished by crowding it with useless trifles."