3 Secrets to Decorating a Room With Personality, According to Dabito

The Real Simple Home designer shares his tips for a stellar space.

Black and white side chair with pillow and throw blanket
Photo: Christopher Testani

Designing a room that's pretty can be as straightforward as selecting beautiful furniture and crowd-pleasing paint colors—but creating a room that wows requires a little something extra. To figure out the home design secret sauce that takes a room from pretty and predictable to a total showstopper, we reached out to Dabito, an interior designer who always seems to get it right. One of the designers behind the 2022 Real Simple Home, Dabito made over the living room in the Florida beach house, complete with a daring green sofa and trendy checkerboard rug. Balancing splashy design risks (mismatched pillows, pattern on pattern) with white walls, he makes bold design look effortless. Lucky for us, he's willing to share his secrets. If you're not sure how to add oomph to your own space, get your creative juices flowing with these pro-approved design tips from Dabito.

living room for the real simple home 2022 in florida
Christopher Testani

Spice Up Your Style

Like seasoning a dish when cooking, there are certain design elements that, when sprinkled in the right proportions, lend depth and interest to a room. Dabito recommends this mix to spice up any room: "My recipe for personalizing your space is adding color, art, vintage pieces, personal objects (souvenirs or heirlooms), and plants." In the living room, Dabito kept the walls white but introduced color with an unexpected green sofa, his own original artwork, and a mustard yellow ottoman. Vintage pieces bring history to the space, while objects collected along your travels or passed down through the generations reflect personal histories. Decorating with furniture bought from showrooms and catalogs can feel cold and impersonal, but mixing in some pieces that reflect you will help the room come alive. For even more tips on designing a space with personality, keep an eye out for Dabito's book coming out in 2023.

Break Out of a Style Rut

If your space is feeling a little bland but your creativity is running on low, Dabito recommends refueling your inspiration. "Go to vintage stores and flea markets to discover different styles," he suggests, along with stopping by boutique hotels, like the Proper Hotels. "Don't be afraid to mess around and mix all the styles," he adds. While you're exploring, snap some photos to document elements you like, whether it's floor tiles spotted in a hotel lobby or a vintage chair uncovered at a flea market.

Christopher Testani

Build Your Color Confidence

Color lands at the top of Dabito's list for elements that lend personality to a space—but that doesn't mean your room has to go from greige to rainbow overnight. "Start small, like vases, pillows, and artwork," Dabito says. Then, as you find hues that resonate with you, gradually go bigger. Try painting a wall, adding large area rugs, and buying colorful furniture. As you live with vibrant pieces you love, you'll gain more confidence in your ability to decorate with color.

Renters, take note: Dabito's living room shows exactly how to decorate with color and pattern in a reversible way. Follow his lead and brush the walls with crisp white paint, then work color into the furniture and art. You'll be able to take all the personality with you when you move, and you won't have to repaint any walls.

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