10 Interior Design Secrets Only the Pros Know
Expert-approved tricks for everything from picking paint colors to making a small space look larger.
Can't figure out how to complete a gallery wall? Or are you afraid to use a bold paint color? Below, some of our favorite interior designers reveal their tried-and-true design tricks, including their simple solutions to these two decorating dilemmas. These are the little secrets interior designers know, but that the novice home decorator probably hasn't heard. Steal these ideas for your next room makeover and bookmark them for future home projects. But fair warning: these pro-approved ideas will make you want to wallpaper your bathroom and will inspire you to repaint everything.
Choose a Consistent Color Palette
It's a common misconception that mixing pieces of different styles is a big no-no. However, designer Emily Henderson assures us that we can—there's just one trick to keep in mind. "The truth is, you can mix almost any style as long as the pieces work well within your chosen color palette (I’d say three to four colors work best)," she explains.
"You should, of course, consider materials and silhouettes (everything should look like they are at least cousins, share some similar design DNA) but keeping your colors consistent is the safest bet for making your space look put together.”
—Emily Henderson, Emily Henderson Design
Apply Powder Coatings to Bathroom Fixtures
“Powder coating! I love to custom powder coat bathroom accessories. Recently we worked on a project where we used a bright yellow Vola faucet and custom powder coated the trash can and towel ring to match. It is such a fun way to add a pop of color! Generally, if it's metal it can be powder coated, and you can pick any color under the sun.”
—Amy Sklar, Amy Sklar Design
Map Out Your Gallery Wall
“Let’s face it, once the hole is in the wall, we’re unlikely to move framed pieces around. A great way to hang your pictures for a gallery wall without making mistakes is to create templates out of cardboard," says designer Taniya Nayak. "I re-used cardboard from the boxes that my art actually came in. Just trace, cut out, and hang on the wall. Move around until it’s just right. Be sure to use a good quality painter's tape like Frogtape to make sure you don’t pull the paint off!”
—Taniya Nayak, Taniya Nayak Design
Hang Bold Wallpaper in Your Bathroom
“One thing we love to do in small powder rooms or spaces with funny angles is add a beautiful, bold, busy wallpaper. The wallpaper conceals soffits, jut-outs and weird angles—plus it makes a super tiny room seem much bigger—because it tricks the eye into not knowing where the corners are.”
—Erin Gates, Erin Gates Design
Use Large Art to Make a Small Space Seem Bigger
In a small space, we often assume that the furniture and art should be small, but designer Tracy Morris encourages us to try the opposite. "If you have a smaller space, try to use one large piece of art as a focal point. One large piece of art will make the space feel larger and grander. Too many small pictures tend to chop up the space," she explains. "I try to use this concept in at least one space in each of my client’s homes. It could be a foyer that needs an anchor or a smaller living room that needs a focal point."
—Tracy Morris, Tracy Morris Design
Create a Calming Space with Colors and Patterns
Even if you're not a style maximalist, you can still add color and pattern to your space, designer Rebecca Atwood says. "I love adding quiet, painterly patterns in a soft tonal color palette with a mix of white, gray, and taupe. Texture is key and can create a lot of dimension and movement. For example, you can add something rumpled and cozy against crisp bedding, whether a chunky throw or an embroidered coverlet."
"For a little more impact, start with something simple like a stripe or go for a monochromatic look in varying shades of one hue. If adding pattern and color, choose a multi-colored palette and mix up the pattern scale with an assortment of small-, medium-, and large-scale prints."
—Rebecca Atwood, founder of Rebecca Atwood Designs
Don't Be Afraid to Mix Patterns
"There’s little we love more than a layered look. We built the St. Frank brand on colorful, pattern-heavy textiles and styled them in unusual combinations. The key is to contrast the pattens—a geometric with a floral or a small scale with a large scale."
Feeling nervous? Start with an inexpensive, low-commitment element. "The easiest, lowest stakes way to start is through pairing pillows. Play around with the use of pattern on the pillows on your sofa or bed before moving to more involved surfaces such as wallpaper and drapery where this also works beautifully!"
—Christina Bryant, founder of St. Frank
Keep Your Bedskirt in Place with Pins
Have a bed skirt that won't stay in place? One designer has an easy fix: "To help keep your bed skirt in place over time, use upholstery pins on the deck of the box spring. Pin through the skirt top and box spring so the skirt hangs evenly."
—Katie Raffetto, founder of Katie Raffetto Interior Design
Use Performance Fabrics Indoors
"Performance fabrics have come a long way and are no longer just for outdoors. For high traffic areas and spaces with little ones afoot, indoor/outdoor textiles are a great solution to keep your pieces looking great, and they now feel great as well," says designer Jana Bek.
"I often have skeptics questioning my white sofa as a mom of two. I’m quick to clarify and sing the praises of Sunbrella, as most stains are easily blotted out, and the covers are spotless after a simple wash. Other great performance fabrics are outdoor rugs in entries and play rooms and for kitchen seating."
—Jana Bek, Jana Bek Design
Turn to Black Paint for an Accent Color
“Whether a building's architecture is traditional or modern, we love to paint window mullions charcoal black. The key is to paint just the one- to two-inch-thick trim that touches the glass, not the entire window casing. Clients are often nervous that the dark paint will feel dark or heavy, however it actually turns the window into a picture frame, drawing your eyes through each room to the view beyond.”
—Emilie Munroe, founder of Studio Munroe