While designing your home is no doubt exciting, the process can also be overwhelming. Trying to achieve the right balance of form and function has its challenges. Regardless of your style, the big picture and the small details are equally important. From choosing the right furniture to finding the perfect color palette, here are 82 designer-approved home decor ideas to inspire you as you create your dream home.
WORK WITH ARCHITECTURAL QUIRKS
To avoid drawing attention to ceiling beams or other architectural oddities, designer William Cullum and his partner, Jeffery Rhodes, painted the walls, trim, and ceiling the same color blue in the hallway (seen at rear) of their New York City apartment.
BE BOLD WITH COLOR
Literary couple James Fenton and Darryl Pinckney opted for bright, jewel-toned walls in shades of green, blue, yellow—and even purple—throughout their Harlem townhouse.
PLAY UP YOUR LOCATION
At Jean-Louis Deniot’s family retreat on Île de Ré, France, the designer deployed nautical references to emphasize the seaside setting: Maritime rope frames all of the doorways; the steps are hand-painted with wave scenes; and the bedroom wall mural (seen through the doorway here) resembles a sandstorm.
MAKE YOUR MANTEL A MASTERPIECE
In a Toronto home by Colette van den Thillart, the designer decided to replace the original mantel with a sculptural, eye-catching fireplace surround.
PATTERN ON PATTERN ON PATTERN
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and prints. Designer Ramsey Lyons combined different patterns in shades of pink for the sofa and chair upholstery, and yet another one for the curtain fabric in the sunroom of her Pittsburgh home.
USE MIRRORS TO ENHANCE NATURAL LIGHT
In the dining area of Gabriel Hendifar’s downtown Manhattan apartment, a mirrored wall helps to bounce natural light around the room, brightening it in the process.
GO FOR BROKE WITH BOOKSHELVES
In art historian Carolina Vincenti’s apartment in Rome, she painted the bookshelves in the hallway and living area a bright red as an homage to British telephone booths.
MIMIC ARCHITECTURAL SHAPES
Designer Darren Jett echoed the arches of this Brooklyn apartment’s windows in the rounded custom sofa, cushions, cocktail table, and circular rug. A bonus: The rounded seating area gives the clients ample room for entertaining.
FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
Designer Ryan Lawson reconstructed what was formerly a dining room and turned it into a study to better suit the client’s needs in this Connecticut home. To make it comfortable and practical, Lawson commissioned bookshelves that match the Shaker style of the house and layered the room with pieces from the homeowner’s travels.
TO THE WINDOW (WITH NO WALLS!)
Designer Vicente Wolf used furniture—instead of walls or screens—to create separate seating areas throughout his Manhattan loft.
USE YOUR WALL SPACE
A suzani hangs high above an Indonesian rattan sofa bed in this Cartagena, Colombia, home. The gorgeous textile adds interest to the white walls and mixes well with other prints.
DRAPE A BRIGHT RUG
ELLE DECOR A-List designer Sheila Bridges added texture and color to her home in New York’s Hudson Valley with an emerald green sheepskin throw rug.
CREATE A BOLD GALLERY
A gallery wall of eye-catching artworks in minimalist frames makes a bright statement in this Montreal home.
DEPLOY COLOR ON THE FLOOR
A bright blue rug brings the color of the ocean inside this glass house in the Hamptons. The otherwise white palette creates a bold contrast.
GO BOLD IN SMALL SPACES
Graphic prints can have major impact in a small space such as a powder room. Here, an Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper is the star in a New Orleans manse designed by Sara Ruffin Costello.
EXPERIMENT WITH PATTERNS
Layering patterns in a range of styles and scales is an easy way to add visual interest to a room. Here, former Refinery29 global editor-in-chief Christene Barberich pairs black-and-white pillows with green chevron bedding in her Brooklyn Heights bedroom.
USE COLOR IN A HALLWAY
If your color choices are usually more reserved, step outside of your comfort zone by choosing a bold hue like purple for a hallway. It is unexpected and can be a chic backdrop for showcasing an art collection, as in this design by David Hicks.
DISPLAY COLLECTIBLES ON A TABLE
Every room can benefit from accessories with a history. Rather than showcasing your collectibles on a shelf, set them out on a table, as seen in this Italian apartment. Just be sure your collection is highly curated to maintain a sense of balance in your display.
GROUP ANTIQUES BY COLOR
There’s a fine line between kitschy and curated. Rebecca Robertson unifies vintage and new pieces by grouping them by color.
MIX YOUR TIME PERIODS
“You mix things up with old and new,” suggests textiles and interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland, as she did in the living room of her Santa Monica home—a room where the furnishings include 17th-century French chairs, an 18th-century Mexican console, and a cocktail table from her furniture line.
TRY FLOOR-TO-CEILING SHELVING
Floor-to-ceiling shelving never fails to add character to a room. In his Los Angeles home, acclaimed chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre opted for this shelving style for his collection of more than 1,000 cookbooks.
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
Looking at your home from a holistic perspective—seeing how each room works in balance against the others—can help craft a welcome variety in your spaces, like this emerald-and-charcoal dining room that adds a touch of formality to an otherwise contemporary Los Angeles home.
EMBRACE THE FEAR OF COMMITMENT
To avoid being locked into a single style, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman switches up the fixtures in her Park Slope home on a regular basis. “It’s part of my creative process,” she explains. “I love to see things in context, in real life—to live with them.”
USE YOUR WALLS AS A CANVAS
Rather than art, a high-impact wallpaper can give a subdued room some wow factor. The 19th-century wallcovering from this luxe Milan apartment was purchased at auction in France and adapted to the room. “We created the missing parts—the plinth and the ceiling frame—to depict an Italian capriccio, a fantastical and bucolic landscape with architectural features,” says Laura Sartori Rimini of Studio Peregalli.
ANCHOR YOUR ROOM WITH A CLASSIC
“Bringing a touch of the old world into the mix creates a home that will never feel dated,” designer Alex Papachristidis explains of the art-studded Manhattan apartment he designed for a family friend. For example, note the silver leaf–and–rock crystal chandelier from Liz O’Brien that he hung in the otherwise modern dining room.
CREATE MOODY CONTRAST WITH COLOR
Instead of meshing a color scheme with a sense of place, designer Irakli Zaria used rich gold and turquoise as an antidote to gloomy London days in this chic pied-à-terre. “In a place where there are such cloudy skies, it makes no sense to have a gray interior,” he says.
ADD PLAYFULNESS WITH REPURPOSED ITEMS
Art director Vivia Horn’s Zen upstate New York home makes use of an unexpected gift to give her traditional kitchen a dose of fun. This breakfast table is made of a refurbished hibachi, a present from the late wrestler and Benihana restaurateur Rocky Aoki.
USE FABRICS BEYOND SOFT FURNISHINGS
Looking beyond the traditional with wallcoverings can create a truly standout design presence. “I do think I might have scared [architect Ken Linsteadt] a little bit when I announced I was planning to install two levels of green floral fabric on the walls of the grand salon,” says Ken Fulk of his Sonoma Valley lakeside retreat, yet the fabric gives the high walls a richness that wallpaper alone might not have achieved.
BALANCE NEW AND OLD
When renovating a building that already has plenty of character, like this 1920s Spanish Colonial home in Los Angeles, it’s all about striking the balance between what you add and what you leave. “We wanted to make it feel more holistic while still honoring its heritage,” designer Steven Johanknecht says of the decision to keep the original hand-carved ceiling beams and wrought-iron chandeliers while removing mismatched materials from previous renovations.
MIX METALS FOR ADDED WARMTH
To soften the modern edge of stainless steel, decorator Alisa Bloom put a traditional spin on the kitchen cabinetry of her 1920s Chicago penthouse with brass inlays. With the help of a local hardware maker, she even designed her own hinges and drawer pulls. “I would never go into a store and just buy something,” she says. “It’s all about the process and the hunt.”
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF HIGH-LOW DESIGN
Kate Reynolds, co-owner of Studio Four NYC, believes in pairing big-ticket items with budget finds. “I think a room balances out better when you have different levels of price and craftsmanship,” she says. “It helps you notice the statement piece more.”
INVITE NATURE INDOORS
The best way to balance out sleek lines and contemporary furniture is by adding a few unique natural elements, from driftwood to greenery. “I don’t like to look around a house and not see touches from the outdoors,” interior designer Tamara Magel says.
LAYER DECOR OVER THE YEARS
“I love to see the layers of time and renovations,” says California-based interior designer Patrick Printy. “To me, it deepens the effect.” Achieving a sense of harmony that feels organic is key.
INSTALLING SHIPLAP? GO HORIZONTAL (USUALLY)
If Chip and Joanna Gaines have convinced you that your abode needs shiplap, you’re usually best off installing the boards horizontally rather than vertically. “It can really expand a space, making it feel larger than vertical boards can,” says Jason Arnold. “Horizontal boards also feel more contemporary.” Vertical boards, however, can be ideal for rooms with high ceilings.
DON’T SACRIFICE COMFORT
Sure, your eyes may want the most modern, chic couch in the showroom. But your back may not. “In my experience, it’s really better to test out seating and take the time to look at the dimensions,” says Sharon Blaustein. If you’re tall, for instance, you might want to opt for a depth of between 40 to 42 inches for a sofa (rather than the standard depth of 36 inches).
ALWAYS SHOP FOR A RUG IN PERSON
This is not the time for e-shopping, people. “It’s just so hard to tell on a computer screen what the color really looks like,” Arnold says. “You might think it looks red, but in reality, it’s watermelon pink.” Not to mention the texture of the rug may be totally different than what you were expecting.
LET A LOCALE INSPIRE YOUR SPACE
It’s exactly what Jenny Cipoletti, founder of fashion, beauty, and travel blog Margo & Me, did in her decidedly Parisian office (which is actually in West Hollywood). “Just like when you walk into a café in Paris, and you see all the details and the golds, silvers, and light blush tones, all of these elements in this space really sing to me,” says Cipoletti. This lets you travel to your favorite destination without stepping outside.
NEVER SETTLE ON ONE LOOK
Allow your space to continuously change—as your life does. “Remember that your home should always be evolving, just as you are,” says Kelly Framel, creative director, stylist, and founder of online magazine The Glamourai. “I am constantly picking up new treasures on my travels. Your nest should always be a place of comfort and inspiration, and it’s a constant work in progress.”
USE CURTAINS AS A BACKDROP FOR ART
Instead of hanging a painting on a bare wall, accent it with a rich velvet curtain background. “Curtains just create a great, calming energy in which you feel very shrouded and comforted, making for a luxurious and restful environment,” says Framel. “And being able to put a really great pop of artwork in front of that textural colored backdrop has a lot of impact.”
UPHOLSTER ANTIQUE FURNITURE WITH A MODERN FABRIC
Make what’s old new again by invigorating antique pieces with colorful fabric from the 21st century. Take, for example, the two 18th-century French bergères here, upholstered in a hot pink Maharam fabric. “Maharam is a very modern, contemporary fabric company, with velvets that are really bright in color,” says Bikoff. “That color was such a pop of freshness and youthfulness on these old chairs.”
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