Pro Pointers: Designers' Top Decorating Tips

Looking to revamp or simply perk up your home? We collected an array of outstanding advice from tastemakers who can help any home stand out.

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Roxanne Hughes Packham


Interior decorator Roxanne Hughes Packham and her 17-year-old daughter, Hannah Packham, have made style a family affair. In Inspired Design (Inspired Design Publications) the duo shares tips for getting everyone involved.

—A room devoid of accessories is like an outfit without shoes—pillows and photos are essentials.

—When decorating a tween's or teen's room, compromise: Mom picks furniture, kid selects decorative accents and bedding.

—For an instant new look, replace a lamp shade; a different shape or color can make a difference.

—Collect natural elements like leaves, pinecones, or shells on a walk, and scatter them on a mantel or in a bowl.

Inspired Design

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Kelly Hoppen


In Kelly Hoppen Interiors, the renowned decorator has created a little black book of design ideas. She shares her top-notch tips.

—Warm-hued accent pieces, like the amber glass vessels, liven up a neutral scheme.

—For an incredibly flattering glow, scatter table lamps around the living room.

—Freshen up for the season by removing and then rearranging the objects on a bookshelf or mantel.

—Identify your family's needs and wishes before making any decorating changes—every voice counts.

Kelly Hoppen Interiors

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Charlotte Moss


In Charlotte Moss Decorates, the interior designer shares tips for achieving her signature effortless elegance. Her advice for embarking on your own project:

—In a windowless or view-challenged room, hang landscape paintings and photos to
simulate a vista.

—To help hone and define your tastes, fill a scrapbook with images and things that inspire you, like pages torn from magazines or catalogs, favorite photos, and fabric swatches.

—Furnish your rooms with what speaks to you. Just like the current skirt lengths, "it" home accessories or colors aren't a must for everyone.

—A touch of humor brings a space to life; try a quirky table object or a witty needlepoint pillow.

Charlotte Moss Decorates

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Christiane Lemieux


Twelve years ago Christiane Lemieux founded DwellStudio, a graphic, geometric line of table and bed linens. Next came a sister collection for Target. In her book, Undecorate, this mom of two advocates breaking all the tried-and-true rules of interior design.

—Try a stack of your favorite books as an impromptu side table.

—Follow your instinct, even when it's telling you to do something a little crazy, like wallpapering the ceiling.

—Decorate with a blend of heirlooms, new furniture, and treasured collections to design a space that's unique you.

—Painting a bedroom a dark shade creates a cozy sleeping environment—plus, it'll make everything in the room look new.


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Stephen Saint-Onge


In his new book, No Place Like Home, the decorator and dad of two shares a DIY plan for cozy and sophisticated decor. His favorite tricks:

—Remove the books and tray from this ottoman-turned-coffee-table for a comfortable spot to rest your feet.

—Lowering the wattage in a lamp will instantly (and easily) transform the look and mood of a room.

—Mirrors give the illusion of more space by bouncing light around. Hang one over a mantel or lean an oversize version against a wall.

—Take a cue from book clubs and form a Friday night design group with friends and neighbors. Every week members meet at each other's houses and help paint, move furniture, or just share ideas and inspiration. Some projects can be completed in a night, others may need more like a weekend.

No Place Like Home

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Lili Diallo


As a professional stylist, Lili Diallo can pull a room together with a few small tweaks. In her book, Details: A Stylist's Secrets to Creating Inspired Interiors, she reveals all.

—Bring harmony to an eclectic mix of objects with hints of a single color palette, like the citruses shown here.

—A space that is too perfect can be boring. Always include one item in an unexpected hue or shape.

—Change the look of an old sofa by casually throwing a fabulous piece of fabric over it—the result is an easy, instant reupholstery!

—Add character and soul by mixing textures, like tossing a linen pillow onto a leather chair or placing a silk lamp shade near a wooden table.

Details: A Stylist's Secrets to Creating Inspired Interiors

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Chris Madden


In The Soul of a House, the decorator (and mom of two boys) opens the doors to her own home. She shares easy tips for creating warmth.

—Symmetry, like a pair of lamps or tables, creates an instant harmony and balance.

—A successful room incorporates all five senses. Get the look with a textured throw, scented candle, good music, pretty art, and a cup of delicious hot chocolate or tea.

—As your family grows and evolves, freshen up your decor with personal touches and perhaps a new piece of furniture to suit your needs.

—To beat the dreaded winter doldrums, bring in a potted plant, like an orchid (Madden's favorite) or holly. It'll instantly add cheer and vitality to any spot.

The Soul of a House

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Frank Fontana


The interior designer and HGTV host tells all in his book, Frank Fontana's Dirty Little Secrets of Design. His top tricks:

—Decorating is like creating a sandwich: Add "garnishes" until you achieve a taste you like.

—A room needs at least one clash piece, like zebra pillows or colorful art, to add that dash of whimsy to an otherwise straightforward decor.

—Paint or embellish your ceiling—it's the largest blank surface area in your home and shouldn't be neglected.

—Forget the myth that you must paint a small space a bright shade to make it feel bigger. Choose whatever hue you like.

—For a DIY dark wood stain, mix three parts strongly brewed coffee, one part water, and four tea bags. Steep for a day before brushing onto furniture.

Frank Fontana's Dirty Little Secrets of Design

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Mary McDonald


The decorator is known for vintage Hollywood movie-worthy houses, as seen in her book Mary McDonald: Interiors. She shares her tips for bringing a touch of glamour to everyday life.

—Every space needs a dose of whimsy, whether it's unusual lamps or a large graphic painted element.

—A soft rose-colored ceiling creates a warm, flattering glow and lends a subtle feminine flourish.

—For a touch of luxury, paint the inside of a small closet a vibrant glossy color and add new decorative hooks for bags.

—Look to rooms in your favorite flicks for decorating inspiration. McDonald loves the sets from the 1939 film The Women.

—A pair of anything, like chairs or lamps, lends balance to a room—just don't be too matchy-matchy.

Mary McDonald: Interiors

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Tricia Guild


In her book, Tricia Guild: Colors, Patterns, and Space, the acclaimed British designer showcases 14 of her favorite interiors. She shares tips for creating an exuberant home.

—In shades of gray and white, wide bands are bold yet soothing in a bedroom.

—Enliven any space with a bold print, whether it's a big statement like wallpaper or just an accent pillow on a sofa.

—Decorating in one style—using exclusively antiques or modern pieces—is a bit cookie cutter. Mix up designs to give your rooms personality.

—When choosing colors, always include a touch of black-and-white. In stripes, florals, or solids, this graphic combo looks glamorous.

Tricia Guild: Colors, Patterns, and Space

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Judith Wilson


In her book, Casual Living, stylist Judith Wilson makes a case for relaxed decor. She shares her tips for creating a warm and orderly family home.

—Jazz up a neutral palette with a few key accessories in unexpected, zingy colors.

—Set up the layout of your furniture so the space is easy to move around in.

—Keep rooms simple, but have fun. Try propping art against the wall instead of hanging it, or tuck snapshots into the corner of a mirror.

—Cut down on chaos by stocking every room with a big basket for stashing for shoes, magazines, and other clutter culprits.

Casual Living

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Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter


Seven years ago Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter teamed up to launch a home-decor company. Now their website is a one-stop shop for lively linens, geometric rugs, and vintage finds. These moms share with us their relaxed approach to family-friendly decorating.

—A kid's room doesn't have to be juvenile. Create a happy space with a mix of sophisticated prints in cheerful hues.

—For a low-cost, high-impact way to display kids' art, paint black frames on a wall and use double-sided tape to mount paintings inside.

—Bring new textures, patterns, and colors into your home with a few cozy throws neatly folded and draped over a chair.

—To make any space seem larger, take advantage of natural light by swapping out heavy curtains for lighter panels, like sheers.

Go to

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Interior designer and event planner Joe Nye, author of Flair, believes the key to a successful party is creating a welcoming atmosphere. He shares some ideas for easy entertaining.

—A mix of colorful glass goblets and bowls lends a festive feel to even a casual gathering.

—Inexpensive and long lasting, carnations are a quick way to add color. Just cut stems short and place in a pretty container.

—Always group in threes, whether you've got candlesticks, frames, or other small objects.

—Shortly before guests arrive, light a scented candle in the bathroom.


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Thomas O'Brien


In his new book, American Modern, designer Thomas O'Brien offers a behind-the-scenes peek into his signature style. He shares his top secrets for creating contemporary, comfortable rooms.

—Surround yourself with what you love. Trends may come and go, but your personal style is always in fashion.

—The quickest way to change your decor is with a set of sheets in a dramatic new color or napkins in a bold print.

—Trust your own instincts but learn from experts—visit museums and browse books for decorating inspiration.

—Don't postpone collecting because you think you can't afford it. You can find paintings and pottery at every price in flea markets and online.

American Modern

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Kathryn M. Ireland


The interior designer and author of Creating a Home believes that all rooms are meant to be lived in, not just looked at. This mom of three boys offers her expert family-friendly tips.

—When decorating, trust your instincts. Choose colors and patterns that make you smile.

—Since everyone gravitates toward the kitchen, make it a hangout zone with comfy chairs or a love seat.

—A throw or even just a piece of fabric tossed over a sofa adds color and pattern, plus it protects furniture from pets and messy kids.

—Let your personality shine in your rooms. Keep favorite books out on display and frame concert tickets and kids' art.

Creating a Home

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Lotta Jansdotter


The indie textile whiz is known for her graphic and folkloric designs. With a can of paint and the reusable plastic patterns that come with her book Lotta Jansdotter Stencils, you can put your stamp on nearly everything in your home.

—Go for the unexpected. In lieu of a rug, continue a wall stencil on the floor.

—Start with something easy, like decorating a pillow or a napkin with diamonds.

—Using coordinating colors, play with an assortment of painted shapes in a room—it's more fun than repeating the same one.

—If the end results aren't perfect, relax. Small smudges and color variation are part of the handmade look.

Lotta Jansdotter Stencils

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Monica Rich Kosann


The author of Living with What You Love says that putting together a collection of treasured mementos can be a great way to express your personality. Try her expert display tricks.

—Ask thrift store owners for first dibs on pieces that might fit in with your collectibles.

—Group like items to make a dramatic visual statement.

—Showcase small objects, like pottery, with books on a shelf or on a tray in a cluster.

—Hang images of grandparents, aunts, and uncles close together in coordinating frames to make a family tree wall.

Living with What You Love

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Rosanna Bowles


Tableware designer Rosanna Bowles, author of Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, shares her easy tips.

—Get in a sunny mood with pretty floral dishes and pastel linens.

—Giving a wall a new hue (like light blue) can change a room's mood and make it look larger.

—Rearrange furniture to give the space an airier feel. Take advantage of seasonal light by removing anything that blocks windows.

—Store any accessories—like pillows—that have a dark color or heavy pattern. Replace with lighter shades and materials.

Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions

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Grayson Handy


The author of Flowers for the Home says that blooms are not just easy on the eye—they're also good for the psyche. Follow his lead in using nature's mood lifters.

—Think beyond the traditional vase. Raid your cupboard for a pitcher or teapot.

—Tailor blooms to the space. In a dining room a tall arrangement can block conversation, but in a foyer it's dramatic.

—Flowers don't have to match your paint color or decor. Just pick what you like.

—Play with monochrome hues for an easy, sophisticated composition.

Flowers for the Home

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Emily Chalmers


The author of Cheap Chic believes that style is all about how things look together, not what they cost. She shares her tips for making a room beautiful on a budget.

—Got lovely dishes? Instant wall decor!

—Try your furniture in unexpected places, like using a chair as a bedside table.

—Food with great packaging, like colorful cans, makes pretty displays on kitchen shelves.

—Arrange the titles on your bookcase according to the color of their spine.

Cheap Chic

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Annette Tatum


In her book The Well-Dressed Home, designer Annette Tatum proves decorating a room is like putting an outfit together. Try some of her tips for living and looking sharp.

—Replicate a runway look with your bed linens.

—Take your cues from the patterns and colors of your clothing. For example, if you wear mostly neutrals, you probably won't want a bold paint.

—Love the hue of a favorite shirt? Have the shade matched at your local paint store.

—Just as a new belt updates an old dress, small accessories like throw pillows can freshen up your decor.

Copyright 2011 Meredith Corporation.

The Well-Dressed Home