55 Best Interior Decorating Secrets

Some people have a natural eye for design, but if you’re more in the camp of those who can’t do anything without consulting Pinterest board upon Pinterest board before making any major changes, we feel you. And even for those of us who live and breathe interior design, some inspiration and guidance never hurts. We’d love to have an interior designer on speed dial before deciding exactly where and how hang to hang that new wall art we bought on a whim so we don’t make any major mistakes. But until we win the lottery, we’ll have to settle for trusting our gut—and taking plenty of interior design tips where we can get them. We’ve compiled some secrets straight from the pros to help you with all your decorating needs.

🏡You love finding new design tricks. So do we. Let us share the best of them.

1

Use Lacquer-Effect Wallpaper

“If someone draws on it, it’s a lot easier to repair than real lacquer!” — Corey Damen Jenkins

2

Transform Eyesores

“In this basement remodel, we would’ve had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HCVA air duct. Who wouldn’t go with ballet-slipper pink instead?” — Max Humphrey

3

Paint on Faux Molding

“There was no ceiling molding and no molding around the doors in this apartment, so I added them with paint!—Aldous Bertram

4

Reuse What You Already Own

“We were able to work in a lot of pieces from their previous home, which made it feel layered.” — Jean Liu

5

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

“Do something groovy on the actual steps! The bolder you go, the bigger the smile when you see them.” — Fawn Galli. Here, a painted runner by Annie Sloan looks just like carpet.

6

Use Murals to Give Life to a Space

“Murals are a way of bringing more people into the house, so even when it’s just the two owners, it never feels lonely.” — Raji Radhakrishnan

7

Mix Old and New Decor

“Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires.” — Caleb Anderson

8

Step Up Your Lighting Game With High Tech

Improve health and temporarily turn a room a different color with “top-of-the-line smart circadian rhythm lighting.” — Breegan Jane

9

Liven Up Ordinary Spaces With Wallpaper

“I love to use wallpaper in mundane spaces. Hallways, pantries, powder rooms—all become moments of joy and funkiness. Areas of transition can be places you enjoy spending time in.” — Fawn Galli

10

Don’t Be Afraid to DIY

“If punk rock has taught me anything, it’s to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught.”— Max Humphrey

11

Choose the Right Bulbs

“Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great.” — Paloma Contreras

12

Add Some Wicker

“Wicker is an element I love for its texture and versatility. Wicker baskets are so functional for storage, but a wicker animal brings a sense of whimsy.” — Amy Berry

13

Upgrade Your Light Switches

“Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” — Courtney Hill

14

Invest in Antiques

“Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.” — Chandos Dodson Epley

15

Even Rentals Can Get an Upgrade

16

Trust Your Intuition

“Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don’t.”— Olivia Erwin

17

Use the Ceiling to Redefine the Room

“Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.” — Julio Salcedo

18

Add a Bar

“Every house should have a great bar. It is the central point of a party, and if you entertain a lot, it will be celebrated, so put some thought into it.” — Jordana Joseph

19

When in Doubt, Paint It

“Never underestimate the power of paint. You don’t have to break the bank to achieve a new look. A fresh coat in a vibrant color takes an old piece of furniture or empty white room and gives it new life.” — Chauncey Boothby

21

Embrace a Classic White Kitchen

“Classics never go out of style. I hesitated about doing a white kitchen in my own house, thinking I’d been there, done that. But I’m so glad I did. I will never tire of it.” — Alexandra Kaehler

22

Get the Most Out of Your Space

“Actually use your beautiful things! I have a chocolate lab and white furniture in my living room. It took some training, but now he knows the furniture is off limits.” — Lindsey Lane

23

Go Deep

“Don’t be afraid of dark. I used this rich Benjamin Moore Midnight Blue on an accent wall—darker than I’d ever dared. It made the whole space come to life.” — Jean Larette

24

Don’t Be Afraid of Clutter

25

Splurge on a Master Bath

“The splurge everyone should make is a fabulous master bathroom. I used hand-painted porcelain sinks in mine.” — Todd Richesin

26

Don’t Underestimate the Coffee Table

“In an open seating plan, always use a well-proportioned statement coffee table to ground the arrangement and give it a sense of place.” — Sean Michael

27

Make Ceilings Look Higher With Tall Furniture

“Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground.” —Jason Oliver Nixon

28

Think Asymmetrical

“Get creative when thinking about form and function. A client in a traditional Georgian home needed it to work for her modern way of entertaining. We opted for an asymmetrical, organic space that encourages guests to float through the room while engaged in conversation.” — Kate Coughlin

29

Figure Out a Floor Plan

“The most important first step in design is a good floor plan.” — Jessica Helgerson

30

Invest in Upholstery

“My clients ask about the most important pieces to invest in: I believe in upholstery and art! They help anchor a room.” — Ashley Darryl

31

Have Fun

“Make sure you’re having fun. What’s more fun than making your own home more beautiful?” — Eche Martinez

32

Create Your Own Light

“When you’re given a dark space that doesn’t have great light, create your own light. In this kitchen, we used Sherwin-​Williams’s sunny Ener­getic Orange, and it turned out just fabulous— so cheerful.” — Matthew Boland

33

Know Your Dealbreakers

“Don’t settle. If you have your heart set on a piece, don’t try to find something similar just to save money. Chances are, you’ll never be completely satisfied with the substitute (or its quality).” — Brian Watford

34

Swap Out Big Pieces for More Impact

“When clients want a quick, impactful update, I recommend the pieces that take up the most surface area, like rugs, paint color, or window treatments.” — Tina Ramchandani

35

Focus on One Investment a Year

“Buy one good piece of furniture every year, and in five years, you’ll have five pieces. Everything else may change, but these will remain constant.” — Jeffrey Bilhuber

36

Reflect Your Personality in the Bedrooms

37

Amp Up Your Ceiling Game

“Faux paint, lush lacquer, or wallpaper on a ceiling will garner that ‘Wow’ response.” —Leslie May

38

Make Sure It All Fits

“Being able to visualize the scale of a piece is critical. In our office, we say, ‘When in doubt, tape it out!'” — Kylee Shintaffer

39

Mix Your Metals

“Embrace mixed metals. It can feel like the fixtures are curated and bespoke.” — Shelley Johnstone

40

Collect Unique Pieces

“The strange bust from the flea market, the weird painting you are drawn to: Buy them all. Curate a space that is truly one of a kind.” — Stephanie Sabbe

41

Incorporate Inherited Pieces

“Don’t be afraid to use inherited antiques. Add a backdrop with exciting wallpaper: The combination is simply the best.” —Sara Gilbane

42

Use Wallpaper to Start a Conversation

“It’s a bit of an investment, and you can’t take it with you when you leave, but nothing brings va va voom like vibrant wallpaper in a conversation-topic pattern.” —Emilie Munroe

43

Don’t Stop Editing

“The least expensive action: edit, edit, edit!” — Katie Sutton

44

Establish a Color Scheme

For a head-to-toe makeover, the first step is creating a palette. “I come up with a basic color scheme for the whole house, and then I take that from room to room,” reveals Gary McBournie, a designer based in Boston. “It plays itself out in different ways in different rooms.”

More: 20+ Fresh New Color Combinations to Try

45

Put Investment Pieces Up Front

“Use and enjoy your antiques and unique finds, especially in a utilitarian room, like the bathroom.” — Bunny Williams

46

Play With Textiles

“Straw, jute, rush—natural materials and neutral tones are always chic. They’re the white T-shirt of interior design.” Meg Braff

47

Extend Your Backsplash

48

Add Texture

Neutral decor can be interesting if you include a variety of materials. “I used a range—from fine-gauge and open-weave linen, to raw silk and taffeta, to cotton velvet and distressed velvet,” says California-based designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano. “Not only that, there’s also the contrast of matte sheens that absorb the light, and lustrous sheens that reflect it.”

49

Use the 50/150 Rule

For the perfect color family, mix one batch of paint 50% lighter than the base and another 150% darker. “That’s a fail­safe method for striping a wall. It’s also a very architectural way of using color.” — Mary Douglas Drysdale

50

Warm Up a Room With Mirrored Walls

Mirrored panels like the ones lining this alcove can be elegant — but don’t just slap them up, designer Jan Showers warns. Large sheets of mirror will look commercial, so try a sectioned pattern in the traditional French style instead.

51

Don’t Skimp on the Sofa

“Put your money into a comfortable, well-made sofa that you’ll have forever. You don’t have to deny yourself that expensive designer fabric you love—just put it on something small, like a pillow.” — Krista Ewart

52

Try a High-Contrast Palette

53

Choose the Right Curtain Length

“For classic side panels, you really have to go all the way to the floor. If you’re looking at ready-made drapes, make sure that they touch the floor, even if you have to buy the next size up and have them hemmed.” Scot Meacham Wood

54

Fake Square Footage

Glass shower doors add instant square footage. To complete the illusion, run the floor tiles straight into the stall. “It makes the room feel larger,” says designer Alla Akimova. “If I had changed materials, it would have interrupted the space.”

55

Pile on Pillows

“I don’t do dinky accents…small pillows look like something that came with the furniture.” John De Bastiani

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