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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
Layer Decor over the Years
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.”
Choose One Piece of Artwork to Anchor the Room
In Josh Groban’s The Great Comet dressing room, interior designer Mike Harrison selected this constellation artwork as a clear focal point for the room. “I loved this piece for its dimensions and colors, but also as a tip of the hat to the comet influences that I know were of importance to Josh,” says Harrison. “I was searching for artwork that would tie together all of Josh’s design sensibilities.”
When Lee Cavanaugh and Sarah DePalo of Cullman & Kravis make their yearly trip to the Paris flea market, they send finds home in a group container to keep costs down.
…Especially before vintage shopping. Emily Eberhart of Viyet recommends researching how similar items of interest are priced or have sold.
Invest Where It Matters
If you’re on a budget, invest in the pieces that anchor a room. “It wouldn’t be a bedroom without a bed, it wouldn’t be a living room without a sofa, and it wouldn’t be a dining room without a dining table,” Thom Filicia advises.
It’s so simple, you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of Emily Henderson’s rule yourself: A large room should have large furniture, medium rooms should have medium-sized furniture and small rooms (you guessed it) should have more petite furniture. Scale the rest of the furniture to your sofa.
Bring Outdoor Fabric In
Grant K. Gibson suggests using outdoor fabric for indoor furniture to safeguard against stains and enhance durability, especially if you have kids or pets in the house.
Practice Before You Paint
“When initially loading your roller with paint, make sure the roller nap is fully and equally saturated,” says John Hoskins, vice president of Behr. Before you begin painting, test the roller on an extra piece of board to ensure it applies smoothly and evenly.
Let the Light Be Your Guide
When you’re painting a room, Joa Studholme of Farrow & Ball suggests you consider the direction of sunlight. Use bright colors in north-facing rooms, which tend to be darker, and create a warm glow in a west-facing room with pink or a red-based neutral. In south and east-facing rooms, opt for blue or white.
Neal Beckstedt uses unexpected elements—like a fireplace or chaise lounge—to create a warm and inviting bathroom that feels like its own living space.
Embrace Custom Furniture
There’s nothing like having a piece of furniture made to suit your aesthetic and room layout, and this master suite’s dressing room, which features a custom desk and screen painted in Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue, is the perfect example. When ordering custom furniture, consider focusing on spaces, like bedrooms and dining rooms, that are used the most often in a home.
Use Ladders as Storage
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your storage space. Joy Moyler likes to use ladders to display towels, as in this bathroom designed by Rebecca Ascher and Joshua Davis.
Karen Vidal kicks the classic look of a subway-tiled bathroom up a notch by pairing it with a bold patterned-cement-tile floor.
Keep Bedroom Fabrics Simple
Your Chairs Don’t Have to Match
Select a large-scale lead chair at your dining table to up the drama. Emilie Munroe of Studio Munroe recommends picking a style that’s complementary to the side chairs to really wow guests.
Center Your Furniture on a Rug
If you’re setting furniture, like a dining table, in the middle of the room, your rug should be big enough so that all furniture fits comfortably on top, according to Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson for IKEA U.S. In large living rooms, however, it’s OK to have just the front legs on the rug.
Create an Inviting Entryway with Mirrors
Your front hall is the first thing people see, so Dana Gibson suggests you make it inviting with a mirror and furnishings that foreshadow what’s to come in the rest of the house.
Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design is one of Hollywood’s favorite closet designers. To make closets she creates even more luxe, she paints the metal trim or ceiling gold.
Make a Room Look Bigger with White Furniture
Maximize Daylight with Mirrors
To maximize daylight and visually increase square footage, Jon Call of Mr Call Designs relies on large-scale mirrors.
J. Randall Powers has a motto in his office: “If you look at it and you question it—put it away.”
Remember the Rule of Threes
Kazuko Hoshino of Studio William Hefner employs one of writing’s most famous rules in her design: arranging decorative pieces like candles, vases, table plants, or flowers in groups of threes.
Change Your Coffee Table Decor Regularly
When it comes to styling a coffee table, try Meredith Baer’s formula: Start with something large in the middle, like a floral arrangement in an interesting pot or a huge bowl filled with a collection. Then build out from that with stacks of art books, candles, sculptures, or pottery.
When creating a tablescape, Ron Wendt starts by choosing a linen. Then he uses flowers or candles in a deeper or lighter hue to give the table a bold, completed look.
Instead of buying a formal china set, Alex Papachristidis creates an eclectic look by mixing and matching dishes.
Choose Neutral Upholstery
When Lili Hart buys upholstery, she always selects a neutral shade, then uses pillows and throws to add color and pattern to the room. Change them out according to the seasons—just like you would with your clothes.
Don’t Forget About the Ceiling
For an extra layer of style and unexpected dose of glam, Jeff Andrews suggests adding wallpaper to the ceiling.
“If your neighbors are doing it, you probably shouldn’t,” says designer Summer Thornton. “You can use plenty of traditional pieces as the core, but always intentionally do something that throws it off just a bit!”
Bring the outside in. Ashley Redmond of Decorist uses plants to add color, texture, and life to every room.
To elongate the visual ceiling height the way stilettos seem to add inches to the legs, Elaine Griffin hangs curtains as close to the ceiling line as she can get them.
Rather than buying curtains in patterns, designs, or florals—which can date a room very quickly—Randal Weeks of Aidan Gray Home buys two colors and changes them out seasonally.
Remember That Newer Isn’t Always Better
Thomas Jayne chooses vintage carpets, which offer more interesting texture and a wider range of nuanced colors than new ones.
Expand a Room with Rugs
“The bigger the area rug, the bigger the room will feel,” says Cheryl Eisen.
If Achille Salvagni has any say, the ideal collection references different eras and styles. “The best interiors are a reflection of where you have come from and a signifier where you want to go,” he says.
Spill-Proof Your Space
To kid-proof kitchens, Jen Going sends upholstery fabrics to be treated with a vinyl-tex finish—it makes them completely wipeable and impervious to anything your kids can spill.
To make metallic pieces shine, Natalie Kraiem mixes metals and mirrors with softer textures, like mohair, velvet, and wool, to up the contrast.
Don’t mistake eclectic style for “anything goes.” Joybird recommends putting a cap on the number of contrasting styles in each room to avoid a cluttered feeling.
Opt for Carpet over Wood Floors
In a bedroom, opt for wall-to-wall carpeting, which stops foot traffic from becoming a nuisance, Harry Heissmann of Albert Hadley Inc. advises. The only exception? Beach houses, where wood floors are fine.
Forget the Formal Grid
For a looser, salon-style gallery wall that feels collected, designer Lauren Liess recommends starting at the center and moving outward. To keep the display from feeling haphazard, pick an overarching theme or color, like the bedroom gallery wall that Liess created here using pressed botanicals in a palette of black, white, and tan.
Bring Lighting Outside
To create a cozy indoor atmosphere outside, Mary McDonald litters her yard with candles and lanterns. They up the romance factor, too.
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