Monday, April 25, 2011

Designer Tips

I was asked to give my top ten designer tips as part of the interview process for Trad Home. As an avid reader of designer secrets, I suppose it's no surprise that I was a bit overly excited to come up with my own!  Sadly, they edited them down to nothing and even took some comments out of context.  Here they are in their unedited glory!

  1. If you don’t get the scale of your major furniture pieces correct, then the room will never feel right.  This doesn’t necessarily mean mean a predictable choice; sometimes an over-scaled piece in a small room can be the secret to making a room more inviting and livable.
  2. I love a taller coffee table between 22’ and 24” high. It makes a room look more interesting and is really more functional than a low table.  Cut down a small dining table and lacquer it a beautiful color!
  3. Consider the entire composition of ceiling, walls, trim and floor when choosing a color scheme. Sometimes, painting trim a glossier version of the wall color can give a room a welcome, more contemporary feel, and make your ceilings look taller.  Even with a contrast trim, I often paint baseboards wall color to avoid a distracting horizontal band between floor and wall.  Conversely, black baseboard, as seen in historic houses like Mt. Vernon, can anchor a room with dark floors and feel correct in a traditional home.  I always love blue ceilings; instant sky!
  4. Don’t get too caught up with adding decorative details to everything in a room. If you leave some things plain and simple, the areas where you do add trim or special details will have more impact, and the room won’t feel over-decorated or busy.
  5. Changing out pillows and throws seasonally can be a simple way to make a room feel fresh and appropriate.  My absolute favorites are silk tiger velvet and cashmere for the winter, and fresh Fortuny prints and beautifully colored plain linen in the summer.
  6. Custom lined and interlined curtains are worth the expense. My favorite are inverted pleat panels hung on simple rods mounted as near the ceiling as you can get to emphasize height.  They should break ever so slightly on the floor.
  7. An over-scaled piece of art in a traditional room can keep it from looking too granny-ish (although, for the record, my own grandma is very stylish!) I often paint my own contemporary large canvases with sample wall color pots and scraps of wallpaper and fabrics.
  8. Have a custom monogram designed and have it embroidered as large as possible in your favorite colors on plain white sheets and towels.  The scale makes it feel more graphic and young, yet still appealingly traditional.
  9. Create a chic bar on a beautiful side table or cart and be ready for a party at a moment’s notice.  Arrange a vignette of attractive bottles and whimsical bar accessories on a lacquered tray.  I have so much fun collecting vintage embroidered cocktail napkins, which I have in every motif imaginable!
  10. There are some great, stylish, and well-priced things available for the home from mass retailers.  Make sure that you don’t end up with a room that looks like last season’s window display, or just like everyone else’s room! These stores can be great sources, but mix it up with antiques and personal collections to give it your own stamp.


  1. Good Advice. I am still having trouble with No. 1. I have a whale of a couch in the living room (It was such a beast to get into the apartment - I thought I should give Rob a chance to recover before casting it out). I need to get on it!


  2. Fabulous tips! I'm loving tip #5. Have a wonderful week ahead, Kellie xx