10 Designer How-To’s For the Home

When it comes to creating a beautiful home, there are many tricks of the trade that designers use. From the ceiling down to the floor, I'm pulling out my magic box and sharing answers to 10 of the most common questions I get from clients. Use this how-to guide to enhance the look and feel of your house just like a designer would!


1. How do I create a gallery wall?

Gallery walls allow you to display various art pieces in one grouping. Whether you choose to stick with a theme or vary the styles of art, a gallery wall is a smart way to show off your taste and style. You may want to hang a selection of landscapes or perhaps a wall of nautically themed pictures; maybe even a mixture of subjects all related to a certain style such as English country. Select two or three large pieces to focus the eye, then fill in with several smaller works. The frames can have different sizes and styles, just make sure each piece is hung at least 3 inches apart. 

2. How do I choose a dining room rug?

The trick to finding the right size rug for your dining room is to make sure that each chair fully rests on the rug when pushed in and when pushed out from the table. A general rule of thumb is to add 6 feet to the length and width of your table and choose an interesting pattern to counter a plain table. Go with 100% wool for easy cleaning. Remember, natural fibers are your friend!

4. How do I decorate a built-in?

Many older homes have built-ins and even modern architects often add built-in shelves and alcoves for interest, but what do you put in them? Organize books neatly (hardcovers are especially nice) then add a few picture frames to break up the lines. Finally, layer in accessories and artwork. If you collect anything, mix in a collection as well. Alcoves make wonderful spots to display large vases, urns, and sculptures. 

5. How do I decorate a coffee table?

The coffee table often needs to serve multiple purposes, but form can commingle with function if you select hardworking pieces. Start with a tray that can be removed when you need to serve food or drinks, then layer coffee table books, lidded boxes (perfect for stashing away remotes), a vase for flowers, and a special treasure. Mind the balance between old/new, hard/soft, luxe/organic.

6. How do I measure for window treatments?

While there are many ways to dress windows, the simplest DIY answer is to hang one rod and two curtain panels. Measure the width of your window and multiply window size by 2.5 for width. For height, mount hardware as close to the ceiling as possible, and measure length so that drapery hits the floor. If you can’t find ready-made panels that meet your specifications, purchase fabric by the yard and contact a seamstress to hem and sew in rod pockets.

7. How do I properly light my bedroom? 

Here are a few secrets: Low wattage bulbs, dimmers, and candles.  Overhead lighting can be harsh, so use low wattage bulbs and install dimmers. In the bedroom you want to be able to control the atmosphere whether you are reading in bed or trying to set a romantic mood. Multiple light sources such as wall sconces, bedside tables, and reading lamps allow you to control the lighting. A few candles sprinkled throughout the room lend a touch of sexiness for those special moments. 

8. How do I choose the right-size chandelier?

Sometimes a large chandelier can really make a statement in a small room, however a small chandelier almost never looks right in a large room. While there are no strict rules, a good trick is to add the room's length + width in feet, then use that number, in inches, as a guide for the chandelier's diameter. Example: 10' + 14' = 24' so look for a 24" chandelier.

9. How do I choose a lampshade?

Choosing a lamp shade can be tricky whether you are trying to decide on style or size. When it comes to size, remember: 60% lamp, 40% lampshade. As far as style goes, match classic shades with classic lamps and save drum shades for modern pieces. For the shape, let the lamp base be your guide: Pair round bases with round or square shades and rectangular bases with rectangular or oval shades.

10. How do I decorate my foyer?

Whether you have a grand foyer or a tiny entryway, there are a few key pieces to complete this space. Start with a mirror which comes in handy for guests to check their appearance when they first arrive. If space permits, add a table under the mirror to place keys and mail on. A vase with fresh flowers is a nice welcoming touch. And finally, a sturdy rug made of natural fibers completes the foyer. An extra touch could be a chair or stool for people to perch on when removing their shoes. 

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