Design 101: 18 Pieces of Advice From Top Interior Designers

It's great to be able to turn to the experts for decorating advice. But at the end of the day, even for them, your design aesthetic is all about you. 

Here are our fave interior designers who know their stuff. They make a living putting together the most beautiful homes, and their best advice boils down to surprisingly simple ideas.

1. Genevieve Gorder

“Fear” is one of the biggest obstacles most homeowners face when it comes to starting design projects in their homes. Before you buy that first can of paint, stop, look and listen to your room.  “Ask yourself a series of questions, like how do I want to feel in this room? How do I want to move through this room? Where is the light coming from?  The answers will lead you to the tone/ style you’re after."

2. Myra Hoefer

"White dishes. They call my name."

3. H. Camille Smith

Corral clutter with a tray. Trays are indeed handy-dandy things — equally useful for turning assorted coffee table tchotchkes into a vignette as they are for serving cocktails when guests arrive. Purchase or craft your own decorative tray and use it in the bathroom to stylishly store toiletries or in the kitchen to corral countertop clutter.

4. Anthony Baratta

"One-third function to two-thirds delight."

5. Victoria Hagan

"A happy home is one where you feel good. It's a home that works. It's a place where people can gather—it's about real life. There's nothing better than being at home with family and friends, and I like my work to encourage that."

6. Chango and Co.

While trends in collectibles may vary, antiques are perennially in-fashion in interior design. So pick something you love, and display it. 

7. Mariette Himez Gomez

"Every room needs at least one character chair for personality."

8. Eliza Dyson

“See the chair in the middle of my living room? Rooms need to be flexible, whether it's two people sitting by the fire or eight around the sofa.”

9. Jillian Harris

“Create original artwork - pick a favorite object you want to showcase and invest in framing it properly (use a shadow box for three-dimensional objects). “I picked up a one-of-a-kind postcard from a street artist in Spain and had it framed. I paid $3 for the postcard, spent $150 on framing and it looks like a $5,000 piece of art.

10. Genevieve Gorder

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of decorating is emotional,” she says. “But it’s not rocket science. It’s the one environment in our lives that we can control. Hey, you can always return that sofa if you don’t like it!”

11. Tobi Fairley

Designers say that sometimes an item you already have and love can become their inspiration for the rest of the room. "It can be one tile, one chair or one pillow; it depends on who it is, what they like and what they've got and we go from there."

12. Nake Berkus

"I think we all have this misconception about our living rooms. We somehow get it into our heads that they need to be spare and formal, while the family room is the place that's relaxed and playful and filled with our stuff. But [...] I believe people should be able to do some living in their living rooms."

13. Joanna Gaines

“I love using light colors in small spaces, while using lots of interesting textures to help it feel bigger. I also like doing a vintage mirror or antique chandelier - it makes any small space feel special.”

14. Jon Call

"I think every home needs to have at least a really comfortable bed. It might sound weird if it’s out of context, but it’s because I’ve lived in so many compromising living situations in New York, where somebody might have a roommate or somebody might have four people in a two-bedroom apartment. Sometimes a bed is all you have."

15. Susan Ferrier

Hanging a mirror is like adding a window. Add something that is reflective, rather than another color"


16. Emily Henderson

"Decide how you want your space to feel, not just look. Knowing how you want it to feel and putting words to those feelings will help guide you through the whole process. If you want it to feel calm, quiet and serene then that is a pretty different direction from energetic, sophisticated and fun. So think about walking in your door and the emotions or adjectives that you want the space to evoke in you."

17. Samuel Amoia

“Rules of design? I didn't know there were any! I think you can do anything you want. Design is not that serious."

18. Joanna Gaines

“For small kitchens, keep anything above the countertops light and bright - if you want to do darker cabinets, paint the bottom ones. Another way to bring interest to a small kitchen, is to do a statement vent hood if you don’t have enough space for an island.”

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