Our Homepolish designers are full of interior wisdom. We asked them to share their best tips and tricks for every scenario, from a full renovation to a small facelift, and to share why their help is so helpful.
We’ll be the first ones to tell you that interior design isn’t as easy at it may look. Our seasoned designers will be second. When it comes to crafting floorplans, choosing paint colors, and creating a home that’s as functional as it is beautiful, it requires a bit of know-how.
But when you work with a Homepolish designer, they share that wisdom with you. To get you inspired (and to show off just how smart our designers are), we polled our pros for their most essential and invaluable tips and tricks—from clever hacks to philosophical approaches that help you center your design journey. Bookmark these to use over and over (and read more at Homepolish.com/mag) then book your Homepolish project today.
They know how to break the rules:
1. : When I was first designing and sourcing items for clients, a mentor of mine asked me why I liked a certain light fixture. I said, “because it’s different.” She looked at me and said, “just because something is different doesn’t make it “good.” This advice has really stuck with me. It was a lesson in the beauty that can sometimes come from restraint in design, or the lack thereof!
2. Dave Johnson: I think there are basic rules, like proportion, for instance, that hold up. I’m more circumspect of the “16 Things You Should Never Do in a Small Space” type stuff. I feel our clients hire us because we can break some of those rules to great effect!
3.: Unless complete privacy or quiet is needed, I remove doors and replace them with a good, strong drape. Drapes work just as well for keeping in heat and AC (or keeping out light at night). With city living, floor and wall real estate is everything!
They see things differently
4. : Don’t forget the ‘fifth wall’. Ceilings are an often overlooked design opportunity—why settle for a flat white painted ceiling when you can wallpaper it? Or paint it sky blue? Or any other color? If you’re not feeling that adventurous, but still want to give your ceiling a little lift—try an eggshell finish. It’s not just for walls! The subtle sheen looks great and will reflect just enough light to create the illusion of more height.
5. : If you love the look of vintage, buy pieces for their shape. You can always get the piece refinished or reupholstered.
6. Sandie Mazzi: A small space with small furniture can create lots of wasted space, don’t scale too big, but a proportion is key in making sure you strike the balance between maximizing the space without overcrowding it.
7. Alison Causer: You might not know the definition of the “golden ratio,” but I can guarantee you’ve seen it. As Wikipedia puts it, “two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.” Basically, this translates to being aware of what percentage of space you’re utilizing and how you’re utilizing it. Use 60% as a guideline—cover 60% of a room in furniture, hang drapes so that 60% of the window is covered, and so on.
8. : Watch out for a leggy dining room. If you have too many “legs” with your chairs, your dining table and your island stools it’s going to get really busy. A bench on one side or a pedestal table can break up the leg issue. If you have stools near the dining chairs just be mindful of balance between leg shapes and styles.
Design by, photo by Joyelle West
They know when to edit:
9. : “Less is more” is something I always try to stress. It will look different for each person, so I encourage only keeping items in your home that you love or have a purpose. Minimalism isn’t the lack of something, but the perfect amount of something.
10. Dave Johnson: Keep your space’s design message simple… your room does not need to reflect all the design trends in your Pinterest board at once!
11. Nicole Fisher: I always tell my clients their space should evoke a feeling that resonates with them every time they enter the door. Without that feeling, you lose an emotional connection that is so important in a home. It’s so much more than just a pretty picture!
They shop smart
12. Ashlie Broderic: The legendary interior designer Albert Hadley said, “Nothing comes cheap, but the educated eye will always spot very nice things for the least money.” I end up repeating this statement, in some form, during almost every project, and there are certain sources I go to again and again for stylish, affordable pieces.
13. Gunnar Larson: Don’t shop in “sets.” Aim to have no more than three pieces of furniture from the same store in a room. It’ll ensure your space looks distinctly you and not like a showroom.
14. Liz Lipkin: Feel that fabric, sit in that sofa, request a rug swatch. By taking the time to see things in person and in context, you’ll save yourself time and money in the long run.
15. : I’m a big fan of buying locally to support and encourage artists and craftsmen in your community.
16.: If you love something, buy it! You will always find a place for things you love.
17. Dave Johnson: “Shop your client”. Very often I’ll go through accessories, art, photos, etc, that the client didn’t necessarily intend to bring to the new design, and I’ll find things that really help personalize the new space for them. I can see their things through new eyes, that they might have been blind to!
18. Sandie Mazzi: Etsy is a treasure trove for affordable textiles that are unique. If you’re on a tight budget, splurge on the places that matter, like lighting, hardware, and finishes that would make a difference (for kitchens, use Ikea cabinet bases paired with semi-custom cabinet fronts and nice hardware for a high-end look; a cool funky light fixture can jazz up a room even if the furniture is average)
19. Cindy De Luzuriaga: The one thing that has stayed consistent through my design career is that I am always on the hunt. I am on the hunt for new sources, ideas, craftsman. The thing that keeps me in design is that there is always something new to explore.
Photo by Sean Litchfield, Design by Cindy Deluzuriaga
They can light right
20. : I always select lighting for a home with as much care and intention as I do with large pieces of furniture. Lighting has a huge impact on a room in that it draws the eye and acts as a focal point (whether you like it or not). If you intentionally choose floor lamps, table lamps, chandeliers, and pendants with care, you can truly transform your home.
21. Armann Ortega: Dimmers are key. The easiest way to change the mood of an environment is to change the lighting. Even if you rent, don’t feel that you have to accept the lighting fixtures that come with your place. It’s an easy way to customize your home and the fixtures will be something that you can take with you later down the line.
22. Kerry Vasquez: 90% of good design is lighting.
They know how to experiment wisely
23. Mandy Cheng: Keep permanent pieces a little more neutral and use accents to introduce current trends. It’s much more pricey to replace your sofa every year as opposed to changing out throws and decorative pillows.
24. Cynthia Tran: The one thing I constantly come across is a client who is extremely excited about a trend that is currently “in” at this exact moment. I always recommend that design should be classic, timeless, and tasteful, and that each design decision should depend on whether you love the design aesthetic now, and whether you’ll still love it in ten years. Interior design in many ways is like fashion – waves of trends coming and going. Design should never depend on the current time period, but rather whether it will outlast the trends and stay classic.
25. Armann Ortega: Go bold with small spaces—they can handle bold colors and darker hues. There is a common misconception that small spaces need to be painted white to look larger, but if you go with a darker hue and thoughtful lighting, the corners and the walls of the space will recede.
They problem solve in surprising ways
26. : If you can’t keep any plants alive for the life of you or travel too often to water some fig trees, add the color green somewhere into your design. If you’re in a city, this is especially important in the winter! Maybe it’s painting your front door a subtle pistachio or wallpapering the back of a bookshelf in a fern green grasscloth—it’s up to you. Adding the color green can bring in some of the calming and grounding effects of nature if you can’t have plants.
27. Liz Lipkin: If you have inexpensive artwork or pictures to frame and don’t want to break the bank, try combining off the shelf frames from A.I. Friedman or West Elm with custom mats from a frame shop. Custom mats are relatively inexpensive and will instantly upgrade the overall look of the finished piece. They also give you more flexibility with photo size since the framer can cut the window to your specifications. Remember to bring the frames and the photos with you to the frame shop for reference!
28. Carly Callahan: Size up in pillow inserts to get a full look, big, elevate boxy drapery hardware with custom drapes, and frame really simple drawings and paintings in beautiful frames with big mats to make them look substantial and fancy!
Photo by Dustin Halleck, Design by Carly Callahan
They find creative uses for the standard materials
29. : I love using window curtains as shower curtains—they can be so much more fun. Also, you can get more height out of them for a grander feel. Make sure to have a plastic liner or have them lined!
30. Ashlie Broderic: I love buying inexpensive vintage textiles on Ebay and turning them into throw pillows.
31.: Mirrors! When placed properly, a mirror can open up a wall, enlarge a room, or break up a room with reflections from windows. They are designed with tons of styles, from the simplest shapes and finishes to ornate glass stains and appliqués so you can make it your own.
They are paint pros
32. Ashlie Broderic: Many people assume that white walls will brighten up a dark or windowless space, but I find these rooms can end up looking flat and lifeless. When there is little or no natural light, select a very pale grey. The grey still feels bright, but adds depth to the space.
33. Mandy Cheng: There was a time when “eggshell finish” was all the rage for its scrub-ability. There is no need to paint all your walls eggshell anymore. Many paint brands have durable matte or satin finishes. The more sheen your paint has, the more it reflects and shows the wall texture and imperfections.
34. Liz Lipkin: I always test paint colors, even ones that I’ve used before. The same color can vary from one space to another based on a room’s exposure, lighting, and contents, so once you’ve narrowed down your paint chips to a couple of options, buy test pints and paint large swatches of each color on several walls. Look at the swatches at different times of the day before making your final decision.
35. Liza Kuhn: My go-to color is Benjamin Moore, Chantilly Lace—it’s a magical, bright white color that adapts to its environment. It never goes yellow, but consistently brightens and warms up a room.
They can tell you when to trust your gut
36. : I tell my clients to avoid getting too many outside opinions from friends or family as the design process is happening. Often the advice of a good designer coupled with the clients gut instinct and taste is all that is needed to achieve the perfect space! I find that if too many opinions get into the mix, the client gets confused and starts designing for other people that don’t live there.
37. Cindy De Luzuriaga: The first step is hiring the right designer for you. Trust the process and the designer. It’s understandable to want to know and see what the space is going to look like right away but the designer needs to evaluate the project, do some discovery, and explore a few options before they see the whole picture and give their best recommendations. My friend is a doctor and made a great comparison: just like a doctor a designer needs to evaluate the patient before prescribing a recommendation.