We asked our Homepolish designers for their ultimate interior design wisdom, tips, and tricks. Here’s how the pros hack everything from a full-on home renovation to a small facelift.
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 we’re happy to share that know-how with you.
We polled our designers for their most essential and invaluable tips and tricks. Bookmark these, you’ll use them in every space you’ve got.
Edit, edit, edit
: “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 purpose. Minimalism isn’t the lack of something, but the perfect amount of something.
Experiment with your accents
: 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.
Know why you like something
: 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!
A new rule of threes
: 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.
Pick vintage for the bones, not the total package
Mandy Cheng: If you love the look of vintage, buy pieces for their shape. You can always get the piece refinished or reupholstered.
Try before you buy
: 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.
Good design doesn’t have to be expensive
: 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. I always go to IKEA, CB2, and West Elm for stylish, affordable pieces.
Trust your gut
: If you love something, buy it! You will always find a place for things you love.
: I’m a big fan of buying locally to support and encourage artists and craftsman in your community.
Wait to pull the trigger
: My best design advice is to think twice before you buy. Your home will feel more special and pulled-together when you’re more conscious of your purchases. Aim for pieces or accessories that feel unique or speak to you in a personal way. Your home will feel more curated, and more “you.”
Measure it out
Chloe Poturalski: Check, double check, triple check, and quadruple check all measurements before ordering anything!
Focus on the feeling
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!
Follow “The Golden Ratio”
Alison Causer: You might not recognize the name “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.
Don’t let everyone in on the process
: 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.
Light it right
: 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.
Armann Ortega: Dimmers are key. The easiest way to change the mood of an environment is to change the lighting. Rejuvenation has a fantastic and budget friendly assortment of mixed material electric accessories.
Kerry Vasquez: 90% of good design is lighting.
Swap the standard
Armann Ortega: 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.
Hang curtains strategically
Melissa Mascara: An oldie but goodie, taught to me by a mentor way back when I was a design assistant—to make windows look larger, hang curtains high and wide. It’s a trick that makes large spaces feel grand and smaller spaces seem larger, too.
Fake a green thumb
: 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 the calming and grounding effects of nature if you can’t have plants.
Style your books better
Mandy Cheng: If you’re dying for a beautifully styled shelf but don’t want to purchase all new books that fall within the same color palette, grab your unused books and turn them so the spine is facing into the shelf. This will immediately neutralize the colors.
: My favorite hack is to line an entire wall with Ikea floating units side-by-side and make it look like a custom piece of built-in millwork. Use door hardware or Semihandmade faces for an elevated look.
Open your space up with mirrors
: 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.
: I love using oversized mirrors to open up a space and create drama. You can use a local glass company to cut a mirror to almost any shape or size you want. I have a 60” round mirror in my dining room that is the piece de resistance of my home and I’ve been dreaming up all kinds of shapes (arched, pill shaped…) for my clients recently.
Skip the shower (curtain)
: 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!
Make your own pillows
Ashlie Broderic: I love buying inexpensive vintage textiles on Ebay and make them into throw pillows.
Open the doors
: 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!
Mats make the difference
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!
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 (ones that you can make yourself!) in beautiful frames with big mats to make them look substantial and fancy!
Don’t let your legs get in the way
Gunnar Larson: 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.
Break the rules
Ashlie Broderic: I don’t believe in design rules, they can all be broken. Even an obvious rule like “wallpaper is for walls” is bunk; wallpaper on the ceiling feels daring and stylish.
Design wall-to-wall (including the ceiling)
Liz Lipkin: 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? 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.
: Ceilings—don’t forget them! Paint them a color, add on some paper, do <something. These are often overlooked and can usually use a little TLC.
White isn’t always right
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.
Pick the right finish
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.
Test your paint color
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.
Go bold with small spaces
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.