Living Room Design Ideas with Susanna Salk: A Valorie Hart Room

In her book, “Be Your Own Decorator,” Susanna Salk emboldens her readers to find inspiration in the masterfully decorated rooms of top designers featured in her book. Her design philosophy is practical: find what you love about these rooms and repeat it in your own home.  But is it easy? We challenged Susanna Salk to recreate the essence of four rooms from her book using key pieces from Ballard Designs.

“I like how the sofa is serious, but also whimsical and it doesn’t have a pattern.”

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[Ballard Inspiration]


The Room

Valorie Hart’s living room is an exercise in the art of effortless mixing. The room is filled with personality from top to bottom, with a creative juxtaposition of style, period and price points. Susanna couldn’t wait to replicate the look and feel of one of her favorite rooms from her book.

“It’s full of personality,” she says. “It’s high and it’s low and it’s amazingly well-edited.”

The Clock

Everywhere you look in Hart’s room, there is something unique for the eyes to behold. But to recreate a look you love, you don’t have to copy every single detail. It’s about getting at the spirit of the room by replicating key elements. Susanna starts with the room’s focal point: the oversized clock.

“That clock really acts like the mirror of the room,” Susanna points out. “It really grounds it. I love that it’s over the sofa. It kind of centers everything.”

Susanna found the Lanier Wall Clock has just the right personality to pull off a similar look and feel: “It’s rustic, it’s pared down and it’s a lot like the picture.”

Ballard Designs - Lanier Wall Clock

The Sofa

The elegant lines, nail head detail and bright white color of Hart’s sofa are essential to the room—and prove to be the perfect counterpoint to the aged shutters and chocolate walls.

“I like how the sofa is serious, but also whimsical and it doesn’t have a pattern,” says Susanna.

The Griffin Sofa in Super White Twill with nail head trim is the perfect partner to the oversized wall clock. “We found something pretty much identical,” she says. “I love the detail on those curved arms.”

Ballard Designs - Griffin Sofa with Aged Brass Nailheads

The Café Chair

Seating plays a big role in the designer room, but Susanna sets her sights on the dainty folding chair near the corner of the room. “I love how it’s just extra seating. It welcomes people in.”

Our Café Chair is a delightful equal. And for the final touch, our Fringed Pillow adds a bit of whimsy, just as the pillow with birds does in the photo.

The Rug

The cow hide rug is the perfect foundation for setting the tone of the room – and a must-have for capturing the look. But not just any rug will do. Our Zebra Striped Rug pulls off that same exotic style perfectly.


Ballard Designs - Ferrata Zebra Striped Rug


“It really is that great finishing touch—that surprise,” says Susanna. Even if you do only one thing, get that great rug with a lot of personality. And, you know, I’ve never met a zebra rug I didn’t love.”

Once you have the key pieces in place, fill in the blanks with your own beloved items that show off your personality.

“The reason why all these different items exist together is because they’ve been placed there with love and confidence,” she says. “There’s a happy feeling to this room that once we put all the pieces together, it definitely mirrors what Valorie did.”

Watch all of the videos in this series here.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Susanna Salk

Susanna Salk helped launch Elle Decor magazine as Interior Design Manager and later became a Contributing Editor there before ultimately going on to become Special Projects Editor at House and Garden magazine until its closing. She has also appeared regularly on NBC’s “Today Show” to discuss design style for the home. Salk is the author of “A Privileged Life, Celebrating WASP Style,” (Assouline) as well as “Weekend Retreats” and the bestselling “Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play,” and “Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Cues and Confidence from Today’s Leading Designers” (Rizzoli). Her 2013 Rizzoli book “C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon,” was the first pictorial book celebrating the iconic style of C.Z. Guest, the American author, columnist, fashion designer, muse and socialite. Her latest book, “Decorate Fearlessly! Using Whimsy, Confidence and a Dash of Surprise to Create Personal Spaces,” (Rizzoli) explores the power rooms can have when decorated with confidence instead of rules. She is currently working on her eighth book, “It’s the Little Things: The Power of Detail in Design” (Rizzoli 2015) Salk is a Contributing Editor to and hosts the monthly Stylish Shopping/At Home With video series on the Quintessence blog. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two boys.


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    September 25, 2013

    Love this living room space, I have created a space similar to this. Suzanne Salk has given me some more great ideas and love watching her talk about design. She is an inspiration, too, to know I have the confidence to be my own designer. In fact, I have zebra pillows on my very french looking sofa and now wariting for a zebra rug and will place on an angle on top of my large area rug.