Our Winter 2017 Preview: Unleashing Your Inner Decorator

In our winter 2017 catalog, we want to help you unleash your inner decorator

Once the decorations from the holidays are down and you’ve welcomed a new year, it’s the perfect time to turn a fresh eye to your home. What do you love about it? What would you like to change? Where do you turn for inspiration? To help you answer those questions and more, we chatted with our Senior Vice President, Karen Mooney, about becoming your own decorator, the very best trends we love and her absolute favorites from our Winter Catalog.

Ballard Designs: There’s a new phrase we’ve been throwing around a lot that underscores our decorating philosophy: “unleash your inner decorator.” What does that mean, exactly?

Karen Mooney: Decorating your home should be a very personal and emotional experience. You should love what you live with every day. Unleashing your inner decorator is about learning to trust your instincts and embracing the decorator within to build your home around the things you really do love.

BD: Agreed. But what if you need a little confidence boost to get started?

KM: Some people don’t need any help with decorating; some need a sounding board or a little extra inspiration. Still others want help throughout the entire decorating process. The nice thing about Ballard is no matter your level of expertise or confidence in decorating, we’re here to help you. We have aspirational room scenes in our catalog, so you can get inspired by what you see. We offer decorating advice right here on our blog. And we also have trained design solutions consultants–who are not on commission–to answer your design questions. It can be anything from “what rug size do I need?” to “I want to freshen up my living room” to “I just bought a house and need help in every room.” That’s something we’ve had in our stores for a long time and now we’re rolling it out online, so that regardless of where you live, you can get expert design help. (You can find it here.)

Custom Plus program from Ballard Designs lets you customize your upholstered piece

BD: Internally, we’ve been super excited about our new program that gives you even more ways to customize upholstered furniture. How does this whole new level of customization play into Ballard’s decorating philosophy?

KM: We’re not about a cookie cutter look. Who wants that? Who wants someone to walk in their house and go, “Oh, you bought that from Ballard Designs.” You want it to feel unique to you. Ballard has always done custom upholstery — any of our upholstered pieces can be covered in any of our fabrics or you can even send us your own. But in the past year, we’ve taken it up a notch and rolled out a new program called “Custom Plus,”and every season we add more items to this assortment. It means you can choose even more options for creating a one-of-kind look, such as picking a different colored welt from the body, choosing a different fabric for the back of your chair or making the inside pleat of a skirt an accent color for a little extra pop. We are empowering you to become your own decorator to create something really special.

BD: Last time we looked, no other retailer is doing this.

KM: No! Nobody does this. If you want these kinds of details, you’d have to work with a designer and have your piece completely custom made at an upholstery shop. So it’s really all about removing that barrier so you can be your own designer. The sky’s the limit! Whatever you can imagine, you can make happen.

Family room with blue and orange color palette

BD: When we were working on this catalog, the theme for the January issue was about embracing your lifestyle. Can you talk about that?

KM: It’s the time of year where everyone is reprioritizing their goals — trying to get healthy, trying to get organized or wanting to spend more time at home. When you’re doing all of that, take the time to think about how you live and embrace it. So whether you have kids or pets or you entertain a lot or you’re single and like a really minimal look, it’s all good. Don’t wait to decorate your home because you have toddlers or a really large dog. Instead, take into account how you live and work around it. If your dog gets on the sofa, wrap your sofa in a pretty faux fur or choose a Sunbrella® fabric. For kids, maybe you want to go with a dark velvet sofa or a washable slipcover to combat stains, and you probably don’t want a seagrass rug on their delicate knees and feet. It’s about finding that balance of beauty and livability.

Hot pink animal print chairs in a living room

BD: There are some really fun rooms in this catalog with bold looks. How do you step out of your comfort zone to take some risks in your decorating?

KM: Different people have different levels of risks that they’re willing to take on and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to have a Serengeti chair in their home. But a Serengeti pillow? Now that’s a compromise. It adds that extra flair. So I would say to just pick your level of comfort.

A lot of times we show things that are very bold. It’s like looking at a runway show. You see it on a model on the runway and you think, “how could anyone ever wear that?” Often, they don’t even sell that flashy version — they create a more practical outfit based on that look to sell in stores. The point of this room is to get you looking and go, “Oh, I love that fabric” or “I love how fun this room feels, and how can I recreate that feeling in my room?” I don’t expect people to copy this exactly and put a salmon colored sofa in their room with two different animal prints, but you could create a similar vibe using the same palette. There are a lot of classic pieces in here, so you can take any of them in a more subtle direction with a neutral fabric.

Blush pink floral print headboard in a bedroom

BD: Let’s talk color. We just saw some bold looks, but there’s actually a more muted palette emerging.

KM: I think part of that stems from wanting a little visual peace after the holidays. This palette is very soft and delicate, and the patterns are subtle. It’s very tranquil. We’ve been talking for a while about the resurgence of blush. Suzanne Kasler has had a beautiful blush in her collection for a while. We’ve taken that blush and mixed it with a soft gray to create a pretty floral fabric. It’s a really beautiful, subtle floral. It’s not too feminine — the gray counteracts that pink a bit.

Blush pink linen sofa with bright orange velvet

BD: In some rooms, you’ve used saturated tones to balance out those more subtle colors.

KM: Mixing in a little black or a really vibrant color, like the coral in this room, can counteract a subtle color. It’s those easy little pops that suddenly make your room sing. It can be as easy as switching out your lamp shade and adding in a couple of pillows.

Black and white living room with metallic gold

BD: You mentioned decorating with black. That classic black-and-white combination is back, but it feels softer.

KM: This sofa is a great example. The graphic black-and-white pattern is a soft geometric, and the juxtaposition of it on this classically lined sofa is what Ballard is all about. We love to take two different looks and mix them together to get this great new balanced modern classic. The rest of the room is very edited with just a few black and white pieces, but not too much. The walls are the only color in the room, which allows the black-and-white palette to really ground the room. And when you mix in the metallics, it warms the room right up. It’s not this cold, sterile feeling at all.  

Large scale floral pattern on a black background

BD: We hear florals are making a comeback, too.

KM: For the last two or three years, florals have been so hot in fashion. I think it started with Dolce & Gabbana, and now it’s everywhere. But what we’ve seen is the background going black, so you have these oversized florals over a dark background, and it makes it feel modern and not overly sweet. We love this Beatrice Black Floral Fabric by the Yard.

A neutral bedroom inspired by organic textures and patterns

BD: Staying with trends for a moment, organic shapes and textures are really in focus right now.

KM: I think it’s a little bit of backlash to technology. We’re on our computers all day and create computer generated things. I think we want things to feel handmade and to have that softer touch. It feels very accessible and comfortable. And, again, it really softens the overall look, like the painterly brushstroke pattern of our comforter or the cowrie shells on the Standing Tribal Necklace.

Use a colorful rug as a starting point when you're decorating a room from scratch

BD: We have a few big sales in this catalog. First up is lighting. How do you make a statement with lighting?

KM: Lighting is a great way to step outside the box and put something up that’s a little edgier than the rest of the things in your room. In my experience, people are willing to do that with lighting — to embrace trend a little more. Change up the finish, shape and scale. Such a small change can make a big impact in your room.

Dining room with gray, black, and yellow

BD: This is something people may not think about, but you can also update older lighting just by switching your shades. Putting these black shades on this more traditional chandelier instantly changes the look of it.

KM: Yes! It’s so easy and inexpensive. Neither the sconces on the wall or the chandelier come with shades, so you can immediately change the look just by adding shades. Here, we intentionally didn’t match the shades. For the chandelier, we wanted to reiterate the black on the chairs and sideboard, but we thought it might be a little too heavy to do it on the sconces too, so we kept those neutral. And now you know–mixing shades in a single room is totally fine! And something I always tell people is, even if you can’t envision it, try it. Just keep it for a few days, and return it if you don’t like how it looks. You’ll never know if you don’t try, and you can always take it back. The fact is, shades don’t last as long as lamps. If you have a lamp that you’ve had for 20 years and you have the same shade on it, I can guarantee you that you need to update your shade.

Letting your rug reflect the vibe of your room

BD: In February, we have our annual rug sale. Any advice on making a new rug fit in an existing room?

KM: When you’re shopping for a new rug, I wouldn’t worry so much about making it match perfectly, because it really is a backdrop to the rest of the things in the room. Just think about your vibe. What’s your style? What is it you’re trying to make your space feel like? Is it a traditional space you want to keep traditional or is everything in the space traditional and you want it to feel a little more updated?  Do you want it to be a bright, bold color or a neutral backdrop? That being said, you do want to consider what’s already in your room. Your rug can be your statement in the room if nothing else is, but if you have a couple of animal print chairs, you probably want a pretty subtle rug underfoot.

Karen’s Favorites

Ballard Designs exposed arm leopard print chair

Robbie Chair

I love this chair. There’s this trend right now that we keep seeing in the marketplace with open upholstered frames, whether it’s in the arms or the back or even in a headboard. And it’s so stunning that it looks custom and doesn’t look like something you could order online from a major retailer. This is the kind of chair you could move around to any room in your home, from the bedroom to the office to the living room.

Ballard Designs Harper Sideboard

Harper Sideboard

I bought the Harper Bar and put it in my guest room as a coffee station. I love this Sideboard, too.

Ballard Designs white Atoll Mirror

Atoll Mirror

This is a customer favorite–and it’s back! We carried it years ago and it went away. Ever since, customers have been begging us to bring it back. I can’t tell you how many requests we’ve gotten through customer service, social media, emails. It’s crazy. So, everybody, it’s back!

Ballard Designs overscale black dome pendant

Kent Light

The minute I saw it, I thought, “I love it, where can I put it in my house?” I’m in the middle of turning my oldest son’s bedroom into a guest bedroom and thought about putting it in there, but I worried it might be too big and dramatic. I brought it home, hung it up just to see what it looked like, and loved it.

Ballard Designs Ezra 3-Drawer Side Table

Ezra 3-Drawer Side Table

An employee told me she had been looking for a curved front chest for a bedside table and wanted to know why we didn’t have one. So that’s where the idea came from. Anything that’s curved is harder to manufacture, but we did it at a great price, and it’s perfectly sized for a bedside table. The natural dry wood finish dovetails nicely with that organic, handcrafted feeling we’re all craving right now.

Ballard Designs Palmae Taupe palm fabric

Palmae Taupe Fabric by the Yard

We design a lot of our own fabric, and this is an example of that. We had an antique piece of fabric that we used as inspiration to create an entirely new print. We’re introducing it in the gray, and later in the spring it will be coming out in green. As you know, palm prints are everywhere, and this gray version is a really easy way to work it into your home without making a bold statement. It’s just a very fresh and fun print.

Browse all of the new pieces for Winter, or see the paint colors we used in our Fall catalog.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

Did you like this post and find it helpful? Rate it below and share your thoughts in the comments.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    January 14, 2017

    I’d love to read this blog, but the giant header taking up a quarter of the page makes it completely unappealing.

  2. Reply


    January 8, 2017

    I love these features so much! Is it ok to submit a room that needs help if it is half complete? I just need help with the other half. Keep the podcasts coming!

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      January 9, 2017

      Yes, absolutely you can submit a room that is half finished. Sometimes that second half is the hardest part!

  3. Reply

    Joanne B.

    January 6, 2017

    thanks Caroline! yes i did e mail you but not to this address. When I first was looking the only thing i saw was the general contact link and sent it there to “customer service’ and asked them to forward it to you. I assume you’lll eventually get it!

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      January 9, 2017

      Got it! Definitely send the photos of your home to podcast@ballarddesigns.net and we’ll discuss on the next episode we record. I totally get what you’re saying about it being hard to edit your own things and to know what’s tired and what’s classic. Sometimes that’s a fine line.
      Send your photos over and we’ll discuss.
      Thanks for reading and listening!

  4. Reply

    Joanne B.

    January 5, 2017

    I just sent off a comment to the podcast gals on a very related topic, then logged on to see this post! You were speaking to me, I just know it! I will simply say this: I love you guys and I love Ballard. Period.The end.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      January 6, 2017

      So glad you found what you were looking for and more importantly that you’ve enjoyed listening to the podcast. Did you email us? I’m not seeing anything from you. Just want to be sure we see your comment!
      Thanks for listening and reading,