Designer Décor: How to Decorate like Your Favorite Designer

Designer decor in a blue and white living room designed by Suzanne Kasler

Blue and white designer decor and living room design by Suzanne Kasler

If you’ve ever flipped through your favorite design magazine or scrolled through your favorite designers’ social media page, you’ve probably wondered how to replicate those gorgeous designer decor details in your own home. On our podcast, we talk with designers every week about how they create beautiful spaces and what considerations one needs to take when decorating for themselves. In this post, we’re pulling together all of their best advice for decorating a designer room.

Large neutral sectional in family room with wooden coffee tableStart with Function

The most important thing to remember is that function comes first. All of the interior designer guests we’ve had on the show agree that before they begin selecting furniture, fabrics, or accessories, they always start with function. If a room doesn’t function well, a designer hasn’t done their job, and that’s the same place you should start when decorating your own home.

Ask Yourself Some Questions

Asking yourself some questions will help guide the room design you’ll make and help you understand how function can narrow down your design choices.

  • Is my current layout working?
  • What do I want to do in this room?
  • How do I want to feel when I’m in here?
  • What time of day will I be using this space?
  • Are there any storage or functional challenges I need to solve?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have a better understanding of what furniture pieces you need and how to layout your space.

Start Your Room Design with a Floor Plan

Most designers agree that you should always start with a floor plan before purchasing designer decor. The floor plan will have the biggest impact on function so you can feel confident that you’re purchasing items that will serve your purpose and will fit your space.

When creating a floor plan or room design, a measuring tape is your most important tool. Create a mockup of your room in a Room Planner Tool and measure any existing furniture pieces you’d like to reuse. Then play around with layouts being careful to leave enough space between items for traffic flow.

Read more: How to Space Furniture in Your Room

If you’ve finalized a layout, you should have a better understanding of which furniture pieces you need and what furniture dimensions will work. Having a detailed list will keep you from making poor choices while you’re shopping.

How Can I Make My House Beautiful?

The great thing about interior design is that there are so many ways to make a room beautiful. There’s no right or wrong, and your design should be personal and tailored to your own preferences. With that said, there are overarching themes we’ve found through our interviews with over 200 interior designers:

  1. Consider Your Space — Decorate to your own home’s architectural style. Everything doesn’t need to match, but it should be considered. And you should always decorate the space you have, not the space you wish you had.
  2. Let in Natural Light — Light is life-giving and makes every beautiful room shine.
  3. Start with Your Floor Plan — Always start with a floor plan! A room planner can help.
  4. Create a Cohesive Color Palette — Color is important to consider as it brings energy, personality, and emotion into a space.
  5. Mix Finishes & Furniture Styles — Remove the word ‘match’ from your vocabulary. Items should coordinate but never match. In fact, most of our interior designer guests say that mixing furniture styles is a must for a beautiful room design.
  6. Don’t forget charm — Fresh flowers, a lit candle, music playing, and dim lighting are the finishing touches that give your home charm and beauty. No matter where you are in your room design, you can always add these finishing touches to make your home feel more beautiful.

Living room with green armless sofa and coordinated curtains and pillowsDecorate for the Home You Have

Consider your home’s style and location before making any design decisions. Interior designers agree that your home’s setting and style can help guide your designer decor decisions. If you have a traditional space, bring some traditional pieces into the room design even if your style is more contemporary. A casual farmhouse calls for different choices than an urban townhouse. Your home’s own personality should be reflected in the design details.

Create a Cohesive Color Palette with Designer Decor

The colors you choose will impact the feel of the room. Pick colors that you love, not what is most popular on social media. Often designers say they look to their clients’ closets to help them find hues that they love.

A whole house color palette, where all of the colors across your home work together, can help your home feel more cohesive and flow. That doesn’t mean that they all need to match, but the colors your use in one room should look nice next to the color in a room next door.

An easy way to begin your color palette is to find something you love and let it inspire your room. A rug, piece of artwork, or a designer decorative pillow often have lots of different colors in them, so they’re a great guide for your color palette. Since all of the colors are already together on your inspiration item, you know they’ll coordinate when you start bringing in designer decor.

Read more: 10 Ways to Start Decorating from Scratch

Mix Designer Decor in Different Styles

To create a room that feels collected, mix furniture from different styles and incorporate coordinating (but not matching) finishes.

One interior designer says that as she’s designing, she asks herself, “what haven’t I used in this room?” In every room, she tries to use something metal, something wood, something woven, something old, something new, something formal, and something casual. It’s those contrasting elements that show off your personality and style.

Mix furniture styles in the same room design to achieve a designer lookDesigner Decor Shortcuts

No matter which stage of decorating your room design is in, there are a few shortcuts we’ve learned over the years to give any room a designer feel.

1. Matching Pillows, Drapes, and Furniture

Find a great fabric that you love and use it liberally throughout the space. Decorators use this trick all of the time by using a great fabric on drapes, decorative pillows, and upholstery. It creates drama, but in an orderly way, perfect for small spaces or tricky room layouts.

We make this easy by offering many of our curtain panels in coordinating pillows and fabric by the yard.

Layered oushak rug over natural fiber in living room | Ballard Designs2. Layer Your Rugs

Using the correct rug size is essential for creating a beautiful space that looks like it was designed by a professional. As a general rule, you want to go as big as you can in the space while leaving 6-10 inches along the outside of the room. A well-proportioned rug can transform a room design, but high quality rugs like hand knotted wool rugs can be expensive.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Rug

Designers often get around this by layering an expensive wool rug over a larger natural fiber rug. Another shortcut is to put down a large natural fiber rug when you’re first decorating your space, then add a small, fine rug on top as your budget allows.

Drapery pins on the back of a curtain panel

Drapery pins used to hang curtain panels from drapery rod

3. Swap Curtain Panels to Drapery Pins

If you look through designer portfolios, you’ll notice that they never use rod pockets or even ring clips. Instead, they use drapery pins. The reason comes down to function. Curtain panels operating on drapery pins are much easier to open and close on a curtain rod, and they are more uniform in appearance. Look for simple drapery pins online and attached them to nearly any drapery panel for a more polished, high-end look.

A living room with many light sources creates a beautiful space4. Great, Soft Lighting

Nearly every designer we’ve interviewed on the podcast agrees that lighting can make or break your room design. Don’t rely too heavily on overhead lighting and instead incorporate many ambient light sources around your room. Spaces should have a combination of table lamps, sconces, floor lamps, and overhead light to create a warm glow.

Read more: How to Layer More Light into Your Space

Add designer decor accessories to your room with Ballard Designs5. Add the Final Touches to your Designer Decor

Styling your room can be difficult, but it’s an important step that will finish off your room design. When trying to incorporate designer decor, focus on fewer, larger accessories rather than smaller ones that look cluttered. One designer has what she calls ‘the Cantaloupe Rule’ which is to never buy accessories smaller than a cantaloupe!

Read more: Our Complete Guide to Styling Guide: How to Style a Console Table, Bookshelf, or Coffee Table

Show Your Personality

When working on your room design and room decor ideas, the most important thing to remember is that this should be a fun process. Show your personality. Take the time to find things you love, even if it means your room isn’t finished immediately. There’s no right answer with design, and your home should reflect you and your family.

Need more designer decor inspiration? Learn more to make the most of your room design:

Did you like this post and find it helpful? 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.

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