Everything You Need to Know About Decorating

Top designers reveal the basics of crafting a stylish home.

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Courtesy of Emily Henderson

Regardless of the type of space you're decorating, there's nothing more important than paying attention to details. Here, we share decorating pointers from our archives and tips from top designers to help you make sense of what good design really means. If you're open to mastering a few basic decorating principles and putting your creativity to the test, you're sure to enjoy a home that's both comfortable and stylish.

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decor tips
Paul Costello
Go Bold in Small Spaces

Graphic prints can have a major impact in small spaces such as a powder room. Here, an Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper is the star of a powder room a New Orleans manse designed by Sara Ruffin Costello.

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decor tips
Nicole Cohen
Experiment with Patterns

Layering patterns in a range of styles and scales is an easy way to add visual interest to a room. Here, Refinery29 Global Editor-in-Chief Christene Barberich pairs black and white pillows with green chevron bedding in her Brooklyn Heights bedroom.

$46, Integral Pillow, Anthropologie

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decor tips
Simon Upton
Use Color in Hallways

If you tend to be more reserved when it comes to color choices, step outside of your comfort zone by choosing a bold hue, like purple, for a hallway. It's unexpected and can be a chic backdrop for showcasing an art collection like this design by David Hicks.

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decorating tips
James Merrell
Display Collectibles on a Table

Every room can benefit from accessories that have a history. Rather than showcasing your collectibles on a shelf, set them out on a table, as seen in this Italian apartment. Just be sure your collection is highly curated to maintain a sense of balance in your display.

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Rebecca Robertson
Group Antiques By Color

There's a fine line between kitschy and curated. unifies vintage and new pieces by grouping them by color.

$170, Skyline Furniture Linen Talc Nail Button Storage Ottoman, Overstock


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Trevor Tondro
Mix Your Time Periods

“You mix things up with old and new,” suggests textiles and interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland, as she did in the living room of her Santa Monica home; a room where the furnishings include 17th-century French chairs, an 18th-century Mexican console, and a cocktail table from her furniture line.

$3,800, Kathryn M. Ireland Coffee Table, Dering Hall


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decor tips
Marie Flanigan Interiors
Try Floor-to-Ceiling Shelving

Floor-to-ceiling shelving never fails to add character to a room. In his Los Angeles home, acclaimed chef Ludovic "Ludo" Lefebvre opted for this shelving style for his collection of more than 1,000 cookbooks.

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Thomas Loof
Use Texture to Make Neutrals Thrilling

You don't need to go bright in order to create visual impact in a room. “[My wife] wanted to dial it back into her aesthetic, away from the color,” says David Kaihoi of the 400-square foot New York studio he renovated for his family. “I agreed, but suggested we do that with texture and pattern.”

$10.20 per sq. ft., Patterned Porcelain Tile, Houzz


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Douglas Friedman
Look at the Bigger Picture

Looking at your home from a holistic perspective—seeing how each room works in balance against the others—can help craft a welcome variety in your spaces, like this emerald and charcoal dining room that adds a touch of formality to an otherwise contemporary Los Angeles home.

$2,430, Saiba Dining Chair, Design Within Reach


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Cyrill Matter
Go Authentic for Organic Impact

Instead of fighting against rusticity, embracing the natural character of a home can create a natural richness in the space."My father found artisans to decorate the bathroom in red limestone, a typical Rajasthani material," Siddharth Kasliwal, heir to India’s famed Munnu the Gem Palace, explained of the former-cowshed-turned-home he inherited from his father. "All the other elements—the brass sink and hardware, the mirror— are ."

$318, Nantucket Sinks Brass Sink, Houzz


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Stephen Kent Johnson
Embrace the Fear of Commitment

To avoid being locked into a single style, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman switches up the fixtures in her Park Slope home on a regular basis. “It’s part of my creative process," she explains, "I love to see things in context, in real life—to live with them.”

$599, Sphere + Stem Chandelier, West Elm


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Simon Upton
Use Your Walls as a Canvas

Rather than art, a high-impact wallpaper can give a subdued room some wow-factor. The 19th century wallcovering from this luxe Milan apartment was purchased at auction in France and adapted to the room. “We created the missing parts, the plinth and the ceiling frame, to depict an Italian capriccio, a fantastical and bucolic landscape with architectural features,” Laura Sartori Rimini of Studio Peregalli says.

$920, Tres Tintas Barcelona Wall Mural, Wayfair


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Douglas Friedman
Look for One-of-a-Kind Materials

Allowing unique items to dictate some design decisions can lead to unexpectedly beautiful results. On the hallways leading into this Art Deco Chicago apartment, dramatic doors and paneling were inspired by a special stack of uncommon lumber. “There was a guy out in Oregon who had a barn full of exotic wood and everything was marked ‘NFS,’ as in Not For Sale,” architect Phillip Liederbach recalls with a laugh. “It gave us a responsibility to elevate it. We obsessed over it.”

$456, Planum Door, Houzz


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Richard Powers
Anchor Your Room With a Classic

“Bringing a touch of the Old World into the mix creates a home that will never feel dated,” designer Alex Papachristidis explains of the art-studded Manhattan apartment he designed for a family friend. For example, the silver leaf–and–rock crystal chandelier from that he hung in the otherwise modern dining room.

$3,295, Rococo Iron & Crystal Chandelier, Restoration Hardware


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Stephan Julliard
Create Moody Contrast with Color

Instead of meshing a color scheme with a sense of place, designer Irakli Zaria used rich gold and turquoise as an antidote to gloomy London days in this chic pied-a-terre. "In a place where there are such cloudy skies, it makes no sense to have a gray interior," he said.

$6,500, Color Reform Rug, ABC Carpet & Home


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William Abramowicz
Add Playfulness with Repurposed Items

Art director Vivia Horn's zen upstate New York home makes use of an unexpected gift to give her traditional kitchen a dose of fun. This breakfast table made of a refurbished hibachi—a present from the late wrestler and Benihana restaurateur Rocky Aoki.

$1,133, Bertoia Counter Stool, Design Within Reach


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Douglas Friedman
Use Fabrics Beyond Soft Furnishings

Looking beyond the traditional with wallcoverings can create a truly standout design presence. "I do think I might have scared [architect Ken Linsteadt] a little bit when I announced I was planning to install two levels of green floral fabric on the walls of the grand salon," says Ken Fulk of his Sonoma Valley lakeside retreat, yet the fabric gives the high walls a richness that wallpaper alone might not have achieved.

$529, Windsor Pendant Light, Crate & Barrel


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Dominique Vorillon
Balance New and Old

When renovating a building that already has plenty of character, like this 1920s Spanish Colonial home in Los Angeles, it's all about striking the balance between what you add and what you leave. “We wanted to make it feel more holistic while still honoring its heritage,” designer Steven Johanknecht says of the decision to keep the original hand-carved ceiling beams and wrought-iron chandeliers while removing mismatched materials from previous renovations.

$130, Edmund Swoop Chair, Joss & Main


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Simon Upton
Mix Metals for Added Warmth

To soften the modern edge of stainless steel, decorator Alisa Bloom put a traditional spin on the kitchen cabinetry of her 1920s Chicago penthouse with brass inlays. With the help of a local hardware maker, she even designed her own hinges and drawer pulls. “I would never go into a store and just buy something,” she says. “It’s all about the process and the hunt."

$140, Bar Stool, All Modern


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home decor ideas
Max Zambelli
Don't Underestimate The Power Of High-Low Design

Kate Reynolds, co-owner of , believes in pairing big-ticket items with budget finds. “I think a room balances out better when you have different levels of price and craftsmanship,” she says. “It helps you notice the statement piece more.”

$210, Saucer Suspension, Lightology


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home decor ideas
Rikki Snyder
Invite Nature Indoors

The best way to balance out sleek lines and contemporary furniture is by adding a few unique natural elements, from drift wood to greenery. "I don't like to look around a house and not see touches from the outdoors," interior designer says.

$1,688, Interlude Home Lestari Petrified Wood Side Tale, Houzz


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home decor ideas
Björn Wallander
Layer Decor Over The Years

“I love to see the layers of time and renovations,” says California-based interior designer . “To me, it deepens the effect.” Achieving a sense of harmony that feels organic is key.

$5,400, John Stuart Clingman for Widdicomb Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs, 1stdibs


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home decor ideas
Cody Ulrich
Combine Your Favorite Design Styles

"A lot of people love the idea of really simple, modern living—it's appealing, it's nice and it seems serene," says Erika Yeaman, a designer and owner of . "But the reality of maintaining that is a little tricker. Mi Scandinavian design with bohemian style warms it up and makes it feel more homey and attainable."

$375, Arturo 8-Light Rectangular Chandelier, Ballard Designs


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home decor ideas
Thomas Kuok
Play With Texture

It's easy to gravitate toward the usual suspects like wood and leather when trying to craft a textured living space, but branch outside of your comfort zone. Emilie Munroe of recommends drawing from your own personal style, especially the articles of clothing and patterns you're attracted to.

$1109, Matégot Bar Cart, TRNK


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soho apartment
Genevieve Garruppo
Create A "Bouquet" Of Colors

Want to make a variety of bright colors cohesive? Think about how you would arrange a flower bouquet, as did in this SoHo apartment. "The same can apply to a space, but you need to find a connection," she says. "Here, that connection is the fabric on the dining room chairs, which showcases colors also found throughout the room."

$695, Mid Century Dining Chair, Mod Shop

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bedroom with shiplap
Getty / TriggerPhoto
Installing Shiplap? Go Horizontal (Usually)

If Chip and Joanna Gaines have convinced you that your abode needs shiplap, you're usually best off installing the boards horizontally rather than vertically. "It can really expand a space, making it feel larger than vertical boards can," says . "Horizontal boards also feel more contemporary." Vertical boards, however, can be ideal for rooms with high ceilings.

$58, Shiplap Interior Siding, Home Depot


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furniture store tips seating
Getty Images
Don't Sacrifice Comfort

Sure, your eyes may want the most modern, chic couch in the showroom. But your back may not. "In my experience, it's really better to test out seating and take the time to look at the dimensions," says . If you're tall, for instance, you might want to opt for a depth of between 40 to 42 inches for a sofa (rather than the standard depth of 36 inches).

$4,500, Aidan 2-Piece Sectional Sofa, Crate & Barrel


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neutral living room
Getty / Hoxton / Tom Merton
Always Shop For A Rug In Person

This is not the time for e-shopping, people. "It's just so hard to tell on a computer screen what the color really looks like," Arnold says. "You might think it looks red, but in reality, it's watermelon pink." Not to mention the texture of the rug may be totally different than what you were expecting.

$225, Safavieh Adirondack Round Area Rug, Bed, Bath & Beyond


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parisian style
Jessica Alexander
Let A Locale Inspire Your Space

It's exactly what Jenny Cipoletti, founder of fashion, beauty and travel blog , did in her decidedly Parisian office (which is actually in West Hollywood). "Just like when you walk into a cafe in Paris, and you see all the details and the golds, silvers and light blush tones, all of these elements in this space really sing to me," says Cipoletti. This lets you travel to your favorite destination without stepping outside.

$140, Round Tufted Linen Ottoman, Houzz


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eclectic style
HomeGoods/Reid Rolls
Never Settle On One "Look"

Allow your space to continuously change—as your life does. "Remember that your home should always be evolving, just as you are," says Kelly Framel, creative director, stylist and founder of online magazine . "I am constantly picking up new treasures on my travels. Your nest should always be a place of comfort and inspiration, and it's a constant work in progress."

$52, Amy Mini Table Lamp,Gilt


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