Bookmark this Post: The Very Best Advice to Design By was originally published in Trim Design Co.
I’ve always wanted to compile this list to keep as a reference for myself, and I figured I might not be the only one who felt that way, so I’m sharing it with all of you! I have a copy of this list saved on my computer and I’ll continue to add to it as I go. Once it’s grown significantly, I’ll do another one of these posts so you can have the updated list too.
A couple quick disclaimers:
1. I’ve credited the advice on this list wherever I can, but I honestly don’t remember where/when I first heard some of these; they’re just concepts I’ve internalized over time.
2. Apologies for the multiple Billy Baldwin references. “The Dean of Interior Designers” is one of my all-time faves, and the man had so many wonderful quotes—frankly this list wouldn’t be complete without all of them.
3. All photos property of Trim Design Co.
Advice on the Design Process
Base the color scheme for your home on the colors hanging in your closet and folded up in your dresser. If you don’t like to wear it, you won’t like living with it in your home.—Paraphrased advice from Emily Henderson
“When you want to transform a room into an entirely different animal, change the color.” —Billy Baldwin
Avoid ‘magpie syndrome,’ aka filling a room with statement pieces that you absolutely love. If some elements of a room seem a little ho-hum on their own, that’s a good thing—you need a quiet backdrop for those special pieces to shine. No single piece is carrying the room all by itself; it’s about the bigger picture of a cohesive space and sometimes that means individual pieces that are just okay.
When a room isn’t working, avoid the urge to add something new, and instead: Edit! Edit! Edit! Then you can add to it slowly if you need to.
Know why you like something: Step back and look at the throughline of the images you’re drawn to on Pinterest or wherever—is it a certain color, or pattern or furniture style? Are they more minimalist or maximalist? Do you happen to be saving pics of rooms with gallery walls when you’re not consciously planning a gallery wall? Knowing the why of what you’re drawn to will help you be more successful in future design decisions. —Paraphrased from Donna Garlough's book “Your Home Your Style”
Practical Advice for the Nitty Gritty
When hanging anything on the wall, the center of the piece should be at about eye level. Another way to figure this out is to make sure the center of the piece is between 57-60 inches from the floor. If you’re hanging a grouping like a gallery wall, then aim to make the center point of the arrangement this height.
Art should be at least two-third the size of the piece of furniture anchoring it. So if your sofa is six feet long, you would want to choose something at least 4 feet long to hang over it. If you are hanging a grouping, or two frames side by side, think of the entire grouping (including the spaces between them) as one object when making your calculations. This works because of the golden ratio which is actually pretty helpful for many aspects of interior design. It’s pretty radical and well worth a trip down the Google rabbit hole.
If your space feels visually messy, try limiting the number of colors in the room to three. You can (and should) incorporate multiple shades of each color to add interest and dimension. If you’re someone who likes having rules to follow, use the 60:30:10 rule: For a pulled together room, a room should be 60 percent your primary color, 30 percent your secondary color, and 10 percent a pop of color.
Advice for Interior Designers on Working with Clients
“Decorators should never insist on throwing out everything the client has. Even when they are far from perfect, loved possessions add personality.” —Billy Baldwin
Philosophical Design Advice
"Be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style." —Billy Baldwin
“If you spend most of your decorating money on a Chippendale table or a Chinese lacquer screen, don’t fill in the gaps with mediocrity. Forget the gaps for a while; just have a simple slipcover in one pretty color. Then, as you can, acquire other good pieces that are compatible in one pretty color. Let the room grow slowly to maturity.” —Billy Baldwin
"The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them." —David Hicks
"Innovation is often the ability to reach into the past and bring back what is good, what is beautiful, what is useful, what is lasting." —Sister Parish
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” —William Morris
“If it looks right, it is right.” —Dorothy Draper
If you’re lucky enough to have nice things, use them! Possessions are meant to be enjoyed, not kept under lock and key. Otherwise, what’s the point? —My mother, who uses her “good” china as often as she damn pleases and never told me to get my feet off the linen sofa when I was curled up with the dog and a good book.
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