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Our Top 10 Design Tips & Tricks


Designing your home is meant to be fun and should reflect your personality, your likes, wants and needs. All to often that doesn't happen and before you know it you're stuck in a design rut or worse you're experiencing design overwhelm. We hear you! With all those choices, Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds how do you get started?

After 20+ years in the business, we've heard it all and we're here to help come up with a design plan that will get you moving. Our 10 tips & tricks is all you need to switch gears and get decorating already :)

1. Decide on " Your Look"

More often than not, you are drawn to multiple looks. Unless you have an exceptional budget and lots of time to keep decorating, choose the ones that appeal to you the most. This maybe a case of lining up your favorite pinterest boards or magazine layouts and see what they all have in common. It maybe the you choose " look A" for the living room and complimentary " look B " for the bedroom. Decide which style maybe the easiest to implement. For example, expensive existing pieces like that blue velvet sofa that you just had to "have" is only going to work with X,Y and Z designs, but your hotel style cream upholstered bed would go with anything - pick and choose which of your designs fit around those pieces and you have a starting point.

2. Keep things balanced

If you have a dark hardwood floor, avoid darker items on the floor for your eyes will be drawn down. Whenever possible use light upholstery in sand colors, greys and neutrals. Not only are they easier to keep clean than pure white but you will find that they go with anything ( which is perfect if you're like us and you like to change things up four times a year :)

3. Add your personality

With flooring and key pieces in place you can add your personality through less expensive items - artwork, mirrors, lighting, throws, cushions & rugs which you can rotate around the house. Look to other rooms, see what you can borrow before you purchase and check Pinterest for free ( art ) printables that are inexpensive to frame.

Don't forget, texture matters so make sure every surface is pleasing to the touch and to the eye. Incorporate different fabrics, finishes and textures to create an inviting and interesting space.

4. Color, Tone & Patterns

Depending on your "look" you can start small with color by adding it through lamps & accessories rather than relying on paint. Consider using a single color in different tones to create a subtle look.

Play with patterns, we like to mix fabrics as it makes your space more interesting and adds depth. Our rule of thumb is to use one large scale pattern, one small scale pattern and one solid.

Add color so your room is not too monochromatic. Chevrons, polka dots and stripes can add a pop of whimsy, florals are big again so mix and match to your hearts content.

Choosing the right paint will depend on how you want the space to feel. Warm colors, like beiges, cream and wheat colors create an inviting, cozy feeling. Blues, Violets, Greens and Grays are cooler and can feel fresh and energised.

Stuck for paint ideas? take a look at our other guides here for how to choose the best paints, our top neutral paints colors and tips which should make that easier too :)

Wallpapers can be the perfect focal point on the odd wall. Consider personalised decals, wall art and murals too - follow the wall preparation directions to a "t" then you're good to go.

Consider painting your interior doors in shades other than builders white. Yes we like them too but we all have them. Check out Pinterest for tonnes of ideas on colored doors - black is modern & striking, stained can lend to the farmhouse or hotel look and then there are the new softer hues ( think dusky pink, slate grey and all those creams)

5. Embrace your space, funny angles, windows and all!

Few rooms are the perfect shape and even if you have a new home, you may feel that your space is lacking the character you'd really love.

Embrace the shape that it is and look to add interest where you can. Corner bookcase? create a reading nook - add a wing chair or snuggler sofa. L shaped bedroom with no real space for a closet? add a small desk, chair and create your owning styling area.

Nooks and crannies can become window seats, remove awkward hallway closet doors and create a mudroom storage area. Sometimes its just a case of working outside the box.

6. Lighting

Lighting creates ambience and makes a room inviting. When designing a lighting plan, we literally sit down and look to how the room will function. Overhead lighting is probably not going to be sufficient to cover all the areas properly and unless you're looking to hire the electrician to come up with a custom plan, consider lamps.

In a living room space, task lighting should be added in the form of floor lamps and table lamps which can also help break up the shape of an otherwise boring square room. Create areas for reading two wing chairs with a table inbetween, sectionals with an arc floor lamp, sofas with angled table lamps. Give each part a flattering glow and light up moment big and small.

Stuck for natural lighting? add mirrors, preferably oversized, in pairs or trios. This trick is perfect for small spaces or for rooms missing architectural detail. Consider the shape and frame as these are keys elements in creating a design that works with " your look".

7. Invest in key pieces

If you're designing your family home, you don't have to break the bank - we get it, you have a lot of other things to spend your hard earned money on. Shop smart for pieces that will outlast junior 1,2 and 3 - and the dog!

Choose pieces that will last, IKEA can be great for the odd item but in the long run you get what you pay for. As your budget allows invest in key pieces and mix and match with others from high street store like Target.

Avoid glass tops and glass objects, apart from them breaking, the fingerprints will drive you crazy. Consider pieces that have rounded edges, are sturdy with plenty of storage. There are so many great tables that come with baskets or side drawers that you'll be able to hide all that clutter in a flash.

When choosing seating you really need to try it out. Your room make look fabulous, but if its not comfy you'll never use it properly. Consider your needs and try to have a few extra spots for guest. ow apart a sleeper sofa that accomodates guests? Accent chairs come in a style to suit any design and oversized upholstered ottomans are perfect solutions as they double as tables and can be moved around the room as needed.

8. Small Spaces

Don’t sacrifice beauty in small spaces, you can get any look on a smaller scale. Look for a loveseat instead of a sofa.There are lots of apartment-friendly sizes which will be perfect a size for every space.

Consider adding floor length leaning mirrors which will make your space look bigger or find dual purchase furniture - the dining table that can act as a home office desk for example.

Low stools are also perfect for acting as side tables and extra seating. Its all about creating a space thats not too cluttered but does the job well.

9. What do you collect?

Are you a collector? What you do have a lot of that you could re-purpose? For years we collected coral, shells and sand dollars which were scattered throughout the house. However, the trick to having an array of small items look a collection is to group them together for maximum impact. Fill urns, vases or spray paint in a uniform color and give them a simple update.

Break up your bookcases and decide which items stand out most (whether in size or color) and place them accordingly to create a sense of harmony and balance. If possible, stack other objects to give a sense of depth and height.

Showcase your artwork, photography & memeroblia in a gallery wall setting - choose a theme of black and white or re-spray frames to work with your style. Free printables can be perfect to break up an otherwise uniform look or you can consider buying empty frames and adding wrapping paper as a pop of color and pattern.

10. Trust your gut feeling

The best advice we can give is to trust your gut feeling. Don't rush to buy pieces just because they're on sale, if you need to save and wait then do that so you get the piece thats right for you. The last thing you want to do it to regret that purchase - its no longer a bargain!

Just as we change our outfits, your tastes and choices change too so don’t be scared of trying a new look, if you've done your research you will have a good idea of what you like already.

Commit to working on one space at a time to prevent overwhelm. Try to remove as much from the room as possible so that you can see the space for what it is without distractions. You can often see new ideas when the room is bare, then put it back together in sections, starting with furniture, soft furnishings then accessories & lighting.

Play around with it. Whilst you have a " dream picture " yours may not be exact to spend a few days tweaking and fine tuning.

Finally, buy what you love! If you buy what you love, it’ll all look good together. Have fun! Enjoy the memories, live in the moment - then rinse and repeat :)

We hope this helps! The process can be a long one and if you not quite ready to go it alone, we have a package for everyone. From E-Design to Full Service interior design, sign up below and let us know how we may help you more.

Xo Michelle & Maralyn

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