Designer Tips, Fixes, Quick Makeovers, Hints & Styling Suggestions

A BOLD Splash Of Colour In A Modern White Loft... Breakfast At Tiffanys Please

Tried, Tested and True Design tricks guaranteed to make a HUGE impact on your home and for the most part a very small dent in your wallet.  Try some of them or ALL of them and see the difference they make to your home and you.  Learn to add Verve & Vigour to your space, show your personality and make your home sexy, fresh, cohesive and flawless (just like you).

Other HOW-TO Articles for the DIY’er include

* How to Paint like an Interior Designer

* How to Hang your Art like a Designer

* How to pick your next paint colour

* How to buy your next Dining Room Table

* How to use books as a Design Feature in your Home

First and FOREMOST … DON”T be afraid to break the Design “RULES”.  For example:  White is great for a small space…except when it is not.  Sometimes you need the boldness of a strong, rich colour to give personality and strength to a space.  Try colour blocking and doing one wall a vibrant, rich dark colour like Francesca Black  by Martha Stewart or Razzle Dazzle by Benjamin Moore.  Simply choose one focal wall and paint out the rest a pale creamy white with your trim a vibrant gloss white such as Oxford White by Benjamin Moore.  Then organize the wall so that the colour itself acts as the Artwork in the space.  Don’t be afraid to go ALL dark as well… a small room IS a small room.  Why not go for bold, inviting,warm and striking   Sometimes the white box to “make it feel larger” , simply makes it feel like a small white box with no personality.  Be brave, bold and fierce and LOVE your home.

Select the right paint finish for the right task and spaceFLAT (matte) paint is a GREAT way to hide “problem” walls, trim or finishes.  If you have a “popcorn” ceiling but removing it is NOT an option, paint it ultra flat in a soft white and it will almost disappear, allowing you to focus on your walls, Art, furnishings and the entire room…rather than a dated, hideous ceiling.  This trick works well BECAUSE it absorbs light rather than reflects it (such as eggshell, semi-gloss, etc.).  However, it is very porous (think of an unsealed slate tile) so this is not the choice for a high traffic area walls (kitchen or bathroom).  The flat finish minimizes flaws while making your walls or ceiling seem visually flatter and less problematic (try painting your ceiling Cloud White by Benjamin Moore).  EGGSHELL paint finish  has a light and pale sheen to it that gives a lovely background sparkle and warmth to a space, while also being capable of being scrubbed and washed from fingerprints, smudges or stains. (try LAGOON by Martha Stewart Paints at HOME DEPOT for a feature wall to give a sexy and bold punch).  SEMI-GLOSS paint finish is lustrous with a sparkly sheen that reflects all light and gives a bold presence.  It makes a definite statement and is wonderful for trim OR in a very modern setting can be used for walls but they MUST be perfect… as in flawlessly smooth or it will look absolutely terrible. 

Make your own oversized ART for tricky areas that require something with huge impact by stretching gorgeous fabric over a paint canvas.  You can splurge on something sumptuous here as you will only need a few yards, so go WILD.  Find a bold, graphic print in powerful colours and either create one massive canvas Art work OR do a grouping of 3 or 5 of them.  This is a great solution for cathedral ceiling walls, massive stairwells and double height spaces.  Just remember… find something truly amazing in Fabric that does NOT match your room or any furniture… but something that compliments it and brings out the unexpected in the room, like a real piece of Art would.

For a sleek, modern space use the Designer styling trick of Repetition… Repetition of the same shape or object, NOT of patterns or colours.  Try using a series of huge clear glass hurricanes in a row or a bold, graphic yet simple shaped light fixture in a series of 3, or a series of 3 tall rectangular floor mirrors in a row.   The repetition of the shapes gives the space a fluidity and a modern sensibility perfect for condos, lofts or clean lined interiors.

Pantone Emerald Green Room

Before you buy a home a home the maxim is always “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION”….while when Designing your space the maxim is always “LIGHTING, LIGHTING, LIGHTING”.  Lighting is the subtle nuance of a room that can make or break the overall Design, feeling, ambiance and impact the space has upon both you and your guests.  Nothing kills a great design quicker than harsh, unflattering lighting or conversely, dark – poorly considered lighting that doesn’t accent the features of your room or your guests.  Lighting is what separates a good room from a GREAT room.  Adjustable pot lights on a dimmer switch are always a great option because the lights can be positioned to highlight what your choose or of course to draw the eye away from a particular area, while the dimmer switch allows you to set the mood that you are trying to achieve (be it sexy, cheery or mysterious).  Nothing is sexier than GOOD lighting.  Some quick notes…hang a large pendant light 30 to 36 inches above the top of the dining table (or a large coffee table placed centrally in a living area).  Don’t forget to check what colour your shade will throw around the room – and in which direction the light will go. If you want to keep the lighting low, ensure the shade doesn’t have an opening at the top – or light will bounce back off the ceiling. As well, buy bulbs that are designed only to throw light downwards. Bear in mind that very dark shades will allow little light to seep out of the shade, while warm-toned shades, such as those in bronze or reds, will throw a pinkish glow around the room.

If you live in a small scale space or have a problematic floor plan but don’t have the budget to gut and renovate (OR if you rent)… try taking the doors off doorways or closets and replace them either with a sliding glass door (they sell the kits online here) OR with a heavy and washable curtain.  The doors act as an impediment to the flow and feeling of space and by removing them you gain a large amount of usable sq. footage when every inch counts.  This will give your space a more modern, open  concept feeling while at the same time making the flow, usage and enjoyment of your small space even greater. 

Think about the mood or “feeling” you want to project in the room your are Designing.  How do you want the space to make you or your guests feel? ( a sense of tranquility? Sexy and Dynamic? Conceptual, thoughtful and Romantic? … Decide on what YOU are trying to capture and then make decisions based off of this such as what colour to use and in what combination.  Different colors evoke different feelings that are for the most part pretty universal.  If you want your space to be passionate, flirtatious and stimulating, embrace a Red or Pink palette for your main hue (Personally I LOVE a bold pink in a room when it is used PROPERLY).  Red/Pink is the color of the passion, of romance and represents both life and love and can run the gamut of flirtation to sensuality.  Or if you are opting for a more energetic and youthful space that energizes both you and your guests, go for a clear orange as the dominant hue. Orange, as any techy or fashionista knows, has been reborn into a vibrant color of the future that symbolizes progress, movement and forward thinking. In the same vein, Yellow is also an energy colour, BUT it is also grounded in history and a sense of timelessness and positivity. When you walk into a yellow room, you can practically feel the sun shining on your face… Yellow works beautifully in modern homes in a small but STRONG concentration or in a historic home where the yellow beautifully compliments woodwork and historical plaster detailing and mouldings.  Green is of course the colour of nature and creates an atmosphere that is inviting, calming and friendly while subconsciously making us think of the natural landscape around us.  Blues (while also abundant in nature) suggest the calmness and tranquility of the open sky and the endless power of the ocean. For a room on the contemplative and cerebral side, pick purple — it combines the sensual quality of red with the calming essence of blue and can work beautifully in both modern settings in deep, robust shades, or in paler more lilac tones in historical settings. White is of course the colour of purity and the absence of all colours and is a great tool to use to make a room feel organized and spare allowing the furnishings or Art to be the star. The earthiness of brown makes a place seem grounded and unpretentious, while Black will be a DRAMATIC statement in any space or Design style.

Chandelier by Marjorie Skouras

Scale… or to be more precise, playing with scale, is one of the greatest Designer tricks.  By mixing objects and patterns of different sizes, scales and complexities you can create a dramatic, unforgettable statement in any room.  I LOVE to use small scale, clean lined pieces for the larger bulky items in a room (sofa, side board, occasional chairs, etc.) BUT then use MASSIVE decorative elements (Mirrors that just scrape the ceiling,  a grouping of large framed Art the goes wall to wall and floor to ceiling, massive candelabra, Huge chunky framed Art work over a small scale Recamier).  It is by going beyond normal dimensions you can create an impact that stays with the viewer and translates into a visual magic.  An oversized light fixture or piece of sculpture can immediately become the centerpiece of an intimate room… of course you just go with one element of these, not a plethora, or you end up with Alice in Wonderland.  (Another hint… your favourite patterns on upholstery / wall-coverings can take on new life when blown up in scale. A cluster of smaller tables can break up the monotony of a single chunky coffee table… Really the possibilities are endless.

Always make sure to create the proper flow between rooms and within a room… for example when it comes to your dining table, NEVER have to squeeze by, always allow for 3 feet of space between your dining table and the nearest obstacle behind each chair.  Coffee tables and sofas ideally should have 18 to 20 inches between them (that is of course if you don’t want to bruise your shins as you pass between them every day).  There’s no reason that sofas and chairs, sitting at right angles to each other, can’t almost butt up against each other, but ask yourself if this will restrict the traffic flow within your room.  (In other words will it be a pain to have to walk right round the sofa to get to it)  In small bedrooms consider a slightly smaller bed if space is a real problem and do NOT forget to go UP the wall for more storage rather than bulk the room up with more dressers.  Always remember before buying any furniture to mark out an imaginary table and chairs, sofa and coffee table or bed and dressing table, on the floor with painters tape to the exact measurements of the items, then walk around it and see if the space will work or if you’ll have to find something better suited to your home.



  1. DeAnneDeAnne11-22-2011

    Some amazing ideas and great inspirtation