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Nine tips to up your design game


As you study vignettes on your bookmarked design blogs, flip through pages of shelter magazines and binge-watch HGTV shows, it’s hard not to imagine certain design details transforming your own home.

Winter, when you spend more time indoors scrutinizing your four walls and your furniture assortment, is a good time to make a few changes to enhance your living quarters. Design professionals have a lot of tricks that can enliven rooms, whether it’s to make the most of a small space or add a dimension to a larger one.

“Many people are paralyzed when it comes to making changes in their home, even small ones,” says Sheila Bridges, a New York designer. “People are freaked out by color. They want to have everything look perfect immediately. But decorating is really a process. The longer it takes or the more you slow down and enjoy that process of building and editing, the better your home will evolve. “

We asked Bridges and other top designers to share a best practice with us — ideas they are incorporating into their own work right now, as well as those that have stood the test of time.

Here are their suggestions:

1. Look to your travels for texture

“My design aesthetic has always been intensely personal. As you look to update a room you’ve lived in for years, or if you’re starting fresh in a new home, begin by curating what you have. I like to bring together groupings of well-traveled objects, textiles, decorative accessories and furniture . . . things that represent the people who live there. Think hand-woven elements, thick textiles, objects that have patina and mix in with beautiful, neutral upholstery and furniture. A well-designed room is one that is layered and feels assembled over time.”

— Nate Berkus, New York

The designer and author launched his TV career on “Oprah” in 2002.

2. Choose a big mirror for big impact

“Whenever presented with a narrow, unadorned space or merely a blank wall, remember that a large mirror acts like adding a window to a room. This simple trick works because the reflection gives the perception of another space beyond, and as you move around, so does the view.”

— Patrick Sutton, Baltimore

The designer’s work can be found in homes, hotels and restaurants.

3. Think beyond recessed lights

“One of my go-to design techniques that I find adds a timeless touch to modern interiors is the use of flush-mounted lighting and wall-mounted sconces in lieu of a sea of recessed ceiling lights, which can often feel impersonal.”

— Thom Filicia, New York

The designer and author was the interiors expert in the Emmy-winning “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

4. Hang your collections in a grid

“Almost anything becomes interesting when hung in a grid. We renovated our office from a grocery store into a storefront design firm on a truly shoestring budget, and we hung the mugs in a grid pattern. This provides both a tidy way of storing mugs and visual interest, at virtually no cost. Children’s rooms are great places for this. A child’s hobby, such as tennis, can inspire a fun wall covering. We once glued a grid of used tennis balls to a wall in a bedroom.”

— Carmel Greet, Washington

The architect and designer’s firm is District Design in Washington.

5. Max out your sofa length

“My go-to is loooooong sofas. Equally perfect for sprawling and napping as holding a gaggle of friends and family for cocktails or a buffet. I don’t watch much football, but great for a Super Bowl party, too!”

— Jamie Drake, New York

The designer for Michael Bloomberg and Madonna is the owner of Drake Design Associates.

6. Build a gallery wall around the largest piece

“I usually start with the largest piece first; in this case, it is a large, antique convex mirror from Paris that I’ve had on my wall for more than a decade. The next step is to build around it with both vertical and horizontal pieces, small and large, mixing frames and colors until you have a composition you like. It’s always a good idea to lay everything out on the floor first. Just be careful not to step on anything valuable!”


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