Designers The Decorating Secrets Only Professionals Know—Until Now

Throw everything you thought you knew out the window.

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MAURA MCEVOY

Some people have a natural eye for design, but if you're more in the camp of those who can't do anything without consulting board upon board before making any major changes. And even then, expectations don't always meet reality. We'd love to have an interior designer on speed dial before deciding exactly where and how hang to hang that sweet new wall art we bought on a whim, but until we win the lottery, we'll have to settle for trusting our guts, and taking plenty of design tips where we can get them. We've compiled some secrets straight from the pros to help you with all your decorating needs.

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Dustin Halleck via Edyta and Co

"If punk rock has taught me anything, it's to do everything yourself. All of my favorite interior designers were self-taught."—Max Humphrey

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Lark and Linen

"Old and new belong together. A mix of modern pieces and antiques never tires."—Caleb Anderson

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Richard Powers

“I love to use wall-paper in mundane spaces. Hallways, pantries, powder rooms—all become moments of joy and funkiness. Areas of transition can be places you enjoy spending time in.”—Fawn Galli

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Black Lacquer Design

"Choosing the right light bulb is very important. LED bulbs are energy efficient, and they can look great."—Paloma Contreras

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Nathan Schroder

“Wicker is an element I love for its texture and versatility. Wicker baskets are so functional for storage, but a wicker animal brings a sense of whimsy.” —Amy Berry

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Courtesy of Courtney Hill Interiors

“Update your light switches! Elegant controls add a spectacular element to an older home or character to a new one.” —Courtney Hill

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Julie Soefer

“Great art and fabulous antiques only get better with age. It’s better to cry once and have a forever piece.”—Chandos Dodson Epley

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Old Brand New

"Follow your gut. If you have to talk yourself into liking something, you probably don't."—Olivia Erwin

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Maura McEvoy

“Look up! We use ceilings a lot. Through them, we define the lines and beauty of a space.”—Julio Salcedo

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Anne Schlechter

"Every house should have a great bar. It is the central point of a party, and if you entertain a lot, it will be celebrated, so put some thought into it."—Jordana Joseph

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Annie Schlechter

"Never underestimate the power of paint. You don't have to break the bank to achieve a new look. A fresh coat in a vibrant color takes an old piece of furniture or empty white room and gives it new life."—Chauncey Boothby

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Heather Talbert

“Classics never go out of style. I hesitated about doing a white kitchen in my own house, thinking I’d been there, done that. But I’m so glad I did. I will never tire of it.” —Alexandra Kaehler

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Lark and Linen

"Actually use your beautiful things! I have a chocolate lab and white furniture in my living room. It took some training, but now he knows the furniture is off limits."—Lindsey Lane

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Black Lacquer Design

"Pull floor patterns from ancient buildings. One inspired the checkerboard pattern of the marble floors in my Los Angeles home."—Nate Berkus

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Courtesy of Larette Design

“Don’t be afraid of dark. I used this rich Benjamin Moore Midnight Blue on an accent wall—darker than I’d ever dared. It made the whole space come to life.” —Jean Larette

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Old Brand New

"Art, art, art! Start young and buy the best you can afford. Its ability to transform a room is unlike any other design tool."—Jean Liu

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Katie Hodges Design

"The splurge everyone should make is a fabulous master bathroom. I used hand-painted porcelain sinks in mine."—Todd Richesin

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Erin Nail

“In an open seating plan, always use a well-proportioned statement coffee table to ground the arrangement and give it a sense of place.”—Sean Michael

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Sarah Winchester Studios

“Get creative when thinking about form and function. A client in a traditional Georgian home needed it to work for her modern way of entertaining. We opted for an asymmetrical, organic space that encourages guests to float through the room while engaged in conversation.” —Kate Coughlin

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Black Lacquer Design

"Use tall pieces in a low-height room. Short furnishings would make the ceiling feel that much lower to the ground." —Jason Oliver Nixon

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Edyta and Co.

"The most important first step in design is a good floor plan."—Jessica Helgerson

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Heather Hawkins via Studio Ten 25

"My clients ask about the most important pieces to invest in: I believe in upholstery and art! They help anchor a room."—Ashley Darryl

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Studio Ten 25

"Make sure you're having fun. What's more fun than making your own home more beautiful."—Eche Martinez

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Sargent Architectural Photograph

“When you're given a dark space that doesn't have great light, create your own light. In this kitchen, we used Sherwin-​Williams's sunny Ener­getic Orange, and it turned out just fabulous— so cheerful.”—Matthew Boland

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Rustic White Interiors

Don't settle. If you have your heart set on a piece, don't try to find something similar just to save money. Chances are, you’ll never be completely satisfied with the substitute (or its quality).”—Brian Watford

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Old Brand New

"When clients want a quick, impactful update, I recommend the pieces that take up the most surface area, like rugs, paint color, or window treatments."—Tina Ramchandani

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Willie Cole

"Buy one good piece of furniture every year, and in five years, you'll have five pieces. Everything else may change, but these will remain constant."—Jeffrey Bilhuber

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Katie Hodges Design

"In the master suite, decor can deviate from the common areas and really reflect your personality."—Ali Vanderpool and Ariana Villalta

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Paul Costello

“Faux paint, lush lacquer, or wallpaper on a ceiling will garner that ‘Wow’ response.” —Leslie May

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Black Lacquer Design

"Black works with any style. The misconception is that dark colors make spaces feel smaller; they actually recede."—Carrie Fundings Land

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