decorating tips

Carry your style outdoors

"Outdoor areas are often the last to receive design attention, but they shouldn't be," says landscape designer Matt Lemos. "Plan space for your lifestyle by incorporating ample seating, table surfaces, cushions, play areas, eating spots, and sunning areas." By carrying your design style outdoors, you can turn a patio, deck, or even a balcony into another room of the house. This sleeping porch, a feature of many Craftsman houses, is updated with contemporary styling and weatherproof drapery and upholstery fabric.

Design for gathering

Family rooms are gathering places that should exude a relaxed style and communicate warmth and playfulness. Perhaps the most important consideration for such an active room is how to keep the space's flow while noting its separate areas. Color, furniture placement, and area rugs can help meet this goal. Here, a U-shaped seating area encourages conversation. Artifacts from family travels reflect the personalities of those who live here, while the fireplace and television anchor the space.

Find a fabric you love

For designer Jennifer Hilgardner, the right fabric is one of the best ways to enhance an interior. "Find a fabric you love," she says. "Choose a signature fabric with enough design elements so you can pull out colors, coordinate textures and have lots of options for furnishings and accessories." Here, green and blue accents in the fabric even play off the foliage outside.

Layer color and texture

The clean design of this blue and white kitchen is layered with pops of energetic color. The red drum pendant from Croft & Little illuminates the bamboo island top from Teragren. Glass-front cabinets provide a showcase for colorful pottery. The bamboo-topped table on casters tucks under the island and can roll away for use throughout the house or outside. Mixing up the chair styles adds casual appeal.

Use practical items as accents

For most people, the kitchen is the hub around which family and friends revolve. It makes sense that the decor reflects the dwellers' tastes and interests. Decorative accents give any kitchen a personal touch. These include practical pieces such as rugs and furniture, decorative pots, canisters, and cookbook libraries. Here, colorful, often-used items are grouped together for a visual display on top of an antique cabinet.

Integrate workspaces

A home office can be carved out of the smallest of spaces. Here, office essentials are easily housed in the covered storage, on the floating shelf, and in the almost-hidden drawer of the work surface.

Create flow

Common colors and materials help connect your living spaces. Display signature pieces without too much fanfare. Try using one simple but dramatic floral stem or leaf in a chunky modern glass vase. In transitional areas, brushed nickel or silver works well for frames, accessories, and fixtures.

Choose pieces with meaning

When Jason and Jill Williams hired a firm to design their home, they clearly stated that the theme was "sparse." They did not intend to buy things to simply fill the house; they wanted to acquire pieces over time that had meaning, complemented their lifestyle, and reflected their personalities. While the theme was "sparse," sleek and modern wasn't their design choice. Instead, they mixed furniture styles with rustic, stained, and painted finishes. Every piece serves a purpose, and each can be used in different ways for years to come.

Smart art display

Include tall and low elements throughout the room to keep your eye moving. As a general rule, hang framed photos and art at eye level (or a bit higher if the ceilings are high). Keep in mind eye-level may be lower in a room designed for seating. Here, a lipstick-red wall sets off black-and-white photos and a mix of collected treasures.

Create groupings

Displays of treasured and found items give guests a glimpse into your life and remind you of your history. A key to successful display is using a common denominator such as color, material, shape, or some other theme. Create small groupings throughout the room. And remember, less is more. Don't clutter your display by trying to showcase everything. Instead, rotate cherished items often for added interest.

Try a unifying white White

walls provide a backdrop for the other elements of this house, and they're easy to live with for the long run. The furnishings here are equally crisp and informal. Accessories play off these neutrals

Dramatic backdrop

A black-and-white palette sets a dramatic and flexible backdrop for family photos and accessories. Here, a glossy chocolate-brown accent wall sets off the translucent candleholders and simple white candles. Lean multiple frames of various sizes against a wall for a casual collage effect.

Keep it clean and flexible

Designer Francesca Harris believes in collections rather than single objects. "Collections have impact," she says. The use of mass-market frames and mats gives her the freedom to swap photos in and out, and keeps her displays from feeling too precious.


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