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5 Essential Decorating Tips I Learned From My Mom

Decor on shelf and black fireplace mantle.v

Ashley Montgomery Design

The age-old saying is definitely true: mother always knows best. Whether I’m in need of career advice or have a simple cooking question, I can always count on my mom to provide me with valuable insights and tried and true tips.

And while you won’t find my mom constantly rearranging her furniture in the way that I do, she’s also been an excellent resource when it comes to home design and decorating. Read on to find out five of her most valuable decorating tips, many of which I’ve implemented in my own home.

01 of 05

A Little Repair Can Go a Long Way

Room with antique pieces of furniture

Kaelyn Guerin

Don’t be shy about giving fresh life to sentimental pieces that may need some rehab. Rematting a piece of older artwork, for example, can make a major difference, as older frames may now be dated or faded. “It’s always worth it to invest in glass with UV protection if a print really matters to you,” according to my mom. And don’t skimp on frame size, either—a frame that’s too small will do a beautiful piece a disservice. 

The same outlook applies with regard to lighting. “Often, the basic structure of a lamp is great, but the lampshade could become out of date,” Mom says. “You can really give a lamp personality with the right shade.”

Note that replacing lampshades every five years is encouraged, but the investment is worthwhile, given that lamps can serve so many purposes over time. Whether they’re placed on an entry table, bedside table, or sideboard, you’ll always find room for them.

02 of 05

Antiques Can Age With You and Your Family

A bedroom filled with antique wood furniture and and traditional patterns (like stripes and florals)

Katie Martinez Design

Even special antique pieces can serve multiple functions over time. My mom first used a chest she inherited from her mother as toy storage for my sister, and now, 20 years later, the same piece holds dining linens in a nook off of the kitchen.

What's old can always be new again, and a family heirloom is that much more special.

But this isn’t even my mom’s most reused piece. A marble table that my mom grew up using as a nightstand traveled to her adulthood homes and sits by the front door where it corrals mail. What's old can always be new again, and a family heirloom is that much more special.

03 of 05

Think Beyond an Item’s Original Purpose

A set of kitchen shelves lined with ceramic cookware, rustic wooden items, and antique silver plates

Bespoke Only

Rather than being quick to sell an item that no longer serves you, it can be worthwhile to rethink its primary function and exercise your creative muscles to turn it into something brand new. When I decided that I was done using a storage trunk in my own apartment, I gave it to my mom, who chose to get a piece of glass cut for its top. The trunk now serves as a side table in her living room, and I have to admit, my $20 find looks quite chic.

04 of 05

Use Plants to Hide Unsightly Cords and Sockets

A white dresser adorned with art, plants, and other decor

Ashley Montgomery Design

Everyone loves adding green friends to their homes, so why not let them do double duty? “If you can nourish a plant, a real one is better for you and the environment,” Mom notes.

What’s nice about this trick is that it can work in any room of the house. I’ve long followed this piece of advice in my own spaces, as jumbled cords always seem to get the best of me.

05 of 05

Mix Old and New

large vintage dresser turned into DIY bathroom vanity

Ashley Montgomery Design

My mom is a master at pairing items that have been passed down from her childhood home with more current finds. She’s also extremely savvy when it comes to mixing inexpensive décor with higher-end pieces.

“I’ve found some great vintage serving pieces to display in my dining room that look just as nice as my contemporary dinnerware," she notes.