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6 Designers Spill the Decorating Secrets They Wish They Knew Earlier

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

With age comes wisdom (or at least that's what we're hoping). Even the most polished person has had plenty of youthful transgressions that became teachable moments down the road—cutting your own bangs, falling for the wrong person, or staying out past curfew, to name a few. It's not just you: These learning curves happen in the design world, too. We promise.

That's why we polled these top designers from across the country to see what they would tell their younger selves if they could do it all over again. From overdoing it on the decorations to forgoing durable fabrics in family homes, they've covered it all. Learn from their experiences to decorate your home like the pros—and get it right the first time.

Keep scrolling to discover the best interior design decorating tips they wish they learned earlier.

01 of 06

Leave Some Blank Space

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

"I think, like most designers or stylists starting their career, there is a 'fill in every inch of a space with something really cool' mentality," says Emily Henderson of Los Angeles-based Emily Henderson Design. "But every design needs some breathing room. I definitely over-decorated a bit in the beginning. I would tell my younger self to chill a little because less can absolutely be more. Edit more and have fewer big moments."

If you're going for more of a minimalist vibe in your space, start by completely emptying out your room—then slowly introduce key pieces. Starting from scratch helps you determine which items really belong (and which things are better stowed away).

02 of 06

Go All in on Wall Treatments

Design: Megan Hopp, Photo: Kelsey Ann Rose

Design: Megan Hopp, Photo: Kelsey Ann Rose

"When I first started working as a designer, I ended up doing a lot of accent walls for clients, whether it was with paint or—you know me—wallpaper," says Megan Hopp of NYC-based Megan Hopp Interior Design. "This accent wall business happened for a variety of reasons, but the most common was that clients were hesitant to go 'all the way' with a bold pattern or color for fear that it would be too crazy, or there was push back on wanting to commit that much of the budget to full wall coverings. 

"Let the record state that I am now all in on wall color or coverings. The difference between a fully attended-to room versus a single wall is striking, and there is no competition. I steer clear of accent walls now, and urge all my clients to paper the entire place because frankly, anything else is just not enough."

03 of 06

Design for Real Life

Design: Mel Bean Interiors, Photo: Laurey Glenn

Design: Mel Bean Interiors, Photo: Laurey Glenn

Designing for real life "means durable fabrics and finishes balanced with comfortable elegance and high style," says Mel Bean of Tulsa-based Mel Bean Interiors. "It means functional and efficient shared spaces, such as kitchens and living spaces. It means making sure each home represents the lives of the people who call it home. The end result is so much better in so many ways!" 

04 of 06

Mix Cool and Warm Tones

Design: Bria Hammel Interiors, Photo: Spacecrafting Photography

Design: Bria Hammel Interiors, Photo: Spacecrafting Photography

"In almost every project we design, we focus heavily on mixing cool and warm tones," says Bria Hammel of Minnesota-based Bria Hammel Interiors. "However, it wasn’t always this way! Mixing tones can often seem like an intimidating task, but once you find that perfect balance, you can truly create some magic.

"It’s the way we can make our designs timeless: If trends fluctuate between cool or warm, the space still looks current and relevant. We believe a room can be light and airy while still being inviting and intimate—why just choose one? Through mixing cool and warm tones, you can achieve that balance and contrast to make a space feel complete."

05 of 06

Make Everything Functional

Design: Studio McGee, Photo: Lucy Call

Design: Studio McGee, Photo: Lucy Call 

"When I first started designing spaces, I did just that—designed spaces," says Shea McGee of Utah-based Studio McGee. "I wasn’t thinking about flow or the areas in the home that lead to those spaces. It’s important to not forget about hallways or how people move throughout and use the home (e.g. walkways, location of light switches, etc.). Not only does it help with function, but each space feels more cohesive and complementary to each other." 

06 of 06

Stick to a Budget

Design: Studio Ten 25, Photo: Emily Hart

Design: Studio Ten 25, Photo: Emily Hart

"Controlling a budget is a crucial part of every design project," says Abbe Fenimore of Dallas-based Studio Ten 25. "These days, I have a spreadsheet for each project that I use on a daily basis which allows me to keep track of every penny being spent during the process. When I first started my business, I wasn't the best at accounting for the delivery costs, installation fees, and taxes. Submitting invoices to my client with these added costs after they had already paid for the bulk of their furniture created frustration, and put added stress on their budget."