6 Designers Spill the Decorating Secrets They Wish They Knew Earlier

Updated 09/06/19

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 even happen in the design world, 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 covered it all.

Keep scrolling to discover the decorating tips these designers wish they learned earlier.

Leave Some Blank Space

Emily Henderson Living Room
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. 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." - Emily Henderson, of Los Angeles-based, Emily Henderson Design

Go All In On Wall Treatments

megan hopp colorful bathroom
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. 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 frankly 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." - Megan Hopp, of NYC-based Megan Hopp Interior Design

Design for Real Life

mel bean living room
Design: Mel Bean Interiors, Photo: Laurey Glenn

"This means durable fabrics and finishes balanced with comfortable elegance and high style. 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!" - Mel Bean, of Tulsa-based Mel Bean Interiors.

Mix Cool and Warm Tones

Bria Hammel Interiors gallery wall dining room
Design: Bria Hammel Interiors, Photo: Spacecrafting Photography

"In almost every project we design, we focus heavily on mixing cool and warm tones. 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." - Bria Hammel, of Minnesota-based Bria Hammel Interiors

Make Everything Functional

white hallway
Design: Studio McGee, Photo: Lucy Call 

"When I first started designing spaces, I did just that: designed spaces. 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." - Shea McGee, of Utah-based Studio McGee

Stick to a Budget

bedroom
Design: Studio Ten 25, Photo: Emily Hart

"Controlling a budget is a crucial part of every design project. 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 delivery cost, 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." - Abbe Fenimore, of Dallas-based Studio Ten 25 

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