The 6 Secrets to Shopping Like an Interior Designer

Bright and airy living room with neutral furniture.

Cathie Hong Interiors

As design lovers, shopping for home décor is hands-down one of our favorite hobbies—yes, even if we’re just window shopping. There’s something so satisfying about strolling through a vintage store or scrolling through a website and thinking about a piece’s potential. Where would it go? What would we style it with? How can this piece transform a room?

But while we think we’re pretty good at shopping for home décor, we know there’s always room to learn more. And who better a teacher than an interior designer? These professionals are home experts who do everything from maximize a room’s square footage to highlight a home’s architectural features. When it comes to shopping for home décor, interior designers think about qualities we haven’t even considered.

If you want to make the most of your next home décor shopping spree, you’ve come to the right place. Below, interior designer Robin Baron, who recently launched her own e-commerce platform, shares her best-kept shopping secrets.

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Create a Plan and Stick to It

Decorating an empty room can be equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming. A bare space has endless potential, but it’s easy to get swept up in all the excitement and buy items that don’t suit your needs. Whenever Baron shops for home décor, she first begins by making a plan—and sticking to it.

“Having a goal and understanding what you are trying to achieve will set you up for success,” she explains. "Consider your lifestyle and the rooms you’re looking to design.” 

One particular room can serve a number of purposes. For some, a living room can be an oasis for Netflix and chilling, while others might want to create an entertaining zone—you know, when we can have guests again. But, no matter what your vision is, one thing’s for sure: you want to make your space as functional as possible.

Whatever items you’re going to purchase for your home, make sure they’re more than just beautiful: make sure they serve their intended purpose.

“Whatever items you’re going to purchase for your home, make sure they’re more than just beautiful: make sure they serve their intended purpose,” she says. “Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Spending time asking yourself the right questions and understanding your goals will help you create the home you love.” 

When shopping for home décor, it's great to take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book—but, instead of asking if a lamp or console table sparks joy, ask yourself if it helps accomplish your vision.

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Find One Solid Statement Piece

Bedroom with soft pastel bedding and large rattan pendant lamp.

Gold a la Mode

Contrary to popular belief, not every single piece in your home can make a statement. Baron says it's important to think about your “wow” factor and create a distinct focus in your home.

“When you’re trying to create a new look, find the one piece to be the inspiration for the room,” she says. “This could be a large piece of furniture like a sofa, an area rug, a lamp you fell in love with, or an accessory that you can’t stop thinking about.”

Once you find that core piece for your room, Baron recommends adding subdued accents.

“I find it best to combine clean-lined furniture with interesting pieces that have a unique or sculptural look,” she says. “It’s all about keeping your eye moving through the room and balancing the interest points.”

Your statement piece might bring some personality to your space, but those accent items will let your eye rest. An instant ahh, if you will.

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Mix and Match Design Styles

Whoever first said that opposites attract was definitely talking about home décor. According to Baron, unlikely pieces can really give a space that photoshoot-ready appeal.

“One of my favorite things to do to create a unique look is to use vintage and antique finds in combination with cleanly-lined, modern, or transitional furnishings,” she explains. “Don’t be afraid to mix the looks and styles. It’s an opportunity to show off your personality.”

Don’t be afraid to mix the looks and styles. It’s an opportunity to show off your personality.

Why stop at design styles? Baron’s a big advocate for bringing that same approach to your color palette.

“I like to layer pops of color into a room full of neutrals,” she says. “You don’t have to have a lot of color to make a big statement. You might also think about mixing textures to offer additional drama. It’s all a matter of tactfully combining color, texture, pattern, and silhouettes to create something cohesive that is personal to you.”

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Measure Your Space

Neutral sofa with smaller coffee table and a dining table to scale in background.

LeClair Decor

When it comes to your furniture and home accessories, size matters. Before you dabble with the idea of buying a new piece of furniture, it’s important to measure the dimensions of your room.

“If you’re looking to buy larger pieces, like a sofa, coffee table, buffet, or bookshelves, I highly recommend that you measure correctly and do a floor plan of your space,” Baron explains. “This will assure that your pieces fit and function properly.”

As a general rule of thumb, you should invest in pieces that can fit in your room but not so tightly that they'll need to be pushed up against a wall. While it’s important to keep the size of all of your furniture in mind, Baron says you should never skimp specifically on your rugs. 

“The rug is the anchor and a critical furnishing in any room,” she says. “You want the rug to be as large as possible so that the room feels more expansive. You don’t have to worry about covering your wood floors, as your eye will still perceive your floor around the perimeter of the room while the rug enhances the overall look.”

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Design Within Budget

Speaking of your budget, Baron says it’s imperative to know how much you want to spend before you start shopping. Make a list of all the things you’re looking to purchase, and then window shop to get a sense of the price ranges of each piece to make sure your budget is realistic.

“Once you have a plan, you can make an intelligent decision about what to splurge on,” she says. “Don’t make that decision in a vacuum. It’s better to have an understanding of how your splurge purchase impacts the rest of your budget.” That way, you can understand when to spend and splurge.

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Emphasize Your Accessories

Kitchen open shelving styled with books and ceramics.

Cathie Hong Interiors

Let’s face it: home accessories are often put on the proverbial backburner. However, these pieces often make the most impact, from the frames on your nightstand to sculptural tabletop lamps to the mirror hung in your hallway. Doubling down on your smaller accents can really make or break your space.

“By the time many people think about accessories for their home, they’ve already spent their budget,” Baron explains. “I wish more people realized that accessories truly help make a house a home and they should be given as much attention and focus as the larger, seemingly more important pieces.”

She recommends incorporating these smaller pieces into your decorating budget.

“A thoughtful, well-placed accessory, whether it’s a lamp, sculptural piece, tray, box, or vase, can change the feel of a room and punctuate the look you’re trying to achieve in a way that is unique to you,” Baron says.

Rupa Lamp
Robin Baron Design Rupa Lamp $475
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Amused Vase
Robin Baron Design Amused Vase $950
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