Decorating is a bit like putting the pieces of a very complex puzzle together and hoping they match. In order to create a great space, every piece must be in its place: The basics must be there, the room has to have the right flow, the scale needs to be right, the space should have adequate storage, and it should be layered to create a lived-in feel. For most of us, this can feel as perplexing and never-ending as assembling a puzzle with 25,000 pieces in various shades of beige, but to a skilled interior designer, putting the pieces together is more like a fun challenge that comes together naturally.
Designers can pull a room together effortlessly because they follow a specific recipe. Just like starting with the outer frame of a puzzle and working your way inward is a helpful strategy, designers follow their own set of rules: Start with a good floor plan, address storage, splurge on this type of curtain, save on accent furniture… What's more, they are attuned to ever-shifting trends, so they can make quick decisions on what will remain in style and what should be retired. To shed light on how to decorate like an interior designer, we tapped Sally Gotfredson from The Studio at One Kings Lane and the mastermind behind our very own New York office makeover. We chatted with her about all things décor, from where to spend money in a room to what trends she is looking forward to decorating with in 2018.
Don't start another decorating project without a plan. This talented designer lays it all out for us.
Get the Basics Right
Nailing your home décor boils down to getting the basic principles right. To Gotfredson, this means understanding how you want to use the space and nailing down the layout and establishing a strict budget from the get-go. "Every project starts with a layout first, so I can start playing around with different floor plans and start a mental shopping list."
While most people often have no idea how much they should spend on décor, the One Kings Lane designer suggests drawing a line in the sand somewhere and sticking to it: "The old rule used to be 30% of what you spend on the house, you spend on the furniture," she says. "Figure out what that number is for you and really consider it before spending your whole budget on a house. Even the most amazing property shouldn't sit empty for three years while you save."
Be Ready to Let It Go
While it's only natural to want to hold on to a few family heirlooms or décor pieces, Gotfredson recommends not being too attached to every piece in a room before redecorating: "Decorating can be super emotional, and sometimes people think they're ready to redo a space and simply can't part with enough of the current pieces to make a serious impact," she says. "I think every good designer makes a serious effort to incorporate clients' forever pieces, but people should also just be honest with themselves first!"
Know Where to Splurge
Great design starts with a few showstopping quality pieces, but that doesn't mean everything in your room should be expensive: "Have a couple of splurge pieces that can carry the rest of the room on its shoulders," suggests Gotfredson. "If you have an amazing piece of artwork, an Eames chair, or a statement sofa, people will pay attention that, and you can go with simpler finds around it."
Those larger pieces can elevate a room even if smaller accent pieces around it are budget finds. For instance, the designer believes that coffee tables are not worth the investment: "I'm just not really a coffee table person. It's so easy to find a workaround that's vintage, use a pouf or ottoman, or repurpose two side tables you don't need anymore as your coffee table."
Invest in Your Windows
When we asked the One Kings Lane designer where she believes people should splurge a little more on a room, her answer was straightforward: custom window treatments. "People who are renting usually go for cookie-cutter grommet drapes that are just blah, not the right length, and lack any fullness," she says. "That said, there are amazing resources for custom drapes, roman shades, and wooden blinds on Etsy, The Shade Store, and Restoration Hardware at every price point that will tie your whole room together. Even a lone kitchen window you don't pay much thought to will become your favorite little nook with a custom roman shade."
Customize Your Storage
In fact, Gotfredson recommended going custom in a few areas of the home beyond windows, like custom-built storage instead of overusing freestanding bookcases or étagères.
"I love a built-in or bookcase," she says. "But I typically like one that's either brimming with books in a messy library or one that's minimal and perfectly styled. Throwing a bookcase on an odd wall and using it to store odds and ends that should really be behind doors can land flat."
Figure out which things can be displayed and which ones should be stored away, and design your storage plan around that instead of purchasing your storage pieces first and figuring it out afterward.
Step Away From Gray
It's easy to be color averse, but Gotfredson urges people to step out of their comfort zone a little more. One trend that she wishes would go away in 2018? "Gray everything. It might be because I prefer a warmer palette, but too much gray just sucks the life out of a room for me. It's not easy to pair many colors with it either, so it never quite feels harmonious—unless it's done like Oliver Gustav or Steven Gambrel."
Instead, the designer is looking forward to decorating with brighter tones like yellow, red, and olive green. "Interiors tend to mimic fashion, and if the runways this fall are any indication, we can kiss brass goodbye and say hello to chrome—and continue saying hello to red. I'll also be using a lot of super-soft black leather, more use of black metals, and lots of white plaster in light fixtures and tables."
Go Big or Go Home
At the end of the day, Gotfredson urges people to be original with their design: "Copying something else will never give you the result you want, no matter what trend you're going after." Instead of copy pasting from photos you found on Pinterest, use a variety of inspiration images to identify your personal style, and work from there. As for trends, the designer doesn't believe in using them in moderation: "Go big or go home," she says. "If you're going for a look, go all-out! It'll probably be more original and therefore timeless. Not all trends die."
Next up: the only fall home décor trends our editors are buying into.