Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Best Design Tips I've Learned That Will Help You Too

If you are like me your style has bounced all over the board.  What I like has changed about a dozen times in my life and it is still evolving.  I think I have finally found what makes me most comfortable and what makes my home look and feel like me.

There are quite a few things I have learned from some fabulous bloggers, designers and pinterest.  If you pay attention to what you are constantly drawn to from all the fabulous homes and rooms we see in magazines, online and our favorite blogs, then you can pretty soon figure out what you like and makes you feel comfortable.  Here are some of my most important design tips that help me every day.

Every designer says you have to know your style.  Well I haven't known what my style is for years, mainly because all the names given to the different styles have changed over time and I just couldn't keep up.  I really don't think it is such a big deal to know exactly what your style is.  I think it is much more important to know what you like and feel comfortable with.  My style really is a mix of several things.  Using todays terms,  mostly I am Traditional with a bit of Contemporary and sometimes a touch of Modern Farmhouse.  If you put all of these elements together for a collected over time look, then that suits me to a tee.

Yvonne of Stone Gable described every style better than I have seen recently.


Get to know decor styles and what makes them distinct. Here are just a few styles…
  • TRADITIONAL – Think refined, familiar and comfortable. Not old and dated but classic.
  • COUNTRY – traditional time-worn furnishings, warm, flea market, milk paint, ironstone, a feeling of comfort and home, NOT your mother’s or grandmother’s country! Think of small estate living.
  • CONTEMPORARY -sleek, clean lines and subdued colors, pop of color added, low to the ground furnishings, few extras. Think urban living.
  • FARMHOUSE-inspired by farmland and utility. Functional items, lots of galvanized metal, wood floors, white paneled walls, big kitchens, porches, rocking chairs. Think of StoneGable!
  • MODERN- minimal furniture, stark, uncluttered, white with black accents. Think George Jetson!
  • COASTAL- influence by the sea, airy rooms with light fabrics, whites and colors of the sea, nautical accents. Think beautiful homes on the ocean.
  • COTTAGE- furnishings that show a little wear, botanical prints, wrought iron beds, quilts, cozy feel, fresh white paint on planked walls, open windows. Think sheer curtains wafting on a light breeze!
  • INDUSTRIAL- raw unfinished look, lots of metal, exposed pipes and pipes in design, open shelving, unfinished look. Think warehouse.
  • ECLECTIC- a mix of styles and periods that work together because of a common element like color. Think mix and match!
COLOR - #2
I once used wallpaper in almost every room and used a ton of pattern.  Then I went with some color on the walls and even color for accent walls.  Now I am just an all white NEUTRAL girl.  Neutral doesn't have to be white.  It can be white, beige or gray or any thing that speaks to you.  I love having a neutral base so I can add in color whenever I want to.

  I use to add a ton of color with my furnishings.  I've had a brown sofa, a green sofa, a gold sofa and currently have a camel colored settee - however I've found that for me a neutral (white or cream) sofa and chairs makes me the most happy.  You guys have some fabulous rooms with some beautiful jewel toned sofas and chairs and they look amazing, so if that is you, then go for it.  I don't want my neutral to be an all white room, I love to add tons of color with pillows, wall art and other accessories. 

Neutral is simply what makes me happy.  However I love some of the rooms you guys put together with really dark walls or an accent dark wall.  They are very now, trendy and chic.  If that is your thing, then by all means, paint those walls and enjoy.  Remember when we moved into our last house I painted the kitchen Dark Chocolate?  If you drool over all those dark moody walls in every picture you see, then you definitely need to create that look in your own home. 

Is this bathroom stunning or what?


This is the one that gets me most often and makes me wonder what was I thinking and how do I fix this.  Every home I've lived in has challenges.  Some rooms are so big you can't seem to fill them up and all your furniture looks like it belongs in a doll house.  Then other rooms look big but really that is only an illusion.  In a previous home the living room was so large that I used two large scale tuxedo sofas and also two wing chairs with a really massive coffee table. Most of my other homes have not been this big, so I really needed to learn something about scale.  Using larger furniture instead of a dozen small pieces fit my large room and made it comfortable.  Filling spaces with lots of little pieces of furniture will make it feel disjointed and not inviting.  

In my new home, two story walls make the space seem much larger than it really is.  Then add in a dining area that adjoins the living area and you have to really pay attention to the scale of your furniture.  If you have been following along then you know that some rooms in our new house have really thrown me for a loop.  Finding the right furniture arrangement and furniture pieces that fit the space and scale of these rooms has been a trial and error for sure.  Again my all white walls and furniture help to blend everything together and don't take up so much visual space in smaller rooms, but the scale of that furniture is what really makes the most difference.  

Scale is the size or dimension of a piece of furniture.  How much actual floor space or visual space does the item take up.
  This sofa is one that is an illusion.  It is a traditional rolled arm - 3 seat style but it is small in scale.  It is only 78" long.  The white tufted chair is slightly more narrow than most and has a rounded back that is not a full blown wing back.  The other chair has open arms so it looks smaller in scale too.  The biggest thing that helped this room was removing my dark traditional coffee table and bringing in a modern brass and glass one.  The scale is small on this table and it virtually disappears in the room.   

Here are some trial & errors trying to get this room right.

This is the same arrangement and furniture I had in my previous home.  It doesn't work here.  
The coffee table is way too big and using both chairs in the front window is way too crowded.  This was not really functional in real life at all.

Next I switched out the coffee table and changed up chairs.  This really did function, however it still wasn't the look I wanted.  The big mirror was fabulous in my last home, but here it was way off balance and totally overpowered the whole room.  The dark leather chair with the dark wood furniture seemed to crowd the room.  All the dark wood and dark chair took up way too much visual space.

See how much more open and stylish this looks.  Small changes - different mirror more to scale - white chair in place of the leather melts into the walls - glass coffee table disappears into the room.  Getting to this place has been hard.  I didn't need to get rid of everything in my room, I just needed to refine and rethink the pieces that I use and how they affect the overall look and feel of the space. 

This also didn't cost a fortune either.  The new mirror is a great focal point and is the right scale and size for this space.  It cost $199.  The white chair was in the master bedroom, so it was a matter of simply swapping it out for the leather one.  The glass coffee table was on sale for $149.  Everything else in the room remained the same.  So for a very small investment, this room was totally transformed. 

I am the worlds worst about getting attached to furniture pieces that I have used and loved for years and it makes it hard for me to step back and visualize something new.  Create a mood board, pin a dozen different rooms you love and then look at your own space and try to figure out how to achieve that same look.  You can slipcover furniture, or even paint it and there are tons of fabulous thrift stores where you can find pieces that will fit the aesthetic and scale of your room.

Accessories - #4

This is where I like to go wild.  I use tons of color in pillows and throws.  This is where I also indulge myself with trendy accessories that will be a fad for a while and then gone.  I have pillows and accessories in every color, orange, red, blue, shocking pink, green, rust, black, brown and fur.  I show my color in not only pillows and throws, but candles and floral arrangements too.  If you find a trendy accessory that you like, and it is not an investment, then go for it.  Have a ball and indulge all of your wildest desires.  Mix things up and create some interesting vignettes that showcase your taste and style.

This shows how you really can use any color in a neutral space. Shocking pink and even royal blue work, and of course I use a lot of orange or rust, but mix them up and use them with surprising coordinates.  Adding gray to the orange instead of brown totally works. 

Gold was a fad a while back, now I consider it a staple.  Here I shared a few tutorials of how to turn an ugly duckling or plain glass into today's trends.  I am still a believer that you can have fabulous and trendy accessories on a budget.  A little DIY and paint can transform anything into something you will love.  So try something new, it really isn't as hard as you might think.

DO YOU - #5 to #100

What ever you like it is perfect for your home.  It doesn't matter if it is the latest trend or if it is from the 50's, if it makes you happy, then go for it.  I have been so guilty in the past of decorating to fit my environment. (lots of primitive antiques when I lived in the mountains in Oregon)  Then I joined the blue and white movement which is gorgeous, but totally not me.  I love a few blue accents but I am not a gal that feels comfortable in a blue room.  I thrive in warm autumn colors.   I've also had Danish Modern in the past.  It was ME for that period in my life, but not me now.  I have pretty much been a Traditional gal for years.  I just mix it up with a few trends, a little contemporary, and even some modern farmhouse and it seems to fit me and feels comfortable to me.

Just remember, you live in your home and yes, we all want our home to be fashionable and chic, however it has to feel good to us.  So try to figure out the combination of things and styles that you really like and it will be fashionable and chic.
I so believe we all can appreciate something from any style, but most of all I think we have

 to DO YOU. 
 Once I finally started DOING ME, my home felt good and made me happy.

To stay up to date on all the makeovers taking place at our new home, I would love to have you follow me.  You don't want to miss any of our "Hits & Misses".

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  1. This post is packed full of great information, Marty. Glad to know I am not the only one who continues to change design preferences. I too am all of the place. haha

  2. I agree with Erica. So much good information to think about! I will be retiring soon and hope to build one last home and I so want to get it the way I really want it since I will be spending so much time in it. I will be rereading this and putting together a mood board or something similar.

  3. I loved seeing your transition to getting to the DO YOU stage, Marty. I really like the LR now, and I can relate to your comment of getting attached to furniture.

  4. Thank you so much for all the great information. Also, it's very encouraging to hear you say we can still be fashionable and chic "doing me"! I have tried many different trends and always seem to stay connected to the traditional style. I really like the way you mix things up and it looks stylish and up to date. The difference is I have a burgundy sofa my husband will not part with it. Lol! So, I do work around it. Again, thanks for the enjoyable, informative post. I plan on doing that mood board myself.

  5. Marty, great info that you have shared. I figured out years ago that I am basically Traditional with an English country twist!

  6. Hi Marty. I really liked reading this post today. You have some great information to share. I am kind of a combination of a few of these but mostly cottage. Have a great week.

  7. this is a great post, Marty. I've loved seeing how your Living Room has evolved and taken shape. The coffee table is the icing on the cake!

  8. GREATpost,Marty, and I bet I could match you I think we are about the same age and have seen it all from 60s furniture when I was very young to country and wallpapered walls to romantic to shabby chic to tuscan to farmhouse...and on and on. I have decorating books from all those phases.

    Like you, I get attached to a piece of furniture and have a hard time parting with it. I think I tend to be more traditional now with a bit of soft romantic thrown heart calls for soft colors and florals but my furniture tends to be traditional and somehow it works. I, too, like white or off white walls. It is comforting to me and so versatile.

    Wonderful post- have a great day, Marty. xo Diana ps. Your home has turned out to be just gorgeous...good job all the way around on your choices!

  9. Marty,
    Amazing tips!
    I agree. . .Do You!
    Trends come and go, but You (we) know our heart's desires best!
    I love the way you blend the Traditional with the Contemporary and the Modern Farmhouse!
    You, truly are an inspiration!

  10. What a great post, Marty! My style is a mix between Traditional/British Colonial, Farmhouse and Coastal. I am totally fine with that mix because it really fits my personality. As much as I like to pay attention to trends, that's the look I am most comfortable with. Love your glass coffee table by the way! Have a great weekend!

  11. Fabulous post Marty! You know I only recently finally decided to call my style ""Vintage cottage style" but I also like to keep things updated. It is so eclectic I don't think it's anything but my own personal style, of course vintage and collections are at the heart of our home. It all comes down to living with what you love doesn't it?

    Thanks so much for sharing at TFT!

  12. Oh somehow I missed when you changed out the leather chair for the upholstered one. Was it when you changed the mirror? I liked it the room before, but I have to say that the space looks absolutely perfect now! I can't get enough of those animal print pillows with your neutral furnishings!

  13. I like all of your changes, Marty, and did see the room before when you were discussing mirrors. We are in escrow on our first Texas home just now and I am already thinking what will work in this house as opposed to our California houses ~ some of that furniture is just way too big! And artwork... What will work and what won't? It'll be a fun process for sure to weed out the not working and finding what does work. Oh, and congratulations on being featured this week at Share Your Style!!!

    Thanks for a fun tutorial! Pinned several photos for you. <3
    Barb :)

  14. Marty, this is a wonderful post. I love the way you summarize all the things you've learned over the years into a few pieces of really helpful advice. Excellent!!

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I'm featuring you this week!

  15. This is such a great post, Marty! It gives such a good compilation of decorating advice. Congratulations for being featured over at "imparting Grace" blog party.