We all know the feeling of scrolling through Pinterest and wistfully staring at those picture-perfect spaces that clearly have been styled by a professional. There’s the captivating entryway vignette, which seems impossible to get quite right, the minimalist look that miraculously doesn’t come off too bare, and the surprising-yet-cohesive color scheme that might be too risky to try.
And while we offer affordable interior design services for everyone, there are a few design secrets that can help home decorators of all levels pull off such flawless, Instagram-worthy moments on their own. That’s why we’re sharing the 10 must-do styling tips our designers swear by. Feel free to (and by that we mean, please do!) borrow them, transform them, and make them totally unique to your place.
We live by tidying queen Marie Kondo’s famous question, “Does it spark joy?” If an item doesn’t give you a little thrill, it doesn’t deserve real estate in your space. Get rid of any objects that don’t quite fit, don’t serve an express purpose, or don’t add value to your life. “It might be difficult to let some things go, but trust that you’ll feel 50 pounds lighter in your home, heart, and mind if you do,” design project manager Melissa Wagner guarantees.
Make It Meaningful
Don’t get us wrong, we love a good Target decor find — but you’re not going to achieve a personalized space by purchasing decor for decor’s sake and jumping on every trend bandwagon. Instead, invest time in collecting pieces that really mean something to you. Objects that tell a story will continue to spark joy.
“Whether it’s an oil painting you discovered at a local antique shop, a vintage dresser from your local flea, or a decanter you stumbled upon abroad, memories will come flooding back every time you see this item,” says design editor Heather Goerzen. It might not be the quickest way to furnish a home, but you’ll enjoy living there much more.
Mix Old and New
As you gather your meaningful pieces, make sure to blend eras as you go. A juxtaposition of old and new can manifest itself in countless ways, from an antique wooden stool resting beside an angular mid-century chair to a sleek contemporary sofa sitting atop a traditional Persian rug, such combinations always result in deep individuality. Goerzen’s favorite design quote by philosopher Michel de Montaigne encapsulates this tip quite well. “A little of everything and nothing thoroughly, after the French fashion,” he said.
Contrast should extend far beyond incorporating different time periods. Contrasting colors add depth, contrasting materials create a layered look, and contrasting styles build a sense of intrigue. If you master all three, you’ll achieve the type of thoughtful aesthetic that interior designers strive for. “Curated contrast allows a space to feel unique, but can also make it feel busy, cluttered, or untethered, so the ability to create cohesion in the chaos is a valuable skill,” explains lead designer Brady Burke.
Weave in Texture
Another fancy design word you’ll often hear bandied about is “texture.” Texture is all about creating a tactile multi-dimensional experience that welcomes a view into the scene. “Including numerous textures and finishes in one space can help define a particular style personality and ensure that nothing is cookie-cutter, but unique to its specific user,” Wagner reasons. That means velvet can mingle with bouclé, natural oak can neighbor a lacquer surface, and jute can play with viscose.
Yes, we just encouraged contrast, but we’re also going to endorse repetition. “While I love a distinctive vase or an oversized piece of art, there’s styling power to doubling down on an item and using repetition in a significant way,” Goerzen insists. Whether you display a series of earthenware vases or a gallery wall full of timeless black and white photography, the continuity established through a statement collection creates a striking moment that demands attention.
Play with Height
We usually advise against any type of manipulation, but we’re all for tricking the eye into bouncing around a space. To keep a room from feeling flat, VP of Creative and Design Shelby Girard suggests placing pieces at varying verticalities. Pair an imposing accent chair with a low side table and a floor lamp, hang artwork at multiple heights, incorporate floor-to-ceiling shelving, and add a dramatic chandelier to draw the focus upward. “The goal is to ensure that not everything falls on the same vertical plane,” she warns.
Before you skip this tip, hear us out. We know wallpaper gets a bad rap, but it’s no longer just made in cheesy grandma florals. Wallpaper has experienced a major renaissance and the market is full of contemporary prints, bold hues, and must-touch textures. “Applying pattern or texture to the walls can add depth and personality to smaller spaces, dress up an inset ceiling, or draw focus to a particular area of a room,” Burke muses. Plus, new companies are offering temporary wallpaper so you don’t have to commit long-term.
Layer Your Lighting
Lighting is known to set the mood, so you can increase your options for ambiance by implementing multiple types of lighting in any given space. This layered lighting technique makes a room extremely versatile because it can assume a new vibe each time the lighting is adjusted. For Wagner, the ideal mixture includes subtle recessed cans or gimbal lights, a chandelier or pendants, floor lamps, table lamps, and picture lights over artwork. With such tools at your disposal, the atmosphere opportunities are endless.
Perfect Your Vignette
To make a space feel truly styled, it must be full of vignettes (more fancy designer speak for “moments”). This is one of the most fundamental methods in a designer’s playbook and we promise you can do it, too. Girard recommends combining both vertical and horizontal items, like framed art and a stack of coffee table books, with a sculptural element or two, like a vase filled with florals, a pretty bowl, or display box. Do try this at home.
Craving an expert POV on your space? Whether struggling with the perfect layout, trying to bring to life Pinterest inspo, needing a styling “zhush”, feeling overwhelmed by a blank space… you get it. Our designers are at the ready to tackle all your design dilemmas with pro styling tips and more. Find your designer BFF and create a home you love, beginning with our style quiz.