INTERIORS

11 SECRETS TO DECORATING LIKE THE WORLD’S CHICEST DESIGNERS

Attention, please.

September 10, 2019

Want an advanced lesson in how to decorate like a superstar talent? Follow the work of leading international designers such as McAlpine House, pictured, as we shed light on the art of living well and creating a beautiful home that celebrates life. Behind every great decorator is an extraordinary vision. Many of the best interiors are more a philosophy than a style. Read more, ‘This Is The First Thing An Interior Designer Notices When Entering A Home.’

Join us as we break down the basics of how to put a poetic spin on your rooms and develop your sense of what looks great.

1. ALL STYLE CAN BE WORKED WELL OR BADLY

Rose Uniacke, the Beckham’s interior designer, says, “A dull tile used poorly in a bathroom will feel like a tragic apology, but take the same tile and cover your entire house, and suddenly it becomes a statement and it’s different.” She is also a believer in investing in things you love. “The tiny, round marble table next to the bath in my own home gives me so much pleasure.” Read more, ‘Melissa’s Ultimate Guide to Decorating.’

And remember- “Not every room or area needs an obvious purpose. Generous wasted space, if treated properly, can be the thing that makes a house.”

2. DON’T BUILD SO BIG

To anyone looking for a home that mirrors themselves, leading US designer and author Tom Scheerer has some words of advice: “Look at a floor plan of a David Adler house and compare it to a fancy house today — there’s such a discrepancy.” The lesson is one for decorators and clients alike: Don’t mistake complication for quality and don’t try so hard.

3. INTERIORS THAT MIRROR YOU 

“At its strongest and most valuable, a house is mirroring you exactly,” says the architect and designer Bobby McAlpine. “I learned what’s right in order to execute with full knowledge what was wrong — rules be damned. That’s the difference between doctrine and emotional accuracy.” Not surprisingly, he cites the influence of movie houses and interiors of Hollywood’s golden age: Their design, he says, while “not one-hundred percent correct, are emotionally spot-on. This is the power of wrong — of finding the courage to beg, borrow and steal until you get the story right. It’s the freedom to crossbreed things that have never met before but somehow embolden each other.”

“Today’s clients often draw their wish lists from social media with highly developed, exquisite Pinterest boards. Look ahead to make sure the results aren’t trendy, but real.”

“You want it to stand on its own without all the embellishment.”

4. ELEGANCE IS REALLY ABOUT ECONOMY

It’s an important message according to top American interior designer and author Tom Scheerer in today’s world of restaurant kitchens and million-dollar audio/visual installations. It’s about celebrating real life, (not overdoing things) and remembering that the chicest thing of all, is to be yourself. Read more, ‘The Most Common Decorating Questions Asked And Answered.’

5. DRAMATIC STATEMENTS AND GESTURES

One of Britain’s greatest interior decorators, Nicky Haslam, who has done work for the Prince of Wales, Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Rod Stewart and Claridge’s hotel, among others, says, “I am a firm believer that bold gestures, be they in shape, texture or colour, are a requisite of good design.” “They somehow draw together all the things that will eventually create the completed room. It’s good to plan such statements from the start, not add them willy-nilly at a later date.’ Also, look for glamour: ‘Flat surfaces, especially console tables, look great bare but better with things on and under them — quite apart from providing essential storage opportunities. Objects, books, and lamps anchor the surfaces to the walls, and anything underneath fills the void.”

6. LOOK TO THE PAST

Designers have always looked to the past to reinterpret things. Stephen Sills, the interior designer Karl Lagerfeld claimed has “the chicest house in America”, designs by exploiting spaces as much as possible and making use of non-metallic, flat finishes. Then, adding art pieces and older furniture that has been very carefully selected. Technology is one thing, but the modern, stale, and monotonous trend which continues to spread throughout design today is something he hopes we can get rid of. “I always love to see a return to the classical. And of course, things needn’t be expensive, but materials must exude honesty. “They must be a true representation of what the owner wants, whether a simple basket or a gilded bronze statue. Honesty in materials and purity of objects are very important”.

“I also like a good, strong profile, whether it be in architecture or furniture, is such a pleasing sensation.”

“A combination of both — furniture that has an architectural outline — is essential for giving structure to any room. It doesn’t have to be severe; arcs and curves can have the same effect, leading the eye on to and enhancing less formal shapes.”

7. SIZE IT UP

The grandfather of American decorating, John Saladino was one of the first to mix antiquities with modern, and humble with rare when he started his career more than five decades ago. “I was decorating with chewed-up Oriental rugs that a lot of people thought were rags. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it needs to be discarded. After college, I lived in Rome for two years and immersed myself in the ancient world. I fell for corroded surfaces and theatrical scale. I’ve always loved antiquities, and I have a museum-quality collection.” He also likes colour that feels elusive and changes with the light. “I often use a grey with a little red in it, so it appears mauve in the evening hours. I’m known for shades like periwinkle, blue-grey, and a bluish-white. Read more, ‘Improve Your Mood With These 50 Top Decorating Tips.’

“I do the opposite of what most people do: I paint north-facing rooms a cool colour and put warmer tones in west-or south-facing spaces.”

8. USE COLOUR STRATEGICALLY

Revered American designer and architect David Easton says, “I approach colour very carefully—you will not often see me use a bold colour on a wall. I like to just blend a natural wall colour into a room and use eye-popping colour—my favourite is red—for accent pieces that can come in the form of cushions, trims, or case goods. Another clever way to apply colour to a room is to paint the inside of a bookcase; it makes the piece of furniture more interesting and becomes a focal point in the room.”

Legendary designer David Easton uses colour strategically – preferring to blend a natural wall colour into a room.

9. SMALL TWEAKS

“When it comes to small tweaks that make a big difference Miles Redd, spent two days making tiny changes to his childhood home with big impact. “Like most people, my mother had scattered pictures all around. So my colleague David Kahoi rehung them in groupings, which instantly transformed the space. We moved a table that was way too large for the dining room to an unused library in the back of the house that makes the perfect office for my mother, with emerald-glazed walls and a garden view to boot. Read more, ‘Let’s Decorate: Best Interior Decorating Tips, Part 2.’

“I skirted the table in an old-fashioned chintz to provide a secret hiding place for her stationery fetish.”

“In the dining room, we traded that behemoth table for a smaller round one — it’s much more inviting and boosts dinner-table conversation — and added a breakfront found at auction and painted chalky green. Simple straw mats in the entrance hall now relieve the severity of the plain wood floors.”

“My father endlessly complained that the master bedroom was too dark, so we brought in swing-arm reading lamps. I swapped the window’s plantation shutters, which always felt cold to me, for rich taffeta curtains under a Venetian inspired valance. We replaced the scatter rugs with soft wall-to-wall carpeting which makes a bedroom feel cosy. They say they have never slept better.”

“Botanical prints act as a foil to the peppy yellow-and-white stripes”

10. INTO THE FUTURE

Stephen Sills: “Now, when I embark on a project, I ask the usual questions just to get the clients talking. How do they see themselves in this house, how do they want to live, how do they want to feel? They all have different answers and different personalities. But in the back of my mind, I always want to give them my idea of what they should live up to and grow into—not what they want today, but what they’ll want in five years: their aspiration.”

11. TAKE IT AWAY 

“Good design, for me, is anything that is resolved… the extraneous stripped away,” says Barbara Barry.

Oh and, last word goes to London-based interior maestro, Veere Greeney: “Appropriateness, comfort and harmony are essential. I refer back to these three yardsticks throughout a project and check whether I have drifted from them.”

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