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September 10, 2019

No one’s decorating skillset is built overnight. While some people are blessed with a natural eye for design, creating a well-appointed place requires plenty of experience, trial and error, and, yes, some lessons learned along the way. The good news is you don’t have to go to design school to pick up a diploma on the subject. Read more, ‘Melissa’s Ultimate Guide To Decorating.’

To help you fine-tune your design eye, we asked a handful of experts for the best decorating lessons they ever learned.

While their responses run the gamut from measuring your room to embracing your space’s flaws, one thing’s certain: When it comes to great design, you never stop learning. 

Image via EST Living. Photo Joakim Johansson

Tip 1: Embrace the Mess

“One of the best lessons I’ve learned in design is to stop striving for perfection. Interior design is more of an art form than a mathematical equation. We’re all constantly creating and measuring based on to-do lists or a specific rubric.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everything must be perfect.

That thinking might be a bit flawed because what makes art truly stunning are the strokes that appear to be out of place. In design, second revisions are inevitable. What’s more, those revisions often turn out to be the beautiful stand-out features in a room that you never expected. Those moments push you artistically. There is beauty in imperfection.” —Breegan Jane, interior designer

Tip 2: Measuring is a Must

“Constantly measure and re-measure. It’s so important to get the proper scale of things so when you starting designing you are aware of appropriate proportions and sizes. “ — Jade Joyner, co-founder and principal designer of Metal + Petal

Tip 3: Be Strategic With Scale

“The most basic, 101 of interior design is SCALE. I’ve seen what could be a great room to be disappointing because of poorly scaled furniture, fixtures, and lighting. I love the use of an oversized light fixture, but it has to work within the scale of a room, and if you’ll hit your head on it merely by walking into the room, then this is a design fail.”— Gail Davis, interior designer. Read more, ‘The 3 Basics of Good Decorating.’

The Bell Lamp – Normann Copenhagen,

Tip 4: Layer Up

“Layering is the key to a well-balanced, comfortable, and inviting room. By layering various colours, textures, materials, textiles, and even furniture pieces, you create depth, warmth, and sophistication in the space. For example, if you have a chair in front of a window, layer the space with linen curtains, boucle cushions, a mohair throw rug, a rattan side table, brass floor lamp, and vintage rug to instantly elevate the area. By adding a few layers of texture, colour, and materials, this space suddenly feels like a well-composed, intentional oasis in an otherwise underused corner.” Erika Dale, Decorist classic designer and founder of Platte Interiors.

Tip 5: Take Your Time

“The best lesson I have learned as an interior designer is to allow a room and yourself to evolve over time. So many times, we instantly want a finished room in the amount of time that is only feasible on a 30-minute television show.

My suggestion is to find that one piece that you love.

This can be a sofa, bed, or simply a piece of art. From there let your mind wander and develop the rest of the space around that same feeling evoked when you found that piece. Ask yourself how did it make me feel? Why did it cause me to have those feelings… and build on that emotion.” — John McClain, interior designer.

Image via EST Living,

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