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Decorating Tricks of the Pros

July 27, 2010

I am no professional when it comes to decorating.  However, I have watched enough decorating shows and read enough shelter magazines to amount to a degree in the field.  Here are some tips I have read about or seen repeatedly.  

1.  Hang ’em high.     Draperies hung high help a room look taller.  This can be done regardless of where the top of the window actually lands.  Many people make the mistake of hanging curtains in relation to the window.  Instead, they should be hung in relation to the ceiling.  Below is an example; notice how much taller and grander the second option looks.  


2.  Spread it around.     Any color you introduce into a room should be repeated at least 3 times and spread around the space.  While this “rule” can successfully be broken, it is a good rule of thumb to follow – especially for amateurs.  Notice in the room below how turquoise is successfully introduced into a primarily white space.  There are two turquoise lamps, a rug and a side table that all feature the color.  

Image courtesy of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles


3.  Hanging art is relative.     How to properly hang art really varies from situation to situation.  In general, however, it should be hung in relation to something else.  When hung above furniture, it is best to relate the art to the furniture piece by hanging it no more than a foot above that furniture piece.  When art is not being hung over furniture, it should be hung according to average eye level.  This means the middle of the art piece should usually be about 5 – 6 feet off the floor.  Lastly, hanging all art in a space at the same height will help to unify the space and create a natural flow for the eye.  

4.  Variety is the spice of life.     When creating a grouping on a buffet, console table, etc., varying the height of the objects used helps make an arrangement look more interesting.  Pottery Barn is particularly good at this.  Look at how all items on the table below vary in height and visual weight.  

Image courtesy of Pottery Barn


5.  Lighting is vital.     No room should EVER have only one light source.  In order for rooms to be well-lit, there need to be multiple light sources.  There are four types of lighting in design – ambient, task, accent and decorative.  The definitions are as follows:  

  • Ambient – Light that fills an entire room or space.  An example would be an overhead light.
  • Task – Lighting designed for a particular purpose like a bedside lamp for reading.
  • Accent – Lighting that draws attention to an item or feature.  This could include a light directed to shine on a piece of artwork.
  • Decorative – This light source is not meant to actually light a space but to create a mood or feeling.  Candles are the most obvious form of decorative lighting.

Every room should have more than one type of lighting, and living spaces usually look best when all four are incorporated.  

Those are my tips.  Have you picked up any pearls of decorating knowledge over the years?  Please share.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:49 am

    I like the entire room design in the middle photo. There are plenty of items in the room but it really works.

  2. July 27, 2010 10:37 am

    How about, turn the cushions before your guests arrive if you own a cat? Thanks for sharing your decorating savvy, Melissa. I sorely lack!

  3. Keryl permalink
    July 27, 2010 11:20 am

    This is fantastic advice! I wouldn’t have known about the drapes or the lighting. I certainly don’t have any accent lighting in my apartment. I’m not even sure if I have any decorative lighting, come to think of it…

    Particularly good blog post today!

  4. Patsy permalink
    January 2, 2012 1:35 am

    I know this is an old post, but wanted to comment on your instructions about hanging drapes. That is wrong information. You can see in the photo directly following your instructions how the drapes are hung which is half way between the ceiling and the top of the window. When you hang curtains from the celing it doesn’t fool anyone into thinking the window is that large, but it does leave this big empty space between the top of the window and the curtain rod. I wish people would start following what their eye tells them looks best instead of following the advice of designers who spread eroneous information for unknowing everyday people.

    • Marta permalink
      June 14, 2012 3:13 pm

      People can really be harsh sometimes. Your individual taste and what your eye sees is unique to you, Patsy. What looks good to most people’s eyes is indeed what’s posted here. I wonder what qualifies you to say this information is erroneous.

      • Patsy permalink
        June 14, 2012 3:31 pm

        The fact is when they are hung too high or too low they are what tells the eye that something is not right. Blank wall space between the top of a window and a curtain rod that is not equal to the space between the rod and the ceiling is off balance. That’s what anyone’s eye will tell them if they think about it logically.

  5. July 8, 2014 2:38 pm

    Hi there to every one, because I am truly keen of reading this
    weblog’s post to be updated regularly. It consists of pleasant

  6. Alejandra permalink
    July 29, 2015 9:27 pm

    for rooms they don’t have that much of natural light what would u recommend light or dark color paints ??


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