Cheat Codes: 9 Designer Shortcuts that Work

Embrace these favorite pro tricks for quick style

By Yanic Simard, Houzz

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May 31, 2016

This article originally appeared on Houzz.com.

Every interior designer has go-to tricks. Today I’d like to share my top cheats that I use time and again for quick results. These foolproof ideas can solve many of your design dilemmas in an afternoon.

1. The corner plant. Some design teachers will tell you putting a plant in an empty corner is a huge no-no, suggesting that an empty corner means the room wasn’t correctly arranged or planned out in the first place. But I often find that plants get forgotten when it comes to designing rooms. So I say, if you ever have a free space for a lively green plant, don’t be afraid to jump on the opportunity to include one.

The trick to ensuring that your corner plant looks like an intentional design feature and not simply a cheat is to go for something large and leafy enough to hold its own against your other furnishings.

Hancock Park

For best results, choose a simple but chunky container (like a block clay pot or textural woven basket) and an easy-maintenance plant that’s at least 3 to 4 feet tall, such as a fiddle-leaf fig, so that the plant visually fills the floor space and wall space.

2. Stacks of books. Besides being great brain candy, having attractive books on hand gives you the tools to correct endless little decor dilemmas.

Is a vase or sculpture looking too small and wimpy? Sit it on a book or two, and suddenly it’s a precious object on a pedestal. One bedside lamp shorter than the other? Use a few books to add height where needed and achieve a perfect symmetry.

Wherever you have an empty shelf, or a ho-hum display that could use a little accessorizing, simply pull out a great oversize book or two, and you’ve got endless options for decorating like a true stylista.

Related: Find the Perfect Throw on Houzz

Tip: For a more neutral display, take the jackets off books with overly busy covers and display just the plain covers.

3. Clear furnishings for contemporary style. Is a space with beautifully classic trappings feeling a little too traditional? One solution is to bring in a few clear elements, either in modern materials like Lucite or in chunky shapes. The clean silhouettes add a sense of “now,” but the transparency lets them blend into their surroundings so the space doesn’t end up feeling wildly eclectic.

Study

Try clear plastic seats, Lucite art shelves, oversize pendant shades or lamp bases, or simple glass vases holding a single type of flower (or nothing at all).

Tip: Mix glass and clear plastics to bridge the low-tech and high-tech materials. And it never hurts to add a little wood for a perfect complement.

Related: Refresh your Bedroom with Nightstands

4. Signature color. Why do interior designers like me have a personal signature paint color? The logic is simple: Colors always look a little different between the paint chip and on the wall, so when you’ve found a great one that you love in real life, there’s no reason not to use it again and again.

I used one of my go-to off-whites (Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray) in the space in this photo and the next, and the results are totally different moods, but both beautiful.

Victorian Home

Besides guaranteeing a great result every time, using a signature color also connects different spaces for a sense of consistency throughout your home. Contrary to what TV may teach you, every room in the home doesn’t need to have its own theme. If you’ve seen a color you like in your own space (or someone else’s), go ahead and repeat it, adding your own spin each time through the other furnishings.

Tip: Repeat the same flooring where possible so you know that the walls and floor will always coordinate the same way. This will make it easy to move furnishings between rooms to make your look flexible and fail-safe.

5. Off-center art. Is that favorite framed keepsake a little too small for the wall? Not when it’s off-center on purpose. Anyone can hang a perfectly sized piece centered over a sofa or bed, but if you have a must-display piece that doesn’t happen to be the right dimensions, try hanging it off to one side and a little low for a quirky asymmetrical look that feels artistic.

Porch House

The same strategy works on a shelf or mantel, or over a table. Just remember: “low and off to one side,” and let that otherwise wimpy piece become a stroke of decorating genius.

 

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