10 Best Designer Secrets from the Experts

My House Beautiful magazine just arrived and this month they are featuring 101 Tips from from the Experts. I love read little ‘best tips’ from designers because I always learn something.

These are my favourite 10 Best Designer Secrets from the Experts:

1. Once you’ve used a fabric in a room, never use it anywhere else in the house. Do not match your fabrics! Do not let your fabrics make your room look too decorator-y. Garrow Kedigian

Jeffrey Bilhuber

I think Jeffrey is the master of creating an undecorated room. And I totally agree that unless it all matches, like a room decorated entirely in toile, you should not repeat the same fabric twice.

2. It is my firm belief that upper cabinets are just not useful and actually impede the easy use of a kitchen. I therefore strongly advocate replacing them with simple open shelving. In one fell swoop, you have instantly enlarged the sense of the room and made the countertops below that much more comfortable for casual food preparation. Kathryn M. Ireland


Sigh. I feel like I’ve posted this 10 times already I have love it sooo much! I love the simple-not-in-your-face curvy brackets that support the shelves. A look I want in my kitchen.

3. Install an outlet 28″ high behind console tables. This allows you to add lamps without an unsightly tangle of cords. Ashley Whittaker


This is a common mistake in an entry that I have seen often. If you have not planned to install your outlet so it’s hidden like the suggestion above, do not place an open console in that spot, it looks bad with the straggly cord hanging there for the world to see.

If you do have a console table like this, install a basket with a plant in it to hide the cord.

4. A Bench at the foot of the bed should be no less than 2″ shorter than the mattress width. Tobi Fairley

Tobi Fairley

I did not know the 2″ rule for benches at the foot of the bed. Luckily, I do that by instinct already, the bench at the foot of my bed is very close.

5. Don’t ever put a round dining table in a long, skinny, rectangular room, and vice versa–never a rectangular dining table in a square room. Just don’t. T. Keller Donovan


Good advice to heed when you are about to try and force something or fit something from your last house that clearly does NOT work in your new space.

6. While Looking at one of my first New York apartments, David Hicks told me diplomatically, ‘Dear boy, if you’re going to paint the walls white, you need art’. Peter Dunham


So true, white is so bossy as I talked about in this post!

7. Float something in the room–a sofa, a lounge chair–to avoid the ‘dance hall’ look. Think of it as an opportunity to show off the back (do something to with the back). Brad Weesner


8. Keep a minimum of 15″ between coffee tables and sofas. Alexa Hampton


This is an excellent tip. The end table in the above living room would look ridiculous and wrong butted up right next to the sofa, but 15″ away, it looks just right.

9. You can’t use a roller to apply high-gloss paint. You’ll end up with ‘orange peel’ walls, a texture you don’t really want. Todd Klein


And this was something we just learned from Dillon at Pure Painters in my post from Wednesday!

10. Never use a sonce over a mirror in the bathroom–it will cast unflattering shadows across the face. Sconces that flank the mirror will give a more realistic and flattering light. Rob Southern


Get rid of the overheard bar light if you can when you renovate!

Which tip is your favourite?

Have a Happy weekend my Lovelies!! xo Maria

Related posts:

Would you like to look at an image and know which category of undertones it belongs? Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

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leave aREPLY

  1. I love the IDEA of leaving off upper cabinets and thereby eliminating that claustrophobic feel. (If storage can be placed elsewhere.) Of course logic has to prevail, as this is the most complex room in the house,
    but open shelves are not the only option. I think artwork is wonderful in the kitchen as well. It is often a relief for the eye in a busy room.
    One tip I never see: lower deep drawers in the kitchen INSTEAD of cabinets. They work for everything. TWO motions: open/close. Love it!
    Thanks Maria for posting the tips! o, Paula

  2. With the exception of #8 and #10 these are definitely rules that are meant to be broken….the one about never using fabric more than once in a room is a new one to me and not particularly useful I think but the idea of a 28″ outlet is brilliant! Nevertheless, thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m late to the party but have to say I loooove having open shelving in my kitchen. Everything we have is white so it works for us and we use almost everything on our shelves on a daily basis so dust and grease aren’t an issue. for the occasional serving piece, if it’s been long enough that it’s dusty, we simply wish it before use. Pretty easy. I love having everything so accessible.

  4. Ps- I also usually find that ppl who say open shelves would be terrible have never had them themselves and people who have them usually love them. To each her own I guess! 😉 😉

  5. maria,

    You are so timely as always. I just had to specify a bench for the foot of a bed and couldn’t find any guidance about it online. Leave it to Tobi Fairley and Maria Killam to give me the answer! Have a great day!

  6. Btw the 15 – 18 inch rule is for coffee tables not end tables. An end table can be within an inch away from the sofa arm. You want a cohesive line. One should always try to make sure the height of an end table is almost exact to the arm of the sofa. 1 inch shorter is better than 1 inch too high. Too high and you run the risk of bumping your drink. 😉