Interview with Laurie Smith

Trading Spaces' favorite Southern belle answers your biggest questions about home decorating.


Q. You seem to enjoy decorating from an inspiration point, such as artwork. How do you know what to choose for inspiration and then how to use that inspiration wisely?

A. After the room's furniture layout has been determined, I love to begin the design process with an inspirational piece, whether it's a fabric, a rug, a favorite painting, a lamp, or any accessory. My reason for an inspiration item is that then the room has passion behind it that is unique to the person or family dwelling in the space. A piece of fabric can become something as focal as a window treatment or a sofa, or as simple as a throw pillow. The important thing is that whether the inspiration piece drives a color palette or simply a mood, it is a reference point to ensure a room is being built upon something you cherish or enjoy.

Q. How can you tell which modern and traditional pieces will mix well together?

A. Don't be fearful of mixing styles of furniture. Allow different wood tones to reside together as well. Just pay attention to the scale of the furniture and that pieces don't begin to overpower each other. Pieces that are similar in scale live well together. If you notice that a room has a lot of right angles, introduce some round edges on furniture to soften the space.

Q. What's an easy way to carry a color scheme from room to room?

A. Rooms can flow one into the other without having the same color on the walls. Wall colors that have similar tonal values don't fight each other but, rather, flow seamlessly one into the next. Become familiar with the color wheel and play with various combinations. Look to fabrics for clues. If a favorite fabric or piece of art has pleasing color combinations, consider projecting those colors onto your walls.

Q. How do you incorporate treasures from your travels into your decor without them looking like tacky souvenirs? What do you buy on your travels?

A. If you are a big souvenir shopper on vacations, consider photography or objects that can be mounted and framed neatly on your walls. If visiting the coast, a pretty piece of coral is a welcome addition to any bookshelf. I personally love collecting decorative books about a city I've traveled to or a museum I've visited. These fill any bookcase or add ornamentation to a tabletop. If displayed well, your mementos create good conversation pieces for houseguests.

Q. What is your favorite inexpensive trick for giving a room style?

A. Light. No room is inviting if you're in the dark. Do you need more lamp light? Or can you invest in an overhead fixture or recessed lighting? It's important when trying to create change that the shell of the room be at its best potential. Always evaluate the shell and make gradual changes. Otherwise, you'll find yourself painting every other year without being truly satisfied because you're simply placing a Band-Aid where you needed stitches.

Q. If I need to buy a new sofa for my living room but don't know what color scheme I'd eventually like, what kind of sofa would work best?

A. Consider a neutral option. Cream, chocolate brown, or beige offers a good foundation to introduce other colors slowly. I personally love a warm, strawlike color because it complements almost any accent color.

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