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Popular in Decorating

Think Like a Decorator: How to Use Surfaces and Materials

Paint, fabric, wallpaper, stone, and tile -- they're all common design and decorating materials. But what's the secret to using them like a pro? Read on and find out.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Paint

      Mix it your way.

      Love a color that's too strong for walls? Ask the paint store to mix in just half or less of the pigment. Or add a little white paint to soften a too-bright hue, black paint to gray the hue, or a complementary color to dial back the brightness.

    • Paint

      Shine on.

      Experiment with sheen as a design tool. Consider dark gloss paint for drama, matte sheen against semigloss to differentiate trim from walls, and metallic glazes or paints to add a little glimmer.

    • Paint

      Reuse and recycle.

      Designers have a collection of never-fail paint colors they return to time and again. You can, too, if you jot down favorite paint hues in a decorating notebook.

    • Paint

      Master illusion.

      Use paint to expand the perceived size of almost anything. Paint a small dresser a bright hue and it will “grow” in size. Paint a ceiling a light blue and it will appear to be higher.

    • Wallpaper

      Lend natural texture.

      Grass cloth, made from woven grass fibers, offers touchable, neutral texture that's earthy and sophisticated. Pair grass cloth with glossy painted furnishings for dramatic contrast.

    • Wallpaper

      Change ceiling heights.

      Visually raise a low ceiling by putting a vertically striped pattern on the walls. Lower a high ceiling to make it feel more intimate with rich, dark paper with a tight pattern, such as a damask or paisley.

    • Wallpaper

      Go for temporary touches.

      Try peel-and-stick, repositionable wall appliques in geometric shapes, motifs, and murals if you want a dose of pattern and color (perfect for a kid's play area) without the commitment or effort.

    • Wallpaper

      Get glamorous.

      Today's fashion-forward papers include metallic inks and embedded glass beads for sparkle. Try them in small spaces such as a powder room, dressing room, or bedroom.

    • Fabric

      Make a mood.

      A boxy room looks luxurious with silk drapes and a velvet ottoman, or playful with patterned cotton curtains and colorful pillows.

    • 10 of 21


      Soften the outlook.

      Relax rooms with curtains and tablecloths, upholstery, and pillows. Fabrics also absorb sound, so they're perfect for noisy spaces.

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      Ease the care.

      Opt for soil- and stain-resistant fabrics to withstand the onslaught of children and pets. Indoor-outdoor fabrics guarantee durability and deliver good looks and a soft finish.

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      Suit the season.

      Wool traps heat and feels warm in winter. Light linens and cotton reflect sunlight, promote evaporation, and feel cool in summer.

    • 13 of 21


      Expand space.

      In a small home, run the same wood flooring or wood wainscoting from room to room as a unifier.

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      Let it star or just shine.

      One wood paneled wall can be the star of a room. Cover every wall with wood, however, and the star fades into a fabulous background.

    • 15 of 21


      Set the mood.

      Solo or in combination, wood changes the mood of a space. Weathered beams mixed with car siding offer a casual look. Beaded-board paneling creates an instant cottage look. Exotic wood bookcases deliver a modern vibe.

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      Add instant character.

      Crown molding highlights the ceiling, while deep baseboards change the proportions of a room. Balusters and a newel turn a staircase into a focal point. Carved pieces, such as brackets, medallions, and moldings, add decorative details on cabinetry and doors.

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      Stone and Tile

      Start with a grand plan.

      Stone and tile can be expensive, so use them where they justify the expense. Consider a countertop-to-ceiling wall behind a cooktop, an entry floor, or a fireplace wall.

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      Stone and Tile

      Go custom.

      Tile comes in pieces that can combine in endless options. So get creative when planning a custom tile installation. Map out several combinations using graph paper.

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      Stone and Tile

      Use more rather than less for drama.

      On walls, use more tile than drywall to make a statement. When the tile reaches higher, it feels richer and looks more finished. Consider laying tile all the way to the ceiling in a shower.

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      Stone and Tile

      Work with the sheen.

      Use glossy stone and tile on vertical surfaces where daily use won't dull them; embrace the reflections that lighten a room. Opt for matte finishes for floors and counters. A matte finish makes stone and tile colors look deeper, and it's less affected by daily wear and tear.

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      Next Slideshow Savvy Decor and Design Ideas Under $50

      Savvy Decor and Design Ideas Under $50

      Achieve fresh style on a budget with these use-anywhere design ideas that are versatile and easy to do.
      Begin Slideshow »



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