5 Decorating Secrets from an Interior Designer

We interviewed interior designer Lauren Liess to learn her decorating secrets and get tips on starting a home decor project.

Starting from scratch when decorating a new house can be daunting. There's so much to think about—furniture, paint colors, design styles. Designer Lauren Liess explains her home decorating process, including how to look at floor plans and coming up with a color palette to tie it all together.

Starting Point

Exposed beams, wood ceiling, wainscoting, cantilever chair, accent pillows, white sofa, abstract artwork

When Liess starts on a major project, especially when it's a brand-new house, she begins with the basics—the floor plan. She examines the layout, then thinks about which furniture needs to go in which room, where it will go, and how it will be arranged. At the same time, she develops a design palette that encompasses both the color palette and the overall feel of the home. Once those two elements are decided, it's shopping time!

Full Color Ahead

Floral pattern, floral print, blue couch, blue walls, blue room, light fixtures, fur ottoman, ottoman, abstract artwork

Coming up with a cohesive color palette for an entire house is tricky, but for Liess, inspiration is never far away. She likes to take cues from the landscape surrounding the home. Are there red and brown cliffs? Snow-capped mountains? Rolling green fields? Getting your color ideas from nature is also a subtle way to make your house feel like it fits in with its surroundings. To tie everything together, use a little of your main color in each room—but vary the amount and shade to avoid an overly matchy look. Experiment with using that color on different items. Don't just throw a blue pillow in each room. Try blue curtains in one room, a blue chair in another, an art print in the next, and so on.  

Curating Your Style

Grand piano, patterned sofa, velvet chairs, velvet, velvet upholstery, white living room, coffee table, drum table, abstract artwork

Stumped on how you want to decorate? First, you need to figure out what your personal style is and how that creative vision will translate to your home. Liess suggests making a list of styles and features you like, then narrowing it down to a few that will work well together. If you're having trouble narrowing things down, another option might be to create a mood board—real or virtual—and gather images of homes and rooms that stand out to you. Chances are, you'll see similar favorite themes recurring throughout.

How to Make a House Feel Cozy and Energized

Now that you've come up with a color scheme and nailed down your signature style, it's time for the fun part—arranging all your newly purchased furniture and decor! Learn how Liess makes rooms feel comfortable and full of energy. Your house will be feeling like a home in no time.

Creating Coziness

Pink and purple pillows and blanket on light gray velvet sofa

Make your home feel cozy and inviting with layering. Your spaces should look lived-in rather than museum-like. But lived-in doesn't mean messy or disorganized, either! Prevent your decor from feeling too cold and stark by piling on the pillows and blankets. Fuzzy throw blankets, assorted pillows, and upholstery in different patterns or textures are all fair game. In this living room, a vibrant blanket, round quilted pillow, and square floral print pillow lend interest to a pale gray sofa. As a bonus, you'll always have a blanket on hand if you get cold, no matter which room you're in. Now that's what we call comfort.

Play with Scale

Three gold vases on decorative tray with pink bouquet of flowers

Varying the size and scale of furniture and other decor in a room helps create energy and balance. When everything in a room is too small, you get an unwanted dollhouse effect. And when everything is large, it can get overwhelming. The same principle applies for having lots of very tall or short pieces. When your eye travels around the room, there's nowhere for it to rest and no cues to differentiate between objects. Add visual interest by pairing large and small, short and tall, or narrow and wide. These homeowners grouped a set of different-shape vases on a tray but kept it cohesive by selecting pieces in a warm metallic color scheme.

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