It doesn't matter whether Vern is designing a room for himself, a client, or a TV show, he considers who will be using the space and how they want to live. "Great design isn't just about aesthetically pleasing rooms," he says. "The whole point of interior design is about creating environments where people can really live their lives and where you can connect with your friends and family."
"A room will look more complete if you can put some architecture into the space," Vern says. "People think its difficult to install crown molding or trim, when in actuality with a few simple tools you can dramatically alter a space." Consider giving your mantle and fireplace a new look by adding trim.
Vern loves to decorate his own space with items gathered on his adventures around the world. Even if you're not a globe-trotter, you can still achieve a similar look. "Don't buy the magnets and T-shirts," Vern says. "When you go on vacation, buy one thing for your house. Surrounding yourself with things from your adventure is a great way to mark time."
Vern advises creating a space plan of your rooms before shopping for furnishings. "If you have a plan, you'll know that you might need a 3-foot-square coffee table rather than a 2x4-foot rectangle. It helps you spend wisely," he says.
Dramatic artwork, such as these four pieces by Atlanta artist Harriet Leibowitz, adds a bold color statement to white walls. "If you're in a situation where you don't have the authority to paint your walls or you don't have great art, buy a large canvas and make your own," Vern says.
Vern practices the art of blending things that are hundreds of years old with linear modern pieces in a way that's livable. "I like my house to be peaceful," he says. "I don't care if your budget is $500 or $5,000," Vern says. "You're much better off in the long run if you invest in quality because you don't have to replace things as often."
"If you really need a sense of completion in a room," Vern says, "a good rule of thumb is to pick a brighter color for the walls because it gives the room a sense of design." But, he adds, "if you have phenomenal art, furniture, and things, your color should recede so your things can be more prominent."
Decorating with personal items is an integral part of Vern's design philosophy. In his home, "everything is me," he says. "It's who I am and where I've been." Through his television shows, HGTV's Design Star and Deserving Design, he encourages others to outfit their homes with a mix of sentimental items, family treasures, and travel keepsakes. Keep your eyes open for the things that are special, he says.