ALL POSTS IN Decorating Guides

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I know what you’re thinking – there’s no way we can make holiday entertaining simple, stylish and stress-free. Why yes, yes we can. The holidays may naturally be a hectic time of year with out-of-town guests coming to visit, presents to buy and beautify and the general end-of-the-year hustle and bustle, but we promise you can add professional holiday hostess to the list, too. Here’s how:

Dress Your Dining Room

dress your dining room for the holidaysDress Your Dining Room for the Holidays

Start with the chairs (simple, yet festive embellishments will do) and then add decorative details to the table, chandelier and buffet table. Handmade place cards, a restaurant-style menu, centerpiece and table runner will top off the look.

Create a Festive Holiday Tablescape

holiday centerpieces and table settings1. Rustic Christmas Settings 2. Tiny Boxwood Centerpiece 3. Silver and White Settings 4. Sparkling Pinecone Settings 5. Mossy Gift Box Centerpiece

You know those drool-worthy tablescapes you find on some amazing website that look too complicated to create so you end up pulling out the holiday paper plates instead? Well, we have killer table settings and centerpieces that you can put together on your own without a long supply list. (But I promise guests will easily think you spent much longer perfecting every detail.)

Concoct Crowd-Pleasing Cocktails

pumpkin pie martiniPumpkin Pie Martini

There are very few things people love more around the holidays than pumpkin pie. Turn that into a cocktail and you have an instant favorite. Discover 15 Holiday Cocktail Recipes >>

Make Your Guests Feel Right at Home

holiday hosting and decoratingGetting Ready for Holiday Guests

Whether hosting Christmas brunch or housing overnight guests, discover creative and clever ways to make everyone feel right at home during the holidays.

Find more entertaining tips, ideas, inspiration and more in our Hosting the Holidays feature.

What’s your secret to stress-free holiday hosting? Tell us in the comments!

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It’s hard for me not to turn my review of The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate & Live Well (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2011) into an out-and-out love letter to its author, Deborah Needleman. Full disclosure: When I claim that I live with “approximately one million old shelter magazines” in my bio on the blog, 3/4 of those are the mag she founded, Domino. If you were also a fan of the dearly departed Domino, you’ll find a lot of its guiding whimsy and wisdom in these pages.

perfectly imperfect home cover

The main premise of Needleman’s new second book is that great homes showcase signs of life, not a meticulous look that a decorator has crafted for its inhabitants. In each of the chapters, she touches on the elements you need to make your place stylish, yet preserve its warmth at the same time.

The practical tips on things like bed height and proper placement of a rug in a room are helpful, but the book really shines when Needleman encourages personality. “Jollifiers” (i.e., “sentimental things that spread a little joy every time you cast your eye upon them”) and “Cozifications” can easily be neglected or ignored if one is too busy worrying about more superficial aspects of decor. The book is a great reminder to have fun with your spaces and focus on getting the best possible set-up for the life you actually live, peculiarities and all. The cute watercolor illustrations by Virginia Johnson have a charmingly dashed-off feel that further highlight and embody the casual-chic spirit of the book.

I’m thinking The Perfectly Imperfect Home would be a wonderful “jollifier” to add to any design junkie’s coffee table this holiday season.

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When I was living in New York while working on Design Star, I remember season six winner Meg Caswell discussing her idea of a series all about design crimes. Up until that point, I’d never used that term. Well, I kinda love it. In fact, I would probably steal it and pass it off as my own term if Meg hadn’t created it in front of millions of people on national TV. (Her new show is called HGTV’s Great Rooms; I like that, too.) The term is rather silly if you think about it; how criminal can decorating get? Well, perhaps if you rob a bank and then use the loot to buy custom window treatments. But for the most part, the term “crime” seems rather severe when applied to an industry heavily focused on fabrics and chandeliers.

After stepping off a plane to Atlanta from Fort Lauderdale where I’d spent a week troubleshooting some kidspace and kitchen renovations, I started to make a list of decorating dos and don’ts. While I’m not the end all/be all expert when it comes to decorating, I have for the most part pretty much seen it all, the good and the bad. Sometimes, there are happy accidents, such as running out of vases, then using a soup can to hold flowers, which surprisingly turns out to be kind of adorable. On the other hand, there are wimpy, completely uncreative acts like throwing sticks into a vase, shoving them into a corner and calling that “decorating”.

From smooshing sofas into walls to turning master bedrooms into showrooms for matching sets, here are a few design don’ts to keep in mind before tackling your next project. And if the term “design crimes” will persuade you not to do them, let’s go ahead and steal Meg’s catch phrase for the sake of saving a room from possible incarceration. PS – Can you imagine getting twenty-five years to life for blocking a window with a bookshelf or using floral chintz in a bachelor’s master bedroom? Hmmm, maybe there should be decorating jail after all.

Stick In A VaseDON’T #1: Shove sticks into a vase and use them as centerpieces. This was invented somewhere, probably in hell, and it doesn’t make any sense or even remotely add anything to a room. Well, except for some sticks. And a vase.

PlantDO: Use potted fiddle leaf fig trees indoors. As seen in this photo from The Marion House Book, they’re architectural, hardy, fill negative space beautifully and are an excellent choice for bachelor pads since they borderline on masculine.

Floating RugDON’T #2: Throw an area rug into a living room just for the sake of throwing an area rug into a living room. In order for an area rug to do its job—to ground and/or delineate space—it needs to not look like it accidentally fell from a magic area rug stork.

RugDO: Choose an area rug large enough to encompass all seating in a living room. Ideally, select one that is large enough to tuck either halfway or all the way under the sofa and any other chairs or settees in the space. In this Charleston home featured in Veranda, designer Deborah Lipner used this technique to help create the feeling of a room within a room, similar to the way putting disparate objects on a tray makes them look like a uniform grouping.
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You know that one funny story you tell that friends and family members get a kick out of, so much so that they consistently ask you to recite it or perform it because it brings them joy? I do. Mine is this stupid story about how when I was 17-years-old and working at a toy store for extra Christmas money, a shady couple came into the store, then had a friend distract me while they ran out with about $275 in rubber dinosaurs and marbles. We never caught them, but hey… the joke’s on them. They stole rubber Stegosauruses and cheap marbles.

About three years ago, I swapped this yuletide tale for a design trick I did in my own home and in a restaurant I designed in Midtown, Atlanta. What was the trick? Rubber Pterodactyl and green marble wallpaper. Just kidding. I’m talking about ginormous wall murals, particularly those sporting photographs printed on vinyl. After about three back-to-back projects with clients requesting these, I made it a point to completely stay away from using them for the sake of not becoming a one-trick-pony. Well, since interior design is a business and businesses are all about making money, I recently got over this and started embracing the many fantastic super gigantic wall murals there are to choose from online. Cha-ching! From very big decals to custom photographs more than 11 feet tall, take a look at what I’ve found on the internets. And just for old time’s sake, I even included a dinosaur. But I left out the marbles.

Mega Print

If you are vain and have fallen in love with a particular photograph that captured you from that perfect angle, giving you a super defined chin you like to think that you always have, perhaps you can immortalize yourself on your wall with Megaprint. The company can print your personal photo as a larger than life vinyl mural. If you do this, keep in mind that black and white photos seem to have greater longevity, since they won’t tie you into any specific color scheme until you move.

Mega Print

In addition to photographs, Megaprint can also print large-scale graphics, an excellent way to add some colorful, branded life to your company’s office space.
Butterfly Elements

Casart may be the most brilliant thing since sliced bread…seriously. I hate that saying because when people utter those words, they pretend it’s funny. Kinda like when someone pronounces Target [TAR jay] like they are the first to ever say it like that. Anyway, Casart creates murals, wallpaper and graphics that are, get this, RE-STICKABLE! Ah! This is life-changing for a designer who deals with tons of condos on a regular basis. I love these super-sized butterflies. Just one of these doozies paired with sleek, modern furniture is enough to quickly and affordably fill up a small bedroom.

Blik Scan Forest
Blik Scan Branches

Blik is the very first decal company I ever used back on a TV makeover series I used to design for. They have an enormous range of modern creations for kids and adults. The products come in clear packaging and include burnishers, which are all that’s needed to apply them. Two of their most timeless creations are To Scan A Forest and Branches.

Sissy Little Spinosaurus

Well whaddyaknow? A dinosaur! At least this time, it won’t include the aforementioned kleptomaniac toy store cheaters. Sissylittle carries a few giant-scale dinosaurs that are kiddie enough for the kids but modern enough for their parents to enjoy. Or cool enough for self-proclaimed mature geeks and nerds to decorate with in their apartments. (You know, those Big Bang Theory, long live Pluto types.)

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If you’re a Harry Potter fan, are related to an HP fan or are friends with one, you’ve no doubt heard about J.K. Rowling’s exciting announcement this morning. The author has partnered with SONY to create Pottermore, an interactive, partially user-generated, free-to-use Harry Potter community and “online reading experience” launching this October. While you won’t learn much about the site’s content in J.K. Rowling’s announcement video (although the animated book pages are charming and should not be missed), outside sources promise that through Pottermore “the storylines will be brought to life with sumptuous newly-commissioned illustrations and interactive ‘moments’ through which you can navigate.” So now, we wait for the Beta to launch July 31st, shortly after the final film installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. In the meantime, check out some magical designs inspired by the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Wedding

Olde-tyme curiosity shoppe charm, tea-stained book pages and well-worn metallics come together in this Harry Potter wedding inspiration board from Oh, Hello Friend.

Harry Potter Rooms

This hazy, antiquated dining room from {this is glamorous} has a neglected charm reminiscent of  the secret headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.

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A recent article revealed that one in 10 families never sit down and enjoy an evening meal together. If folks aren’t making it to the kitchen table, then the dining room must be one of the most unused room in the house. It’s time to disband this mindset and start getting the family back together again (sans TV trays and personal computers). Why not commit to eating in the dining room one night a week. Not just holidays and special occasions. And if your dining room is feeling a little tired after years of “just-passing-throughs”, you can easily transform it into a fresh, inviting space. Check out these top tips from HGTV’s Dining Room Design Guide. And don’t be surprised if you end up wanting to eat every meal in your new favorite room.

1. Spice It Up With a Fresh, New Color Palette

Dining-Room-Color-Palette-HGTV-DesignHappens

Christopher J. Grubb

A color transformation can work wonders, so say goodbye to dull and welcome a cozy and inviting new hue to your dining room. Whether you coat the walls with paint or express the color palette through new accessories, give your dining room the color boost it desperately needs.
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Attention all guidos and guidettes: Season 4 of MTV’s mega-popular Jersey Shore will take place in Italy. Italians and Italian-Americans alike are fuming over MTV’s decision to send the party-hardy cast to their supposed Motherland. But we at Design Happens are happy for Snooki and her tanned-and-gelled crew. Maybe, just maybe, after soaking up Italy’s classical architecture, inspiring design and century-old artisan traditions, the kids will aspire to upgrade their Seaside, NJ digs.

Jersey Shore Cast

Do you think there’s hope? I searched high and low for the best in Italian and Tuscan design from HGTV.com’s Designers’ Portfolio for a glimpse of what a Jersey Shore home makeover might look like upon their return to our fair country.

Class It Up

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I loooove decorating bathrooms. It makes no sense, because the benefits are rarely reaped (except for last year’s bout with food poisoning, but that’s inappropriate to discuss in this forum). I think that’s why I love bathroom designs so much — they’re unexpected and often neglected spaces of the home. In fact, I tend to use as many non-bathroom furnishings as possible in my lavatories, just to make guests twitch. I’m surprising that way.

So naturally, my bathroom ideas are overflowing, (ha! pun!) and I’m absolutely thrilled to share them. We have two bathrooms: one for guests/future kids (not yet, Ma!) and one for ourselves, which happens to be bigger than my first Los Angeles apartment. I’m a lucky girl, indeed.

Care to see what I’ll be doing with each space? Here comes the style board for the master bath suite!

Click for Inspiration

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Autumn has been, and will always be, my favorite season. Which says a lot, because I generally don’t play favorites. My tastes change often and I hate hierarchies, so put 2 + 2 together and you’ve got a recipe 4 a pretty scatterbrained girl. Ha! Do you see what I did there?

Image credit: Flickr, Ornamelle

Yet there’s something about the fall that absolutely transforms me. Perhaps it’s the sweet and spicy chai teas, cozy knits or my favorite equestrian boots that make my heart sing. Whatever the catalyst, I enjoy nothing more than peeling back the August monthly calendar to reveal a bright, crisp September full of promise, leaves and opportunity.

My One Simple Tip on WHEN to Change Your Decor

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This Friday, March 12th, is the official Girl Scout birthday, commemorating the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low registered the organization’s first 18 girl members in Savannah, Georgia.

If you’re like me, you’ve been showing your appreciation by eating as many Thin Mints and Samoas as possible. However, if you’re looking for a more calorie-light way to honor the Girl Scouts, let’s take a look at their classic trefoil symbol and cookie design.

gslogotrefoil_cookie

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Hello, my name is Chelsey, and I’m a blogaholic. I read over 200 design blogs regularly and that’s not even counting the fashion, pop culture, cooking and photography ones I visit daily. However, I do have my favorites — the ones I look forward to reading every day and Hooked on Houses is one of them. Julia is a Midwestern gal with a passion for homes and lucky for us, she decided to start sharing her favorites in 2008. Be sure to take a look back through her archives; there are some incredible homes and inspiring decorating ideas.

Julia-at-Promont-300x257

Ready to get a taste of Hooked on Houses? Check out her top 20 posts here. My favorites are Coco Chanel’s apartment and the Sex in the City real estate (mainly because I can’t stop looking at the closet Big built for Carrie)!

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You may not know Michael Taylor’s name, but you certainly know his style. Taylor, a San-Francisco-based designer, designed homes in the ’70s and ’80s for the Bay Area elite. He’s credited with creating the California Look, that airy, informal-yet-classical design that includes over-sized white sofas, primitive objets d’art and sheepskin rugs.

Rosenkrans smoking room, photo by John Vaughan & Associates

Rosenkrans smoking room, photo by John Vaughan & Associates

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The last time I posted a blog entry I imagined the perfect cozy reading nook – very easy to do. The hard part is sorting through the books you’ve got and storing them. Personally, I find the bargain section at the bookstore irresistible and I accumulate huge piles like snowflakes in winter. So I’ve developed a system. Every six months or so, I go through my shelves and ask three key questions. 1. Did I love this book? 2. Will I read it again? 3. If I have yet to read this book, will I ever? If I answer “no” to any of these, the book goes to charity.

HGTV.com has a few great tips about decorating shelves and bookcases at http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/home-decorating-guide-shelf-decorating/index.html.

I also discovered creative, stylish ways to store your favorite tomes. Check this out:

shelves in rafters - apartmentherapy.com

shelves in rafters – apartmentherapy.com

More Cool Shelves »

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One of the blogs I look forward to reading every day is Creature Comforts.

Not only does she provide daily design inspiration for fashion and interiors, but she also has great downloadable freebies to get your creativity flowing. Stop in and take look, I promise you’ll love her blog as much as I do. While you’re there, check out her Etsy store for chic prints.

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Do you need some decorating advice but you aren’t prepared to invest in an interior designer? Do you have a passion for design and want to meet others with similar interests? Would you like to join a vibrant community with lots of personality, encouragement and style? Spend some time on the HGTV.com Message Boards!

Check out some of the topics I found in General Decorating today. Princesssa needs to know how to separate a living room from a dining room. She posted her dilemma and had nearly ten replies in 3 days. In this post, ChrissyH needs suggestions for how to decorate her family room addition. She got help from several people including robbiesmom who used design software to illustrate window treatment options. And I was particularly interested in a thread about a deeply discounted online fabric sale. How does 4.99/yd. sound for drapery and upholstery fabric?

For inspiration re: color (including some heavy duty technical advice), check out our Color Message Board. In this thread KimberlyK gets advice on how to paint her nursery and worthitall seeks help with his home’s exterior. We have several Kitchen and Bath boards, boards on Remodeling, Real Estate, the HGTV Green Home and Gardening, to name a few. And I can’t talk about our message boards without mentioning our Quilting and Needlework community, nearly 60,000 members strong!

If you haven’t checked out our message boards, get registered here. If you do frequent the message boards, tell us about your experience. We want to know what you think.

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After two years of searching all over Manhattan, I bought a home! I’m so tangled in the red tape that I haven’t had time to think about actually LIVING there. It’s an old department store that was converted into a co-op: 800 square feet with 17-foot brick barrel ceilings. The previous owner drywalled  the brick ceilings and walls and painted them an awful red faux finish. There’s an ugly staircase and salmon colored marble on every surface in the kitchen.

I thought living in my new space sans aesthetic improvements would be okay for the time being but now that I’m about to move in, I’ve had a change of heart. So I’ve prioritized: 2 cheap changes with a big impact.

First: The faux finish will be covered in a clean white paint to brighten and modernize the space. My second improvement is will surprise you…I want a swing. It’ll remind me not to take this so seriously. I’ve been consumed by the stress of buying, so the swing serves as a reminder that even though this new home is a huge responsibility, it’s first and foremost, HOME.  So, What kind of swing do I choose?

This swing was on Apartment Therapy:

It reminds me of the swing we had at summer camp overlooking the lake.

How about this one? It reminds me of my backyard swing from my childhood home:

Ahhh, the Bubble Chair. A pricey modern classic. I love how it doesnt block the view:

The wicker hanging chair is a common option. It comes in many shapes and styles:

I love that these chairs look like they were made out of twigs and rope:

Which hanging chair do you think I should go with or are you totally opposed to my hanging chair idea all together?

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Are you a decorating junkie? Do you scour design magazines, books and websites, and watch endless hours of HGTV? Do you look for inspiration online, print how-to instructions and bookmark your favorite rooms and designers? Have you uploaded pictures of your home’s interior to Rate My Space and gotten design advice from all over the world? These are all great ways to gather ideas and learn about the art of decorating, from the basics to the trends.
But, how would you like to get free, hands-on advice at one of your favorite stores without the sales pressure? You can. Pottery Barn is offering a series of free decorating classes at its stores nationwide. The next class, Decorating Your Bedroom, is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 8. Space is limited, so make sure to call your local store, reserve a spot and get the details for your area. Topics for this class include choosing and arrranging furniture, accessorizing and window treatments. If you love setting a beautiful table, check out Hosting a Beautiful Brunch in March. I hope more retail stores will take a cue from Pottery Barn, offer expert advice in a fun class setting and hand out discounts at the end. That’s right; if you attend a class, receive 10 percent off items featured in the class. I hope these newest bedding items are included in this month’s class. They are bold – both in pattern and color.
The Pottery Barn Tea Garden Toile bedding collection is based on a vintage Chinoiserie fabric from the 1920s.

The Garden Toile bedding collection is based on a vintage Chinoiserie fabric from the 1920s. Pottery Barn's version is orange and organic.

Butterflies aren't just for little girls' rooms anymore. This fabulous pillow cover was commissioned by a London fashion house.

Butterflies aren't just for little girls' rooms anymore. This fabulous pillow cover was commissioned by a London fashion house.

If you're looking to add some color to your bedroom, the Ginger Organic duvet cover is a great choice.

If your bedroom could use some color, the Ginger duvet cover is a chic, environmentally-friendly choice.

If you could attend any decorating class of your choice this weekend, what would it be? In other words, what decorating topic do you most want or need to learn about? And finally, if you could choose any HGTV designer to teach the class, who would it be and why?

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