Besides the wonderful opportunity of peeking into vibrant and personally decorated homes each week, one of the things I enjoy most about the home tours here on Design*Sponge is that they essentially form a vast pool full of creative ideas, tips and tricks to be inspired by and learn from. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself “I’m going to try that too!” or “Amazing — I would have never come up with that!” It’s the clever solutions and personal touches that usually get me most excited.
Best-Kept Secrets is our new series where we gather design tips and creative tricks by people from some of your favorite home tours. We’ll cover various topics and areas related to decorating or designing a home, and let you in on the most invaluable advice from inspiring individuals from past home tours who’ve tried it, lived it and loved it. To start off the series, we reached out to people from around the country to share the favorite design decisions that they have made in their homes. We’d love to know yours, too!
For me, leaving color out of my decor and instead using even more of it in my wardrobe has been my best design decision so far. Knowing that as long as I keep to my color(less) palette, everything I bring home, whether old and worn or shiny and new, will work wonderfully together. It has given me a sense of calmness I was missing in my previously saturated decor. That being said, I still love colorful homes, probably more so now that I can admire them freely here on D*S! If you scroll down you’ll see some design decisions that are directly opposite to mine, which is perfect — we’re all unique! —Sofia
Batya and her family’s Colorado home is a celebration of wallpaper and cheerful colors.
“I love the look of layered design that is personal. It can be accomplished by purchasing pieces over time (don’t decorate all at once or you’ll end up looking like you live in a showroom!), mixing high and low, bringing in unique art, and incorporating older personal objects [and] heirlooms with newer pieces (many of mine were made by friends). As I work on our space, layer by layer, I’m always cognizant of the people who actually live in our home. I’m a mother of two rambunctious boys who often bring their friends over — nothing can be too precious or delicate. We want to be comfortable when we entertain and enjoy our surroundings, which is why you’ll never find anything white in my home!”
Batya Stepelman, founder of WallTawk / @walltawk
Wallpaper Creates a One-of-a-Kind Family Home in Colorado
Matt and Beau wanted their living room to feel as fun and over-the-top as the dinner parties they love to host in the space. Photo by Matt and Beau / Probably This
“One of the absolute best design decisions we’ve made in our home is embracing our love of bold colors that really show our personality. In our last apartment, we both knew we wanted something over-the-top for our dining room because it’s where we like to throw over-the-top-but-cozy and casual dinner parties, so we went and painted the entire thing pink (Mellow Coral by Sherwin Williams). Growing up, Beau always wanted a pink bedroom but couldn’t have it because of the whole boys-don’t-like-pink thing, so it was pretty important for us to embrace that desire and put a pink room somewhere in the house. The room was a conversation piece for anyone who entered, and it became a hit online. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when walking through a pink room every day, or really any room that fits your particular desire, no matter how bold.”
Clara moved her living room from one space to another after living in and trying out her new home for six months. The new living room and arrangement is perfect for her needs. Portrait and interior photo by Banner Day Consulting.
“It’s been about a year since I moved into my house and I’m still figuring out how to decorate each room. When we moved in, I furnished the designated dining room as the living room because it was adjacent to the kitchen, and it had the best view. If you saw my home tour on Design*Sponge, you can see the original arrangement. About six months in, I realized this was a mistake. Although we don’t entertain too much, when we did, the busing of plates and serveware became a workout. It’s important to experiment, try out different ideas, styles, and learn from the unexpected. Even if it didn’t work out in this instance, I’m glad I did it this way. Although TV would tell you otherwise, designing a home to last takes patience, thoughtfulness and a bit of perseverance!”
Clara Jung, founder of Banner Day Consulting / @bannerdaysf
A Designer’s Home In Berkeley, CA Is Warm and Inviting
“The best design or decorating decision we made in our home was not actually a conscious one. It was more an extension of how we live and adhering to what we believe in.
We love the ocean and bush and have always felt a sense of responsibility to look after it. And we have always preferred old things over new — old furniture, old cars, old wooden boats and old houses. We fell in love with the shack because it’s a place where we can combine our love of old things with our respect for the environment.
Hand-built by fishermen using timber and stone they found on site close to 100 years ago, the shack was simple and practical and aligned perfectly with our philosophy of being content finding only what you need, rather than forever seeking all that you want.
So to us, furniture didn’t have to be from well-known designers, brand new, or the latest trend. It just had to work. Almost everything in the shack was repaired, recycled, restored, reused and repurposed. If we didn’t already own it or couldn’t find it secondhand, we just made it. Not only did our approach cost less money, it had far less impact on the environment. And when you look out the windows here, you become very aware of just how important that is.
The shack is our simple little shelter where we feel most at home, most connected to, most in awe of, and most protective over the environment and where we hope our family, friends, and guests do too.”
Jamie and Ingrid Kwong, owners of The Little Black Shack / @thelittleblackshack
A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast
By painting the area around her front door, Liz was able to highlight the height of the room and create a colorful statement. Photography by Liz Kamarul.
“My best decorating decision would be painting around the door and frame. It accentuated how tall the ceilings are, made the door feel larger and all for a few dollars of paint. I always say that paint is the easiest and most affordable way to change a space and enhance architectural features!”
Minetta transformed her bedroom with golden wallpaper. Now, this room is her absolute favorite space in her New York apartment.
“The best design decision I’ve made in my home was to install wallpaper. I’ve had a long love affair with wallpaper and know its power to transform even the most mundane of spaces. Being a renter, I really didn’t want to deal with the product and installation costs or having to take it down when I moved. After attempting to do a stencil in my bedroom as an alternative and failing miserably, I decided to bite the bullet.
I had gotten a vintage German wallpaper sample from eBay and, as luck would have it, the seller had a few rolls available. It wasn’t enough to cover the entire room as I had hoped, but with some strategic cuts and placements, we made it work. Four years later I’m so glad I made the decision. My bedroom is my absolute favorite room in the apartment. The wallpaper sets a very glamorous yet playful mood. It gave me the courage to take other design risks and to wallpaper many of the other spaces in the apartment. I wouldn’t change a thing!”
Minetta Archer, decorator / @minettaarcher
A Harlem Rental that Fearlessly Embraces the Color Wheel
“Putting beds in front of windows! This seems like a total design mistake but if your headboard is lower than your window frame or is not solid and allows light to pass through, it can look great in front of a window. In both our master bedroom and guest bedroom, the bed in front of/under the window solution made a huge difference to the flow and feel of the room. I recently redecorated our guest bedroom and moved the bed from being squeezed into a corner to in front of a row of windows. Now it feels centered in the room, with space for larger nightstands and easy access to both sides of the bed. Every time guests visit they can’t believe what a difference it made!”
Emily Cosnotti, stylist and photographer, The Sweet Beast / @thesweetbeast
Blush and Moody Tones in a Pittsburgh Home for Photographers
Before & After: Layers of Frills Become a Modern Board & Batten Powder Room
Splurging on a good bed made all the difference in Hannah’s main bedroom. Portrait by Patchin Podes, interior photo by Shawna Ankenbrandt
“I believe the best design decision I have made in my home was getting a great bed for our main bedroom. For years we slept on a metal frame, so when it came to decorating our new home I decided that my biggest splurge would be our bed. I am so happy we went for it. Every time I would walk into our bedroom before I would think about how we needed a new bed. It was constantly on my mind, and when you see something in your home that really bothers you it’s a sign that it needs to be changed. We chose the Nest Bed from DWR with a beautiful wool cover, which can be switched out if you ever wanted to change the color of the bed. Now, we spend a lot of time snuggled in bed with the whole family. No more metal frame!”