Interior Design

25 interior design tips – decorating secrets from the world's best interior designers

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Interior design tips
(Image credit: Lucy Barlow)

If you're embarking on a room remodel at home, these interior design tips from the world's top interior designers will put you a step ahead of the crowd. 

See: Interior design trends – the top looks for year ahead

1. Source upscaled furniture

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Caz Myers)

Brand new furniture is wonderful, of course, but refurbished antiques will create an atmosphere that new pieces just can't. And the beauty of working with older furniture is that you can easily create an eclectic mix that is united, perhaps, by just a finish, a paint color or a handle style. 

‘We often source and collaborate with Studio27, One Brick Lane and The Restoration in London. All three specialise in upscaling mid-century pieces to add warmth, color and individuality while respecting the design and watching the budget. ’

Caz Myers, cazmyers.com

2. Add layers to create comfort

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Salvesen Graham)

Layering in a room is hugely important for adding both comfort and extra color and pattern.

‘A simple trick is a cloth-covered table – be it a console, center or side table. This can be a traditional treatment with a generous bullion fringe around the bottom or more modern, with a pleated or graphic fabric. A long cover is also really useful for hiding things behind.'

Nicole Salvesen, salvesengraham.com

3. Invest in the best fabrics you can find

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Georgina Cave)

High quality fabrics will create a high quality finish – but more than just offering the luxe look, they're likely to be more hardwearing than less expensive textiles. 

‘For affordable yet inspiring fabrics, I recommend The Cloth Shop (used here) and Warris Vianni, both in west london. ’

Georgina Cave, caveinteriors.com

4. Hide away utilities

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Martin Brudnizki)

‘In an open-plan kitchen and living area, hide away as many utilities as possible. I have a wall of built-in cupboards and behind the doors are the fridge freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer and all the cleaning products. I’ve decorated the fronts with framed botanical prints, which add a sweet focal point to the small kitchen space.'

Martin Brudnizki, mbds.com

5. Dress windows to let in light

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Todhunter)

Light-filled rooms are so much more refreshing to spend time in than dark ones, but well-dressed windows do look better than those that are neglected. 

‘Be canny with window treatments. It’s not always necessary to have hefty lined and interlined fabrics – a simple unlined blind can be very effective and much less expensive.'

Emily Todhunter, todhunterearle.com

6. Replace kitchen wall cupboards with a pantry

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Kitchen Architecture)

‘Being creative with storage can make a room to feel larger and let the finishes come to life. Carve out a small walk-in pantry or laundry room: this creates a task-driven area and keeps the kitchen walls free of cupboards. An unexpected benefit is it’s less expensive too.'

Philippa Thorp, thorp.co.uk

See: Pantry ideas – versatile storage that’s equally suited to modern life

7. Be bold with color – selectively

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Future)

‘A bold color choice can really elevate a scheme, especially in a small guest room. Focus it on one area – a headboard or a bedcover – to pack a statement punch.'

Tiffany Duggan, studioduggan.com

8. Swap out accessories to reflect the season

Interior design tips

(Image credit: James Merrell)

‘Small changes can have instant impact. Follow the seasons: add cushions and throws and layer rugs as winter takes hold; in summer, hang vibrant silk and crisp linen at the windows.'

Tricia Guild, designersguild.com

9. Use paint effects for a unique look

Interior design tips

(Image credit: K&H Designs)

‘Decorate walls with a stencil. It is an inexpensive but effective way to create a beautiful backdrop, as shown with this neat diamond design in a children’s room.'

Katie Glaister and Henry Miller-Robinson, kandhdesign.co.uk

10. Buy one statement piece

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Beata Heuman)

‘A mix of high-street and statement pieces can be particularly effective to get the most out of your budget – just make sure the investment item is truly a one-off. 

'Edition94 in South Kensington, London, is a treasure trove of vintage furniture and handcrafted homeware. Its founder, India Whalley, has a great eye for individual designs, which she sources from hidden corners around the world. I love the vintage side tables that she hand lacquers in bold colours – each piece is unique and can be made in whatever color you like.'

Beata Heuman, beataheuman.com

11. Make art part of your interior design scheme

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Kelling Designs)

At planning stage, put artwork into your design scheme – it may even be that a piece of art can inspire a room's new look. 

‘For well-priced art, we turn to British Art Portfolio. It’s run by two women who scour the country for work by young and established artists. They have an unbelievable selection of paintings and sculpture.'

Emma Deterding, kellingdesigns.com

See: How to choose art – an expert guide to making the best choices

12. Put accessories high on your list

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Penny Morrison)

‘Focus on accessories. For instance, dress a bedroom with inexpensive plain fabrics but add a colorful bedspread and some tasselled cushions. They’re so adaptable and will instantly create a strong look.; 

Penny Morrison, pennymorrison.com

13. Mix high end with low end

interior design tips

(Image credit: Simon Griffiths, Hardie Grant )

‘Remember the rule to mix high end with low end. A woven wicker basket will look better on an 18th-century chest than on a precious porcelain jardinière. Also, one place we recommend never to save on is the floors. This will be the most difficult thing to change in the future.' 

Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, nicholashaslam.com

14. Find aged finishes to add character

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

‘Aged brass as a finish is big news in the world of interiors, but you don’t need to buy new fittings. We work with craftsmen and artisans, including Masterfix Solutions, who transform the surface appearance of existing light fittings to an exquisite finish.'

Roselind Wilson, roselindwilsondesign.com

15. Use house plants

Interior designer tips 2020

(Image credit: Ham Interiors)

‘Use house plants wherever you can. For London-based clients, we go to Patch, which also offers advice on what will survive where. Collect unusual and reclaimed planters: zinc buckets are great for a rustic touch, but you can use anything.'

Katie Cox, haminteriors.com

See: Top 10 house plants – that all interior design lovers should know about

16. Be clever with upholstery

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

‘Be clever when upholstering a sofa. If you find a fabric that you love but can’t afford, don’t go for a cheap alternative. Instead choose a plain for the sofa then use the fabric you adore on a single chair or a cushion. Having a sofa made up is expensive and if you think your fabric is second best, you’ll only regret it.' 

Nina Campbell, ninacampbellinteriors.com

See: Inside Nina Campbell's house – take the tour of her London home

17. Reimagine what you already have

interior design tips

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

‘Reimagine the items you own. A tired piece of furniture can be transformed by being moved or used differently. Look at the colors next to it and embrace contrast.' 

Nicola Harding, hardingandread.com

18. Boost plain fabrics for a luxe look

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Lucy Barlow)

‘At an expansive window, maximise your budget without compromising on style by bordering less expensive, good-quality linen curtains with a more expensive, elaborately patterned fabric.'

Lucy Barlow, barlowandbarlow.com

19. Look for one-offs and unusual collaborations

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

‘We trawl flea markets and look to the high street for hidden gems, and keep an eye out for interesting collaborations. A recent favourite find was Sebastian Cox’s bedside table for Made.'

Sophie Coller, kitesgrove.com

20. Shop globally to get the best

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Future)

‘When shopping for projects, consider buying internationally rather than limiting yourself to your own market. The US is great for furniture, while the Netherlands has for amazing tapware and Germany is wonderful for appliances.' 

Irene Gunter, gunterandco.com

21. Put lighting in cabinetry

interior design tips

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

'Try fixed wall lights mounted 
on cabinetry or bookcases. 
Pretty decorative lampshades 
are a great way to create subtle 
yet pleasant atmosphere. Ensure lighting is decorative rather than task for 
the cabinetry in bedrooms 
and sitting rooms, where you might want to avoid harsh light.'

Emma Sims-Hilditch, Sims Hilditch

22. Give craft a role in your interior design

Interior design tips

(Image credit: Simon Brown)

Featuring craftwork in your scheme, whether embroidery, framed textiles or artefacts is a wonderful way to add character. 

'We love to create one of a kind pieces which make a room completely individual, from hand-painted murals to embellished cushions and headboards,' says Kit Kemp.

Kit Kemp, Kit Kemp

23. Consider the room's temperature

interior design tips

(Image credit: Matthew Williamson)

'Generally, cooler colors are more relaxing, while warmer colors excite. Think about the kind of space you want to create and how you'll use it. 

'Do you want your living room to feel like a serene enclave or as electric as the city that surrounds it? Do you want your bedroom to feel romantic or to channel the charm of an English country home? Working out the function of a space will inspire the color combinations you might like.'

Matthew Williamson, Matthew Williamson Design

24. Use trimmings to add detailing

interior design tips

(Image credit: Barlow & Barlow)

'Use trims to tie a scheme together – they’re perfect for adding an extra punch of color. Pick out a hue from artwork or other accessories in the room. You can also use them to enhance existing items such as headboards or lampshades. Trims can be added to make them more interesting and give them a new lease of life.'

Katharine Pooley, Katharine Pooley

25. Create a moodboard to build your scheme

Pippa Caley

(Image credit: Alun Callender)

'It’s a good idea to create a long-standing mood board. A good architectural or interior designer will be able to look beyond the obvious and analyze what it is you like about those images.' With practice, you can do this too.

Peter Sheehan, The London Resolution

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at Realhomes.com, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.