Interior Design

Justin Van Breda reveals insider secrets on what not to do when designing your home

The much-lauded interior designer opens up with his top tricks of the trade

Justin Van Breda interior design tips
(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)

When decorating your home you want the best advice from those in the know – and who better than Justin Van Breda?

The established interior designer has offices in the USA and the UK, and also has his own line of furniture and fabrics. 

With in-depth knowledge of how items are designed and made, as well as how to pull a room together, Justin imparts his decorating wisdom for how to design kitchens, select fabrics and mix finishes.

Read on for what to do, and what you should definitely not do when decorating.

Justin Van Breda

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)

See: Interior design tips – decorating secrets for the world's top experts

Get your kitchen remodel right

Justin Van Breda kitchen

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Invest in two dishwashers, if you can. It’s wonderful to have one to stack the detritus before a dinner party and one for glassware only.
  • Avoid cabinets on the walls if you’re going for a country feel. An old dresser is far more welcoming.
  • Buy the best cooker you can afford; I am an Aga man, but I also do love La Cornue.
  • Find confidence with color; there are some wonderful shades out there for cabinetry. 
  • Avoid shiny unit doors with no handles – you’ll be fighting a constant battle against smears 
and greasy fingermarks.

How not to design a kitchen – the mistakes to avoid

Justin Van Breda kitchen

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Don't forget the practicalities of choosing good lighting – there’s nothing worse than not being able to see your cooker, because the light is behind you.
  • Resist having open shelves if you’re a 
neat freak because they will get cluttered; they can also get a bit dusty and greasy.
  • Don't favor counter space over sink size – you still want to be able to properly wash up a roasting pan!
  • Avoid being too precious about finishes; wood and marble will not always look like they did on day one, but that’s their character.
  • See more: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for open-plan, galley, U-shaped and L-shaped kitchens

How to select fabrics – successfully

Justin Van Breda fabric

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Use natural fibres – they hang better, have a finer sheen and 
the colours will play fewer tricks with artificial light. 
  • Consider your makers - purchase from makers that support sustainability and communities, such as John Robshaw does in India.
  • Ensure your cloth backgrounds tone together; some are yellowy, some are grey and don’t mix well, even if the patterns complement.
  • Combine weights and textures - this will create an established feel, so layer weaves, velvets, linens, bouclés and silks. 

How not to select fabrics – design mistakes to avoid

Justin Van Breda fabric

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Don't splurge in the wrong places - spending on fabric and scrimping on the make up – it will look terrible, while a less-expensive fabric can look beautiful when sewn well.
  • Avoid being obsessive fabric matching - colors won't always match exactly. You’re creating ambience and atmosphere, not a clinical colour project. 

How to mix finishes – get your interior design spot on

Justin Van Breda

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Create a patina of interest by layering styles, eras and colours in 
a variety of combinations.
  • Notice subtle details; the gentle curve of a leg or a tone in the wood are the features you’ll love forever.
  • Pick your wood carefully - woods can have a blue, yellow or red tinge so pick types that tone; oak sits well with mahogany but not so well with macassar ebony.
  • Focus on scale – larger pieces give the space a handsome feel but little pieces that are too small in a room can feel rather old-fashioned.

How not to mix finishes – easy mistakes to avoid

Justin Van Breda

(Image credit: Justin Van Breda)
  • Don't buy everything from the same place. Designers have a signature that can sing when in isolation but en masse will look too ‘show home’.
  • Add character by mixing price points - don't worry about placing less expensive items with higher-priced ones; it adds character.
  • Ignore passing trends - don't throw out things just because they’re out of fashion; reinvent them with a makeover.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing metals; the studwork on a chair doesn’t have to match the light switch!

See more: Find Justin Van Breda's designs on his website

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.