Don't Design with Clichés
Timeless design is restrained, balanced, and doesn't give in to the obvious. "When you're in Florida, you don't have to have wall sconces made out of seashells. If you cross the line, your home can become a theme park," says architect and designer John Saladino. Instead, he choose a sophisticated sandy palette for the beachfront living room of this Spanish-style house. "I like to imply rather than be explicit," he says. "When you do that, you're hopefully designing something that won't embarrass you in 30 years."
Don't Be Afraid to Mix Design Styles
Mixing humble materials with more luxurious ones is a contemporary approach to great design. In the dining room of the same family home, Saladino slipcovered chairs in washable vinyl, then placed them around a 19th-century walnut trestle table. "An antique table is appropriate here because it's a non-intimidating surface. Children can spill their food on it, or drop their flatware on it, and they dent it – so what?" he says
Do Hang Artwork Together
Grouping framed pieces together makes a strong, lasting impression, like in the family room of this Palm Beach home by designer Meg Braff. "By hanging six prints in a grid over the family room sofa, I got the impact of a much larger piece of art," she says.
Do Skimp Where You Can
Want to redecorate a room for less? Balloon shades are a smart alternative to traditional long curtains. Braff used them to create an affordable, romantic look in the home's master bedroom. "That's three yards of fabric per window instead of 10, so they're less expensive," she explains.
Don't Divide a Small Space
Designer Carolyn Roehm wrapped her bed in the same floral fabric as her walls in order to unify the tiny space. "I didn't want to chop it up visually. It's the same with clothes when you're short," she explains. "And I like to turn small rooms into a cocoon."
Do Consider a Monochromatic Palette
Want to create a serene space? Try using quiet neutrals, like designer Benjamin Dhong did throughout this San Francisco home. "I like the biggest furniture in the room, my sofas, to disappear or blend into the walls," he explains. For pop, he added white accessories. They keep the room from feeling too bland, while still keeping the mood peaceful.
Do Incorporate Side Tables
Intimate spaces make for a warmer, happier home, according to Dhong. The key to getting one right? Make sure that every chair or sofa has an accompanying side table. "When you walk into a room and you see a little table or a stool pulled up to a chair, you immediately imagine curling up with a cup of coffee or a drink," he says. He did exactly that in this home's cozy master bedroom, with a wood block table placed next to a French settee.
Don't Hide Your TV
Have a sleek flatscreen television? Put it on display. "We no longer have to measure out niches or construct hideously huge mechanized ottomans at the foot of the bed that lift up the television like Dracula's coffin lid," says designer Markham Roberts. Newer models, like the one on this family room's bookcase ledge, look just fine out in the open.
Do Understand that Mixing Patterns Takes Practice
Making busy prints work together isn't effortless, so go easy on yourself if you don't get it right on your first try. In this dining room, Roberts choose similar colors to tie the rug and wallpaper together. "You just have to pull out your swatches, try things out, and trust your eye. If it's hideous, try again." Still having trouble? This is why there are pros.
Do Make a Small Space Work for You
A tiny kitchen didn't stop contributing editor Frances Schultz from purchasing her dream home. She made the most of the narrow space by extending cabinets all the way up to the ceiling. Glass fronts make it easy to spot specific items, as do deep drawers in lieu of lower cabinets.