Quick, easy, and essential. These Tips of the Trade are Robin’s hints, tricks, and tidbits to help you feel like a true interior-design insider. After 30 years Robin has collected quite a list—let’s dive in!
When it comes to dining room lighting, make it fabulous! It’s a great opportunity to make a statement. There are guidelines, however: make sure your chandelier isn’t wider than your table, and let it hang in the sweet spot 33”-36” off your table to the bottom of the fixture—never higher or lower.
Lighting is (almost) everything
The lighting in your master bathroom is the single most important design element in your space. It should be multi directional lighting that illuminates the room from the top, sides, and even underneath. Do the work to prevent shadows, and you’ll notice the difference when you put on makeup, pluck an eyebrow, or shave a mustache. This is where those precise tasks take place—light them right!
Choose larger night stands
When they’re as large as possible, you have plenty of room for a great lamp, a place to put your book, a spot to rest your eyeglasses and drinking glasses. Here, function is as important as form.
Create an artful moment
A dining room is a fantastic place to display works of art. You have a captive audience eager to explore their surroundings and strike up conversation. Paintings, prints, and sculptures in a dining room are often a better choice than mirrors, which can be distracting to those caught in the reflection.
Share the inspiration
On your entry way’s console, create an interesting grouping that celebrates you, your family, or your style. Choose an object from your travels, a special sculptural piece, a collection of pottery in your favorite glaze. The special vignette will welcome you into your own home with joy, and it will make guests feel welcome too.
Continue the vibe
Hallways need to be considered just as much as larger living spaces. They connect one area to the next, not just physically but visually, so let the look flow. Continue the wall color, carry over the wallpaper. Don’t let the passageways of your home be forgotten spaces.
Smile, you’re on camera
These days, we’re taking more and more video calls from home—work meetings, whole-family chats, virtual happy hours, parent-teacher conferences, you name it. Take into account what is behind you, and create a nice background for yourself with good art, interesting shelves, or stacks of books. Choose items and colors that communicate a bit about your personality and make you feel energized.
Lucky enough to have an island? Display interesting objects on top to create a sophisticated look. Use a large tray to corral a grouping of objects, or display fruit in a beautiful bowl. Think of it as a table in a room—one worthy of artful touches.
Take your indoor vibe outside
Though it’s outside, these open-air spaces are often just as visited as our home inside. Think of these outdoor spaces as an extension of your indoor style. It’s an outdoor dining room, another living room. Make it beautiful, enjoyable, and comfortable to experience.
Choose your rug first, and size it as large as possible. The color and style will serve as the foundation for the rest of your decorating decisions, making it easier to choose fabrics, accessories, and paint colors. A larger size will lead to more furniture-arrangement options down the line.
Go for beauty
While this is a hardworking room in the house, it doesn’t have to only be practical. Add elements of beauty so you enjoy spending time there. Carry the personality of your home into this space through color, art, accessory choices, and even the towels you choose.
Lighting, lighting, lighting
In the bedroom, give yourself as many lighting options as possible. Bedside lamps with multiple brightness options, sconces on dimmer switches, versatile overhead lighting. Look for every option to adjust the lighting to create calm, peace, and mood.
Serve up a sideboard
In the dining room, practicality is paramount. Position a sideboard or credenza close enough to the table to serve as a place for serving dishes, trays, or unopened bottles of wine. You’ll appreciate the extra storage, and a console can even hide away seating underneath, just waiting for those unexpected extra guests.
A mirror is a must
A glance before you go—we all do it. Check the lipstick, adjust the hair, tweak the collar. It’s a necessity, but it can also be spectacular. Look for exceptional mirrors worthy of this important space. Something grand in scale or detail is a great addition here.
Create your own gallery
Collect art? There’s always strength in numbers. Hang your favorite pieces together in a well-lit hallway, and you’ll have an instant, impressive gallery wall to enjoy every time you pass through.
This is where the work gets done. Where we spend hours creating, coordinating, making things happen. It’s very important that this space is comfortable—consider the ergonomics of your chair, your desk, your computer equipment. Give yourself plenty of leg room and cushioned surfaces. Your body will thank you.
Say yes to color
White kitchen? It’s your canvas for a color pop. Accessorize with brightly colored bowls, vibrant pots, or cheerful upholstery on your stools. Your kitchen is a place to roll up your sleeves, but it is also a place to celebrate your approach to life.
Consider how you’ll use the space
Who will be coming over to enjoy your outdoor spaces, and how often? Will you be hosting outdoor dinner parties, casual cookouts, or intimate fireside chats over a bottle of wine? Does your space and climate allow for outdoor sofa-type seating, or do you need the versatility of individual chairs? Tailor your approach to how you’ll realistically use your outdoor spaces, and you’ll soon know whether you need all-weather sofas, dining sets, or pairs of adirondack chairs.
Modern life means modern technology
Gone are the days where we used interior design tricks to disguise our TVs and media equipment. Today, TVs are very thin and used all the time—for movies, music, looking at photos, and more. Instead of using energy to hide the TV, embrace the idea of making your room useful. It’s OK to style the TV above a fireplace or fabulous credenza, and then gather your seating around. Own it, claim it, enjoy it.
Don’t forget the Powder Room
The powder room is your home’s public bathroom. Treat guests to something special by thinking differently in this space. It’s a tiny room with the potential to be your home’s jewel box. Go dramatic with wall coverings, colors, beautiful fabrics, dramatic lighting. Offer more than one light source, dimmable, of course, and have fun with it! This is the place to consider those decorating rules you’ve established for your home and have fun breaking them all!
Think ahead about the bed
How much time do you want to spend every day making your bed? Maybe you can go layered and luxe, or maybe less is more for you. Before you go piling on the pillows, think about your headboard—it should be tall enough to peek out from behind your pillows….and an upholstered bench at the foot of the bed is a great place to corral those pillows, robes, and more when you’re ready to turn in. A luxurious necessity.
Create a thoughtful first impression
Though small, this space is the first your guests will see. Greet your company with a beautiful, curated welcome that communicates your style and shows the personality of your home.
Light the way
For navigation through the home and for illuminating art and photos, good lighting is key in a hallway. Instead of one ceiling-hugging fixture, use multiple lights or choose a fixture with a drop and multiple bulbs that can spotlight what you’re displaying. Distribute the light evenly, and see the difference it makes.
Position yourself for success
A rule of thumb to give your office space the best, most productive energy: don’t turn your back to your door. This means positioning your desk so you’re facing your door, if possible. If your room and layout require a back to a door, see if you can angle your desk outward to make the space feel more open, airy, and inviting.
Light every surface
Lighting is critical in a kitchen. Opt for recessed lighting overall, but take this opportunity to take the lighting scheme further—over-cabinet lighting, under-cabinet lighting, toe-kick lighting, fabulous island lights and pendants. All on dimmers, if possible. Give yourself options to create mood according to how you entertain.
Light up the night
Create mood and safety by considering lighting options: pathway lights, wall sconces, flood lighting, lanterns with glowing candles. Just as you would for your home’s interior, consider the lighting details outdoors too. Your outdoor light fixtures can be chosen to feel like jewelry in the space, not merely functional necessities.
Tables are important
Make sure to add accent tables—coffee tables, side tables, diminutive drink tables—where anyone would want to set something down. From every seat, there should be at least one surface to rest a glass or a small plate. These smaller pieces are a smart way to incorporate texture, metallics, sculptural shapes, too.
Color your mood
The color palette of your bathroom can help you feel energized and powerful before you head out each morning, or it can serve as a calming source of serenity at night. Choose your paint color or wall tile accordingly.
Create a sanctuary
The bedroom is the most personal space in your home. Choose fabrics and paint in colors that make you feel calm, peaceful, and grounded. You want a place to retreat, and then to wake feeling refreshed.
Consider the seating
Think about how much space you have in the room, how much space you have around your table, and how often you will be moving the chairs in and out. Fabulous, indulgent, heavy dining chairs might be great for seldom-used spaces, but might feel impractical to move around every day. And remember—the wider the chair, the fewer will fit around your table.
Remember the practical touches
Whether you have a spacious entryway or a small landing, do what you can to provide dedicated space for the necessities. Try to fit in a table, shelf, or cabinet you can use to store keys and your bag, and possibly shoes and umbrellas—there are so many cool umbrella stands out there!
Photos are phenomenal
The hallway is a great place to display your favorite family photos. Mix modern with vintage, old with new, large with small. Guests will love lingering to see every photo, and are sure to ask questions and laugh at a few. A fun, meaningful conversation starter.
Give yourself options
Try creating more than one location in your office for your video calls. Maybe a corner chair is a place for a more casual call. Think about creating a space that enhances your moment and makes for the most enjoyable conversation. The options will show your creative side—a great way to put your best foot forward.
Continue the vibe
With open floor plans being the norm these days, kitchens are an extension of the rest of your home. Bring colors and details from adjoining rooms into the kitchen—woods, colors, and hardware can create a cohesive flow.
Fabrics make the look
All-weather fabrics will withstand wind, rain, and sun—and make your spaces feel completely inviting. Layer on the outdoor pillows, take a chance on color, and take cues from your indoor decorating schemes so your outdoor spaces feel like a natural extension of your home.
Make sure you have enough seating
Consider how many seats you need in the room, and what types. Choose lounge-friendly, comfortable pieces if the room will focus on movies and intimate conversation. Go for a sofa and individual chairs you can move and swivel to face the action if you entertain larger crowds. (Ottomans and poufs are great flex furnishings.) Remember that this is the room where people come to connect. Your sofa and chairs shouldn’t be too far apart from each other—create at least one area where it’d be possible to share a secret.
There’s not much opportunity for much accessorizing in this space, so what you do choose carries greater significance. Make the space feel special with extraordinary bath accessories like tissue holders, cotton holders, and soap dishes.
Make the bed the star
Arrange your furniture so that when you open your bedroom door, you see your beautiful bed. It is the focal point of the room, the room’s reason for being.
Start with the shape of your room
Square dining room? A fantastic opportunity for a round dining table. In rectangular rooms, choose rectangular, oval, or racetrack table shapes, and always keep a minimum of 3 feet between your table and your wall.
A moment of light
This might be the most important light fixture you choose for your home—the light in your entry way. Make sure it feels fabulous! This one pendant or chandelier is a great way to establish ambience, and be sure to hang it 7’ above the floor—no lower, and not much higher.
Sculptures are significant
If you have a hallway that ends with a solid wall, let a wall sculpture make an impact. A vertical sculpture that fills the space will add a dramatic moment and make the ending of the hallway feel intentional.
Function is as important as form
What will you be doing in this room? What will you be storing? Choose furniture with enough drawers for tools and files, and make sure you have storage in your room beyond your desk. Find a great cabinet or credenza—great places to keep rarely-accessed items.
Changing out your kitchen cabinet hardware is one of the easiest updates you can make in any home. Modernize, add personality, mix it up with a new metal—go for it. Dramatic impact you can achieve in one afternoon—what could be better?
Tables at every turn
Just as you would indoors, place occasional tables in key places to make the entertaining easier, and the experience more enjoyable for guests. Every seat should have a surface within reach to rest a glass and small plate. Today, there are so many out-of-the-box outdoor, sculptural, colorful tables to choose from—in ceramic, wood, glass, metal, resin, and more. Have fun with it!
Consider how you’re going to use the room
Are you going for formal, or keeping things casual? Hosting cocktail parties or kids’ birthday parties? Answering this big question will help all the rest come a bit easier: decisions like your best furniture layout, fabric and rug selections, and your color palette.
Great design isn't always about symmetry, it's about balance.
Create equal but different visual interest on both sides of your space by playing with varying heights, weights, and quantities of your objects on opposing sides.