Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home

Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home


Every designer you ask will have a list of key components they think are essential to the design and function of a beautiful home.  And while my list may differ from others, I think all designers would agree that each of the items on my list contributes in one way or another to how a home looks and feels.


I meet clients all the time that don’t have a good handle (or vision) of their design style.  They know if they like an item or not but they can articulate clearly the overall look for a room or the mood they want a room to have.  Once you define your design style you’ll be able to envision the decor of your home, down to the details.

Defining your style encompasses many different elements, from the colors and materials you like to the style of furniture and accessories that appeal to you.  And don’t worry, defining your style doesn’t happen over night. Your style can change throughout the years just like you do.

One of the ways that I have my clients convey their style to me is by going through design magazines and tagging anything that appeals to them.  Then I have them jot down a word or two telling me what they like about the image they tagged.  The word ‘cozy’ on a room photo with warm colors may convey the colors they like. The word ‘clean’ may be associated with a room that is streamline and clutter free which tells me a lot about how they want to a room to look and feel. Once you have a stack of tagged images you can look through them and begin to see the common threads in the design style that appeals to you.

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The focal point of a room is a lot like a statement piece of jewelry.  It’s an element that captures your attention, serves as a dominant statement and in some cases sets the tone for the rest of the entire room.

The focal point in some rooms may be an architectural element like the windows or a fireplace.  In other rooms it my be a wall decor arrangement, a rug, artwork or even a sofa.

Identifying or creating the focal point within each room of your home will give you the starting point upon which to build your overall design theme.

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We all know that the way furniture is positioned in a room can impact the way a room feels and functions.  Arranging furniture so that movement can happen easily in, out and within a room is critical to the overall design of a space.

When decorating a room think about the scale of the furniture and accessories to ensure they won’t swallow up space and make the room look visually cluttered.  For the Key Measurements You Need To Know When Decorating Your Home, check out my post here.

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In my book texture is one of the most important elements to design.  Texture provides visual interest, depth and dimension and its also one of the elements that makes a room feel inviting.  As it applies to design, texture is defined as ‘the sensations caused by the external surface of objects received through the sense of touch’.  But it can also be a ‘perceived sense of touch’–you can experience texture visually without having to actually touch something.

Texture can be introduced into your decor through the fabrics you choose, the materials accessories are made of as well as the style of your doors, windows and walls.

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Variety is definitely the spice of life when it comes to decorating a room.  You don’t want one-dimensional decor…you want a home that explodes with interest and personality.

While your style blueprint may dictate a particular type of furniture and accessory style, you want to decorate with a mix of materials and finishes in order to bring your decor to life.  Don’t be afraid to mix gold with silver, leather with velvet or glass with metal.

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Years ago the trend was to shop your favorite furniture store or catalog to decorate your home.  While it was easy, many homes ended up with decor that was cookie-cutter and uninteresting.  Just like mixing metals and materials, it’s a good idea to mix the age of items you decorate with.  Pair vintage and antique pieces with newer items to build the character within your style blueprint.

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If nothing else, your home should feel personal and reflect you and your family.  Personal touches like family photos, books, artwork and collected pieces should be used in every room in your home.

As you decorate, be thoughtful in the placement of accessories and keep these tips in mind:

♦ Arrange accessories in odd numbers in different sizes.  It’s been proven that grouping objects in odd numbers is more pleasing to the eye than even numbers.

♦  Objects that you place together when creating arrangements should have something in common: color, shape, theme, texture, vintage.

♦ Balance the art and accessories throughout a room. Don’t place everything on one side of a room.

♦ Scatter your accent color in at least three places around a room to create visual movement.

♦  Keep scale in mind with pairing accessories.  Small accessories clustered together or scattered throughout a room will look like clutter from a distance.  Use medium to large-sized accessories which will be noticed and seem more important as you enter a room.

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 I think every room would have a wall decor statement that stands out.  That could mean a single piece of art or a grouping of pieces that create a dominant visual impact.  Based on the layout of your room and the architectural elements within the space, your wall decor can serve as the focal point.  For creative wall decor inspiration, check out this post.

Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home

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Most homes I go into lack sufficient lighting  and without the right lighting and the correct amount of lighting, your home won’t look as good as it could.  There are three types of lighting every room needs:

AMBIENT LIGHTING:  Ambient lighting includes chandeliers, recessed lighting, or sconces, all of which provide overall illumination to a room. And the use of dimmers with your ambient lighting will give you control over the light levels allowing you to easily change the mood of a space.

 tip: When wiring your rooms, include multiple circuits. This will allow you to dim some lights while keeping others brighter.

TASK LIGHTING:   This lighting is particularly important when performing specific tasks like cooking, doing office work, or getting ready in the bathroom.  In the kitchen, pendant and under-cabinet lighting can illuminate food prep areas. In a living room or bedroom, table lamps and floor lamps will provide task lighting.

tip: Even illumination is essential when planning your bathroom lighting plan. Make sure the same amount of light comes from the sides of the room as the top of the room. This will help prevent shadows and create the ideal bathroom lighting for applying make-up or shaving.

ACCENT LIGHTING:  Accent lighting can be used to highlight objects like art, sculptures, and architectural details within a room.   Classic track lighting and picture lights are the most common types of accent lighting, but candles also fall into this category.

For more lighting design tips, read my posts here and here.

Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home

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Something natural is a little detail that can make a big impact.  A plant in a corner or a vase full of flowers or stems will give life and energy to your decor.

Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home

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If you’re starting a new decorating project or looking to refresh your decor, keep these 10 components in mind and create the home of your dreams.

Design Guide: 10 Components To A Beautiful Home

Design Guide: Every Room Needs A Touch of Black

Every Room Needs A Touch of Black


When it comes to design rules, some rules hold more weight than others.  Some rules like the ‘ideal placement for furniture’ or ‘throw pillows need a karate chop’ are flexible and can and should be adapted based on personal preference and the function of a space.  Then there are rules that I think are essential to good design.  One of the rules I believe in whole-heartedly is… every room needs a touch of black.  

Explaining the logic behind this design rule is pretty simple.   We all know that color is a powerful thing in design and the color black is one of the most important design colors you can use.


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Design Guide: Choosing the Right Paint Finish


I hope everyone had a great 4th.  Today I’m sharing my latest design guide focusing on paint finishes.

When it comes to painting any room in your home, picking a paint color is just half the battle.  The bigger challenge for many people is what paint finish to use.

The first consideration when contemplating finishes is how the room will be used by you and your family.  And then deciding what type of look you want the room to have.

Just like design trends, paint finishes are also susceptible to trends. High gloss finishes are a popular look right now but classic finishes like satin and eggshell remain the most widely used paint finish in home décor.

Here’s what you need to know to pick the right finishes for your home.

Design Guide To Selecting The Right Paint Finish


Flat & Matte Finish

Flat paint finishes are available only in latex paint have a low-sheen, non-reflective surface which is great for low traffic areas, ceiling and some interior walls.  This finish will provide the lowest level of sheen and is ideal for rooms that don’t require frequent washing or cleaning.  Use flat finishes on older wall surfaces that may have minor flaws because the finish will not bring attention to those areas.  If you ever have to wash or scrub a flat paint finish, you’ll probably remove some of the paint requiring a paint touch-up.

Flat and matte finishes are an ideal choice for the dining room, living room, powder room, guest bedroom and closets.

Flat Paint Finish--Postcards From Paris

Flat Paint Finish--Houseupdated

Flat--Home Bunch

the image above uses a flat fnish on the walls and satin trim


Satin and Eggshell Finish

The velvety, pearl-like appearance of  satin and eggshell finishes are easier to maintain than a flat finish and perfect for high-traffic are like hallways, living rooms and bathrooms. A satin and eggshell finish is your best choice fo kitchen and bathrooms where there is some exposure to moisture. It is easy to clean a painted surface with a satin finish without fear of removing paint and destroying the wall surface.

 Paint Finish-- Satin--John K. Anderson Design

Paint Finish--Eggshell-Simply Grove

Paint FInish Eggshell--Benjamin Moore

Paint FInish--Eggshell2--Benjamin Moore

Semi-Gloss Finish

A semi-gloss paint finish is sleek and radiant along with being highly durable, easy to wash and scrubbable.  Semi-gloss finishes are ideal for high-moisture areas, trim, windows, woodwork and cabinetry.  This is the paint finish I recommend for built-in bookcase wall units as well.

Paint Finish--Semi-gloss2

Paint Finish--Semi Gloss--Color World Housepainting

Gloss Finish

Paint Finish--High Gloss--Remodelaholic

Paint FInish--High Gloss--Huffington Post

Paint Finish--High Gloss--Carla Aston

Paint Finish--High Gloss--My Domaine


A few other things to keep in mind when selecting paint for your home:

  • always get a mildew-resistant paint formula to use in bathrooms and laundry rooms
  • the higher the sheen, the darker and more intense the color will be
  • high-gloss finishes reflect light and make imperfections more noticeable
  • if you desire a lacquered look, go with a high-gloss finish or buy paint specifically formulated with a lacquered finish
  • tone-on-tone striped wall designs are achieved by alternating between gloss and flat finishes
  • most finishes are available in latex and oil-based paints but latex is easier to apply than oil-based
  • buy supplies that are made to work with the finish you select.  Oil-based and gloss finishes typically require specific brushes, rollers and tools

Shelly Signature

 image source:
flat and matte–Postcards from Paris
satin–John K. Anderson Design, Simply Grove, Benjamin Moore, Benjamin Moore
semi-gloss–Benjamin Moore, World House Painting
gloss–Remodelholic, Huffington Post, Carla Aston, Domaine Home


Design Guide: Curtains 101

Design Guide: Curtains 101


Every designer knows that a good pair of curtains can transform the look and feel of a room.  Like accessories, curtains add color, pattern, texture and personality.  Curtains can also enhance a space, giving the illusion of height, visually expanding the size of a window and enhancing the way light flows into a room.

Selecting a curtain style and pattern is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to adding drapes to your decor.  Measuring for the right size and hanging your drapes in the correct way will make all the difference in how the curtains look and function in your room.  Here’s your design guide for curtain decor…

Design Guide: Curtains 101

The appropriate placement for window treatments is for them to hang above and outside the window frame.

WIDTH:  The best placement for a curtain rod is to have the brackets sit outside the window frame.  Anywhere from 10 to 12 inches beyond the window frame will work in most homes however you can place the brackets wider is you have a small window and want to give the impression that it’s wider.

To create fullness with your drapes, double the width of the panels for custom drapes or hang two panels together for off-the-shelf drapes.  Sheer curtains will require more fabric width to create a sense of fullness.


LENGTH:  To draw the eyes upward and to give visual height to a room, add 4 to 6 inches above the window frame. Or, you can measure halfway between the top of the window and the ceiling.

To determine what length panels you need, measure from the floor up to where you plan on hanging the rod, then round-up to the closest panel size. You can always hem curtains that are too long but you have not options is the curtain panels are too short.

The trend for drapery panels is for them to ‘kiss’ or skim the floor.  This look is classic and will work in more decor settings.  For a more casual feel, you can allow the drapes to pool slighting on the floor (2 to 3 inches).  If you want real drama, you can allow the drapes to puddle 4 to 6 inches on the floor but this length is not recommended for drapes that will be opened and closed on a daily basis (or if you have cats) 🙂




The curtain rod and finials you choose for  your home will add to the overall decor of your room. Think of these pieces like you do jewelry to an outfit and select a style that works with the style of your room.   No matter what your price-point or style you needs, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at big box stores or through catalogs.    Here are some of my go-to sources:

Wayfair–a wide range of items including double curtain rods and decorative finials.
Ikea–a great source for inexpensive, basic rod styles, clips and finials.  Also a great source for budget-friendly curtain panels.
Home Depot–this super store has a great selection rods and finials including Traverse Rods which are built on a track system and allow you to easily open and close curtain panels.
Restoration Hardware–I love their selection of classic rod styles especially their brass collection.
Lux Hold Ups–this Etsy shop specializes in acrylic rods and has some really chic curtain rings.


Another thing to consider when look at drapes for your home is the style of top treatment.  Here’s a visual guide from Live Journal…

Design Guide: Curtains 101

image via

While not all rooms call for window treatments, most rooms will benefit from the style, texture and visual impact that drapes will add to a space.

Shelly Signature

Design Chat: Styling Super Sized Sectional Sofas

Sectional Sofa Design Guide Part 2.001

Happy Monday friends!

I’m back with another Design Chat session.  We’re talking sectional sofas again (they appear to be a design challenge for many folks) but this time it’s all about the most ideal way to arrange pillows and what style of coffee is best for an extra large sofa.

Sectional Sofa via


Here’s what Casandra asked…

“Shelly, I have a leather sectional that is 12′ on one side and 8′ on the other. It is perfect dimension for our room, but I am struggling with the accessories. Placing the pillows as suggested looks off balance and no coffee table is nearly as long as the long side of the sofa. Any tips?”

The pillow placement that Casandra is referencing in her question came from the styling suggestions I shared in the Design Guide below.  The design guide post, which has been pinned over 2500 times outlines the do’s and don’t to styling a traditional sectional.  I didn’t go into styling an oversized sofa like the one that Casandra has so we’ll talk about that today.

Styling a Sectional Sofa

Design Guide: Styling A Sectional Sofa

Sectional sofas come in many different sizes and can even be custom-made to fit your room dimensions.  The most important tip I would share when it some to dealing with an extra-large sectional is to pay attention to the proportions of the accessories and furniture that surround it.  Accessories and furniture that are too small will make the room and sitting arrangement feel off balanced and if all the pieces in the room are too large, the room will be overpowering and uncomfortable.

DON’T:  Don’t place to many pillows on the sofa and definitely don’t line them up like soldiers.  The pillows should accent the sectional and provide additional visual interest, color and/or texture.

Sectional Sofa Pillows--Don't


DO:  The living room below shows the ideal way pillows should be placed on a large sectional.  Pillows are grouped in clusters to accent/frame the sofa at the ends and in the middle.

Sectional Sofa via BlulabelBungalow

Lillian August for the 2012 Hampton Designer Showhouse  via Blulabel Bungalow

DO:  Use pillows in a mx of patterns and colors to play off accent colors used throughout the room–the pillows should become part of the overall design of the room and not stand out like a sore thumb.

Sectional Sofa via House Beautiful

House Beautiful

DO:  Pillows don’t have to all be the same size or shape–in fact a mix of sizes and shapes will add even more visual interest.  Because a sectional sofa is a large rectangular shape and sits in a rectangular or square room, I’d suggest mixing in a round and/or oblong shaped pillow for visual contrast or even trying a larger size pillows mixed with smaller sizes on the ends of the sofa.

The yellow pillow in the center of the sofa below draws attention there and takes it off the ends of the sofa.

Sectional Sofa Pillows

DO:  You might also want to group more pillows in the center verses on the ends which will add visual weight to the center of the sofa and help balance each arm of the sofa.

Sectional Sofa via Bassett Furniture



Now let’s talk coffee tables…

DO:  I’d suggest a square coffee table.  Trying to find a rectangular table that fits the dimensions of a large sectional sofa probably won’t happen and in many cases it could give the sofa an unbalanced feel.  The bulk and girth of a square coffee table is a better balance against a large sectional and its overall dimensions.

Sectional Sofa Coffee Table via Decor Pad

Decor Pad

DO:  When placing a square table in front of the sofa, don’t try to make it a perfect balance to both arms of the sofa.  Place it where it’s a comfortable fit in front of the longest section of the sofa or place it so that it sits in the middle.

Sectional Sofa Coffee Table via HouseBeauty


DO:  Another option is a round coffee table.  Just like with pillows, introducing a round shape into the room provides a contract to the straight lines of the sofa and takes the focus off the table being a different scale than the sectional.

Sectional Sofa Coffee Table


Balance and scale are two of the most important design principles when it comes to decorating your home.  When working with furniture that is oversized, those elements become even more important to achieving a look that not only feels good but that looks good too.

Casandra, I hope these tips help!


cover image via Bassett Furniture

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