6 Interiors Experts Reveal Their Top Home Decorating Tips

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell

Swooning over effortlessly styled homes on Pinterest and Instagram and then dreaming of replicating those perfect compositions and flawless combinations yourself is one thing. Asking the talented people who create those spaces how to actually do it at home is another! That's right, we asked our favourite interior design experts to reveal their best interior decorating tips so you can turn those scrolling dreams into a very stylish reality. Your home will appreciate its soon-to-be professionally decorated look.

Greg Natale, Interior Designer

PHOTO: Greg Natale

Size matters. Whether you’re decorating a large or small area, you still need the same key pieces of furniture and soft furnishings to create a warm, layered space. The trick is getting the proportions right. Large spaces require sizable pieces, while small spaces require more petite pieces with slimmer silhouettes.

Walls that talk. Don’t be afraid of using wallpaper—it can really lift a room. Prints bring boldness and energy, and can be used to surprising effect in small as well as large spaces. The biggest consideration is the light in the room. For darker shades, you need a well-lit space.

Colour code. Use colour and pattern as tools during the colour scheme process to add balance, contrast and interest. A useful guide is to build on two neutrals and two colours. Keep neutrals for larger pieces of furniture such as sofas, and use soft furnishings such as rugs, cushions and accessories to add colour and pattern.

Cover story. In open-plan spaces, rugs and runners can delineate different "zones" without compromising the house’s flow. Use a rug to anchor furniture in a room—a rug under a dining table is an elegant touch. As a general rule, make sure the rug is about 600mm wider than the table on all sides.

Small pleasures. Many people often forget to budget for this last stage of the design process. I recommend planning for 10 percent of what you spend on furniture. Grouping objects on tables is an attractive way to display them—groups of three and five work well. Try for a mix of shape, colour, material and texture with some link evident. And always add a pop of metallic!

Greg Natale The Tailored Interior ($33)

Mr Jason Grant, Interior Stylist and Author

PHOTO: Mr Jason Grant

Embrace colour. Find your signature colour palette and embrace it! I love yellow as an accent colour but pink is suddenly on my radar.

Get personal. Personalise your space—decorate with what you love, and incorporate mementoes and nostalgia and things that create happy memories. It’s okay to create some warm, fuzzy moments.

Shop smart. Know when to save and when to splurge. There are definite splurge items in my black book—quality bedlinen is certainly one of them. There are things that are worth investing in and sometimes it’s better spending less. But spending more is the best investment—some things are designed to last.

Mr Jason Grant Holiday At Home ($36)

Darren Palmer, Interior Designer

PHOTO: Felix Forest for Darren Palmer Design Studio

Decide what mood you want to create. The way you want to feel when you enter your home, and the way you want others to feel when they enter your home, will inform a lot of your colour, material, texture and pattern choices. Do you want it be fresh and bright or dark and sultry, winter cosy or summer cool and crisp?

Texture, contrast and variation. Decoration is about layering the final flourishes that make a home a home, and gives you an opportunity to tie together disparate elements in the space. It can make sense of them as an overall scheme by simply repeating colours, patterns, shapes or materials in contrasting ways. For example, if you have a large blue couch you might lay out one or two blue books.

Layer in life. Plant life will bring an interior alive. It doesn't have to be a potted tree, simply using a small succulent or bromiliad will give you some organic relief. A small fern as part of a styling vignette adds softness and a punch of colour.

Layer in you. The pieces you love are the best things to use in your decoration. Making sense of them is the challenge, so don't scatter them around the house or even pile them all together in cabinets. The best way to work them into your interior scheme is to use them alongside other decor items as part of an overall vignette.

Art, sculpture and light. Art and sculpture are often big ticket items but where you can, get the best quality art possible. Sculptural pieces look great layered into book shelves, atop tables or on their own plinths and no art or sculpture comes alive without the right lighting, so think about spot lighting, back lighting and picture lights to highlight your favourite pieces.

Darren Palmer Easy Luxury ($47)

Steve Cordony, Interior Stylist and Style Director At-Large of Belle

PHOTO: Edward Urrutia. Styled by Steve Cordony.

Be a hero. I always say start with your hero piece in the room you are designing. For example, a great rug, artwork or sofa, and build from there. Take a cue from the colours in the artwork or rug and build the room to complement. 

It’s all about the details. The little things count, so interesting objects and accessories from your travels, whirly artworks or a scented candle on the bedside give character, personality and soul to your space.

Think outside the square. Sometimes the unexpected can make for the perfect interior. For example, painting internal doors or skirting and architraves a contrasting colour (rather than just white) makes them stand out.

Layer, layer, layer. If you have a neutral interior, build layers and create textures by introducing contrasting materials and fabrications. Linen works great with leather and velvet. Marble works great with brass and timber.

Create little stories. Creating little vignettes around your home can tell story. Style-up a console or bedside table with interesting objet and decor, and using books to create height and layers. As a general rule, think in three’s and use your "design" eye to get the right balance. Be it asymmetrical or symmetrical balance.

Wright Sofa ($3995)

Juliet Love, Interior Stylist

PHOTO: Brooke Evrard. Styling by Juliet Love

Use a vision or mood board. The value of this tool can’t be underestimated—your vision board will help you to collate your ideas and lead you in the right direction.

Layering is key. Creating a decorative scheme from scratch starts with a blank canvas. By building layers, you will create depth and visual interest. This is something that should evolve over time as you live in the space, and most often can’t be created instantly.

Express your personality. Let your interior space tell your story by surrounding yourself with the things that you love. Treasured personal items, things of cultural significance collected on travels, or simply candles or vases displayed en masse will inject some soul into your home.

Play with pattern. Often a daunting prospect, mixing and matching patterns doesn’t have to be difficult. Use the rule of three: one large scale pattern, one medium scale pattern and one small scale and you will have a combination that is fun without being overwhelming.

Use the rules of balance and proportion. The most harmonious rooms are those that have been considered in terms of balance and proportion. The easiest way to do this is to take a photo of your room, divide it into four by placing a line down each axis, and anything out of balance should become immediately apparent. Keep furniture in proportion, but play with one or two oversized items that will become the focal point in the room. A stylish lamp or striking artwork will work well to catch the eye.  

Juliet Love Love Style ($36)

Megan Morton, Interior Stylist

PHOTO: Jason Busch. Styling by Megan Morton.

Go ethical. Work out what you deem socially responsibly and ethical. Just as you would with fashion, your homewares and furniture should be under the same scrutiny.

Start with one item. Don't buy a light, rug and lounge all at once. Doing this leaves no room for the magic stuff to happen and for you to acquire it naturally and with layers. All you need to do is fall in love with one thing, the rest is like adding to the stew that's on the stove! 

Test the seasons. Sit through a summer and winter before you make any major decisions. Your home behaves very differently in each season.

Bring the inspiration to life. Get off Pinterest and get IRL. You will find so much more inspiration with real ideas, in real time, from people you know! 

Create hierarchy. Assign a hierarchy to the house, know where you peak and where you will pike! Each house needs a hierarchy. For example, what room is going to receive the most effort—it is usually where you and your people spend the most time.

Megan Morton Things I Love ($49)

What decorating tip will you be trying at home? Share with us in the comments below!

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