Better Homes & Gardens: 10 Designer Tricks for a Bright and Livable Home
Whether you're remodeling or just need to spruce up your space, these professional designer tricks are perfect to steal and use for yourself. Interior designer Hillary Rondero walks you through how she made the most of her own home remodel. From decorations, to colors, to ways to best utilize a space, these tips are useful for anyone in a designing rut needing a little inspiration. Get ready to steal these tricks for creating effortless style and for making a home light, bright and livable.
1. Be Consistent
Hillary converted the chopped-up floor plan in her 1940s Charlotte home into a free-flowing layout. She then rolled out a cohesive palette—using the same shade of white on all walls, the same light oak floors, the same style of cabinetry, and even the same style of brass fixtures—allowing her vintage furnishings to shine.
To find the right shade of white for your home and its light intake, apply test samples to the walls and observe at different times of day.
2. Add a Few Touches of Black
Ground a bright room by painting window and door frames black. “When you have your windows black, your eye flows right through to the outdoors,” she says. “It seems like a bold move, but it’s actually less visually intrusive. The windows almost disappear, and it gives the room more of an open feeling.” She used flat black paint to mimic the look of steel windows in her remodeled living room. She painted just the inner parts—stiles, rails, mullions, and muntins—for drama but left the outer trim white to avoid the windows looking heavy.
3. Wow with Lights
“Light fixtures can really tell the story of a room,” Hillary says. “That’s where you can have some fun.” For her, bigger is better. “A large-scale fixture can make a room feel more grand,” she says. Three 40-inch-wide woven pendants do just that, visually linking the dining and living rooms. Hillary spray-painted the natural baskets black for more impact.
4. Think Outside the Box
Maintain an unobstructed feeling by opting for open shelves versus upper cabinets in a kitchen. Hillary’s custom version: A steel-and-glass unit that plays off the windows. Get a similar light and airy look with floating shelves; just make sure they’re deep enough to hold plates if that’s the intended use.
Integrate an open kitchen into adjoining living areas by bringing art—and mirrors—into your cooking space. Lights with graphic profiles are another artsy move.
5. Put Walls to Work
Use sconces to provide light for bedtime reading without taking up limited table space. Hillary employed another lighting trick in her boys’ bedroom. For extra illumination (and drama), she snaked corded lights from Etsy around exposed ceiling beams to fashion a whimsical fixture.
6. Get Bang for Your Buck
Earn big style points—that look spendy when they’re not—by using tile in small areas. Hillary stretched inexpensive white subway tile from floor to ceiling in her powder room to add dimension. She skipped a traditional vanity in favor of a space-saving floating sink, which further highlights the tiled wall.
7. Capture Space
Every room deserves something pretty and, in Hillary’s book, no square footage should be wasted. With a desk and chair opposite a wall of cabinets, she created a mini office in a corner of the mudroom.
As she does with furniture, Hillary freely mixes art. She paired a large abstract painting with formal vintage paintings and a graphic black-and-white photo to form a gallery wall above the desk. “It’s fun to mix different styles of art,” Hillary says. Even better: The grouping elongates the wall. “I look at all three of those as one piece of art,” she says. “It’s a way to bring the eye up.”
When faced with a small room but the desire for a big bed, as in the master bedroom, opt for just a headboard. “Skip the footboard,” Hillary says. “They’re too heavy-looking.” Pull in a bench instead. “I like using a low skinny bench—it ends the bed softly,” she says. “And stick to white bedding.” In Hillary’s opinion, it allows a bed to appear visually weightless.
9. Dress Up Drywall
Use wood trim, painted to blend into a wall, to add architectural interest to flat drywall. Hillary smartly added a few pieces of millwork to the vanity wall in her master bath. “It was a way to conceal the closet doors on both sides of the vanity,” she says. “When you step back from the vanity, the closets become part of the design.” In addition to serving as frames for the mirrors, the millwork gives the room character and depth. A wall behind a bed is another prime candidate for millwork treatment—think of it as an alternative to a painted accent wall.
10. Mix, Don't Match
Hillary is always playing musical furniture. A small sitting area between the master bedroom and bath hosts a wing chair that once resided in the living room. The swaps are her budget way to give a room new life, but her end game is the same: a collected, boho look.
If you already have matched sets—whether in a dining room, living area, or bedroom— Hillary suggests separating the pieces. “You can use a dining table as a desk, and paint the chairs and put one in a kid’s room or elsewhere,” she says. “Mixing makes things look more current.”
By Jody Garlock Better Homes & Gardens