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Secrets of a model home designer

If you read my Design eBook, you know how important the scale of the furniture is in a space. It needs to fit like Goldilocks - too small and its uncomfortable to look at, too big and it's uncomfortable to walk through, just right and its inviting. After you start with the main pieces of a room, you want to start thinking about the rest of the layers. When I did model homes for over 10 years, there were certain layers that were included in every home, no matter how low or high the budget. Here they are, in no specific order...

  1. Plants! Greenery is so important for so many reasons, but for the sake of brevity and this blog, it brings life and color into a space. Google Biophilic Design and Shinrin-Yoku if you want to learn more about the benefits of bringing the outdoors in.

  2. Lighting. If you read my Design eBook, you know how I feel about decorative lighting. I'll say it again - it brings lighting to human scale and brings warmth to a space. Table lamps, floor lamps and up lights in your plants are all great opportunities to bring additional sparkle and design details to your room.

  3. Books. If you're not an avid reader, you can still pick up a few hardcover books from the Goodwill or used book store. A stack on an nightstand, or beautiful, large scale books on a coffee table add bonhomie to your room.

  4. Decorative pillows. Even the tightest budget of models would get decorative pillows on upholstery and beds. Instead of 4-5 on a sofa for a higher end project, 2-3 would still bring in pattern and color to break up the monolith of a sofa.

  5. Art. It doesn't have to be a Picasso. Find a vintage piece at a second hand store or find an upcoming new artist on Etsy. Don't forget about mirrors and other "non-art" pieces such as carved wood, metal sculptures, wall clocks etc.

In this photo to the left, you see a living room with the main pieces (sofa, coffee table, end table and sofa table with family photos). It's flat and one note.

In the photo on the right, you see the same space with the first four of the layers mentioned above (the other walls in the space have a mirror and artwork). The table lamp has a mother of pearl base and a linen lampshade with silk tape at the top and bottom. This brings shimmer and texture. The coffee table and end table have stacked books on them (along with additional accessories). There is a plant in the corner (with an up light in it) and an orchid on the coffee table. The decorative pillows and layered zebra print rug add pattern to the space and help break up the solid tones on the sofa and jute rug.

In the photo on the left, you can see a dining room with three of the layers added in. The vintage painted sideboard has unique details on it, but without the added layers, its a little ho-hum. The plant in the corner adds color and movement. The silver lamp base, holding an agate brings in the sparkle and light. Adding a large mirror helps reflect light from the windows and adds additional texture with the rustic wood frame.

I hope the visuals help you understand that a space isn't just the furniture. It takes layers to bring the space to life and showcase your personal style. They don't have to happen overnight and in fact, it's usually more interesting if you collect things as you find them.

Thanks for reading my design tips and I hope you found them useful! If there are other topics you’re interested in learning about, or if you’d like more information and a personalized interior design consultation, please contact me at or view my services online.


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