Room by Room: Decorating Secrets

posted on March 4, 2013 by  |  posted under Decorating  |  50 Comments

Decorating Secrets

Are you ready for some of the best kept decorating secrets?

If so, hold onto your fluffed pillows because this is the only place you will find the secrets for every room, shelf, window, furniture piece, mantel, patio, and more!

decorating secrets

{These photos were taken at the St. George UT Parade of Homes in 2010. Homeshows are great places to be inspired!}

Let’s start with…


It’s important to create a sense of entry in your home where your family and guests can be greeted with a positive and welcome atmosphere. Depending on the layout of your house, this can be done a few ways. One of the most popular ways is to add a side table with some art or a mirror above it and decor on top of it:

decorating secrets

I love the simpleness of the rustic table, mirrors, and accessories. Notice how the three mirrors echo the three sets of drawers on the table. They are about the same width, yet very vertical causing the eye to go up to notice the nice space and tall ceilings. The table decor contrasts the elements of three with the elements of two. Two lamps, two urns, and two candle sticks. Notice how the tallest of the two elements is on the left. I am not 100% sure why this feels the most natural, but I like to think of it as the starting point…we read from left to right, so we read decor from left to right. Also, select your lighting style with the style of decor you are placing in your entry…notice the simple, rustic chandelier in the mirror? It is beautifully done!

>> Decorator Tip #1 for Arranging Accessories: Organize accessories on a table with the tallest piece on the left and then balance that visual weight with smaller heavier items down and towards the right. Bring the eye back up a bit with a medium height piece.

decorating secrets

Here is another example of an entry table. This style is more traditional in the details and colors. I love how the decorator kept the accessories simple so the beautiful elements could speak for themselves. Remember, sometimes less is more!

If you do not have room for a table in your entry, hang a beautiful piece of art or a mirror to create that sense of home. Don’t forget you can also turn the back of a sofa to an entry and place a console table behind it to create a visual barrier and sense of entry.


These rooms come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. They are multi-purpose rooms and are one of the most used spaces in the home. This is a great place to have fun with some color, pattern, and accessories!

decorating secrets

This living room was in a small condo but it did NOT lack a sense of sophistication and style! {It was one of my favorites!} The architecture and windows of this space were very symmetrical and balanced. The decorator echoed that repetition and carried it out in the placement of furniture and accessories. Notice the table between the windows: it has a beautiful, simple circular mirror that is framed by flowers that are the same height and width. Between the flowers are two more pieces that are the same. The symmetrical placement of these items create a sense of order and balance. The balance is continued in the placement of furniture with two chairs facing a sofa straight-on and with two low tables right in the center.

The colors in the space are neutrals with pops of orange. The light colored walls, curtais, and fabrics keep the room feeling bright and airy, which is important since it was a pretty small room. The tv’s and other media items were left to the bedrooms.

>> Decorator Tip for Buying Accessories: Measure your room, shelves, windows, and other elements BEFORE going shopping for furniture and accessories. Items in a store will always seem smaller because their store is so big. You will be sad if you get your items home and they are the wrong scale or too small or big for a wall…

decorating secrets

This room was another one of my favorites! The furniture was definitely arranged for the walk-through, not as if a family was living there. Either way, the decorating of the fireplace, mantel, and shelves are what I want you to focus on. The fireplace is beautifully designed and the mantel above is different, but so impressive. The yellow color was matched to the yellow detail in the painting and is used as a focal point to draw your eye to the beautiful art. Simple, vertical decor was placed on the sides of the art to frame it and give it a finished feeling. The colors of the accessories on the mantel and on the shelves repeat the colors of the art…making this entire wall one stunning composition!

>> Decorator Tip for Art: Find your art first. Find a piece you fall in love with and can’t live without. (There’s no sense in spending money if you don’t love it). Then take that art with you as you shop for your accessories. Find pieces that repeat the colors, style, and pattern to compliment the art. Books are great accessories to add to shelves and stack beneath other items to raise them up. If your books are not the right colors, find wrapping paper or butcher paper and cover the outsides.

>> Decorator Tip for Curtains and Drapes: The drawing of the wall and window below are the same size. I scanned in the photo and added the curtains later. This is one of the most missed secrets…

 decorating secrets

1) Do not hang your rods right above the window frame…hang the rod and panels high and wide! Doing so will make your window feel much bigger as it lets in beautiful natural light to feel the room!

2) If you can, add two panels to each side of the rode to make your fabric full and luscious!


The most used room in the house!

decorating secrets

Because kitchens are designed 98% around function, it can be hard to know where to put the pretty things. Kitchen decor should reflect what’s happening in the kitchen. Start with selecting beautiful jars, canisters, baskets, and greenery…even silk plants or plastic fruits or veggies can’t hurt (just don’t go overboard, please!) For counter placements, start in the corners. If you have the height, put the taller pieces in the corner and layer out in front of them. The canisters that hold actual food can be placed more in the middle or near the stove top. Again…less is more in the kitchen. Keep those counters and clean as possible so you have more room to cook and less places to collect dust and germs.

decorating secrets

As for decor above cabinets…I believe less is more again. Some people love to pack them full from corner to corner, if you like that look and have the time and money, go for it. But if you just want accent pieces, again, fill the corners with taller elements and layer down. If you have more space above the cabinets on the side of the vent, like the photo above, the easiest solution is to create a simple, symmetrical look.

>> Decorator Tip for Kitchens: fill in the corners with taller objects and layer shorter pieces in front. Choose items that would be seen in a kitchen: platters, canisters, baskets, greenery, or herbs. Remember…less is more!


decorating secrets

These rooms are the best to show personality and style! Don’t be afraid of color and pattern in a bedroom!

decorating secrets

Some people may prefer to keep the tones and patterns subdued in their bedroom…to create a relaxing and restful place to retreat to. Neutral colors with accents of pattern and lots of texture can create this comforting look.

decorating secrets

If you have a head or footboard that is a great statement piece…let them speak for themselves! Choose simple accessories that compliment the focal point-furniture. Floating nightstands are a good way to simplify in a bedroom.

decorating secrets

Don’t be afraid of wallpaper. The wallpaper of today is not your grandma’s wallpaper. 😉 Adding a pattern to the wall behind your bed, whether with paper or a stencil, creates a beautiful finished look. I love the pattern of the wallpaper in this photo. Because it is tone on tone, it is subtle and not overwhelming. This kind of pattern on a wall allows you to have more for freedom in the other fabrics you bring into the space like pillows, bedding, rugs, accent chairs, etc… Gorgeous fabrics in a bedroom is what makes them feel lush and comforting.

decorating secrets

decorating secrets

This bedroom is a great example of wall decor on the bed-wall. Most people choose to hang decor above their headboard, which is totally fine, but don’t be afraid to be different and hang pieces over your night stands instead! The oval mirrors in this room work because of the curved lines in the headboard and dark finishes in the furniture. The white bedframe pops against the other dark pieces. Time for another tip…

>> Decorator Tip for Bedroom Furniture: You don’t have to buy “bedroom sets” (or living room sets, etc). Choose furniture pieces that compliment each other but don’t necessarily match each other. Paint your side tables a fun color and then repeat that color throughout the room. Have your headboard be a bright color and then have neutral side tables. The ideas are endless…and I promise if you break away from the “bedroom set” idea…you’ll have a more designer looking bedroom in no time! 😉

decorating secrets

>> Decorator Tip for a Finished Look: Repeat similar elements throughout the whole room. The easiest element to do that with is color. Notice in the above photos that the cream colors from the bed are repeated onto the cream color on the side chairs. The table between the side chairs is antiqued black like the side tables. The brown textured fabric from the bench is repeated on the brown pillows and throw on the side chairs. Remember… repetition is key in decorating!!

decorating secrets

I had to include this beautiful bedroom because this is one of my favorite color schemes: light blue, white, gold, dark brown. It also proves my point again with the curtains…notice how they are hung at ceiling level? The windows don’t go that high, but having the fabric that high makes the ceilings feel that much taller! (Does this room remind anyone of a modernized Downton Abbey? I’m having flashbacks…haha!) 😉


Bathrooms are similar to the kitchen in the fact that they mostly exist for functional purposes. That doesn’t mean you can’t add a little decor to them!

decorating secrets

>> Decorator Tip for Vanity Decor: keep it simple. Add beautiful canisters or baskets that hold the everyday items like q-tips and towels. Tall and thin vases with greenery and flowers bring the outdoors in and soften up the hard lines of a bathroom.

decorating secrets

Shower curtains can also be hung higher than normal too! These two photos show some fun ideas!


decorating secrets

Don’t forget about your outside living spaces! Whether it’s a tiny patio or a great deck with a ceiling fan, decor can have a big impact! They make great outdoor furniture and fabrics for any climate! Don’t be afraid to hang outdoor fabric from the awning or pilars, it can create  a more intimate atmosphere and keep the sun out. Big pots with luscious plants can create a visual break up where the patio ends and grass begins. Exterior made candle holders also add a level of intimacy and completeness.


decorating secrets

>> Decorator tip #2 for Arranging Accessorizing: The golden rule for accessorizing is working with odd numbers. Notice how there are three shadow boxes on the wall. Notice how there are three items on the table (excluding the lamp and business card holder). Yet, all of the times are a little bit different size or style…this adds variation to the composition.

decorating secrets

>> Decorator Tip for Hanging Wall Decor: Unless architectural elements call for something different (mantels, wainscot, etc…) hang your art with the center of the piece just above eye level. A good standard is about 5’5″. If you look around, most people hang their frames and mirrors way higher than this…bring them down where you can actually see them! 😉

If you are hanging a piece above a table, you can lower the height so it relates with the table. Notice in the above photo how the bottom of the canvas is only 6-8″ above the table. This arrangement makes all the pieces “talk to each other” and not floating away. Don’t be afraid to put taller pieces on the table. The layering of accessories is what makes it all work together.


decorating secrets

In some homes there might be a weird jog out or awkward use of space. Don’t be afraid to create a little vignette in these corners. Add a tall element to the corner (a tree, bush, floor lamp, etc…) hang  some wall decor to the side, add a cozy chair and a side table for cozy ready or relaxing.

decorating secrets

In a mud room or laundry room add a counter for the mail, a control center with a bulletin board or chalkboard, hooks for the keys, and lockers or baskets for organization. Even this little room deserves some love and attention.

Well, there you go…some of the best kept secrets of an interior designer and decorator. It doesn’t take much money…just a few basic rules of how things work together to make a space look well designed.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT if you learned something new from today’s post! I would love to know if these ideas helped you in decorating your own home!

Also, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT if you have question about a certain area of your home that you are still struggling to decorate. I will do my best to answer your questions below!  Hope to hear from you soon!


    1. March 4th, 2013 at 12:19 pm
      Alison says:
      Caley I LOVE this. That curtain drawing is really cool. Thanks for showing the difference.
      Fabulous POST!!!
      • March 4th, 2013 at 10:21 pm
        Caley says:
        Thank you Alison! It was fun sketching those curtains!! Glad you like them!
    2. March 4th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
      Shelley says:
      I graduated with a degree in interior design, and I had even forgotten about some of these tips!! Thank you so much for the reminder. Definitely a great post to keep coming back to for the always changing home. :)
      • March 4th, 2013 at 10:23 pm
        Caley says:
        It's true, isn't it? Our homes constantly evolve as we get older and our styles change yet some keepsakes stay the same. I'm so glad you liked the post! Thanks for commenting! PS You are a wonderful interior designer. I've seen pictures! ;)
    3. March 4th, 2013 at 9:00 pm
      Courtney says:
      This post is exactly what I have been looking for! My current home is completely hopeless, but I'm determined that my next one (we're moving in a few months) will be better. Thank you!!!
      • March 4th, 2013 at 10:24 pm
        Caley says:
        Oh I'm so glad I could help! Good luck with the move! Let me know if you have any questions once you get in your new place!
    4. March 5th, 2013 at 1:39 pm
      Christine says:
      How do you decorate an open concept (living room and kitchen), 15 ft high ceilings with a corner fireplace? Furniture placement with one wall being windows, corner fireplace and t.v. on the only other large wall.

      Thank you so very much! I learned from this post about accessorizing.

      • March 9th, 2013 at 10:48 am
        Maggie Simas says:
        I have the exact same great room layout and made floor to ceiling draperies in color that didn't compete with the view, to frame the windows. I then made a sitting area in front of the window using low profile furniture to once again, not compete with the view. On the opposite wall I did a large arrangement of family photos to balance the room.

        I've always struggled with exactly what to do on the TV wall, other than hang a large painting. I'd like to hear suggestions too.
        • January 2nd, 2016 at 9:46 pm
          Mirnda says:
          You can always frame your tv and then decorate that wall the same as you normally would any wall. It gives the tv a not so ugh look and helps accent other elements in the room. Just bring it all together with the subtle elements of the rest of the room. Mirrors??? It's an open space after all....why not make it feel even more open.
    5. March 5th, 2013 at 7:22 pm
      Marie says:
      I'm getting ready to move, and loved all these tips! Can't wait to decorate a new home. :)
    6. March 5th, 2013 at 7:27 pm
      Jennie says:
      Wow! Great tips with quick, fun info. I'm getting ready to decorate my new home in October for the Street of Dreams show and I learned lots of ways to create a designer look. Thanks for posting. Now I'm going to bookmark it!
    7. March 5th, 2013 at 8:34 pm
      Marcie says:
      Loved it all! Thanks for the help.
    8. March 6th, 2013 at 3:32 pm
      Ashley says:
      I love the entry ideas! And the bedroom seating area. So beautiful. I can't wait to get started. I need to get my house more organized. Love this post!!
    9. March 6th, 2013 at 6:40 pm
      Jessica says:
      I love this post! It came right in time for a Spring (I'm giving my entire home a bright makeover). Thanks!
    10. March 7th, 2013 at 1:21 pm
      Stephanie says:
      I love the creative towel displays and shower curtains in the red/gold/brown bathrooms. Amazing what small touches-like changing up how the towels are displayed- can do to excite the eye and change the perception and experience of a bathroom!
    11. March 8th, 2013 at 5:56 pm
      Katrina says:
      We have a "2 story" den and I really would love any tips on decorating especially the tall walls. I currently have a large tapestry on one of the walls but am ready for a change.thanks
    12. March 25th, 2013 at 2:01 am
      Kayla says:
      I love these tips! We have been in out first house for over a year now and we JUST started hanging curtains and finding accessories. I am a little bummed because its a small, start up home so I don't have any "awkward corners" etc. to fill.

      I do have one question about the master bed. I've been working on the nightstands with the equation of tall lamp, stacked books, small plant. I wanted to hang mirrors behind the night stands but on one side there is a small window. Our bed is centered in the room and the window is in the way to hang anything. Should I do a piece of artwork behind one nightstand and not worry about the other side? I don't know what to do!!!
    13. April 8th, 2013 at 10:48 am
      jenna lee says:
      I love these ideas! How would u decorate a really really small bathroom? Theres really no room to add any kind of furniture but we dont want to leave it plain. Theres not really any counter space but the mirror is huge.
    14. April 8th, 2013 at 12:07 pm
      Angalee says:
      Caley, love your posts!!!!!! You're amazing. We are in the process of decorating our house and it is so overwhelming!!!!! Thank you for your tips! Hope you guys are doing well.
    15. April 25th, 2013 at 8:35 pm
      Virginia says:
      Love the tips and photos. You gave some really good ideas and I can not wait to try a couple of them in my house. Please keep the ideas coming. I am now following you.
    16. April 27th, 2013 at 12:39 am
      Kandi says:
      Thanks for the tips - super helpful!
    17. June 5th, 2013 at 6:03 pm
      Corrina says:
      Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Please do another when you can and give us more :)
      Kid's room, playroom, basement, laundry, front porch, hallway...
    18. August 3rd, 2013 at 10:33 am
      Jo says:
      Caley, I love your decorating. I'm especially fond of the black and white bedroom with the red and white quilt. I have a black and white bedroom but have been looking for a red and white quilt and pillows. Can you tell me where I can find a quilt like that? Thank you!
    19. September 23rd, 2013 at 8:00 pm
      Marge Kamradt says:
      I need ideas for apartments where you cannot paint the walls. I know you ccan fabric a wall using starch but need more ideas.
    20. September 25th, 2013 at 7:23 pm
      sheila mae montillano says:
      i feel more exciting .,.to arrange my bedroom like this ,.,to become order and more comfortable place
    21. September 25th, 2013 at 9:55 pm
      christina says:
      Great tips! I have a dilemma, hoping you can help me with your expertise! I have two night tables in my master bedroom with one on each side of the bed. The space from the wall to my bed is about 45 inches but the night table I bought is 26 inches.[[ I bought the antique night tables on a whim off craigs list and re painted them, etc.]] What are some ideas in making the best use of the space? Would a single sitting chair in each corner next to the night tables work or would that be weird? Any suggestions? Thanks in advance! :)
    22. November 3rd, 2013 at 7:36 pm
      Designers Dream Boutique says:
      Fabulous Decorating Tips! Thanks for sharing!
    23. November 10th, 2013 at 7:18 am
      nicole says:
      Awesome article! Found something I could learn from and something I agreed with in each point!
      Here's my question- my 24x14 living room double as entry to the home. I have a small spinet piano which is a important to me but challenging to work into my layout. Any thoughts?
    24. November 12th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
      Stephanie says:
      Where did the tall entry way mirrors come from? Love them!
    25. November 27th, 2013 at 11:21 pm
      Paula says:
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    26. December 14th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
      Kim says:
      Caley, I live in a Raised Ranch where the foyer is in the middle of the first and second floors and only enough room to stand before going up or down. Once upstairs, you have a hallway / living room / dining room combination. My ideal decor is old world Tuscan, but I'm not sure how to pull it off. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how I can accomplish this. I'm also more of a traditional style design.
    27. January 17th, 2014 at 8:36 pm
      Chris says:
      Hello, love this site, just what I have been looking for! Here's my issue, I have a long narrow living room in which the sofa faces the fireplace and to the back of the sofa is the kitchen which has a bar height counter. How do I arrange seating with this layout without putting too much furniture into the room so it does not feel crowded or awkward? Thanks for your help!
    28. January 20th, 2014 at 3:05 pm
      Barbara says:
      I just loved the pics and the notes that explained how to get a similar look!
    29. January 22nd, 2014 at 8:54 am
      Mitzi Tollison says:
      This post has some great tips and nice examples to illustrate each point. Thanks for sharing!
    30. February 4th, 2014 at 6:14 pm
      nellie hieb says:
      Finally !!!!! Somebody other than me, is saying to hang curtains high and wide! Also not to be afraid of mixing patterns in bedrooms.
      Love all of these tips. They are so helpful and can't wait to try some of them.
      Thanks for all of your wonderful advice. Keep it coming!
    31. February 10th, 2014 at 7:01 am
      Debra says:
      I have a 10 by 20 den that opens up into my kitchen which in tun opens into my living room. My biggest decorating problems:
      Back wall is mainly windows with 22 in between, & 10in on the end of each on. Question would panels or sheers take over room?
      My colors are carmelized orange ceiling, sea haze walls, Monterey white trim. Want color for my kitchen cabinets? Any ideas that will marry these two rooms?
    32. April 3rd, 2014 at 7:41 pm
      Carol Davies says:
      I am not the best decorator in the world and this site makes me feel like a decorator.
    33. April 24th, 2014 at 9:37 pm
      Don says:
      This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I
      have found something that helped me. Many thanks!
    34. May 4th, 2014 at 1:44 pm
      Clara says:
      Thank you for all these great decorating tips! My front room is set up for an entry/living room. However, I am forced to turn this room into an office space due to the new baby that will occupy my office soon. Do you have any good tips to keep in mind when creating an inviting entry as well as a functional office space.
    35. August 12th, 2014 at 4:20 am
      Tammy says:
      I've been wanting to do a mix match bedding like the one in your post with with black white and red quilts. I have searched the web with no luck. Hope you can tell me where you got the bedding.
    36. October 11th, 2014 at 10:38 am
      Wendy Holdsworth says:
      Love the bird print! Where did you get it
    37. October 16th, 2014 at 7:14 pm
      Melissa Pilgrim says:
      Pretty please share where those three mirrors from you entry way were Purhased!! I adore them!!

      Thank you!

    38. November 8th, 2014 at 5:18 pm
      Lynsie says:
      In my master bedroom I have a window in my window seat area, wondering what I do for curtains. Can I email you a picture?
    39. November 14th, 2014 at 12:25 pm
      Angelica says:
      I love the picture of the bird where is this from?
    40. November 14th, 2014 at 6:58 pm
      Mrs. Mason says:
      My entrance to my small apartment living is a set of 12 stairs leading to bedroom. Is there a decorating tip for this design? Or a clever idea for the steps upon entering.
    41. March 22nd, 2015 at 10:15 am
      Maddy says:
      I LOVE this post! I got so many great ideas! Though I have a specific question... We are moving into a town home and the entry way is pretty much the stairs and a long hallway. There is not a lot of space to create a "mud room". We live in South Florida so we don't need a space for jackets, but I would LOVE some ideas on how to create an entry area that is also useful?
    42. April 16th, 2015 at 8:53 pm
      Stefanie @ StefanieandAdam says:
      Love these tips, can't wait to try them out in my home!
    43. June 11th, 2015 at 11:13 am
      laura says:
      where did you get the 3 mirrors above the buffet for the entry way decorating idea? The large gray wood framed window mirrors?
    44. August 4th, 2015 at 7:38 am
      Darlene Owens says:
      very nice ,never knew about the odd number decor thing!!!
    45. January 22nd, 2016 at 1:48 pm
      Anna says:
      Thanks do much... Definitely worth a read...
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