The space itself
Imagine your home completely empty—no window treatments, area rugs, furniture, or personal accessories. What’s left is what an interior designer sees almost immediately. “The first thing I look at is the space itself,” says Marissa Sauer, founder and interior designer at Design Macs. “That means where the doors and windows are, what the ceiling height is, and so on.” By starting with a blank slate in their minds, designers can better picture what to do next. These are the decorating tips interior designers would never tell you for free.
The style of the home
Dorothy Willetts, founder and interior designer at Willetts Design & Associates, calls it the bare bones of the house; its geographic flair and style. “East coast builders and designers tend to put more architectural detailing into their homes,” she says. "There you’ve got crown molding and baseboards, whereas out west you have the post-modern style." The time period your home was built is also significant; older homes will have different sets of challenges and delights than new ones, and vice versa.
How you visualize yourself
The Pinterest boards and pictures you show your interior designer say a lot about your aspirations and the life you hope to lead, says Willetts. In a similar way, so does the way your home is set up before a professional comes in. An interior designer will notice the details: how organized you are, how your children and pets behave, which room your family spends the most time in, and even the way the you dress. But don’t worry, they’re not judging you—it’s all in the name of designing a space that suits your lifestyle.
How you’ve placed your furniture
Some spaces are better suited for certain arrangements than others. “I look to see if homeowners have put their furniture in such a way that is inviting and welcomes guests or if they have created closed off spaces or poor walking patterns between furniture,” says Sauer. These are the decorating mistakes that make your home look messy.
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They check out your proportions
“For example, do they have only two small reading chairs where a sofa should be?” says Sauer. Both she and Willetts agree proportions are key. “The layout could be right, but if the proportions of the pieces aren’t, it doesn’t matter,” says Willetts.
Your artwork and personal style
Interior designers want you to own your own style. “I think people are afraid of their own taste sometimes,” says Willetts. “There’s no wrong answer. What you love might not be what your best friend loves, but as long as it’s put together with the design of your home, it’s OK. I think its great when you see something kitschy or weird or has a sense of humor. I think that's the best thing in the world.”
How well your home is lit
One of the simplest ways to add ambiance and change the look and feel of a room is make sure it's strategically lit. Willetts says it’s one of the most overlooked elements of design. “You can do so much by just changing out the light fixtures,” she says, explaining that doesn’t refer only to lamps. “You can change the trim and bulbs on recess lighting or recess cans to make them suit your space.” She also notes the importance of task lighting, meaning certain lights in the living room should illuminate a space for reading, and lights in the kitchen should brighten a countertop so you can see the vegetables you’re about to chop.