How to Decorate a Master Bedroom


The “master” in front of “bedroom” should signify the room’s importance in your life, but too often, we pour energy (and money!) into decorating shared spaces, reasoning that nobody sees the master bedroom but the people who sleep there. Use your move as a catalyst for change and put your room first! Make the master more than a place to catch some ZZZs; follow our pros’ tips and turn that empty room into your custom sanctuary.

Stage 1: Bring In the Basics

Start off by getting the room’s most essential elements in place.

If you’ve already selected a bed, you’re a step ahead! But if you took advantage of the pre-move purge and ditched your old mattress, it’s time to buy new. Thinking about switching to memory foam? Test it out now. Always wanted to upgrade to a king-size? Now’s the time. Seize the fresh start and update your linens, too: Introduce new sheets, blankets and pillows, and consider mixing and matching patterns to create visual interest. “You could do a playful pattern for the bedskirt, and pillows with a solid duvet and coverlet, and complementary sheets,” suggests Angie Gardeck, an interior designer who owns New Perspective Design, in Algonquin, Illinois. And remember, this is your relaxation zone: If an animal-print throw catches your eye, scoop it up!

Next, evaluate your closet space. If it can’t contain your entire wardrobe, you’ll need storage in the forms of dressers or armoires. But what worked in your old bedroom may not work in your new space; don’t load your bedroom up with furniture just because you already own it. Organize your new closet first, then evaluate what still needs a home and bring in a storage piece to house it. And don’t neglect “hidden” storage areas like the space under your bed; shallow storage bins under the mattress may be a better solution than another dresser.

With your bed and furniture in place, it’s a great time to consider window treatments; you’ll know just when the sun will hit the space, and whether you need to minimize or increase daylight. Gardeck often recommends drapes instead of blinds in a bedroom. “They add a vertical element to a room that has a lot of horizontals,” she says. They also add softness, which will make the environment a soothing setting to come home to.

Stage 2: Add (Useful) Detail

Layer in a little something extra.

You’ve got the basics down; now add some polish. For spot-on sophistication, try an ottoman or bench made of leather or upholstery in a color that complements or contrasts the palette already established. Some have storage capacity — it’s like having a secret closet! — and give you a place to put extra sheets and blankets.

Placing a nightstand on either side of the bed creates symmetry and balance (and a place to park that morning cappuccino). For a modern take, use a pair of small end tables in a style that works with the room’s other furniture but doesn’t match too perfectly.

Think about additional lighting next. While overhead beams are critical for helping you find that earring you dropped while getting dressed, ambient lighting, in the form of table lamps and sconces, makes a room — and you! — glow, underscoring the relaxing vibe. “While lamps don’t have to be identical,” says Gardeck, “they should visually line up, with the bottom of the shade about 45 inches from the floor.”

If you’ve been checking yourself out in the bathroom mirror, now’s your opportunity to upgrade to a full-length version. Besides providing another vertical shape, it serves a design purpose: It adds a reflection, which instantly makes the room feel bigger.

Stage 3: Make it a Masterpiece

Load your master bedroom with items that take it to the next level.

One of bedroom design’s biggest trends is the upholstered headboard. One part cozy, many parts chic, a headboard is super comfortable when you’re up late reading the latest Stephen King novel. It also breaks up the dated look of matched furniture, says Gardeck. Shop for one in a durable, neutral fabric, or put the project on your DIY list.

Another trend worthy of the master: wallpaper in big, bold patterns. It gives walls an opulence that paint can’t match. Pick an elegant design with textural appeal, or a graphic pattern with look-at-me personality. But to keep the look upscale, balance a vibrant wallpaper with neutral furnishings. A dramatic take: “Do only the wall that your bed rests against with wallpaper and paint the others,” says Leah Gomberg, owner of Sweet Life By Design, an interior design/home staging company, in Maplewood, New Jersey. “It’ll really pop.”

Everyone loves the idea of having a TV in their bedroom, but a 55-inch screen dominating a wall can kill a luxe design aesthetic faster than you can say “Netflix.” Easy solution: Hide it in a wall-mounted cabinet or a framed reverse mirror, and binge-watch without sacrificing high design.

And a true sanctuary is more than just four walls and a bed; it’s a space where you can truly exist in a relaxed state. Bring in a comfy couch or elegant chaise lounge for long reading sessions; roll out a comfy carpet for morning yoga or meditation. Complete the space with a warm, glowing fireplace. Gardeck prefers a vented gas version for a practical reason: “It comes with a remote control and timer, so you don’t have to worry about putting the fire out when you get sleepy, like with a wood-burning fireplace.”

How to Design a Stylishly Functional Mudroom


Get the dirt on how to make your mudroom — that hardworking drop-off and pickup spot for sneakers, boots and sporting gear — as dazzling as the rest of your home. 

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Before you buy any furnishings for your mudroom, think about all of the ways you’ll use it, says Sarah Barnard, an interior designer in Los Angeles. Presumably, it’ll be your family’s go-to place for putting on/pulling off jackets and shoes, but will it serve double duty, maybe as a sewing spot or the litter-box locale? Plan accordingly so everything you need fits in the space.

Your first major purchase: a bench, so there’s a place to sit while removing shoes. “Look for one with drawers or a top that lifts off to store hats, gloves — even dog leashes,” says Jeffrey Phillip, a New York City-based interior designer and professional organizer.

If your sports enthusiasts have no place to put their lacrosse sticks and tennis rackets — the floor is not an option! — get a wood or bamboo trunk that’s big enough to store all their gear but convenient enough to let them grab and go.

Where to put everyone’s footwear once it comes off? Use a simple plastic shoe tray or a stylish woven vinyl area rug, to prevent water from getting on the floor. For boots, Phillip suggests stashing them on another tray or rug in the closet. “Hiding some items will keep the space looking neat and organized,” he explains.

To ramp up the likelihood of your family hanging up their jackets and backpacks, install wall hooks. Handier than reaching into a closet for a hanger, hooks have an “in your face” quality that’s hard to ignore and a casual vibe that nicely matches a mudroom’s informality. “Be sure to use the full height of the mudroom walls by mounting a few hooks at a kid-friendly height,” says Brooke Lang, a Chicago-based interior designer.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Think about specialty flooring, an upgrade that’s both functional and decorative. “Porcelain tile is very durable, even more than ceramic,” explains Barnard. “It won’t stain, and it’s affordable.” The tile is made to replicate the look of stone, marble and wood. Other good flooring choices: natural stone tile and polished concrete.

But even the hardiest floor can eventually show signs of wear and tear. “Adding an indoor/outdoor style rug is a great way to extend the life of a high-traffic area like a mudroom,” Lang says. Choose a rug with a graphic pattern — a sneaky way to hide any stains — or a natural fiber, such as jute or sisal, which age beautifully, she says.

Before running out of the mudroom door to work, school or a social engagement, check yourself out in a full-length mirror, a practical item you can dress up with the right frame to add some elegance to the environment.

When does a mudroom also become the family command center? When you install a giant erasable chalkboard or whiteboard for notes and reminders (“Jack’s dentist appt. Tues. @ 4:30 pm”). To create a custom wall chalkboard, use chalk paint in a vibrant color (not black!) inside a fun shape (diamond, triangle) made with painter’s tape.

Stage 3: Giving It the Wow Factor

Load your mudroom with items that take it to the next level.

Built-ins boost a mudroom’s storage capacity and give off a streamlined look. Open-style lockers — think of them as taller cubbies for coats, backpacks, sports gear and wicker baskets — have become a mudroom favorite. “They lend themselves to being a little more functional,” says Phillip. “People can grab things and go from their designated locker.”

Dress up your mudroom’s walls with one-of-a-kind artwork created by the youngsters in your life. “Framing their artwork is a meaningful way to make a mudroom more personal,” says Barnard. Find a frame that complements both the art and the room’s décor.

Window treatments in a mudroom? Definitely! They’ll make the space look more complete, Barnard says. “If you have lots of woodwork, you could hang linen curtains; for a contemporary home, a roller shade would work well.”

As a final touch, add special lighting. Go with a style that complements the rest of your home. Popular choices: a pendant light or a drop-down chandelier in a drum shape, which are modern choices that give off a good amount of light.

How to Design a Multifunctional Studio Apartment


You have a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. So what if you can see all of them at the same time? “Studio apartments are about function over form. Everything must have more than one use, as there is no room to spare,” says interior designer Kera Cherrey, owner of Chesapeake Staging and Design in Maryland. Strategic decorating can make even the smallest studio apartment feel homey, but finding pieces that (literally) fit your needs takes time. Work up to the challenge using these three decorating stages.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

The No. 1 rule when decorating a studio: Look for furnishings that do “double duty,” suggests Tiffani Stutzman, a Louisiana-based interior decorator. For example, a drop-leaf dining table makes a great, expandable desk; storage ottomans can be used for guest seating and as a coffee table (all while storing linens inside).

Next, consider the prominence of the bed. In a studio, your bed will be a focal point — not to mention act as the main seating and sleeping area. Choose bedding you love while considering your overall decor and color schemes. If you’ve got room, place a loveseat or compact couch opposite the foot of the bed to separate living and sleeping spaces. If you’re pressed for space, consider a sofa bed.

And don’t forget rugs and window treatments, Cherrey adds. “Layered rugs take up no space but create visual interest. To-the-ceiling window treatments add height and warmth without taking over the space.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

In a studio, every belonging needs a place, and every piece needs a purpose — or a couple of them. Look for pieces that promote organization and multitasking, and save precious space.

“Put your bed on risers to accommodate under-the-bed storage boxes,” says Stutzman. “Decorative baskets or cubes above your kitchen and bath cabinets can hold extra cleaning supplies or holiday decorations. Freestanding cabinets should reach to the ceiling to maximize storage.”

Still need more storage? Install shelves over your bed rather than use a bulky nightstand. And a tall bookcase dividing your bed from the living area offers privacy and room for all your reading material.

Of course, not everything fits in a bin or basket: Give everything else a tidy home with hat and sweater hooks, key holders and mail shelves near the door.

Once you’ve covered storage, ensure you have enough workspace. In the kitchen, purchase a sink cover, which allows you to use the sink’s real estate as a chopping surface. In the seating area, consider a set of nesting tables: They offer two or three tables when you need them, but only take up the space of one.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the studio with items that take it to the next level.

Even the smallest apartment can feel like a palace with pretty finishing touches. First, examine the walls: Because a studio apartment may not be forever, apply temporary style with removable wallpaper or decals. Or, hang oversize canvasses or photos to give the apartment a personal touch without taking up floor space. But your wall’s best friend may just be a mirror: A giant looking glass reflects light and makes a small studio feel much larger.

Then, use the double-duty mindset to accessorize: Think gorgeous wood cutting boards that double as kitchen art, and a fancy bar cart that holds booze on the bottom, and a lamp on top. “Use a beautiful vase to store pencils,” says Cherrey, “and an embossed box can add glam while hiding the mail.”

How to Build a Laundry Room You Actually Want to Be In


Who said the laundry room had to be all work and no play? (Probably someone who never spent an hour matching kids’ socks.) Folding shirts feels like less of a chore when you do it in a stylish, inspired space. Make a splash in your new home’s most utilitarian room by building it in three stages, spelled out by pro designers.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start off by getting the room’s most essential elements in place.

Color is key to making a laundry room feel anti-dungeon, so start there. “Paint it a bright color like aqua or purple,” suggests Leah Gomberg, owner of Sweet Life By Design, an interior design/home staging company in Maplewood, New Jersey. A cheery shade will lighten the room’s mood, especially if it’s in the basement, she says, “and make it a happy place.” For a first-floor laundry room, go bright, or stick with the color of the adjacent room so it feels connected to the rest of the house and not a separate entity.

Take advantage of the presence of a moving crew and install a new washer and dryer on moving day. When you shop, don’t just base your choice on what’s pretty (red! stainless!); think about what’s practical. “Choose the style that works best for your room size,” says Angie Gardeck, owner of New Perspective Design in Algonquin, Illinois. Front loaders, the most popular style, take up less space than side-by-side models since they’re stackable; side-by-sides, however, give you counter space for folding clothes.

Then, pick up one of the hardest workers in the laundry room: a plastic laundry basket, which is indispensible for transporting clothes to and from other parts of your home. Get one with a curved design that nestles your hip to make carrying a week’s worth of towels a lot easier.

Other forget-me-nots: shelves or a rolling cart for storing detergents, dryer sheets, and other cleaning necessities; hangers and clothespins; a plastic wash basin to soak hand-washables in and, in lieu of counter space, a table for folding laundry.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Built-in cabinets that hide cleaning and laundry products (we’re looking at you, big orange detergent bottle!) instantly de-clutter and add elegance to a laundry room. This is still a workspace, so skip the glass-fronts and hang cabinets that are solid and sturdy. (Gardeck loves a rustic-industrial feel for this space: Think reclaimed wood cabinets with nickel or wrought iron hardware.) Top off cabinetry with a granite countertop made from a remnant.

While you’re making permanent upgrades, look up: “Lighting is important, even in a laundry room,” says Gomberg. Your standard recessed lighting may be enough, but if the space feels dim, try a decorative layer (say, a pendant light over the sink), plus under-cabinet lights so you can see the tasks at hand.

If you’re organized (or aspire to be!), a laundry sorter with removable bags or compartments is a worthy upgrade, letting you separate darks from whites, cottons from silks, or your daughter’s clothes from your son’s.

You’d love to iron in the laundry room but space is tight? Not a problem. Get an over-the-door ironing board that only takes up space when in use, and the rest of the time, stores out of sight. Suit it up with a stylish cover that matches the décor, or perks you up with hearts, stripes or flowers.

When it’s time to deal with items that you can’t throw in the dryer, like certain sweaters and lingerie, a collapsible drying rack comes in handy. Find an easy spot to store it, like the space between side-by-side appliances.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load your laundry room with items that take it to the next level.

Once the functional aspects of your laundry room are in place, focus on form. A good first step: Installing specialty flooring in a water-resistant material, such as porcelain, stone, brick or ceramic. Gomberg also recommends interlocking FLOR carpet tiles, which can go over concrete and don’t soak up water.

Keep the flow going: Install a utility sink in a sculptural shape, a convenient place to take care of hand-washables. (Avoid sensory-activated models, which would go into overdrive with all the movement in a laundry room, notes Gardeck.)

Even in a traditional home, serious artwork in a laundry room would look out of place (and worse, could deteriorate in such a high-humidity area). A better choice: Cheeky signs, posters or prints, or a gallery wall dedicated to your kids’ finest works.

The ultimate convenience: a chute that deposits clothes from an upstairs room down to the laundry room. Imagine no more lugging baskets full of clothes from one floor to another. If you’re going to dream, dream big!

How to Build a Fun, Functional Playroom


The kids’ playroom presents parents with a design dilemma: You’d love it to be organized, not too spendy and able to last a few years; they want it packed to the gills with toys, games and craft supplies, pronto. “Children grow out of things very quickly,” says Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. “But you can give the room a longer view by making higher-priced furnishings age- and gender-neutral.” Want to design a fun, flexible space that’ll accommodate your kids as they grow from tots to teens? Build it in these three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Legos and trikes and teddy bears, oh my! The primary requirement of a playroom: somewhere to store all those toys.

Keep everything orderly with shelves, bins and boxes. But think twice before buying toy storage bedecked with purple dinos. Neutral-colored chests or credenza cabinets may be a better option. “They can be used to store toys now, and games or blankets later,” Wolff notes.

Still need more storage space? “Look for furniture that does double duty, such as ottomans or benches with storage underneath,” says Tiffani Stutzman, an interior decorator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“If your budget allows, consider custom built-in cabinetry along walls and under windows,” Stutzman adds.

Finally, lay down a soft area rug that welcomes kids to play on the floor. Choose one with a pattern; it will more easily disguise stains than a solid rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

How will your kids really use the room? Is it a toy-only zone, or will it accommodate crafting, dance practice and video gaming, too? Furnish accordingly, but skip faddish items and pint-size pieces kids will grow out of and focus on sturdy furniture that’ll survive the toddler years.

“A solid table with a wipeable finish can be used for everything from painting to puzzles,” Stutzman says. Wolff adds that it can even double as a desk later on.

Select neutral, durable fabrics and finishes for furniture. “Those made for outdoor use are resistant to spills, stains and fading,” Stutzman notes. Then, bring in bright, playful colors with throw pillows and floor cushions (look for machine-washable covers), and hang vibrant artwork—professional or made by your little artist-in-residence!—that can be swapped out as the kids grow.

“It’s all in the accessories,” Wolff says. “Pillows, throw blankets, soft rugs, art, and lamps can easily and inexpensively be swapped out as children age and their interests change.”

And consider covering a wall in cork board, so art projects can be displayed and changed out, Stutzman adds.

Finally, provide a cozy corner for kids to read or nap. “Daybeds can be dressed for any style and any age group,” Wolff says. “Sofas and chairs with slipcovers can be laundered.”

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the playroom with items that take it to the next level.

Regardless of how traditional or formal the rest of the house, the playroom should be fun, whimsical, colorful and bright. And above all, it should showcase the things your child loves. If that’s planes, then let him hang model airplanes from the ceiling. Castles? Use wall decals to create a scenery that will spark her imagination. Got an outdoors lover on your hands? A play tent complete with sleeping bag can accommodate spur-of-the-moment campouts. Remember, this is where your kid will come to let loose and play, so it should be Fun (with a capital F).

How to Build an Organized, Yet Comfy Craft Room


If your new home has enough space to warrant a dedicated art zone, lucky you! But when half-finished projects as well as supplies such as glue, beads and glitter are involved, a craft room can quickly turn disorganized. With thoughtful planning and a splash of your creative juice, it can become a neat, inspiring space — and a relaxing retreat, too. Interior designer Melinda Miles, owner of Melinda Miles Interiors, in Dallas, shares how it can be done in three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Begin organizing the room by imagining activity zones — maybe one for sewing, one for scrapbooking and one for writing activities — to plan how you’ll store supplies.

Then, start big: Install shelves and cabinets, or bring in a roomy armoire — or do both! To accommodate tools and materials of all shapes and sizes, keep variety in mind: Look for open cabinet spaces for baskets, thin drawers for paper and vertical spaces for wrapping paper.

You’ll need a large workspace, but Miles advises against lining every wall with cabinetry and countertops, in case you later need to convert the space for another use (like a home gym or guest room). Instead, place a large table or portable kitchen island in the center of the room; if your needs change, it can be moved. And don’t forget comfortable seating: A padded stool will ensure that you can endure many macramé marathons to come.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Loading up on bins isn’t necessarily the best solution for storage needs. “The same type of storage doesn’t work for all materials,” Miles says. Do a thorough inventory of your craft supplies and consider how each item is best stored. Think about what belongs in a drawer and what’s better off in a basket. Before you buy, get specific: If you want to store gift bags, measure them first. And be creative: An over-the-door shoe organizer, for example, provides easy access to go-to items like tape and scissors and keeps supplies in sight.

“Details like that really simplify your life,” Miles says. “They make you want to use the items, and they make it more fun.”

After you’ve stocked up on storage supplies to make the room functional, focus on honing a truly creative space. Hang framed photos of family or vibrant nature scenes, and stack a few oversized coffee-table books within easy reach. Add a few aromatherapy candles to put you in the crafting mood. And always keep a plain sketchbook and pencils front and center — you never know when an idea will strike!

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the craft room with items that take it to the next level.

Despite its utilitarian purposes, a craft room should be a comfortable hangout. Outside of craft time, how might you use the space? Make it a part-time office by placing a desk on one side of the room. Or create a reading nook by a window, with a comfy chair, an ottoman and a floor lamp.

For one of Miles’ clients, the craft room is a place to relax with a cup of tea. “She hides out in there and can hear herself think,” Miles says.

Serious crafters should also consider investing in window coverings that maximize daylight but are adjustable; the color of paints and clay will look ever so slightly different, depending on the light, so your window treatments may better allow you to control your medium. Of course, the craft room’s a perfect place to hang a loud, bold valance!

How to Design Kids’ Bedrooms That Last for Years


One year it’s butterflies; the next it’s ballet. And somewhere along the way, there’s a dinosaur fad. Kids’ constantly changing interests can make it challenging to decorate a bedroom they’ll like for years to come, but that doesn’t mean their new rooms have to be boring blank canvases. As founder of Little Crown Interiors, in Irvine, California, Naomi Alon specializes in interior design for children’s spaces; she shares her tips for designing kids’ bedrooms that can grow up with them.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Alon says key furniture pieces such as a bed and dresser should last into adulthood (which probably disqualifies the race-car bed). “Choose pieces that are versatile — more or less neutral in design, not themed furniture,” she says. “Things you can use until they go to college.” Just be sure that kids can easily open lower drawers; those will be the main storage for clothes until closet rods can be reached.

Bedding, though, can be replaced periodically as kids’ tastes mature, so feel free to say yes to that robot blanket. Invest in multiple sets of inexpensive sheets rather than a single set of high-end ones; you’ll thank yourself when you peel back the blanket to find a stash of Cheerios!

And don’t forget to buy window treatments early on: Children, especially younger ones, can be sensitive to light and may require thicker blackout shades to sleep well.

Finally, let your kiddos pick the very first piece of décor: their own special night-light. One child may like a cartoon character and another may prefer a light that displays constellations on the ceiling — either way, when kids get to choose, they feel more comfortable in their new space.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Where there are kids’ bedrooms, there are toys. Give them a nice home — even if they don’t often end up there. Bins, baskets and boxes are useful, especially those that can be hidden under a bed. But as with bedroom furniture, Alon says, consider storage solutions that last through the ages. “If you buy a nice bookcase,” she says, “you can buy bins that will fit on the shelf.” When the kids outgrow their blocks and balls, simply remove the bins and use the shelves to store comics, collectibles, novels and trophies.

Another idea: Storage ottomans can hold plenty of toys for now, and then take on other uses (such as a hiding spot for a diary!) later in a child’s life.

Also consider adding a sturdy, timeless desk sooner rather than later. Eventually, kids will need a spacious surface for homework, but even toddlers can use a desk as a craft table, a block-tower construction zone or a secret fort.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the kids’ rooms with items that take it to the next level.

Add color and cuteness, starting with a rug — ideally a patterned one that can conceal a juice spill. “The sooner you get the right rug, you can easily find other things to match,” Alon says. Rugs add nonpermanent color and texture to an otherwise neutral room and invite kids to play on the floor — a win-win!

Next, purchase a lamp or two for young readers (or for kids who sleep better with a little light). If there’s room for seating, select a comfy oversized chair that you like, too — it’ll become your home for story time. Then, add themed pillows to the bed or chair; if that’s not enough, try a throw blanket. “You can fold it up and put it away if they’re sick of it,” Alon says. “Or if you’re sick of it!”

Now, cue the butterflies — or whatever the theme of the moment is — by incorporating framed artwork and décor, such as wall decals. “They’re inexpensive, removable and they can be rearranged,” Alon says. Kid-friendly calendars and maps do double duty: Sure, they’re educational, but they also provide pops of color and graphic elements, adding further layers into the room’s design.

How to Build a Fresh, Functional Bathroom


Is your new home’s bathroom dated and dreary? Or just boring and … blah? Sure, it does the job — all a bathroom truly needs is a working sink, a tub/shower and a toilet. But considering how much time you spend in the space, wouldn’t it be nice if it were fun, fabulous and more functional? “You use your bath every day, so make it a high priority,” urges Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. From brightening the basics to adding five-star (but functional) touches, here’s a three-step plan for a beautiful bathroom.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

If you didn’t purge before the move, now’s the time to clear the clutter. “Get rid of items you haven’t used in the last six months,” says Wolff.

A coat of paint will give the room a fresh backdrop. “Try a soothing aquatic blue, or, if your bath needs some verve, venture into warm saturated yellows and oranges,” suggests Jeff Fiorito, owner of Fiorito Interior Design, in Northern California.

Now, go shopping. Swap out the shower curtain for a new one in a color, print or texture that fits the room’s style while letting light into your shower stall. (Don’t forget a rod, curtain hooks and a liner!) A coordinated bath ensemble with wastebasket, soap dispenser, toothbrush holder and tumbler will give the room a polished, put-together look.

Update towels and rugs — and know that they don’t need to match. “Get the best quality you can afford,” suggests Wolff. “For powder rooms, look for a little bling; guest towels with beading or embroidery add a fun, funky or elegant touch.” Layer detailed towels over fluffy bath sheets, and buy plenty of spares for a spalike look. On the floor, lay down a plush terry rug in a solid color, or add visual interest with a small, patterned area rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Tailor the bathroom to how you bathe! If your new stall’s shower head sprays a sad, weak drizzle, update it; choose a soothing rain shower or a powerhouse shower head with a hand shower attachment. Is your shampoo collection a veritable beauty buffet? Install functional storage to keep bottles orderly. And if you love a toasty towel (or two!) when your bath’s over, consider adding a super-luxe towel warmer.

Show off pretty perfume bottles and jewelry on a mirrored or marble tray. And invest in attractive storage boxes for not-so-attractive workhorses, such as your hair dryer, curling iron and pedicure equipment.

“Display pretty candles and soaps in lovely containers. It’s easy, inexpensive and smells good,” says Wolf.

And nobody ever said you can’t hang art in the bathroom: Frame and hang prints or family photos.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load your bathroom with items that take it to the next level.

You don’t need to tear the bathroom down to the studs to take it to the next level.

Everything will look better (including you!) with fresh, brighter lighting. “In addition to recessed LED ceiling lights, I like sconces on either side of the mirror, so light illuminates your face without shadows,” Fiorito says.

“Have fun with the powder room — it’s a great place to go a bit over the top. A chandelier or large pendant in the powder room really says ‘wow!’” Wolff adds.

New hardware will update the room and help make a style statement. “Fabulous knobs and pulls are like jewelry for cabinets,” Wolf says. While you’ve got the screwdriver out, swap out the faucet and showerhead; shiny, new fixtures breathe new life into the vanity and can make your shower stall a true escape.

Update windows with gorgeous top treatments or valances. “For a fuller, custom appearance, buy double what the package specifies,” Wolf says. “And use attractive rods.” If privacy’s a concern, consider installing blinds or window film.

Finally, frame “builder stock” mirrors, or replace them with hung versions to make the space look customized. Dealing with a dated medicine cabinet? Swap it for a fresh, oversized version to maximize storage and bring the look into the 21st century.

How to Design a Comfortable, Stylish Living Room

comfortable stylish living room

It’s where you sit, relax, entertain, catch up, hang out — you know, live. Whether you’re crashing on the couch after a long day or chatting with friends over cocktails, the living room is the center of your home and the place to be. And of all the rooms in your new house, living rooms can be the most fun to decorate. “You can [experiment] with scale, textures, patterns and colors,” says Alice Chiu, a San Francisco interior designer and owner of Miss Alice Designs.

But the living room is also the first place your guests see, so it needs to be comfortable andinviting, whether for tête-à-têtes with your BFFs or weekend movie marathons.

No pressure on decorating it, though. Take your time perfecting the space through these three stages.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Start with the primary necessity: a sofa. The couch’s main role is a place to sit, but it’s also a hefty piece of furniture that will help define the room’s style—a sleek leather sofa sends a more modern message than a quilted floral one. Be sure there’s enough seating for the whole family plus a few guests; introduce a loveseat, recliner or club chairs if the couch alone isn’t enough.

Have a small space? You’re not limited to elf-sized furniture. “Don’t be afraid of larger pieces,” says Jeff Fiorito, a Northern California interior designer. “A complete sectional may be a better use of the floor space.”

Then, add a coffee table (one with a shelf or built-in storage keeps magazines and remotes organized!), and an end table or two. If your TV is mounted on the wall, you’ll need a small credenza to house your cable box and other electronics; if not, you’ll need a sturdy TV stand. Your coffee table, TV stand and end tables don’t have to match, but it’s smart to purchase them at the same time to be sure they look cohesive.

Play around with the pieces before settling on a layout. “Arrange furnishings in a way that allows for intimate conversations,” says Choo. And don’t let your couch become a wallflower: “Pull furniture away from walls and float pieces in arrangements,” Fiorito says. “Play with composition.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

The living room’s lighting has to be flexible — after all, you’ll want it bright as can be for game night, and nice and dim for Netflix marathons. So think of lighting in layers: You probably already have overhead lighting, but layer in lamps for reading and ambient light. “Switch out your table lamps for ones that have a pattern or a pop of color,” suggests Fiorito. “And make sure lighting can be dimmed when you need a softer mood or for movie watching.”

Then, add in additional furniture that further defines the room’s purpose and adds a bit of height; the tallest thing in the room shouldn’t be the couch. If you have collectibles to display, purchase a curio cabinet to show them off; if your book hoard is reaching library status, bring in a tall bookshelf.

Draw the eye up even further (and keep a glare off the TV!) with window treatments that fit the room’s style. Think in layers: For large or floor-to-ceiling windows, consider a combination of sheer and heavier drapes; for smaller windows, a Roman shade and valance combo makes for simple style.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the living room with items that take it to the next level.

Invest in a beautiful, well-made area rug. A large rug or two not only adds a layer of texture and pattern into your design, but it anchors furniture and defines smaller seating areas within larger rooms, Fiorito says.

Then, turn your attention to the walls. If the space is small, consider hanging an oversize wall mirror; it’ll trick the eye and make the room feel more spacious. “Turn a wall into a gallery with framed photographic prints and/or canvas paintings,” Chiu says. “[Or] hang floating shelves and display your collectibles, kids’ artwork, travel souvenirs and books.”

Not all of the décor has to be framed: Use an oversized wall clock as a decorative element, or position a clock in a focal point, like a mantel. Candles or a centerpiece bowl add style to a coffee table. Chiu suggests accessorizing with plants, vases and small sculptures, and crowning furniture with accent pillows or throws in bold, colorful designs that be swapped out as your tastes change.

Of course, the living room needn’t be all practical: Bring in an element (or two) of luxury. “Replace the hanging light fixture with a trendy chandelier,” suggests Chiu, or hang a textured or patterned wallpaper to add richness. Even little luxuries — a cashmere blanket, a sweet-smelling candle — go a long way.