Cook: Scale and proportion are the holy grail of design. Scale is the size of things, and proportion is the relationship of those sizes to each other and the room as a whole. That is probably the biggest issue we end up fixing. The way American homes are built today, with open floor plans and volume ceilings, you have to integrate good scale and proportion into all the layers of your design. Starting with the backgrounds and ending with the last accessory. Americans get seduced by large…

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Interior design experts share their knowledge about layers, lighting, proportion…

Smith: Avoid too much intense color. Make sure you mix colors and try them out. It's always good to do a swatch.Cook: Color is your biggest cost-to-impact ratio. Color has the ability to do so much. Add formality with a glossy white, add sophistication with rich jewel tones, start a trend with something bold and different. But remember that color is one of many layers.I just overheard a woman at one of my model home grand openings tell her friend: "This is the room that they…

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Interior design experts share their knowledge about layers, lighting, proportion and more.

Cook: Lighting is a very key ingredient. You have to think about the color of light, the quantity of light and where to place it. You have to think about light at various times of the day and various times of the year. The best way to design your lighting for success is in layers with as many of those layers as possible to be switched separately and on dimmers. So now you can adjust your lighting for whatever kind of mood you want.We just designed and installed a model home for Toll…

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

A single-level kitchen island makes the space seem more open and keeps people talking in the Weatherstone model at Liseter in PA.

Recipe for a Slightly Spooky, Very Easy Halloween Table Setting - Houston…

Recipe for a Slightly Spooky, Very Easy Halloween Table Setting

A prominent item like a fireplace, artwork or mirror can serve as a eye-catching focal point for any space."With strong background design and interesting architectural elements contributing to the composition, your art and accessories won't have to work too hard," Cook points out in her book. "They can make the contribution they're supposed to make and not have to carry too much of the overall design on their own." Photo: Gregory Rec, Portland Press Herald, Getty Images / This content is…

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

A prominent item like a fireplace, artwork or mirror can serve as a eye-catching focal point for any space."With strong background design and interesting architectural elements contributing to the composition, your art and accessories won't have to work too hard," Cook points out in her book. "They can make the contribution they're supposed to make and not have to carry too much of the overall design on their own." Photo: Gregory Rec, Portland Press Herald, Getty Images / This content is…

Your One Stop Shop for a Perfectly Ghoulish Halloween - Houston Chronicle

Your One Stop Shop for a Perfectly Ghoulish Halloween

Your One Stop Shop for a Perfectly Ghoulish Halloween - Houston Chronicle

Whitewashed Rattan Hurricanes ($118-$148, serenaandlily.com), above, can be hung by their handles. Photo: Terrain / The Washington Post

A modern take on wicker

Natural-fiber furniture and accessories that will outlive the fads

Cook: Accessories and art will bring your composition into perfect harmony, but you have to be very careful not to clutter. You have to constantly do scale-and-proportion checks on yourself as you compose your art and accessories. They are the final layer that will oftentimes be what brings your composition into perfect harmony. Photo: Mary Cook Associates

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Interior design experts share their knowledge about layers, lighting, proportion…

Smith: Avoid spending too much on one thing. Be judicious with your budget and buy things that are going to last. People buy very badly made furniture and fabric. Instead, buy a beautiful dining table, well-made upholstery. It's almost like dressing for success. Photo: Mary Cook Associates

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

A craftsman for Ikea wove the Viktigt Basket of water hyacinth into a size ideal for collecting just about anything in classy form: toys, laundry, recycling in the office, shoes by the door and more

A modern take on wicker

IKEA - VIKTIGT, Basket, Perfect for everything from newspapers to clothes and toys.Handmade by a skilled craftsman.

Le Creuset Signature French Oven Think of all of the things you can make in this oven: soups and stews, perfect chicken, maybe even a lamb ragu. The more you use it, the more you'll wonder how you ever lived without one. $320 at Crate & Barrel Photo: Crate & Barrel

In the pink: A few of our favorite things

Shop Le Creuset ® Signature Round Hibiscus Pink French Ovens with Lid. Revered by both professional chefs and home cooks since its 1925 debut, Le Creuset's classic French cookware is prized for its utilitarian good looks and unsurpassed heat retention.

It's tempting to buy the coordinated, ready-made furnishings on the furniture showroom floor. Try mixing accessories with ready-made pieces from the store to add character to a room.  It takes time, sometimes years, to achieve a warm overall feel, but the result is a home that is as unique as the people living in it. Photo: Lambert, Ullstein Bild, Getty Images

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

It's tempting to buy the coordinated, ready-made furnishings on the furniture showroom floor. Try mixing accessories with ready-made pieces from the store to add character to a room. It takes time, sometimes years, to achieve a warm overall feel, but the result is a home that is as unique as the people living in it. Photo: Lambert, Ullstein Bild, Getty Images

Move the furniture inward to create a warm, intimate seating arrangement for conversation. This is particularly important for entertaining in large, open-concept homes. The furniture should be arranged to allow for guests and family to circulate through the space. A large area rug can unify the furnishings. Photo: DeAgostini, Getty Images

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Move the furniture inward to create a warm, intimate seating arrangement for conversation. This is particularly important for entertaining in large, open-concept homes. The furniture should be arranged to allow for guests and family to circulate through the space. A large area rug can unify the furnishings. Photo: DeAgostini, Getty Images

Smith: Look at your world and your life, and look at what is personal to you. If you're living in an apartment, you need to stick with a narrative that's personal to you. To be influenced by a magazine and, say, a Swedish theme, unless it resonates with you, it seems kind of odd and influenced. Photo: John McDonnell, The Washington Post, Getty Images

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Smith: People get trapped in the way things should feel and less focused on the way things should function. Making a dining room into a dining library gives it function. You could make the living room a study or put a TV in it so you could actually use it. Think of how much furniture you need. What's the best way to have it be functional in a great way? If it's in groups, define it.Cook: You have to know how you want the room to function. Are you going to entertain there, dine there, do you…

10 decorating mistakes and how to avoid them

Interior design experts share their knowledge about layers, lighting, proportion and more.

The Mayhew All Weather Wicker Patio Club Chair works well in any design scheme

A modern take on wicker

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