30 Interior Design Skills The Pros Say You Should Know by 30

Don’t knock yourself if something doesn't turn out right the first time

Sitting room by Sue Jones of OKA


When it comes to home decor, building plans, or organization, it can often feel overwhelming to identify the best approach. And as we get older and tackle more projects, we learn and evolve and hopefully don't make those mistakes again. 

Don’t knock yourself if something doesn't turn out right the first time. Even seasoned experts learn as they go. After talking to 30 home experts, we learned that even they made mistakes early on when it came to style and decor. 

Some of the top takeaways that we learned are less is more, invest in your furniture and don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. We interviewed 30 home experts to find out the 30 best things they learned about style and decor before they were 30.

  • 01 of 30

    Done Is Better Than Perfect

    Liz Walton

    Liz Walton Home

    If you’re just moving into a new home or are looking for a refresh, try not to hyperfocus on every single detail. There are hundreds of decisions that need to be made and they don't need to be made immediately.

    Liz Walton, Owner and Principal Designer of Liz Walton Home believes that “as a designer, we are exposed to so many fabulous products and we want to impress our clients with something creative or exotic, but we must identify the best use of our time in regards to the projects needs at hand.” Same goes for individuals. Get the bones of the project done, and work on accents and decor at your own pace. Plus, is there really such a thing as perfect? If you’re a home decor lover, you know that there’s always something out there that you’re going to find and love. Take a step back and appreciate the hard work you’ve put in.

  • 02 of 30

    Space Is a Luxury

    Erriette Lenas

    Erriette Lenas Design

    Erriette Lenas of Erriette Lenas Design, learned early on that space is a luxury. “A common design mistake is to fill up every open space with a decorative item, resulting in a cluttered look that is also not practical. No one likes to be in an environment where they can’t unfold, while having to juggle their things because there is nowhere to put them,” she says. Try leaving spaces open to either add more decor at a later time, or to leave room for little indulgences. “It feels more like a luxury to sit in a comfortable chair where there's a place for my phone, the book I’m reading, and a coffee (or maybe a martini!)."

  • 03 of 30

    Don’t Get Caught Up in Trendy Colors

    Sitting room by Sue Jones of OKA


    We often get caught up on what the newest and coolest trends are, but that shouldn't dictate how we decorate the bones of our house. According to Sue Jones, Co-Founder and Creative Director of OKA, you should go with what your favorite colors and style are, not what is of the moment. “I began my career in fashion, working for Jasper Conran for 10 years. Jasper taught me to not be led by trends or what’s ‘of the moment’. He always said that the best colour is your favourite colour and encouraged me to find my individual style,” says Jones.


    If you’re really into a trendy color, try adding it through accents like pillows and decor, rather than large furniture pieces or paint. 

  • 04 of 30

    Make Your Bed Every Morning

    Beautiful white bed by Michelle Lisac Interior Design

    Michelle Lisac Interior Design

    There’s nothing quite like getting into a perfectly made bed at the end of your day. The feeling of getting ready to recharge for the next day is always nice when you don't have to work for it. Michelle Lisac, Founder & Principal Designer Michelle Lisac Interior Design, finds that making her bed every single morning when she wakes up is extremely helpful to create a productive day. “It is my ritual each morning to get out of bed and make it right away with all six pillows back in their place. This helps keep the room looking more put together, prepares me for the day ahead, and is really nice to come home at the end of the day and see a nicely made bed instead of a mess of pillows and blankets,” she says. 

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  • 05 of 30

    Don't Blow Your Budget on Decor

    Beth Diana Smith poses on a purple couch in a room with boho chic decor

    Beth Diana Smith Interior Design

    Beth Diana Smith, Owner and Principal Designer of Beth Diana Smith Interior Design & HomeGoods’ Style Expert, suggests to her clients to invest their budgets in furniture, and get creative when it comes to decor and accent pieces. “I try to guide my clients to spend more on the foundational pieces such as furniture where the quality matters most, functional pieces to better their day-to-day experience, and art that they will appreciate for years,” says Smith. 

    When it comes to accessories and decor, she likes to scour stores like HomeGoods for unique accent pieces. “I prefer to save money on items such as accessories and decor when I see the budget dwindling. As a designer who wants to style the best space possible for their client, I want to maximize the budget, so I go to stores like HomeGoods and hunt for all my project needs,” she says. If you’ve never tried, you can find everything from great high-quality, standout patterned accent chairs to wow-worthy wall decor to bright ceramic vases that give a beautiful pop of color from HomeGoods and other discounted home stores. “Great design is not about how much you spend, but rather about how you spend to bring all the pieces together,” explains Smith.

  • 06 of 30

    Less Is More When It Comes to Decor

    White living room with fireplace, plants and minimal decor

    XCEL Brands

    Of course, each personality is different but Joe Falco, President Chief Creative Officer at XCEL Brands, believes that when it comes to decorating your space you shouldn't feel like you need to cover every single wall with artwork, or have bold colors everywhere. “In my home and at work, less is more. It’s not about minimalism, it’s about the right mix of complimentary colors, texture, and space that create balance and harmony. I focus on objects, books, art, furniture that bring me joy and a sense of comfort,” says Flaco. Try keeping with a specific color palette or theme to alleviate having your walls and space feel too cluttered. 

  • 07 of 30

    Never Go Shopping Without a Design Plan

    Maureen Stevens poses in a living room

    Maureen Stevens

    Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a list when you’re hungry? It never goes well. Same goes for when shopping for interior design. Interior Designer, Maureen Stevens warns that if you go in without a plan, you’ll most likely face having to return items and waster your time and money—which we all know is precious. 

    “Do not go shopping without a design plan or at least have some parameters or know what you are looking for. So many clients have told me they have purchased multiple things they loved at a particular store but it turned out to be so wrong for their room, their project or their space” she says. Whether it's the wrong scale (too big of a couch and won't even fit in the doorway) or a wrong hue (looked pink at the store but it's really orange) or just doesn't go with the vibe or feel of the whole space, Stevens insists that you make a plan beforehand and have all measurements to make the process run smoothly.

  • 08 of 30

    Always Test Paint Samples on Different Walls Before Commiting to a Color

    Lovely white bathroom with natural wood cabinetry and marble countertop

    Tiffany Leigh Design

    To avoid having to repaint your walls, take a note from Tiffany Leigh of Tiffany Leigh Design’s book. Leigh learned this the hard way. "Always test your paint sample on site with large samples on a couple of different walls,” she says. “I learned this the hard way early in my career—after picking a lovely white paint colour for a client in my sunfilled studio, I showed up to site after the paint had been applied, only to find that the colour looked completely different in the room and was way too cream,” she explains. There are a lot of variables that contribute to what your paint is going to look like once applied. “House situation, amount of natural light, and even lightbulbs in a space can all affect the way paint appears. It was a costly mistake I corrected to get it right, but I learned my lesson and now we always test on site before confirming colour,” Leigh explains.

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  • 09 of 30

    When You Buy Something New, Toss Something Old

    Lauren Meichtry poses in a room near a plant and couch

    Elsie Home

    To help reduce clutter in the house, try to live by a rule by Lauren Meichtry, Founder of designer pillow brand Elsie Home.

    "One of the best tips I learned by 30 was when you buy something new, you should get rid of something old. I don't mean go and toss grandma's china, but there's a reason you chose to buy a new accent chair, rug, or even a cute new coffee mug and that reason likely isn't because you want to become a hoarder,” says Meichtry. To help you stick to this rule, try to design your home with simplicity in mind. “If you design with open shelves in the kitchen, you can avoid this all together.  There's no room for hoarding when your space is limited and your mug collection is on display,” she says.

  • 10 of 30

    Tape It Out Before You Make Big Purchases or Design Decisions

    Katie Burnett poses by a wooden fence on a farm

    Rumor Designs

    There’s truly nothing worse than unpacking a large piece of furniture, just to find you need to return it. One of the most useful things that Katie Burnett, Interior + Technical Designer of Rumor Designs has learned is to actually tape out large pieces in a space to make sure that they’ll fit. "Blue taping a space to map out cabinetry, bath lighting, furniture placement, etc. is a foolproof way to see how something will fit in a space,” she says. “As a designer I have an unique ability to visualize spaces before they are completed, however, taking the time to map out a space helps myself and my clients better understand how the space will function. This also serves as a point in time to make any tweaks prior to placing orders,” she explains. Even when we think something will fit, double checking with proper layouts will help relieve returns or over-cluttering of your space.

  • 11 of 30

    Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

    James Brewer, design consultant in white shirt and black-framed glasses


    You don't always need to play it safe. James Brewer, Design Consultant at Stoneside, believes design should always be fun and collaborative. “You shouldn't feel overwhelmed or exhausted by the process and it's totally okay to take chances, add bold elements such as color and texture,” says Brewer. While your style might not be the traditional decor that we're so used to, it's okay to implement risks into your space. “Make decor work that also brings happiness and joy to your life instead of just "looking pretty,” he suggests. If there’s a bold piece of artwork or paint color that you love, try highlighting it which most of the time ends up being a strong and powerful statement in your space. 

  • 12 of 30

    Live by the Rule of Three

    Mary Patton

    Mary Patton Design

    When it comes to decor, Mary Patton of Mary Patton Design believes less is more and has a number in mind that helps you avoid clutter. If you’re someone who has trouble parting with items or figuring out how to downsize, live by Patton’s recommended three pieces per area.

    “Limit accessories and family photos to three max per area,” she says. Showing off your family or decor pieces is okay, but having too many pieces can look cluttered. A subtle way to show off photography without having it feel too overwhelming, is by printing images in black and white. They feel less busy and add cohesion to your space. 

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  • 13 of 30

    Don’t Keep Hunting for Decor

    Lance Thomas portrait

    Thomas Guy Interiors

    If you’re someone who is indecisive or gets bored easily with your decor, try to remind yourself of something that Lance Thomas of Thomas Guy Interiors has come to learn. “I used to spend hours upon hours in this decorating hamster wheel, thinking there may be a better rug or lamp, etc. out there. The indecision would drive me nuts. I came to realize confident design choices are what makes for beautiful spaces,” he says. Of course there is an infinite amount of "pretty" out there to pick from, but you simply have to pick yours. “It took me a while to fully grasp the idea that there wasn't just one, singular answer to creating a gorgeous space. But once I came to learn to go with my gut feelings, I was much happier with my spaces,” says Thomas.

  • 14 of 30

    Don't Be Afraid to Pivot in Another Direction During Your Creative Process

    Chic dining room with a white table, black chairs, and a gold architectural chandelier

    Black Lacquer Design

    Sometimes what you initially thought was going to work evolves in another direction, and that is OK. When you’re designing a space you might get inspired from something new that leads to an even better final product. Caitlin Murray Founder & Creative Director of Black Lacquer Design explains how this happens often with her clients.

    “Trust your instincts and never be afraid to change things up throughout the creative process,” she says.  “Even as a professional interior designer with a decade in the industry under my belt, there are still times when we’re in the midst of installation and something stirs up a new idea and I run with it (and convince my clients to join me!)” That's how the ceiling in this dining room ended up a daring shade of cobalt to contrast the neutral beams.

  • 15 of 30

    Let Your Sofa Be the Canvas, Not the Art Itself

    gray sectional sofa in room with tall, textured white walls

    BenchMade Modern

    This actually goes for all larger pieces of furniture. When you’re investing a large portion of your budget into furniture, you want to make sure that it suits your lifestyle and also can create a foundation on which you can style off of. 

    Edgar Blazona, founder of BenchMade Modern made the mistake of spending quite a bit of money on a splashy, bright and colorful sofa when he was younger. “Once the sofa arrived at my doorstep, my taste had already slightly changed. And, once the sofa was in my apartment for a significant period of time, I realized my mistake,” he says. “This large piece of furniture was an eye-catcher, sure, but it also defined the room without giving me an option to change it. What’s more, the sofa was expensive, so it’s not like I could quickly swap it out for a new one,” he says.  Blazona quickly learned that a sofa in a more neutral color was the way to go, as it could be accented with pillows, throws, and area rugs. “You can easily add in bright and splashy, or add in seasonal or holiday touches, with minimal expense to change the look and feel of the room,” explains Blazona. 

  • 16 of 30

    Stop Buying Furniture Sets

    Lauren Reyes Lim poses with books and magazines next to a couch

    Lauren Reyes Lim

    Sure, your decor style might be extremely specific, but that doesn't mean you want your room to feel like a showroom. Lauren Reyes Lim, Owner + Interior Designer learned that when putting a room together, it’s very important to always mix up your furniture pieces and to never buy everything from the same place. “I learned this from my old boss who very much emphasized having different characters in every room. Don’t be afraid of mixing modern with vintage, traditional with the minimal, and so forth,” she says. “As long as your pieces compliment each other, the room will feel very balanced, strong, and most importantly, a reflection of your own aesthetic and personality.” 

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  • 17 of 30

    Don’t Overlook Poufs

    Alexa Backel poses at a wooden table with a textured wall in the background


    Casai's Head of Design, Alexa Backel recommends incorporating poufs into your home, and for good reason. Similar to ottomans, but more flexible, poufs are an extremely versatile piece of furniture that you can add to your space. “They are such a versatile piece of furniture that can support different lifestyle activities and make spaces more multifunctional and organized while also adding texture to the room,” says Backel. “Their main functionality is to serve as extra seating when entertaining friends or family; however, when used in living rooms alone, these pieces can fill up a larger, couch dominated area, to make the room feel less empty,” she says. 

  • 18 of 30

    Utilize Clear Glass Jars for Storage

    Beautiful white bedroom with a navy and white accent wall

    Alicia J, Cannon

    If you want to know when you’re running low on something or need a way to organize like items, glass jars for storage are the way to go.I have most definitely adopted the Mies van der Rohe's 'Less is More' approach especially when it comes to small spaces,” says Alicia J, Cannon, Principal Designer. “When I have the opportunity to declutter a surface area, I try to eliminate the extra materials altogether,” says Cannon. “When that's not possible, I'm creating organized chaos by putting my things into clear jars and containers that help me know they have a place and make things easy to find. Using clean food jars is also an additional way to help save the planet and eliminate waste.”

  • 19 of 30

    Get Rid of What Doesn't Bring You Joy

    Marie Flanigan poses at a dining table

    Julie Soefer

    Marie Flanigan, Principal at Marie Flanigan Interiors, always comes back to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Our enjoyment of a space grows exponentially when we are surrounded by things we love. “I’ve learned to display items that bring me joy in prominent places in my home, like my favorite pieces of art and beloved books. This ensures I am always enveloped in warmth and inspiration,” says Flanigan. 

  • 20 of 30

    Add Energy to Your Home With Color

    Elin Walters poses in front of a colorful outdoor mural

    Exactly Designs

    Don’t be afraid to add color to your room. Elin Walters, Principal Designer of Exactly Designs believes that adding bold colors into your space can instantly transform the vibe and energy. “Whether it’s the calm energy of a blue for a bedroom or the uplifting energy of an orange for a kitchen, the color is instrumental in creating a feeling,” she explains. While a neutral room can be beautiful, a bold color will make a statement that will instantly boost yours and guests’ moods.

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  • 21 of 30

    Embrace the Play in Playroom

    Color playroom with white cabinetry and wall-mounted television by Jenny Reimold

    Jenny Reimold

    As a mother of seven, by the time she was 30 years old, Jenny Reimold, HomeGoods’ Style Expert, had three children and learned quickly that toys needed stylish and functional storage. “I didn’t want my playroom to look like a preschool, so rather than display ALL toys in open bins, I learned that hiding toys behind cabinets, in drawers and in baskets was an essential part of family design,” explains Reimold. “While toys that are more played with can "live" in open bins. I now create extra storage within our playhouse and even created a horse stall bench that served as storage for larger toy horses,” says Jenny. Look for storage with lids, drawers and utilize spaces behind doors. 

  • 22 of 30

    You Don't Always Need to Buy New Decor

    Homemade centerpiece made from a can, burlap, lace, and ribbon

    Paul Zahn

    Paul Zahn, Entertaining Expert & TV Host, recognizes that people spend a lot of money on holiday decor, when you can take items you already have at home to craft some fun decorations. “For example, I took an empty can after and turned it into a perfect December centerpiece. I used some burlap and ribbon I had laying around and wired together some old ornaments. Voila! Instant mantle decor or centerpiece and at basically no cost!” he explains.

  • 23 of 30

    Don’t Pass Up on Unique Finds

    beautiful backyard garden

    Meredith Farmer Deal

    If you’ve ever gone antiquing or gone to a store that carries one-of-a-kind items, you might know the feeling when you pass on something, can't stop thinking about it, go and get it and then it's gone. James Farmer, Founder of James Farmer Inc, insists that you only regret what you do not buy...within reason of course! “See and seize the moment when you are drawn to a great find. The last thing you want is for that great vase or pair of lamps to haunt you! Whether you use it today or in five years, a unique find is always worth getting,” he explains. “The focal point of my garden is an old church steeple that had just been removed from its original structure. I truly snagged it from the side of the road and now it is one of my favorite aspects of my home. It tells quite a story!” 

  • 24 of 30

    Design Logistically

    Rustic credenza with modern decor above by Andrea Goldman Design

    Andrea Goldman Design

    Andrea Goldman, Principal of Andrea Goldman Design, started her career in residential real estate development, which truly influenced the way she thinks about design and planning. “When you are approaching a space—whether you are building it from scratch or simply reorganizing and redecorating—you have to think about logistics as much as aesthetics, and plan ahead,” she says. “You don’t want to design a room only to realize you haven’t communicated with your builder and electrician about the outlets you need behind the credenza, or buy a new piece of furniture that totally overwhelms the space when it arrives,” explains Gooldman. Always take measurements and consider all the details of a space. She suggests making sketches (even rough ones!) and to over communicate with any vendors you may be working with. “It will save you a lot of time and frustration on the backend and give you the freedom to focus on the fun of decorating,” says Goldman.

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  • 25 of 30

    Paint, Paint, Paint

    Davina Ogilvie poses on a white couch

    Wovn Home

    Before she turned 30, Davina Ogilvie, the founder of Wovn Home, lived in four different rental apartments in New York City. “Each space was small, but a place I wanted to feel like my sanctuary from the busy city. Choosing new colors to repaint the yellowy-beige walls I inherited was the single best thing I did to create spaces that felt more my own,” she explains. “Whether it’s opting for an uplifting color, dark and moody corner, or a fresher white, new paint will make the biggest impact in setting the tone of your space.” And like Tiffany Leigh, she suggests making sure to sample a little of the paint on your walls or at the very least, tape the swatches to the walls, and live with them for a few days to note how the color changes under different light. 

  • 26 of 30

    Refresh Your Living Room With a Rug or Throw Pillows

    Roberson Keffer poses next to a dining table

    Roberson Keffer

    Since you spend a lot of time in your living room, it’s only natural you might become bored with the decor and style. Roberson Keffer, Macy’s Senior Fashion Director, Home, has learned that easiest way to change up the style is to invest in a neutral couch, and play around with the rug and pillow styles. When it comes to a sofa, investing in a nice one will alleviate having to buy one every few years. When it comes to the style, go with a light neutral color like light grey, taupe, (or cognac if you’re going for leather), and then a rug and decorative pillows can be more budget-friendly items, suggests Keffer. “If you are like me and constantly inspired to move things around so the room feels new, the easiest way to give new life is by changing out the rug and pillows every so often and voila—it’s like I have a whole new living room,” says Keffer.

  • 27 of 30

    Start Your Art Collection Early

    portrait of Lisa Queen

    Lisa Queen Design

    Collecting art can be extremely costly, but if you start early, you can curate a collection that will provoke memories for years. Lisa Queen, founder & principal designer of Lisa Queen Design thinks that if you start early, you can gradually build a strong collection. “My daughter bought her first art piece when she was fresh out of grad school and working part time for a gallery in West Adams. I think she spent $150 on it, which was a SPLURGE at the time!! But it was an original limited edition print by an artist she adores, and now it's symbolic of the first piece of art in her art collection,” she explains. Since their family has always loved art, it was a no brainer for her that this would be an area in which she would invest. No matter where you live, you will always have walls that need art, so why not start early. “Art is such a great vehicle for storytelling; let it be that by accumulating it gradually over time,” she recommends.

  • 28 of 30

    Embrace Plants and Greenery in Your Home

    Javier Martínez poses in a royal blue chair

    AKUA Event Design

    If you’ve ever brought in natural flowers or plants to your space, you’ve experienced how they can instantly bring life to your room. Javier Martínez, President & Creative Director of AKUA Event Design has learned to always go with natural flowers and plants. “When it comes to decor, sometimes, people tend to gravitate towards synthetic plants and flowers with the intention of taking an affordable route, however, nothing can replace the magic and mystery of the real deal,” he says. Plants and flowers fill your space with good energy and elevate the vibes of the room. “Think of it as an investment as they could be used in many different ways. 

    I have a garden with rosemary, oregano, sage and roses among others. It’s so satisfying to have fresh roses on your table, or you give an arrangement to a friend that you personally handpicked,” says Martinez. Even better, when you get to cook with your own home grown ingredients, it makes your meal feel even more special.

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  • 29 of 30

    Don't Completely Marie Kondo Your Belongings

    Jessica Mason poses on a green couch partially covered with burlap


    While we keep saying less is more, you don't want to over-purge. One lesson that Jessica Mason, Founder of Piglet, learned the hard way was she should have held onto books, which she purged in a move. “When I was moving back to London from the Middle East in my mid-20s, I gave away most of my belongings in a moment of Marie Kondo-ism and ended up hugely regretting giving away my books,” she says.

    “Now that I am living in a bigger house and have moved to the US I would love to have them here to read again, to remind me of another time in my life and to make our shelves look a little more homey.” While you can still have a good purge, sometimes storing items for later use will benefit you in the long run.

  • 30 of 30

    Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Lauren Lerner poses in a light, bright living area

    Living with Lolo

    The best tip that Lauren Lerner, owner of Living with Lolo, learned before she was 30 was to go with the choice that scares you. “We all tend to go with the choice that is easy and comfortable but don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and go with the choice that feels a bit scary! You will often get the best results with that choice that challenged you a bit,” suggests Lerner.