9 Things Design Experts Always Notice in Homes

kitchen decor

Whittney Parkinson

Do you ever wonder what a designer's gut reaction would be if he or she set foot into your home for the first time? We were feeling equally curious, so we polled experts and asked them about the design elements that tend to stick out when visiting a new space. Before you worry about receiving critical feedback, note that many of the designers we spoke with actually noticed the positives first!

1. Kitchens—And The Materials They Feature

"I always notice kitchens. I notice everything from the cabinets to the countertops to the light fixtures, plumbing, and hardware. I think because I have been in so many builder-basic homes over the years—I used to be a real estate agent—that I really appreciate custom cabinets, beautiful faucets, and hardware and well planned-out lighting." — Kaari Sommer, blogger at The Sommer Home

eclectic living room

Tyler Karu

2. Unique Decorative Finds

"I always notice the decor items that didn't come from a big box store but have been thoughtfully curated over the years. Think: items collected from trips and passed down from family members, or quirky thrift store finds. Those kinds of things really give your house a 'feeling' and turn it into a home." — Kelly Hartley, interior stylist and DIY expert at Hartley Home

"I love when people have stories behind their spaces—art they found at a vintage shop, fun collections they've grown over time, or funky chairs passed down from their family. I always notice if a home looks like a showroom, meaning matching furniture and metals, high-trend items, or pieces from the same brand and style. There’s nothing better than a collected look to create a home that's a true reflection of you." — Stephanie Perez, founder and principal at Stephanie Perez Interiors

3. A Statement-Making Ceiling

"One of the first things I do when I walk in a home is look up. I notice if someone has a unique ceiling, whether through paint, wallpaper, interesting moldings, or a vintage light fixture that stops me in my tracks. It's easy to forget that the ceiling is another wall that needs love, and I remind my clients of this when designing their homes." — Stephanie Perez

artwork in bedroom

Desiree Burns

4. Artwork—And How It's Displayed

"l always notice unique artwork, especially pieces that exude a feeling. Some of my favorite pieces in homes are oil on canvas portraits and landscapes. I also always notice crooked artwork, or if gallery walls are out of balance/need more pieces!" — Stef Turner, home Instagrammer @stefmturner

5. Too Many Pillows

"I notice that people put too many decorative pillows on their bed or couch!" — Laquita Tate, founder of Laquita Tate Styling and Interior Designs

6. A General Mood

"When I walk into homes, I don't notice 'things'; I get a feeling. I find most homes are filled with love, warmth, and hope. I get a sense of how people live—whether they cook a lot, they are ushering kids to and from sports, or are hoping to bring a baby home someday soon. For me, it's not about the items that fill the house, it's about energy." — Ann Flanagan, founder of Ann Elizabeth Art and Design

shelf styling

Whittney Parkinson

7. A Lack of Accessories

"I notice a lot of people tend to never take their space to the finish line by investing in art and accessories. Adding quality finishing touches to a space is so important to pull everything together! Make sure you set aside a significant amount in your budget for this." — Kara Thomas, founder of Studio KT

8. All Gray Everything

"I understand design can be daunting and gray seems like a safe bet and easy to pair with, well, more gray. But there is a big world of color out there, why confine yourself to just one? I do like a layered neutral palette, but that even feels richer and warmer than gray." — Julia Newman Pedraza, founder of Julia Adele Design

full bookshelves in apartment

@dommdotcom / Instagram

9. Books and Art

"The personal touches that always stand out to me in a home are books and art. You can tell a lot about a person’s interests from the books they read and display, be it contemporary art books, romance novels, or travel books. I love the story (pun intended!) that book collections tell about the people that live there. I also immediately notice the art in a home as that greatly impacts the design of a space. The colors, the framing and how it is hung in relation to the furnishings, are all things I take in." — Rande Leaman, founder of Rande Leaman Interior Design