Three Surprising Decorating Tips

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

Interior designer Emily Henderson is a genius when it comes to styling. Her new book, Styled, comes out today and is filled with more than 1,000 tips for making rooms look beautiful. Here, she shares three surprising pointers you can try right now…

Says Emily:

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

1. If you love color, don’t paint your walls. It sounds counterintuitive, but here’s why: If you are someone who loves color, then you are probably someone who tends to buy a lot of colorful accessories, rugs, textiles, even furniture. So if your walls are also painted a color, then your room could look like a crazy person lives there. Your eye has no space to rest. I’ve been a victim of this myself now twice.

Here’s what you do: Choose between your walls being colorful and your decor being more neutral (with some pops), or your walls being more neutral and your decor being colorful. A room with a blue wall, a hot pink sofa and big pops of yellow everywhere may look good in a magazine, but in person it will look like visual chaos and you will get sick of it really quickly.

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

These teal walls represent the ‘crazy walls, neutral stuff’ scenario.

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

2. Find the color you love putting on your body the most. It’s the old fashion-to-home story and it works. We wear the color that is most flattering to our complexion, so why not design your home with some of those colors as well? Colors go in and out of trend, sure, and you don’t want to paint your walls a neon pink-and-yellow colorblock, but most of us have general tones that we like to be in and around. What have you consistently worn over the years? What are you most comfortable in? Start your color palette there. For me, it’s indigos, whites, gray-toned blues and hits of pink, as you can see in the photo above.

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

3. Every room should have a mix of warm and cool colors. A room with only cool tones (blues, greens, grays, whites, blacks) can look stark and cold, while a room with only warm tones (browns, reds, yellows, oranges, beiges) can look heavy and dated. Remember that woods, gold and brass count as warm, and silver counts as cool. Each room should have a balance to look modern and fresh, yet cozy and inviting.

Three Surprising Decorating Tips

Smart, right? Which colors do you love and use most? Find Emily’s amazing book here, if you’d like to read more. Congratulations, Emily!

P.S. Emily’s tips on hanging art and a bright, colorful home.

(Photos by David Tsay. First living room and bedroom designed by Emily Henderson. Blue room designed by Taylor Jacobson. The photo with the camel is by design firm Project M Plus.)

  1. Wow I never would have thought to use my fashion style as my decorating style. This is my first time decorating my own space by myself and I want to make sure I get it right. My favorite advice that you mentioned was using the colors that I like wearing as a way to be more comfortable in where I live. My color palette would be darker greens, yellows and hits of gray blues. Thanks for the help, now all I need is some decorations.

  2. Painting is one of my natural talent, I used white color or neutral color if I paint my wall because it is very pleasant to the eye and the space looks more spacious through this color. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, I might also try one of these idea in the near future.

  3. Awesome tips!

  4. All such great tips!! A new one for me was to go by the colors you wear, but it makes perfect sense. Will definitely keep these in mind as we are decorating our home:)

  5. Madie says...

    These are great! Everything I have read about Emily and her design philosophy has seemed spot on, and gorgeous-yet-doable. Any chance we could get a source on the bedroom rug? It may be long gone, but it’s worth a shot! Thanks!

  6. Love these tips!
    I have a problem with #2 though, ’cause I can’t decide on one colour which to dress myself in to start with… how am I supposed to find that one colour to accessorise my place… ;)

  7. Love that these are so easy to follow but are not necessarily intuitive to everyone.

  8. Not painting the walls makes total sense! I won’t feel bad about my white walls anymore. Although I do want them more grey than beige. Cool than warm?

    I love to wear black, but I don’t think I could decorate with it. I love color for my home and neutrals for me!

    Analog House

  9. jeannie says...

    I totally love that bedroom. It is so serene and the color is subtle but uplifting. Really lovely. Great post!

  10. Wonderful post! I especially like the wallpaper on the wall behind the beautiful woman sitting on the couch. And, I also like the top she is wearing – it’s gorgeous. Where can I get a similar one? LOL!

  11. Actually, my entire flat is on the black/white/grey/silver side, only exception is the kitchen where I use natural, warm and autumnal / pumpkin colors but at least i can relate to wearing / loving these colors for years ^^

  12. We just moved from Chicago to Raleigh, NC and our new home is coming along nicely, except the master bedroom. We literally just have a king size mattress on the floor. It doesn’t even have a box spring. The room is big and has nice windows and a balcony but we haven’t managed to make it our own yet. I thought painting the room first will get me started and so tip#1 is good to hear. I am the one who always paints everything white so I thought to venture in the other direction but you know, I think I will stick with it especially now.

  13. I love her work so much. I’ve discovered both of my favorite designers because of you! I decided based on a recent post of hers that we need to paint our smallish, windowless living room pale blue, instead of leaving it white like I thought was ‘right.’ I don’t know if we’ll get to it while I’m pregnant, but it’s definitely coming! I’d like to get a grey couch though, and just hope a neutral-ish sofa and walls isn’t too plain. I do love color and dressing things up that way though.

  14. YES! I’m so drawn to color, and so often I have to restrain myself! When we moved into our home a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to finally have a space for a gallery wall, and my instinct was to use a lot of bright, vibrant art. But I knew I loved my colorful textiles in the room too much to give them up, and all of it together would have burned our retinas. ;) Neutral gallery wall it was, then — and it balanced out so much better! (Here is a sneaky peek if you’d like to see:
    I adore Emily Henderson and have been so excited about both ‘Styled’ and Lauren Groff’s ‘Fates and Furies’ coming my way this weekend — and I love that both have been mentioned recently on Cup of Jo! :)

  15. Oh these are wonderful as usual. Cup of Jo and Style by Emily Henderson are pretty much my favorite sites … love that they are coming together here :)

  16. I LOVE the advice “if you love color, don’t paint your walls”. Growing up my mom painted every wall white and it killed me! I was like, “When I grow up, I’m painting my rooms COLORS!” But after living in rentals for the past few years AND turning 30, I’ve learned a little bit more about myself by now. I know that I love color and I love lots of it and I love changing it. AND I hate painting. So white walls it is. White walls and a bright red leather sofa. :D

  17. These tips are super helpful! I’m really interested in Emily’s book :)

    Sarah xx
    Sarah’s Chapter

  18. These are all solid decorating tips! Love #1 – it seems that the rage is always to do an accent wall, but then there’s just so much going on in the rest of the room. I’m always a fan of neutral walls and color from your décor.

  19. These are such great tips! I especially love #1 — and I think it’s actually related to #3. I definitely lived in a hot pink bedroom a few years back with a bright bedspread, and it was exhausting after a while. Also…I love hot pink, but I just don’t really like to wear it. It became tiring just to be around those colors.

    Thanks for the wonderful ideas, Emily!

    Luscious + Intuitive Eating |

  20. Sarah D. says...

    I <3 Emily. Her work is fantastic and so are these tips! Thanks, Joanna! :)

  21. Thanks for the tips! I always gravitate towards turquoise pops of color and a caramelly wood necklace that seems to go with everything. Will try to add my true loves to the house too!

  22. This was the perfect post for me to read. I’ve recently purchased a new home and was in fear that I may over do it with the colors! I love color, so naturally I though about painting the walls (since now I can), but I wasn’t sure if I could commit to just one color. I like the idea of neutral walls and pops of color in the decor, especially since I like to change things up every now and then. Oh, and using the colors that you wear just makes total sense to me! This was really helpful.. Thanks!

  23. Tip #1 is something I needed to read (counter-intuitive indeed, as it never crossed my mind!)

    I love color, so I painted my bedroom blue because the idea of mute white walls was so depressing. Then I had the hardest time decorating because…I love color, and now had to stick with things to match that blue. lol

  24. Laura C says...

    Her second tip is nice! A good idea indeed. Thanks for sharing Joanna!

  25. I am a fan –– really admire Emily’s style. And I love the tip about using the same colors at home as what’s hanging in your closet. Since I adore color, no hue is off limits in my closet or apartment :) Great inspiration!

  26. Josephine says...

    I’m really liking these tips because they totally confirm what we’ve been doing in our house! We love color but for now we are painting almost all our walls a light neutral tan. Mainly so we didn’t have to hash out what color to make everything, it was an easy compromise. Besides, we can always paint color later if we decide to! Also loving the tip about decorating with colors you love to wear. I have always thought I looked good in maroon, and that is one of the colors in our house color scheme.

  27. Lashley says...

    Love her. I’ve never felt more famous than when a question I posted in the comments made it into a post she wrote.

  28. Jess says...

    Love it, I’m buying my first home next spring and I can’t wait to put Emily’s tips to use! She’s so chic!

  29. such great tips that i am definitely keep in mind as we are decorating our newly renovated family room/ kitchen! I agreed with tip #1. I convinced my family with going with a more neutral colour for the walls and add colour through accessories in the family room – pillows etc.

  30. I love the warm/cool tones advice. I like both, and keep feeling like I have to choose. Such a relief to know that I not only can – but should – be including both in each room.

  31. Michelle R. says...

    What great tips – I can’t wait to pick up her new book!

    Any idea where the bedding is from in picture #2? I have been on the hunt for simple bedding and love the set pictured!

  32. Love Emily’s styling tips. Can’t wait to get a copy of her book. She has some fab ideas!

  33. Patricia says...

    I live by rule #1: if you love color, don’t paint your walls. Last year when we renovated our house, my husband and went with neutral cabinets for the kitchen and bathrooms and left the walls in every room white. Since then we’ve been slowly adding colour through art, furniture, linens, pillows, etc. It’s really coming together!

    I love the rug in the bedroom image (picture #2)–any leads on where it’s from?

  34. Carole says...

    hi Joanna! Love this post :) Would you happen to know what the bigger tree is called on the right of the first image? (photo with fire place) it’s so pretty and would love to get something similar for my condo :) I just love these home decor posts!!

    • I thought I’d chime in but it looks to me like a Ficus lyrata, commonly known as the fiddle-leaf fig.

  35. Mary says...

    Thank you for sharing these! I love colour so now I know I won’t be dithering when it comes to wall colours!

  36. What great tips! I especially love the first room. And I had never thought about decorating with the color I wear most. That’s such a great idea!

  37. Emily says...

    #1 is so true! I adore color (even my wedding dress was hot pink), but I’ve been renting for years and confined to various shades of off-white for the walls. I realized I love buying bright furnishings and now that we’re buying a house, I’m sticking to neutrals for the walls.

  38. Samantha says...

    I mostly wear black, white and blue, but my bedroom is painted ivory, with a white bed (the ikea white metal bed everyone has), brown and white bedding, taupe/brown curtains and red accents. I do like the latter colors on me, but I just don’t wear them as much. To find the right shade of brown for me is a little tricky, and I love to wear red clothes, specially dresses, but I’d rather save it for special ocassions:) I must say that I swoon over a white and blue room every time.

  39. I just recently intuitively discovered the last tip. My living room is very warm colours (orange walls, even!) and I was feeling that it was looking pretty dated. I added some silver picture frames and metallic silver accents and it really modernized the space!

  40. Mallory says...

    Love Emily and I follow her blog. Her styling is always drool-worthy. After thinking our living room needed a fall refresh, I copied her exact throw pillow and blanket arrangement on a couch from her blog post on Target’s fall line. While my husband called it a “hipster cabin” look, everyone else thinks the couch has never looked better :)

    • Karen T. says...

      HA! Me too! (Except for the gold/yellow arrow pillow….couldn’t find that one!) Our family room looks sooooo much better!