I have always had a set of rules that I work off of for any project. Here is a quick read on a few things that are etched into my design bible. I truly feel that any room needs most of these items addressed to be complete. If you work with or are working with me, expect me to stamp these on your forehead.
That being said, rules are meant to be broken in most interiors. Depending on the look, style, and function of a space, there are times when these rules should be broken. Here you go...grab a pen and paper for some notes.
1. Rugs- every solid surface floor in a bedroom or living space needs a rug. It grounds the space, helps with comfort, acoustics, and insulation. A room will feel naked without a rug.
2. Coffee table- When I see a room without a cocktail table, it feels like a caveman lives there. I know your kids are hard on furniture, and I know that you like an open room, but trust me your living room needs it. A coffee table will up the bar in any seating group.
3. Window treatments- Every room needs quality window treatments. If you have shutters that is fine, but I will find every opportunity to mix in other window treatments (fabric shades, drapery, grass or woven shades etc) In my opinion, great window treatments are the one thing that will make the greatest and quickest difference in a space.
4. Lamps- table lamps and more table lamps. So you already have overhead lighting? Great, add some table lamps. They give lighting from a different direction and fill that empty space between the top of your seating and the ceiling. It is amazing the difference in ambiance when you have more than down-lights.
5. Mix of finishes- Most of my clients have a hard time with this one. If your cabinet hardware is brushed stainless, there is no reason you cannot mix in a different finish faucet or light fixture. This goes for any room. A brass chandelier can look amazing in a room with black doorknobs. Brass, chrome, brushed, antiqued, bronze etc...mix 'em up.
6. Millwork- Baseboard, crown moulding, casing etc. This does not apply to every home, but do not miss the opportunity to make your home look permanent and intentional with properly designed millwork.
7. Artwork hanging- don't hang your artwork too high. Look through a magazine or book of any great designer. The artwork is low and typically at eye level. Usually 8"-12" is a great height for the base of artwork to sit above a mantle, console table etc.
8. Wall Color- don't go overboard. There is a very fine line between too much and not enough color. In most cases my rule of thumb is this: From one vantage point, avoid seeing more than two colors. This is usually relatively easy to accomplish.
9. Cheap decor- Don't buy all of your decor from West Elm, Z Gallerie and Home Goods. Sure they have some good looking inexpensive pieces, but always find unique items that mean something to you. I would rather see a single well made, antique, or tasteful item on a bookcase shelf than a grouping from a Z Gallerie display.
10. Pillows- Don't go cheap on pillows, they really do make a room. A cheap $29.99 pillow will look exactly like that...a cheap $29.99 pillow. What does it take to get a good pillow? Good fabric and a good fill. Don't buy pillows in cheap polyester fabric. They will last at most a year or two. Always use a down/feather fill...always. They will cost an extra $10-$20, but are well worth it.
Stick to these rules and you are well on your way to an amazing room!