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The Rules of Decorating According to an Expert Interior Designer and Creative Director

Learn the dos and don'ts of timeless decorating according to interior designer Jacu Strauss

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By House & Garden | May 29, 2024 | Interiors

In the latest of a series on interior designers' decorating principles, Jacu Strauss, the creative director of Lore Group and the designer behind stylish hotels such as One Hundred Shoreditch, shares his principles of good decorating

Do spend time and effort working out what you want to achieve before jumping into details.

Keep an open mind to get clarity on the bigger picture and decide the sequence required to get to the desired end results. I always create what I call a “Charter” that establishes the “what, why and how”. You will make decisions based on this self-created brief right throughout your project.

According to Jacu Strauss, your home should say something about your personality, charm, character, dreams, and humour. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Do have a story about your project, regardless of how big or small it is.

Your interior should be meaningful and say something about your personality, charm, character, dreams, and humour.

Do embrace darker and richer colours for smaller spaces.

It seems counterintuitive but it often disguises the size of the room/space and puts emphasis on the furniture, lighting, art and styling you have in there. Always test colours in the spaces about the size of an A4 painted on each wall before committing. Some paint companies now sell large pre-painted sheets of their colours which Is very convenient.

Do embrace darker and richer colours for smaller spaces. Image courtesy of Asplund.

Do take time to get to know the property you have and the elements you are working with.

Research and learn to appreciate the features and details, even if they may not be in “fashion” at the time. It is great to mix old and new, but there should be a considered balance between what is original and what you are adding. My least favourite interiors are the ones where there were a deliberate disregard and disconnect.

Do not underestimate the value and magic of good lighting.

This does not need to be an expensive system either, simply ensure you have dimmers (I prefer manual dimmers) for all lights and remember that floor and table lighting create a much more dynamic lighting environment than just a grid of downlights. I am a big fan of track lighting with directional spots, they allow you to adjust the lighting and highlight the parts of the interior you want to stand out. And I cannot think of any home where cool white lighting was ever a good thing. Dim those lights right down in the evenings and always opt for warmer colour temperature bulbs.

For stunning home lighting, opt for warmer colour temperature bulbs. Image courtesy of &Tradition.

Do use a mix of old and new and be playful with scale.

Vintage is a great way to make savings and instantly add some personality and narrative to any space. You are also helping the environment by giving beautiful pieces crafted by wonderful talented craftsmen an extended lease of life. There are so many great places online to source vintage pieces, sites like Vinterior for example where I can spend hours browsing.

Don't ask for too many opinions.

Be selective about who you ask and what for. There is a difference between asking for an opinion and asking for advice. Often it is natural to default to negative feedback when asked rather than positive, and this can become overwhelming.

Don't cut corners when painting walls, joinery, windows, doors and woodwork.

Remove switch covers and even hinges and handles from doors and cabinets before painting them. Only professional painters can paint around obstacles with their impressive skills and techniques which took years and years to perfect.

Incorporate a healthy mix of old and new and be playful with scale. Image courtesy of Bodrum Loft.

Don't overestimate your DIY skills.

It is always tempting to do it all yourself and it may be a cost saving initiative, but have realistic DIY expectations and know when to get the professionals in. Doing something right the first time is much more cost effective that having to redo something over and over again.

Don't get caught up in design rules, they do not really exist.

There are often many correct ways of solving the same problem. I believe that everything has a place, and it is about choosing the option that suits you and the interior best.

This kitchen embraces both new and old through vintage style furniture surrounded by necessary modern appliances. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Do not be fixated on trends and styles.

These are short-lived and often the results say nothing about who you are.

Don’t create a “museum”.

Homes and even offices are meant to be lived in and a bit of chaos and laughter and even accidents make a space more inviting and comfortable.

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.