Decorating tips – dos and don'ts from our favourite interiors experts

Who better to ask for decorating tips than some of the biggest names in interiors? From the colours to use to the furniture to buy, these little gems of advice from the experts will save you from any design disasters.

Let's be honest, decorating your home can be a daunting business. Even if you're a pro with a paintbrush or have an eye for vintage bargains, putting coherent schemes together can be anything from tricky to terrifying.

Employ the style secrets the pros swear by, however, and you'll soon have a home that makes visitors swoon.

These decorating tips come from some famous names from the world of interiors. We've asked designers, makers, merchandisers and more what they've learnt from styling their own homes, so we can share their wealth of experience and help you to create the look of your dreams.

Read on and you'll also discover that when it comes to decorating our homes, everyone makes mistakes – even the experts!

Want more tips? Read: 7 decorating mistakes you should never make

1. Start with a sofa

living room with white sofaset with cushions and wooden shelves

(Image credit: TBC)

Keith Brymer Jones, ceramicist and presenter of BBC Two's The Great Pottery Throw Down

'I’ve been guilty 
of making some really silly DIY mistakes. I once took a door off the hinges to cut a bit 
off the end because it was scraping on my tiled floor. It wasn’t until I went to put it back on the frame that I realised that I’d cut the wrong end off! I also tried rewiring a light only to find out that the entire wall was live. That was quite funny...

'As for tips, for anyone moving into a new home and wondering where to start, the first thing I would buy would always be a sofa. Why? One, you need somewhere 
to sit; two, it’s a great way of making 
a statement as to what you like, and 
three, I just like sofas!'

Donna Wilson, textile designer

'I think that co-ordinating colour and pattern in a home is so important. Having a colour palette for each room can really change the mood of each space.'

room with white wall and white table with red flower in glass vase

(Image credit: TBC)

Tanja Soeter, creative director, Hema

'If you like something, 
don’t be afraid to have it 
in your home. Even if it’s not in your exact style, as long as you love it, 
it’ll blend in and help make your 
home an extension of you

'Also, don't change your decor all at once. Instead, add a few new pieces and move things around regularly, so it always feels fresh.'

room with grey wall round mirror on wall and flower in vase

(Image credit: TBC)

Abigail Ahern, homeware designer

'Have confidence when decorating. The biggest obstacle to overcome (especially as women, because we always second-guess ourselves) is to trust your instincts. Just try it, and if it doesn’t work, try another look.

'When I first moved in, I treated my house like a laboratory.  I gradually found out what worked, what resonated with me and made my heart skip. Back then, I knew what my style wasn’t, but didn’t know what it was.

'A can of paint can change a room for very little money. 
At first, I painted everything white, because I didn’t know what I wanted. Then I painted a wall in my shop dark grey and loved how it made the accessories pop. So I painted the whole store dark grey.

'Then I thought I’d rather be living in my store than in my house because I like how it makes me feel. So I painted a wall at home in a dark shade, then everything fell into place. Painting everything white wasn’t a mistake and I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t have that feeling of wanting to stay at home – now it’s hard to prize me out of it!'

READ: Enjoy dramatic design at home by decorating with darker colours

Liz Silvester, Head of Visual Identity, Liberty

The hardest thing for me about decorating is working out how much is too much. But one thing I've learnt is to take your time. It’s okay to do a bit at a time and live with it and review it. One thing responds to another.

of the most amazing interiors are put together over time, whereas rushing into a completed look can sometimes box you off for improvement.

room with white wooden table and photoframe on blue wall

(Image credit: TBC)

Vanessa Anderson, Head of Design for Home, Marks & Spencer

Always decorate with your heart - don’t try to be something you’re not. So don’t follow fads or go with a style because you think your friends would like it - be true to yourself and your own style will follow.

I’m a full subscriber to William Morris’s ethos of having nothing in your house you neither know to be useful nor believe to be beautiful. The things you love will come together and work together because they are joined by your appreciation of them.

Once you know what these inspirational pieces are, work from there to create a setting that will show them off to their best advantage - whether it’s something as simple as a much loved book collection or something more show-stopping like artwork or a statement piece of lighting.

7. Invest in classic pieces

room with white wall white window and tiled flooring

(Image credit: TBC)

Kristina Karlsson, stationery and homeware designer and founder of kikki.K

'I’ve collected some classic Scandinavian furniture over the years – it’s expensive so I have to save up, but a few key pieces really do make the rest of your room look beautiful.

'My favourite item is my 
Arne Jacobsen Swan chair. My husband Paul bought it for my birthday years ago and I adore it – it’s so elegant.'

Buy Now: 
Arne Jacobsen Swan chair, £3,112, Fritz Hansen

Genevieve Bennett, textile designer

'I think it takes time to work out what a space needs and you have to live in it for a while. I’d like to try some rich shades, and possibly even some dark colours. No black floors, though: I had one in my kitchen, years ago – it never looked clean and it drove me slightly mad. Never again!'

dining room with brick walls and wooden table with white chairs

(Image credit: James French)

Sam Hood, founder, Amara

'I think your taste changes as you grow older. Your influences develop. Sometimes when I look back 10 years, I feel like, ‘Wow, 
what on earth was I thinking when I decorated that room?!’ But at the time, I loved it. I’ve gone from a house where every window had swags and tails in traditional patterns to what my house looks like now. Everything is plain, 
simple and neutral.

Inspired? Read: The best white paint – how to choose the right shade for your walls

'Having said that, I think it's always worth investing in a good sofa, bed and kitchen table. These are the areas where you spend all of your time. If you choose a style well, then it should last you for years.'

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.