My top 10 Home design tips for functionality and beauty for years to come!

Apr 09 2018
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Deciding on your floors, your trim, your paint colors and your finishes can be very daunting! These are my top ten home design tips to help you along the way. I concluded the renovation of my Grandparents’ 100 year old farm house over two years ago and I really spent a lot of time agonizing over my paint choices etc. I learned a lot along the way on how to not only make a home last in functionality but also how to make a home I could love for years to come. All of my tips are based on a place that will be your forever home.

Kitchen reveal at the Grandma's House DIY home tour! 15 months of renovation, remodeling a custom country kitchen with a cast iron sink after a full gut.

Design Tips #1. Design your home around what will stay the same. Don’t be those idiots on house hunters that won’t buy a home because a spiral staircase is too dangerous for their two year old: kids grow up. The only people this house needs to accommodate is you and your partner (or maybe just you) because, in the end, you’re going to be here for many, many, many years and you are the only people that need to love this home and whom this home needs to work for. (If your teenage daughter complains you can tell her that this is your dream home: not her’s.)

Design Tips #2. Functionality is key. Now that I’ve mentioned that this is your dream home (and not your teenage daughter’s) maybe you should wait until your kids move out before spending $5,000 on your dream marble counter tops? If you know your ten year old is probably going to play soccer in your living room, maybe buy that crystal lamp after he heads off to college?

Design Tips #3. Design starts from the bottom and works its way up. You want to start with the thing that is hardest to change once you choose it: your floors and your trim. I chose wood floors and white trim because I love dark wood but still wanted my house to be light and airy feeling. Just take note here, the choice you make on your floors and your trim will dictate all of your paint colors throughout the house.

Do it yourself sand, stain and seal hardwood floors

Design Tips #4. Be consistent. Yes, there are a lot of homes out there that have different floorings and different doors and different paint colors and different color trim in every room but a home that is consistent throughout makes a lot more sense to the eye, stick with what you love. Love dark stained trim? Do it everywhere. Love purple carpet? Do it everywhere. Prefer bronze hardware? Use them on every door handle and every cabinet knob and every light fixture – if you’re consistent it will look deliberate and deliberate is key. But, most importantly, you need to LOVE it first and foremost.

Design Tips #5. Painting furniture is far less difficult than painting an entire room. It is MUCH harder to paint over an entire wall then to repaint an end table! Not to mention accessories, pillows, paintings, pictures, window treatments etc. can all give you whatever color room you want!

The final reveal of our master bathroom with double slipper bathtub, buffet vanity and dark hardwood floors

Design Tips #6. Choosing door paint. Some of you may have 100 year old solid wood stained doors that you wouldn’t paint even if your life depended on it. However, a lot of folks have just basic hollow core doors that have been that color since they were purchased. Your doors are an opportunity to use any paint color you want. Be a rebel, be daring, doors are like furniture they can always be painted a different color, your teenage daughter wanted a pink room? How about a bright pink door instead? And you could always just paint HER side of the door pink! (Closet doors too!)

Design Tips #7. Choosing ceiling colors. There’s been a lot of talk about ceilings being the fifth wall of a room that I completely agree with. No I don’t think you need to keep your ceilings light colored nor am I against just painting them white. In my home you’ll notice that I did, in fact, paint all of my ceilings the same white as my trim – this was a choice. Because my ceilings were bead board they felt more like a structural “trim-like” element as opposed to a fifth wall so it was only natural to paint them the same color as the trim. Ceilings get dirty over time, if your house is more then a few years old the ceilings probably could really use a fresh paint job (especially if they’re textured) it will make a huge difference in how clean and bright the room feels. (Yes you can paint textured ceilings it just requires a really thick roller completely loaded with paint. Or, there are ways of covering up textured ceilings that can also be painted.)

Our farmhouse living room reveal Grandma's, country chic, thrift stores and refinished hand me down furniture pieces make for a cozy and comfortable space!

Design Tips #8. Choosing your fixture finishes. Now here’s one that gets a lot of people really befuddled. If budget is not a problem then there are, at least, six main finishes to choose from and variations therein: Chrome, Nickel, White, Glass, Gold, Brass and Bronze. Nickel, bronze and glass/crystal are a lot pricier then chrome, gold or white and glass/crystal is not really a finish as you can’t get everything in it but I included it here because you most certainly can get your hardware and light fixtures in it. Solid brass is coming back in a big way right now but it is very expensive.
Gold, chrome and white are the most cost effective and white tends to be even a little cheaper then chrome and gold. (Note: no, you can’t just get everything in “white” either, when I say white I mean really inexpensive: like things made of plastic.) I don’t know about you but I am totally over the fake gold hardware craze of the ’80s and ’90s. Chrome is what I went with throughout my home because it was affordable and I like shiny things. There is some glass and crystal sprinkled throughout my house as well but always on a base of chrome. All I can say about finishes is that once you pick one stick with it throughout your house. (Got all gold hardware throughout and hate it? You can paint it!)

Design Tips #9. Choosing your paint colors. Now that you have your floors, trim colors and fixture finishes chosen you now have a good base for choosing your paint. Most floors (tiles, woods, carpets) are in the brown range, it hides dirt better so they’re more common. My floors are old hardwood stained the color of black dirt so I didn’t want any hint of brown on my walls, my trim or my ceilings for fear of my whole house becoming different shades of poo. That being said, a lot of people like the “warmer” or “earthier” colors and that is a far cry then the color of poo.

(No, darker colors do not necessarily make a room feel smaller but the wrong dark will make a room feel BLUE! or RED! or, even worse, PEPTO BISMAL!)

Your walls should not make you start thinking of your office as the “Cotton Candy Room” or your kitchen as the “Jungle Frog” room. In my case I was well narrowed down in color choices before I even began because anything in a brown hue was a no (which is half the color wheel). I had a ton of white trim, any choice I made was either going to set the trim off or make it disappear at the glare of the paint color. And that’s really the best place to start with your paint color choices: what features do you want people to look at first? Is it the paint color/your walls? Is it the trim? Is it the floors? Is it an architectural element?

Master bedroom refresh country, hollywood regency makeover, white tufted headboard, glass lamp and hardware, black painted furniture, dark hardwood floors

Design Tips #10. Check it out before you buy. This is probably a bit of an obvious one but, if you’re anything like me, it is something you need to remind yourself of often. I’m the type that would go to the store, take my time, really stress about it, pick out a paint color, buy as many gallons as I need and bring it home without ever considering that I can get a sample and check it out first. People, don’t be like me: get a sample first. What happens is that when you buy that much paint (and can’t return it) is that you suck it up and use it even if its not right and it will bother you forever. Paint colors already dry darker then the swatch and every different time of day in a room will change the way the paint color looks. Paint can always be changed but let’s aim for not making that mistake to begin with.

Whatever your design choices may be there really is only one tip I would give. Ignore everyone else. Put Pinterest away. Close your browser window. Go to the store/salvage yard and find what you’re looking for! You’ll know it when you see it because your heart will sing. Do nothing if you do not absolutely love it first and foremost – this is your dream home.

My top 10 Home design tips for functionality and beauty for years to come! Deciding on your floors, trim, paint colors and finishes can be very daunting!


  1. April 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    These are pretty good design ideas. Visiting from Words on Wednesday linky party.

  2. April 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Many fantastic tips here. Totally agree that it’s important to think long-term when choosing and designing a house. That said, I find it much, much easier to repaint a wall than to paint furniture. No stripping, minimal sanding, and far fewer grooves. Just goes to show how people see things differently, right? Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

    • April 12, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Hi Leslie! You have a good point there, what I like about painting furniture though is there is little to no taping off involved, I have A LOT of trim and wood floors that need major protecting lol so a dresser is easier for me for sure but not necessarily for everyone!

  3. April 12, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Great tips, thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned.

  4. April 12, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Wonderful tips Tarah, and such a great read! Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  5. April 12, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    Enjoyed reading about your decorating tips. Found you on Blogger’s Pit Stop Blog party.

  6. April 13, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I love all of these! SO beautiful!!

  7. April 13, 2018 at 1:14 am

    Great tips, when my husband and buy a home, i’ll Definitely take these on board. Thanks for joining in with #ThatFridayLinky

  8. April 13, 2018 at 2:59 am

    Some fantastic tips here! #ThatFridayLinky

    • April 13, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Thanks for coming by, have a great weekend!

  9. April 15, 2018 at 2:52 am

    Fab tips Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

  10. Jann Olson
    April 15, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing your design tips with SYC.

  11. April 17, 2018 at 1:18 am

    Tarah, your well thought out and logical tips would be helpful for anyone renovating a house. I like what you said about not buying unless you love it. We will feature this post on the next Blogger’s Pit Stop.

    • April 17, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Thank you so much Kathleen, have a wonderful week!!

  12. April 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

    • April 17, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks Sherry for coming by!

  13. April 17, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Lots of really great information. I am in love with that red island in your kitchen. Did you make that out of an old radio? Thanks for sharing at #WoW Words on Wednesday Linkup

    • April 18, 2018 at 8:26 am

      Thanks Evelyn, yup I made my island out of my great grandpa’s old radio stand!

  14. Willow
    October 22, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Regarding Design Tip #10: Years ago, we were going to remove the aluminum siding on our house and paint the cedar shakes underneath. We had to repair an area where there had been enclosed stairs on the outside. We added new cedar shakes in that area and painted them yellow, anticipating that we would eventually paint the entire house that color. Fast forward and the shakes under the siding were in terrible shape. We had vinyl siding installed in a green color on the second floor of the house (there’s stucco on the first floor except where the stairs had been). We had almost 5 gallons of the yellow exterior paint left so took a sample of the vinyl back to the store with the paint and they were able to make the yellow paint into the green of the vinyl. I wouldn’t have known that was possible except a good friend, who works in the paint department, told me. It’s worth checking to see if it can be done before settling for a color you don’t like or wasting paint.

    • October 22, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      OMG Willow what an amazing tip! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

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