Home Decorating Tips From an Interior Design Expert
Home Decorating Tips From an Interior Design ExpertHome Decorating Tips From an Interior Design Expert
Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne
Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

There’s something about opening a new calendar that makes us want to feel our best. So this January, POPSUGAR is giving you everything you need to hit the reset button on your health, your habits, your beauty routine, and more. To find more articles about resetting your home, click here.

The past few years have been full of lessons. For a homebody and serial (re)decorator like me, here’s a big one: never underestimate the value of creating a home you like spending time in. (In some cases, a lot of time.)

Actually doing that is easier said than done, and there’s far from a one-size-fits-all approach. Some things — certain features of your space, or maybe your current circumstances — might make it tough to take on major changes or pricey reno projects. But one place we can all start? Finding (or creating) a home decor style that resonates, and then taking the steps, big or small, to bring it to life.

I’ve lived at 11 addresses in my life (a good chunk of those thanks to the New York City rental market), and made some questionable decor choices along the way. But my ninth home, a 350-square-foot studio apartment and my first solo adult space, was a significant turning point in understanding the power of making an empty box my own. Importantly, it allowed me to discover my eclectic and colorful decor style in the process.

Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

Now, a few years and two places later, I’ve created a home that feels more personal — more like me and the partner I share it with — than ever. It’s an evolution of the style I established in that tiny studio that’s grown with me and that I know will only continue to.

So if you’re feeling inspired to rethink your space in the new year, or just looking for some advice to refer back to later, maybe I can help. Here are some decor tips to make your home feel more like you, so you can enjoy it to its fullest.

1. Get familiar with what you like.

We do it with food, fashion, and even dating. So why does it seem so much harder to nail down an interior style (or styles) that we like? I have a hunch. Furniture and decor isn’t the same as fashion; it’s bigger, more expensive, and takes up more space. Aside from accruing blankets and tchotchkes, it’s much easier to own multiple coats or change a lipstick than it is to swap out your sofa or have another set of dining chairs in rotation. The pieces in your home are designed to be lived with every single day, and you want to like what you’re sharing space with. In this case, decision paralysis can be very real.

So, where to begin? You’ve got options. For some, an interior-design-style quiz can point you in the right direction (especially a thoughtful one from a designer, like this). For others, scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram are the best ways to find variety at your fingertips (and save what you like). Don’t overthink it; you’ll know what you’re naturally gravitating to.

I take a hybrid approach: saving and pinning while also snapping photos of things (hotel lobbies, wall and furniture color combinations in restaurants) I see in real life. I also browse online stores like AllModern, vintage furniture resale sites like Chairish, and even Facebook Marketplace.

Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

When browsing, don’t ignore the small stuff — even if you don’t love the big picture. For example, you may not like the way a whole room looks, but you might love a particular side table. Or you might spot a pairing of textures you love in a lamp but find a way to use that combo in a mirror. I recently saw an aged, almost-black brown wood stool on Pinterest that inspired me to buy a similarly colored bar cabinet on Facebook Marketplace. It’s now one of my favorite pieces.

2. Find a style sweet spot.

You may want your home to look like a magazine, or even the set of a Nancy Meyers film. But a few things you might be less keen on? Creating a carbon copy of someone else’s home or a time capsule of a hyper-specific decor style — early 2000s Olive Garden-style kitchens or Y2K bedrooms. (We can bring back blow-up chairs and lava lamps, though.)

While this can be hard to avoid as trends cycle in and out of style, mixing and matching can be a smart way to maintain a transitional look. Whether it’s pairing vintage with modern, incorporating family heirlooms into the mix, or laying trending patterns and textures (think: checkerboard or bouclé) over more subtle fabrics, this can help your space feel balanced and versatile.

Wherever you ultimately land may help define your decor style tastes even further. And that spot might sit somewhere between a few distinct decor styles, or many — coastal and Scandinavian, preppy meets French country, industrial with hints of art deco and glam. There’s no pressure to fit neatly into a box.

Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

Let my space be an example: my living room is home to a mix of Chinese and Japanese accents, a Moroccan rug, a postmodern coffee table, a modern CB2 credenza with clean lines, a ’70s lamp, and curtains I found at Ikea. It’s eclectic and varied, exactly the way I like it.

3. Embrace the evolution.

All good things must come to an end, or at least change and grow. You’ll know when it’s time to let your space — or your tastes — evolve.

Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

Maybe you’re moving into a bigger space and need the furniture to match, or maybe you’re entering a new phase of life and ready to replace an old table with a sturdier investment piece. In cases like mine, you might be transitioning from living alone to with a dog, a roommate, and eventually a partner. Or you might just generally be ready for something new.

Whatever the reason, trust your instincts about what stays and what goes, and take your time. You might want to keep sentimental artwork, statement furniture, and your sofa. But it might be time to change a rug, a table lamp, or your bedding.

And if you like what you’ve already created but just want to iterate on it, find replacement pieces with familiar qualities like colors, silhouettes, or patterns. Black-and-white patterns have become a staple of my spaces, as have bold uses of green in different shades. I interpret them a little differently each time — on a rug and then a headboard, or on towels and then a lamp — but now, they’re a signature. Wherever they are feels like home.

Carrie Carrollo
Photo Illustration: Jae Payne

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