Some people just have an innate sense of style– they have a good eye, and confidence in their decorating or design decisions. Others perhaps feel that they need a little help; they’re just not sure where to start, which options to go with, or how to complete the look…

If truth be told, all decorators and stylists have a few tricks up their sleeve, a few fail safe decorating ‘hacks’ that they rely on to update spaces. From carefully placed finishing touches, to clever use of colour and spacial planning, this is our little ‘rule book’. BUT, the very first rule is, don’t take this rule book too seriously!

The art of decor and design should be a fun and creative expression.

The key to a beautiful home isn’t always about spending a huge amount of money (although admittedly this does help sometimes). It’s about ensuring that all the various elements are considered and combined harmoniously, that the spaces are functional, efficient and suited to your lifestyle. You need to find the sweet spot, where you strike a balance between comfort and design.

Customise your home so that it is uniquely suited to your lifestyle and becomes an efficient yet comforting sanctuary.

Try a few of these tricks out, and send us your pics! We’d love to see your progress.



A fresh coat of paint is the quickest and easiest way to revamp a space. Get rid of any and all dirty marks and scuffs, freshen your neutrals and where appropriate, add a statement colour. Always use tester pots, as paint colours appear very differently in different rooms and in different lights.

It’s all White

There are countless shades of white, and you need to choose the right white for the intended wall. Again, use tester pots. Some whites look can look much too cool, or too warm in certain lights. A good idea is to paint a piece of cardboard in the shade you are considering, which allows you to move it around the room to view it from different angles.


Use the 60-30-10 Rule

This is simple and successful proportion rule that will help you put your colour scheme together. 60% of the room should be in the dominant colour, which anchors the space and serves as the backdrop. This is usually your walls, large pieces like carpets and couches. The secondary colour you choose should make up the 30% of the room; this could be curtains, furniture or linens. This secondary colour supports the main colour, but contrasts it. Then you add the 10% accent colour, in your accessories, art and perhaps even lighting.

The Rule of Thirds

Designing with odd numbers creates harmony and visual interest. The basic idea of the rule is that details and objects that are arranged or grouped in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered pairings. This often creates asymmetrical balance.

We don’t need more, we need better – Bielle Bellingham


Rhythm and Repetition

Repetition creates rhythm in a space, and rhythm creates intrigue. This is basically the use of the same element in a repetitive pattern. So perhaps it’s the same colour, texture, line, or any other element repeated.


Create a focal point

Every room should have a focal point– if there isn’t one, make one. This is an area/object that your eyes are naturally drawn to.

  • Paint a wall in a different colour to the rest of the scheme
  • Use a large, bold piece of furniture, or a statement artwork or large mirror.

The eye has to travel – Diana Vreeland

Basic Measurement Rules

Coffee table to couch distance:
Keep at least 40 cm between coffee tables and sofas.

When hanging art, keep the center at eye level, which is generally 1.5 m from the floor. If you’re hanging multiple pieces, keep the center point of the whole arrangement at this level. When hanging art above your couch, make sure it’s no more than 2/3 the width of the sofa.

Hanging curtains:

  • Overlap: 3 – 8cm overlap on either side of the window.
  • Height: Ideally, mount your curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible. Otherwise, at least 15cm above the top of the window, to make your windows look taller.

Avoid clutter

This is probably the best and easiest decor trick in the book. Don’t over stuff your spaces: leave some breathing room, some strategic negative space.

FACT: Never ever buy a furniture set, try not to be too matchy, matchy.

Lighting: Layer your lighting

There is lighting, and then there is lighting. Who knew? Combine ambient, task and accent lighting in various configurations to optimal effect. Place floor and table lamps at different heights around the room and hang statement pendants and chandeliers in unexpected places.

Ambient: General, overhead lighting that evenly illuminates a room.

Task: Functional and efficient lighting with a specific task. (For example a reading light or cabinet lights in the kitchen.)

Accent: Accent lights highlight particular objects or spaces, like an artwork or an architectural detail.

Remember, it’s not always about having the very best and newest and most of everything, but rather, its about carefully considering the key elements, and focusing your decor energy on key areas that will then define the style of the rest of your home.

We can’t afford to wait for our dream homes. Life is too short to live in semi-decent spaces until we can afford to decorate, or until the studio moves, the kids move out or whatever the excuse is. Our homes reflect who we are, and I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.–Bielle Bellingham

Together, let’s make our homes beautiful. The DECO team is at your service — ask us for advice, send us pictures of your home and let us know what you’re up to. We’d love to hear from you, so tweet @ELLE_Deco.


In our print feature, The Society of Grown-ups, we present the definitive guide to key elements that every self-respecting stylish home should have. From your boudoir to your lounge. Make sure you get your copy to add to your collections.


Our Ideas Issue is on shelf now and packed with achievable ideas and solutions for updating your home, it’s a keeper! We give you the freshest advice and inspiration for updating your kitchen, making breakfast for champions, and round up the sexiest fabrics for 2016. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco, sharing your #IdeasIssue #DecoSelfie