From a fresh coat of white paint to choosing comfortable, neutral furniture, decorating experts share their advice on how happiness starts at home.
1. Mix It Up
"The most interesting rooms mix cultures and periods," says real estate broker Royce Pinkwater. "I like to juxtapose high and low. It makes it more casual and homey." Collaborating with the designer Eric Cohler, she decorated the living room of her New York apartment with a 1930s coffee table by Jean Dunand, '40s armchairs by Andre Arbus, '50s Swedish slipper chairs, and a '70s mirror by Neal Small.
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2. Choose Colors That Flatter You
"I think I speak for all women - and probably men - when I say I want a room to show me off at my best," says Pinkwater. She decided on lavender to complement her green eyes.
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3. Decorate With What You Love
When painter and stylist Craig Schumacher moved from a 10-room Dallas house into a four-room apartment, it didn't hamper his style. His decorating look became layer upon layer: "I bought things I knew I'd never tire of, and I've found out that if you love something, you'll find a place for it." His living room is furnished with antiques and vintage pieces, including a faux fireplace added for its architectural interest.
4. Remember the Power of White Paint
"White reflects light, so it sends off a wonderful energy, a prism of color that you aren't necessarily aware of," says designer Susan Noble Jones. In this 1820s New Orleans cottage, the designer used the hue to transform the formerly dark dining room into a space that's light and cheery.
Related: 9 Colorful Ways to Cheer Up Your Kitchen
5. Choose Furniture With Curves
Round shapes, such as the living room's drum shade and coffee table, make a space feel inviting. "They soften a room and make a house more lovable and livable," Jones says.
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6. Keep Seating Neutral
Stay away from large pieces upholstered in a bold color or busy pattern - it will make a room feel heavier. "When the sofa is white, it feels lighter, more conducive to conversation," says designer Pat Healing, who decorated this home for a young family in upstate New York.
Related: A Daring, Dramatic, and Colorful Family Home
7. Make a Colorful Statement in the Entry
First impressions count. "I think you need to make a strong statement in entry halls - to give an indicator of what you'll see in the rest of the house," Healing says. "I use color because to do that creates happiness."
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8. Go Bold in a Small Space
"The smaller the room, the more drama you need," designer David Netto says. In this East Hampton beach cottage, a graphic botanical pattern perks up the guest room. "The Svenskt Tenn Hawaii fabric by Josef Frank is so bold, it creates a little world within the bed alcove."
Related: A Swedish-Inspired Southampton Beach House
9. Include Some Whimsy
"Little surprises keep a house from becoming too serious," says contributing editor Frances Schultz. "It's fun to put items in unexpected places." In her Long Island cottage, she perked up the foot of the stairs with an inherited collection of Staffordshire figures.
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10. Create Beauty by Contrast
The juxtaposition of humble and fine materials creates intrigue and keeps a room feeling interesting and attractive. "The most vivid example of combining humble materials with precious ones is in the kitchen," Netto says. He tucked Nero Marquina marble under a white Corian island, "concealing it for maximum impact and surprise."
What design elements make your home happier? Leave us a comment and let us know!
More from House Beautiful:
- Kitchen of the Year 2011 with Tyler Florence
- Brilliant Ideas for a Tiny Kitchen
- Eye-Popping Headboard Designs
Amazing Bedroom Designs
- Get More Creative Ideas for Your Home: Subscribe to House Beautiful Magazine
Photos: Thomas Loof (2), Nathan Schroder, James Merrell (2), Maura Mcevoy (2), Trevor Tondro, Julian Wass (2)
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.