Find out how to use these interior design tips in your home:

  • Camouflage with complementary paint colors.
  • Avoid clutter on shelves and tables.
  • Enhance a room with natural lighting.
  • Repeat a pattern in a room to establish a decorative motif.
  • Unify paint colors to maximize to feel of a small space.
  • Define a room with a signature piece of furniture.
  • Add personal accessories and collectables to set a room apart.
  • Use contrasting colors or styles to add interest to a room.

Learn how to do these DIY home improvement projects:

    • DIY Mirror Frame: Add a wood frame using stock molding to dress up a plain bathroom mirror.
  • Decorative Window Film: Install decorative window film to your windows or doors to give them the look of stained, frosted, or etched glass.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we are uncovering eight easy decorating tips and checking out some projects that will put them into practice. You might even learn the difference between mauve and salmon. Hey, we really enjoy all of the feedback that we get from you on exactly what you would like to see here on the show. We’re getting a lot of emails about, show us a few easy decorating tips. That’s what we’ll do this week.

Eight great decorating tips that we’ve gathered from some pretty cool homeowners and some great experts. One of those experts is Marisa Smith, a registered interior designer who works with homeowners to maximize the beauty and function of their homes. Today, she’s showing me a built-in bookcase that she transformed for one of her clients.

Well, this is just a real comfortable living area. I’m sure the family spends a lot of time here but what did you start with here? Obviously, built-in bookcases.

Marisa Smith: We had the bookcases to start with, and they were white. And they had a huge TV that was in this cabinet. And the main thing was, they wanted to go to a flat screen. So the main change that we made was simply taking out the stiles on both sides and a little upper part of this cabinet, and then painting it. And it made all the difference in the world to have this pocket for the big TV and that has become wonderful storage for everything else that needs to be behind doors.

Danny Lipford: That’s a great idea. So many times, people will paint the cabinetry like this the same as the doors or the trim. And it kind of stands out a little bit too much, doesn’t it?

Marisa Smith: It does. And the problem in this room is the cabinetry is so big and it covers the entire wall. That for it to be white, when you walked in the room, it just jumped out at you.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Marisa Smith: And you don’t want to walk in the room and see any one particular thing really jump out at you. You want the whole room to feel like it has harmony.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Marisa Smith: So that everything in it is comfortable. So to do that, we were able to just really tone down the color by going with something warm that compliments the walls. So now you notice the things that are on it; instead of the big, white glare at the end of the room.

Danny Lipford: And that’s the first tip. Camouflage with color. That has to be a challenge and also a talent to be able to choose a color like that, because when you look at this color against that, I mean, certainly, they’re compatible, but they are kind of close in a lot of ways.

Marisa Smith: They are, and it takes just working with different paint colors to see what’s in harmony. A lot of times, if you’ll use a fan deck, they make it easy for you, because they show you on the strip the colors that will work together. And you can choose a lighter one for one area and a darker for the other, and then you know the colors are compatible without actually blindly just selecting different colors that might clash.

Danny Lipford: How do you go about kind of deciding on how much to put in an area like this, because I’ve been in places where it’s just wall-to-wall, just packed, almost like it’s going to fall over on the floor. How do you approach just the quantity that you use in a situation like this?

Marisa Smith: Well, the easy way to do it is to take everything off the shelves. Because you’re right most people have way too many things – too many little, cluttery things – that have collected over the years. And they don’t even realize how much stuff is actually on their shelves.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Marisa Smith: So, if you take everything off, and then slowly begin to put things on, you can see how it needs to balance. You want to have a nice mix of color, a nice mix of books with some accessories, but not every shelf filled and every spot filled.

Danny Lipford: And there’s the next tip. Sometimes, less is more. Now, while Marisa is schooling me on interior design, Allen is meeting with a homeowner who’s pretty handy in this area herself. Dianne Jones has done a wonderful job decorating her home but she has one challenge she hasn’t figured out yet.

Allen Lyle: So, this is the room in question. Very beautiful.

Dianne Jones: Thank you.

Allen Lyle: But what’s wrong with it?

Dianne Jones: Well, in the mornings, especially when we’re reading the paper on the sofa, there’s a glare that comes in, a reflection. So, we have to close the drapes, which I like open all the time.

Allen Lyle: Sure.

Dianne Jones: And then a little bit of a privacy issue from the outside into the den.

Allen Lyle: All right, so we want to keep it open. We don’t want to block it off.

Dianne Jones: Right.

Allen Lyle: Just want to obscure it.

Dianne Jones: Yes.

Allen Lyle: All right.

Dianne Jones: Yes.

Allen Lyle: What if I told you we could take that nice, glass door and make it look like etched glass?

Dianne Jones: Oh, that sounds perfect. That’ll work. Yes.

Allen Lyle: Okay, let’s do that. Perfect.

Danny Lipford: Allen’s solution is a window film designed to look like etched glass. And this material will let Dianne take advantage of our third tip, which is make the most of natural light. The process for  this window film is pretty simple. You mix up a mild soap and water solution, spray it on the glass, and then carefully apply the precut film. Then, using a credit card, you slowly force out all of the air bubbles out to the edges. This etched glass pattern will eliminate the glare and give Dianne the privacy she wants without having to block the daylight with curtains. With her choice of pattern, she’s also tapped in to another great decorating tip. Repeat a pattern.

Dianne Jones: Being a guy, you probably didn’t even notice the wall art in the room. Is that an insult? And it has a border. And it has… No, it’s just a guy thing.

Allen Lyle: Oh!

Dianne Jones: And it has a border that matches this.

Allen Lyle: Oh, okay.

Danny Lipford: Now, while Allen and Dianne finish the other door and admire the great change they’ve made to this room,

Dianne Jones: Oh, that looks wonderful, just wonderful.

Danny Lipford: Let’s check in with Joe for a Simple Solution that’s ready-made for home decorating.

Joe Truini: One of the quickest and easiest ways to decorate a room is to hang framed photographs and artwork. In this case, there were two paintings here. I’m going to replace them with one larger one. And I’ll come back and patch those holes later. But I want to show you a quick and easy way to make a mark and put in the nail exactly where you need it.

First, hold up the painting where you’d like it, say, right there. Then take a pencil and make a mark along the very top edge of the frame, right in the middle. Okay, now take it down. With a tape measure, hook on to the wire and pull it tight, and measure to the top edge of the frame. This will be our reference point that matches the mark we made on the wall. In this case, it’s three and a quarter inches. Now, all you need to do is measure down three and a quarter inches from the pencil line, make a mark and drive in your nail. And the picture will be exactly where you want it.

Danny Lipford: Hey, this week, we’re looking at eight easy decorating tips to make the most out of the interior of your house. Now, earlier we talked with designer Marisa Smith and she showed us a great project, but now she’s about to show us how she made a big difference to a small room in this house. Kind of just love all the texture here in the foyer.

Marisa Smith: The clients love it instead of another pattern.

Danny Lipford: Pretty cool. Hey, how cozy is this? This is a great little, I guess, TV room, huh?

Marisa Smith: Isn’t this nice?

Danny Lipford: Really nice. What motivated this? What did the homeowners want to achieve out of this?

Marisa Smith: Well, they wanted a room that three or four of them could comfortably sit and watch TV. And because it was such a small space, they had just a few small pieces of furniture. And so it wasn’t comfortable, you know, to be able to relax. And so, we came in and actually put a really long sofa with a chaise.

Danny Lipford: I like that.

Marisa Smith: Which allowed you to seat four people comfortably. And it filled up the entire wall instead of just one chair there and one chair here.

Danny Lipford: I love the lights. Tell me about these.

Marisa Smith: These lamps are great for reading or watching TV. You see, it’s on . . .

Danny Lipford: Uh-huh.

Marisa Smith: Exactly.

Danny Lipford: There you go.

Marisa Smith: And you can move it around. So, if you want to sit over here, you can bring the light to you.

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty cool. And then overhead lights, you’ve got some recess, and I guess the accent light for the painting.

Marisa Smith: Yes, and that makes it really nice at night. So, when you’re watching TV, you can turn all the overhead lights off and just have the artwork softly lit. And have the rope light on so you don’t get a glare while you’re trying to watch TV.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, I think that versatility with lighting is pretty cool when you can have the different moods. Like, say we’ve got it pretty bright in here right now, but to be able to tone it down. Some people like a little more light than others. I guess you found that out.

Marisa Smith: Right, that’s true. But you know, lighting can make or break the entire space.

Danny Lipford: Mmm-hmm.

Marisa Smith: And the trick to it is that you just wan to have different levels of lighting and in different areas. You know, some overhead, some down low, some lamp lighting. But by having things everywhere, it gives you options.

Danny Lipford: True.

Marisa Smith: You can have more on, less on.

Danny Lipford: Yes, great, that’s a good feel. What about all this? Was this here or was this added?

Marisa Smith: This was already here, but we painted this one, actually the same color as the trim and the walls. And when you have a small space like this, the more you can unify it, and not have it all broken up, with, say, white trim and white cabinets. It makes the room feel a little bigger and more open. So, actually, everything in here is painted the same color. And then we made the fabric on the sofa the same color, so, visually, it all feels like a bigger space.

Danny Lipford: There’s another great tip. Maximize a small space by unifying the colors. Now, as you can see, your furniture selections make a big impact on design. So, I’m stopping by the showroom of another designer, Augusta Tapia, to talk about how she approaches that with homeowners. And our next tip: select a signature piece.

Well, I’ll tell you I just love your showroom. I had no idea there was so much stuff to choose from for the house.

Augusta Tapia: Oh, absolutely. We have to keep a good selection because, you know, these wives, they’re picky. And they want lots of lamps to choose from, they want beautiful pillows and mirrors, and lots of accessories. So, we try to keep a lot of those things that are special for them.

Danny Lipford: I just think about the challenges you must have when you go out to someone’s home, and, of course, everybody has different taste; and then you’re bound to run into someone that just has  something that they can’t get rid of. Maybe it’s a family piece, sentimental piece, or something that they recently bought. How do you design around that?

Augusta Tapia: You have to take special pieces like that into consideration when you design a room. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily finding the place in the room that it’s currently located. It’s finding the correct room in the house for it to go in, where it has the best use and goes with the decor in that particular room. So, working around a signature piece is always a really challenging thing, but a good thing. And you have to remember that the furniture finishes in a room don’t all have to match. You can use dark wood pieces of furniture with lighter wood pieces. Actually, blending things is much more interesting than you trying to think that you have to match everything.

Danny Lipford: Well, that would be the first thing that I would think of. You know, if you’re using this in a room, you got to have something over there – the end table or whatever – that matches it, and you’re saying just the opposite.

Augusta Tapia: An eclectic look is really good. That makes people happy to be able to do something that’s a little bit different than what their friends have. And when you blend things together, you get that special look, which is really good.

Danny Lipford: Maybe you don’t get tired of it as much.

Augusta Tapia: You don’t.

Danny Lipford: You hear people say, “I have the same old thing. It’s kind of boring.” But we throw in a little bit of an eclectic kind of feel to it.

Augusta Tapia: Right.

Danny Lipford: I guess you’ll like it a lot longer.

Augusta Tapia: And things like that give you the opportunity to be able to rearrange your house periodically, which makes it be a lot more interesting and you don’t get tired of things as easily.

Danny Lipford: I can’t wait to talk to my wife and impress her with all this knowledge that I have now about interior designing. I’m gonna keep looking around a little bit here. While I do that, check out this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: Now, I love it when there’s products out there that really make me look like the designer I am not at times. But I also like it when there are products out there that help me be organized when I really don’t want to be. Take a look at Martha Stewart Living collection here. Now, she’s got a nice collection of these cube organizers, but take a look at this. This is also a new design. It’s like a little bench here that is perfect for a mud room or your child’s bedroom. Again, it comes with the nice, little, fabric drawers. And what’s so neat is that again, you can put anything down in there – like books or sporting equipment.

But if you want smaller things to be organized, or you’ve got papers, or you just want it kind of out of sight out of mind, you can put it right here in this fabric drawer. And then, right here on the label, you can write what’s in there. And then simply tuck it back into place and ta-da! It’s all organized. It looks nice and neat. And look at all the different colors you have to choose from when you’re trying to pick out your fabric drawers. So, it could go with any decor in your house. Again, I love it when they take care of two of my problems all at the same time.

Danny Lipford: This week, we’re uncovering eight easy decorating tips and once again, designer Marisa Smith is sharing some of hers from a project she recently completed. Well, this is another very comfortable room. Tell me what took place in here.

Marisa Smith: Well, with this room, the client actually had all of the bare bones. You know, they had the sofa and the love seat and the rug, but it wasn’t accessorized, so the room didn’t look finished at all.

Danny Lipford: Mmm-hmm.

Marisa Smith: So, this one is a little different than the last one we went to with the bookcases that were over accessorized.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Marisa Smith: This room was actually empty.

Danny Lipford: Right. I see a lot of kitchens that way, where the countertops are just packed.

Marisa Smith: Right.

Danny Lipford: Then you go, “Wait a minute. “Don’t you have a place to put a plate around here?”

Marisa Smith: Exactly.

Danny Lipford: So, that… Now, what about selection of different things? It’s always unusual to me that, of course, candles always work well; but I guess it’s a lot to do with personality of the folks that live in the house. In terms of the different things that you may choose. How do you go about that?

Marisa Smith: Well, you want to find out what the homeowner really enjoys having around them. For example, this particular client loves to collect boxes. And these are boxes they’ve collected from around the world. You can see they’re old and they have character. So, something like this may not appeal to you in your house, if you’re not a box collector. So, it depends on what the person who lives here enjoys. Obviously, this client loves plants.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Marisa Smith: He has a green thumb and they really enjoy having plants everywhere. Plants are an inexpensive and really great way to accessorize a room. And it cleans the oxygen, which is a nice bonus.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, of course, family pictures are always great. I know various areas of the room. People can overdo that a lot though, too. You know, they start putting pictures and stacking one behind the other; and after a while that can really be a big, cluttered place.

Marisa Smith: That’s true, that’s true. And the big thing with pictures in a space is you don’t ever want to see the back of the frame.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Marisa Smith: So, as you enter the room from either direction, make sure that wherever you’ve placed that picture, someone isn’t walking in looking at the back of it.

Danny Lipford: I get you. Makes sense. Like I say, another good job here.

Marisa Smith: Well, thank you.

Danny Lipford: Meanwhile, Allen is helping out a friend, John Paul, with a project design to use molding to add interest to a bathroom mirror. It’s a great example of yet another easy decorating tip. Use contrast to add interest.

Allen Lyle: Okay, so this is the mirror in question.

John Paul Jones: Yes, sir.

Allen Lyle: All right, now, we looked at some molding earlier. What did you have in mind?

John Paul Jones: Well, I think that maybe we’ll just keep as much of the mirror as we can.

Allen Lyle: Right.

John Paul Jones: Then put the molding so that it’s up against here and down against here.

Allen Lyle: We’ll cut off a little bit of mirror since it’s all the way up against this trim here. Now, when we put it on, let me ask you this. We’ve got enough to wrap the entire mirror. What do you think? Even though we don’t have it in the rest of the house, it might work, though, with these little – they’re called either plinth blocks or little rosettes in the corners, all four corners. And we could butt the molding up to it. Or run the molding all the way around and just forty-five it.

John Paul Jones: I like the idea of those corners.

Allen Lyle: The corners? Okay. Now, are we painting or staining it?

John Paul Jones: I think we’ll stain it. And what we’d like to do is get a color that would match the fixture here.

Allen Lyle: Okay, like a burnished bronze?

John Paul Jones: Yeah.

Allen Lyle: All right. Probably almost an ebony that we’re gonna have to get for that. Okay, well, let’s make this happen.

John Paul Jones: Very good.

Danny Lipford: To get just the right shade of stain, Allen is mixing a chestnut color with an ebony. Although this will complement the faucet on the vanity, it will add contrast to the wall, which is primarily lighter colors. If you’re trying this project yourself, be sure to stain both sides of the molding so no bare wood is reflected in the mirror. And while you’re at it, here’s another free tip. Don’t set the stain container on your work piece – don’t use glass containers!

Allen Lyle: That was our mix.

Danny Lipford: By using the corner blocks, Allen and John Paul will be able to make simple, square cuts on the molding so it fits between them. A two-part epoxy applied to the back of each piece will hold it in place. But wherever they can, they added a finish nail or two to secure them while the epoxy dries. After a little colored putty to mask the nail holes, the work is done.

Allen Lyle: All right. Well, what do you think, John Paul?

John Paul Jones: I think that looks great.

Allen Lyle: I like the choice of the color that you did there. To bring out that instead of the walls.

John Paul Jones: Exactly.

Allen Lyle: I think it would have been too much if you went with white.

John Paul Jones: Oh, definitely, would have been too much white.

Allen Lyle: Simple, inexpensive.

John Paul Jones: I thought we would lose some mirror, but we got, we still have the same.

Allen Lyle: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think you may have lost maybe an inch up top. A little bit on the bottom, but the bottom doesn’t matter as much as the top.

John Paul Jones: I’m shrinking as I get older.

Allen Lyle: You just stoop.

Howard asks: I’m repainting my house, but I’m not sure what kind of paint was originally used. Can I use latex over oil, or should it be the other way around?

 Danny Lipford: Now, that’s a great question. But before we answer the question, we have to determine exactly what kind of paint you have on your woodwork right now. Here’s an easy way to determine that. First of all, take some denatured alcohol, put it on a rag, wipe the woodwork, and if any paint comes off on the rag, then you have latex paint. Now, you never want to paint oil over latex. It just won’t stick. But you can paint latex over oil-based paint, if you prepare the surface properly.

First of all, take a little bit of sandpaper and just lightly sand it. Then you want to use some trisodium phosphate, or TSP, you can find it in any paint store or home center. Then, after that dries, use a good bonding primer. Put one coat of primer on it. After that dries, you’re ready to finish up the paint job, and you’ll know that it’ll last.

Danny Lipford: If decorating is on your to-do list, I hope you’ve been taking notes on our eight easy decorating tips. If not, here they are one more time. If you can’t move it or hide it, camouflage it with color. Remember, sometimes less is more. Whenever you can, make the most of natural light and tie it all together by repeating a pattern. You can maximize a small space by unifying the colors and simplify your choices by selecting a signature piece. If your room is ho-hum, remember accessories make the difference. And finally, don’t be afraid to use contrast to add interest.

Hey, I hope you picked up something that you can use at your house. And remember it’s your place. Make it uniquely your own. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week on Today’s Homeowner.

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

Learn More

Comments are closed.