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Decorating and Design Tips from Kara Mann
Imbue classic rooms with color—and a surprise or two
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Chicago interior designer Kara Mann has said she likes interiors that are “elegant and refined, but done with an edge.” Show her a room with classic architecture, and she’ll show you a space with great—sometimes stunning—color, comfortable furnishings, and, absolutely, a surprise or two.
And perhaps more than any designer we know, we bet her iPod rocks.
Here are design tips from Kara with a theme worth taking to heart: Decorate with personality. Your personality.
Decorate in Layers
I often mix textures and materials to add layers to a room. Pony hide and velvet pillows, a cashmere blanket, and a studded steel table add richness to this interior.
Dress Your Bed in White
I always think that crisp, white bedding is a really nice way to go in any bedroom. The look is pure and lends a peaceful feel to a space that, for most of us, serves as a sanctuary from the everyday hustle and bustle. Plus, it’s easy to achieve.
Mix Price Points in Your Decorating
While a huge design budget can often buy a fabulous interior, having loads of money to spend isn’t essential to creating a dynamic, inspiring room. Mix and match price points, along with colors and fabrics. Many elements in this bedroom shared by twin girls are customized, but we also found lovely accent pieces at retail. Several of the throw pillows and the lamp are from Jonathan Adler. The bedding is a compromise between the girls’ opposing tastes—we sewed together both girls’ fabric choice to make a reversible duvet cover that each would love.
Inject Color with Art
Add art to serve as a pop of color in rooms with an otherwise neutral palette. The neutral palette means you’re free to choose your art from the entire spectrum—and to change it at will.
Prop Up Your Palette
Another option for adding color to a neutral room is to simply style it into the design with props. It’s as easy as using empty boxes to create additional interest. Plus, who doesn’t love Hermès orange?
Be Bold with Color
And if you like color, my advice is be bold! Your home should be a reflection of you. Find the finishes, fabrics, and textures that show your bold colors in their best light. In this dining room, a high-gloss finish elevates a client’s love for red.
Decorate the Hilt Out of Small Spaces
Don’t ignore the small spaces. There’s such an opportunity to do something cool with butler pantries and powder rooms, for instance. In this pantry we displayed part of the homeowner’s Nymphenburg collection and used silver leafing to create a jewel-box effect. Now it’s such an unexpectedly special space and makes fetching a drink even more fun!
Lavish on the Leather
Indulge in some leather—it’s not just for your grandfather’s recliner anymore! I have a real love for leather clothes, accessories, and furnishings. Leather is a chic and timeless material, and it strengthens a design with one more layer of textural interest. This exquisite Martin Kedzior Chair is upholstered in Need It–Winston Oyster, one of the leathers in my new collection, KARA MANN for MOORE & GILES.
Connect Indoors and Outdoors
When a home has a view as gorgeous as this one, the last thing you want to do is compete with the landscape. The dark-stained wood mullions recede and let the large expanses of glass bring the outside in. We used the same stone indoors and out to draw the eye outside, and added a wood ceiling for warmth.
Include Objects of Intrigue
I am a huge fan of “curiosities,” which can be found objects with special meaning or collectibles that lend an edgy undertone to a space. I love this peacock, which never fails as a conversation starter. Special pieces add intrigue to your design.
Honor Your Home’s Locale
I love paying homage to a home’s locale in its design. For this getaway in Cabo, much of the furniture and accessories were crafted by local artisans, which is a nice way to support the surrounding villages and also lends the home an aura of “belonging.”