5 Secrets to Design Success From an Industry Veteran

Manhattan interior designer Elle Cullman shares her blueprints for impactful interior design.

Interior designer Ellie Cullman of Cullman & Kravis, a firm in business for more than 30 years, recently shared her secrets to success in a panel at New York’s Decoration and Design Building, and needless to say, all ears were open. While the designer spoke of what makes a business thrive and how she learns to get a sense for her clients’ styles, she also shared some sage advice that applies to designers and non-decorators alike when it comes to furnishing any home. Read on below for Cullman’s design tips.

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  • Stay organized. “It’s so important to stay organized and know where each little piece is since there are so many moving parts to a design process,” Cullman says.
  • Explore. “We take them to art shows and antique shows and shopping with us so we can get to know what they like,” she says. If you’re your own client, get in the habit of exploring flea markets, galleries, and antique shops, so you can get a sense of what you like.
  • Give purchases the touch test. “Never buy from just looking at photographs,” she says. “You always have to see it first.” Don’t make decisions on furniture until you’ve seen them in your home. Most furniture shops will let you borrow “on approval” for a day or two while your try pieces out.
  • Budget for accessories. “You can’t have a beautiful shell with nothing in it,” Cullman says. “Every single tabletop must be thought out and beautiful, book shelves must have real books and items on them, and there must be art on the walls and flowers in the vases.”
  • Mix good, better, and best. “Every room should have something that is best,” she says. “Save the best items for the public rooms, that’s how you get the biggest bang for your buck. If you use just one best piece in a room, it will truly elevate the entire space.”

Head over to The Editor at Large to read more of Cullman’s design advice from the panel.

What design rules-of-thumb do you have when it come to decorating? Share yours below!

Photographs: Cullman & Kravis

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