Designer {Secrets}

When HGTV first came on the air, I was just finishing up college and could not believe there was a channel dedicated just to homes and gardens.  I couldn't get enough.  That excitement soon changed to dismay as more and more shows were convincing people they could decorate an entire room for less than $500, using one gallon of paint, clearance rack fabrics and furniture found on the side of the road!  I couldn't believe people were actually "drinking the kool-aid" and believing these rooms were actually possible.  I decided I needed a separation from HGTV.
Then came along Divine Design with Candice Olson and Sarah's House with Sarah Richardson where real interior designers were designing real rooms, with real budgets.  I was back on board.  My current favorite is Design Star - I love the white room challenges!
I'm definitely not opposed to decorating shows that claim to expose our designer {secrets} as I don't think there are really any secrets out there.  What designers bring to a project is a talent to create beautiful and functional spaces.  We also have access to resources that are not available to the general public.  We are passionate about what we do and many of us don't even consider what we do actual work.  At least some days.
Instead of {secrets}, I'm going to share with you some of my top designer tips:
1.  Get organized...When you are starting a design project, big or small, create a notebook where you can keep everything in one place.  This might include paint chips, measurements, photos of your space and inspiration pictures you've been pulling from magazines.  I found the greatest one at Books a Million a few years ago.

This is what I use for my house.  It doesn't look like you can buy it anymore, though.  
I love the pocket inside to hold all my catalog clippings and it has graph paper.  
This is the binder I use for my clients.  I also put in the plastic pockets to hold samples more securely.  I would lose my mind if I wasn't able to stay organized!
2.  Create a furniture plan...One of the biggest mistakes I see are people who purchase furniture that is too big or too small for the room.  Take some graph paper and quickly sketch out your room (each box equals 1 foot) and make sure you indicate where the doors and windows are located.  Don't ever buy anything unless you are sure it will fit in your room and use a tape measure!

This site has an interactive room planner that makes furniture plans super easy!      
London Reid has a great blog entry on how to create a furniture plan.    
3.  Texture, pattern and color...Don't be afraid to mix patterns and make sure you have lots of texture in your space.  This can be achieved with fabrics, rugs and accessories.  Also, mix up your metals.  Just because you have a silver lamp, that doesn't mean you can't have a gold frame on your art.

Meredith Heron Design does an amazing job combining pattern and texture.  These fabrics are for a nursery.
This great ensemble was created by Sherry Hart at Design Indulgence.
This bedroom not only combines texture on the bed, but also in the rug, the wood beams and even the chandelier.  The room is totally lacking color, but the texture makes up for it.  Love this bedroom!
4.  Put together a realistic budget...There is a lot of cheap furniture out there, but there is also a lot of overpriced furniture.  Do your research and shop around.  Create a shopping list and assign a dollar amount or price range for each item.  Many things are worth the investment (sofas and dining room tables), but many are not (pillows and lamps). 
5.  Stay away from the catalogs...This is probably the biggest trap I see my clients fall into.  Those Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs and Restoration Hardware catalogs fill our mailboxes and fill our mind that the rooms in there can give your house character.  Don't get me wrong, I buy from all these companies for clients, but usually just one or two pieces.  I would never want someone to walk into a room and say "This is great...I saw this room in Pottery Barn".  Design is about thinking outside of the box, creating interest in a space by mixing furniture pieces so your space feels collected, not like a photo from a catalog or furniture showroom.