Design Hints

Expert Advice

Get a professional decorator's tips and tricks for making a house a home by making smart choices when it comes to paint, furnishings and accessories.

Family and friends had always told Leslie Hoffer that she had a knack for design, and a business was born after she successfully assisted an acquaintance with decorating her newly built house. A certified interior decorator for nine years, Leslie says she enjoys helping both clients and loved ones by "making their visions come true." Not limiting herself to any one style, Leslie has decorated homes from contemporary to country -- including her own Owings, Maryland, farmhouse, which is featured in our March 2013 issue. Read on for her expert interior design tips.

Start outside: Curb appeal is very important, and the front of your home is the first thing guests see. "A front porch can be decorated just as much as the inside of your home," Leslie says. Bountiful pots of cheery yellow blooms and a variety of lantern-style lighting greet guests outside the Hoffers' home.

Repurpose furniture: Before you decide to donate or sell a chair, a chest of drawers or a bookcase, take a moment to look at it with fresh eyes. If it's still useful, consider painting it or reimagining it to breathe new life into the piece. Leslie retasked a trunk with a broken lid as a display perch for crocks in her enclosed porch simply by turning the piece over.

Paint away: The quickest way to update a room is to paint the walls, Leslie says. It's inexpensive and can completely change the feel of the space. "If your room has a dull color on the walls and it makes you feel glum," she advises, "brighten it with a cheery yellow." Paint also offers an inexpensive fix for updating kitchen cabinets; switch out hardware, including hinges, to enhance the transformation.

Layer it on: Leslie's final decorating step -- layer, layer, layer! -- is her favorite. "It adds depth and dimension to a home and gives it that personal touch," she explains. Layering can be as simple as draping a throw over a sofa or chair, grouping accessories on a mantel or organizing family photos on a dry sink.

Written by April Miller
Photographed and styled by Franklin & Esther Schmidt