Design 101: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned

The voice of experience

Not by age, but by experience is wisdom acquired, or so goes the saying. In our experience, the lessons that stick best are often the most costly. Below are a collection of lessons we’ve learned in the last 18 years in the industry. May they prevent you from learning the hard way.

Flooring is a big subject and there are many things to consider when making a decision, but no matter what you choose remember: if the subfloor is in poor condition you are going to have problems. It may be an unexpected expense, but when your installer wants to fix the subfloor you would be wise to listen.
Pro-tip: Above grade, below grade, light or dark, shiny or matte, wood or tile, no matter what you choose, an appropriate slip coefficient is always a top consideration. Safety first.

Aside from never doing your own electrical work (let someone whose insurance will cover it be liable), there are a world of things to avoid when having new electrical work done. Were you aware that not all switches work with all bulbs? Congrats, you may have just saved hours of frustration wondering if you purchased a pack of dead bulbs.
Pro-tip: Put dimmers everywhere you might want light at night. Getting a face full of full intensity bulb during a late night bathroom trip is no fun.

Plumbing, like electrical work, is not something you should be doing yourself. When your water heater fails, (and they all will eventually), spring for the larger unit. Nobody ever said “We just have too much hot water.” The cost for an extra ten gallons of capacity is negligible compared to the joy of not running out.
Pro-tip: Tankless water heaters have their place, but if it can’t handle the draw or initial temperature, you are pretty much out of luck.

Functional window treatments should “stack back” off the window to expose as much glass as possible. Preservation of view and transmission of light during the day are priorities. The easiest calculation for proper rod width is to add one third to the size of the window. Remember window treatments are not just for light control; a significant portion of energy loss often happens at the windows.
Pro-tip: Adding an extra deep hem containing four to six inches of fabric will help ease the transition should you wish to take your custom window treatments to the next house.

The cost of upgrading to actual upholstery weight fabric is miniscule compared to the cost to reupholster furniture a second time. Stretch, seam slippage, pilling, dye-transfer, upcharges, and a whole host of other problems can easily be avoided by choosing an appropriate fabric.
Pro-tip: Choose an appropriate fabric. Trust us, this is not something you want to redo in a year.

Yaron Linett
About Yaron Linett 34 Articles
Yaron Linett is the principal designer of Formal Traditional, a full-service design firm located in Warrenton. To submit your interior design questions, drop him a note at or visit

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