Published on February 20, 2019

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

We all have that one project. You know, the one whose inspirational images clutter Pinterest boards and Instagram “saved” folders. The one we constantly reference hypothetically as a long-term plan for our dream home. The one we’ve almost taken the plunge on then chickened out last-minute because of fear and due to budget holdups. Everyone has a decor-related Achilles’ heel, and we’re here to help.

Recently, we asked our readers via an Instagram poll to share the one design project they’ve always wanted to tackle but were too afraid to try. The results were interesting—not the least of which was because we found so many commonalities in your design wish lists. Bold statements and bright colors topped the list of most-requested projects. We rounded up the top five along with some easy-to-follow guidance on how to actually make them work. Go forth and DIY.  

The Challenge: Dark, Moody Walls

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Photography by Adrian Gaut

Without a doubt, this was the most requested design project among the responses. It’s hardly surprising: The last year has seen a newfound interest in matte black in everything from paint to fixtures. It’s the new neutral.

“I think matte black in the living room will continue to hold steady in 2019. This classic color exudes modern pops of contrast, and I’m obsessed,” designer Anita Yokota told us. “Whether it’s lighting, furniture, textiles, or artwork, it can be mixed in with any other neutral, such as brown, beige, and gold.”

Try it in your living room or kitchen to really bring the drama. In the kitchen, tiptoe into the dark and moody trend via your cabinets. For spaces where the walls aren’t easily reachable due to appliances blocking them, this can be the easiest route. If you already have black countertops, this can really pack a punch: Dark-on-dark kitchens are trending, and the instant sophistication the daring combination brings proves why. Just be sure to keep your cabinet colors matte rather than glossy. “I think the key is to keep the colors deep and inky, meaning there’s more of a charcoal or black undertone,” recommends Emily Henderson. “It’s going to look more modern.”

In the living room, opt for a true black shade like Sherwin-Williams’ Tricorn Black or a black with warm undertones like Farrow & Ball’s Paean Black. Both are among the most popular colors of all time for each respective retailer.

However you try your hand at this color trend, just be sure not to forget one crucial step. “Priming is key when moving from light or medium colors to black,” says Jenny Burroughs, senior product marketing manager at PPG Paints. “Some homeowners may be hesitant to paint walls in black because it is thought to be more difficult to paint over later, however, with proper priming, black can be painted over rather easily.”

The Challenge: Statement Ceilings

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAIRE ESPARROS FOR HOMEPOLISH

Speaking of black paint, another way to try it might just be in your ceiling. This pre-war Connecticut home offers a great example of how it can look—just check out the kitchen. It’s an unexpected way to bring interest to a room. For more inspiration, check out this Brooklyn home, which features fun wallpaper prints on the ceiling in various rooms. It can be done and it doesn’t all have to look the same.

Homepolish designer Crystal Sinclair, who designed the Brooklyn space, recommends trying out a statement ceiling in your entry. Generally a smaller space, it’s less risky than something as large as a living room or bedroom. Plus, it’s a great way to welcome guests into your space with a bang. “My clients wanted something bold, fun, and unique so that’s what I did, but I did it with a bit of elegance. I think an entry needs to have a touch of elegance, as it sets the tone for the rest of the space,” she says of the elevated botanical motif adorning the home’s ceiling.

There are so many options concerning what you can decorate your ceilings with. Choose wallpaper if you’re in a rental (peel-and-stick options offer a great temporary solution) or bold paint if you’re willing to go a bit daring. If you have a statement-making wall hue, go for something equally striking for a cool color-blocking moment. Tired of your small space? High-gloss paint will reflect the light and make your room look bigger.

The Challenge: Colored Kitchen Cabinets

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Photography by Jason Frank Rothenberg

Bored with all-white kitchens? So are we. In 2019, we’re most excited to see people embracing more chromatic spaces and infusing a bit of cheer into the room we arguably spend the most time in—our kitchens. The easiest way to bring color to your kitchen is via the cabinets.

This Old House offers an easy-to-follow, step-by-step tutorial on cabinet painting. Start by cleaning your surface (you don’t want to paint over any gunk and make it a permanent fixture), sand it down to smooth perfection, and then get to priming and painting. It really is that easy and, if a fresh coat of paint is all you’re after, we rounded up 20 of the best kitchen wall colors to provide some inspiration.

Aside from paint, though, there are endless other ways to revamp tired kitchen cabinets. Try bringing a pop of color in via decorative knobs or spray paint your existing ones in a punchy new hue. If you’re willing to go for a more dramatic renovation, get rid of cabinet fronts altogether and opt for glass-door cabinetry or open shelving. This allows your collection of colorful dinnerware to take center stage in your kitchen.   

The Challenge: Finding and Styling Vintage Rugs

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Another commonly asked question concerns rugs: Specifically, where to buy them and how to layer them. If you’re looking to bring a hint of globally inspired charm to your home, there are tons of places selling gorgeous carpets—from antique Moroccan rugs to vintage-inspired washed rugs and everything in between. You can even purchase vintage rugs online, but Kelly Vittengl, founder of Frances Loom and general expert on all things carpet, favors a more traditional approach.

“Flea markets,” she says, when asked about her go-to spot for finding rugs. “My tip is to walk around and find vendors who happen to have a random rug or two. It certainly takes a bit of effort, but it’s a lot more fun and a lot less expensive than the proper rug dealers, even at a flea market.”

Once you have your vintage rug, the prospect of cleaning something so intricate—and often, old—can feel daunting. Revival Rugs is the first direct-to-consumer online store for vintage rugs (a great resource if you don’t live near a flea market). In an interview with the four cofounders, we gleaned valuable intel on just how to properly care for these storied pieces. “You really only need to vacuum your rug once or twice a month; every few months, flip the rug over and vacuum the backside,” explains co-founder Joyce Kong, noting that quality vintage rugs don’t actually require that much maintenance.

As for how to style them, several of you had questions about layering rugs. This bohemian look adds depth and character to any space, so it’s no wonder it’s so popular. Try a perpendicular crosshatch design (this showroom is a great example of how to master the style) for some visual interest or, if you have one rug significantly smaller than the other, just place it directly on top. The key is to ensure you pick rugs with complementary color palettes in opposing textures.

The Challenge: Monochrome Design

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Easily the fastest way to make a statement in any room, monochrome color palettes have been taking off lately, and not just in design but in fashion too. While creating such a bold statement can feel a bit overwhelming, it’s actually a super-simple look to master because your shopping list will have only one parameter—color. The biggest obstacle in monochrome design is committing to such an audacious color palette.

Once you have decided to take the plunge, there are smaller ways to try your hand at monochrome that don’t require dousing everything in your living room in bright blue or sunny yellow. The first trick is to try gradients: Tonal blocking is just as impactful as monochrome, but the slight variance in shade makes it slightly more digestible for anyone looking to tiptoe into monochrome rather than diving in headfirst. Try it at home with your bedroom. Once you pick your wall color (say, a calming sage green), start layering your bedding in different tones of green, ranging from emerald to celery, to add instant depth to even the tiniest of rooms.

Another way to try monochrome is by matching your built-ins to your wall color. This is a great way to incorporate a monochrome vignette—a dresser painted the same color as an accent wall, or open shelving that blends in with a kitchen wall—without going all-out in a space.

See more design FAQs:
Windows 101: We Answer Your Most Essential Questions
The Most Common Questions People Ask Interior Designers
Design Questions You Want Answered, but Are too Embarrassed to Ask

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