4 Styling Secrets from House Beautiful’s Editor in Chief


As Editor in Chief of House Beautiful, Sophie Donelson certainly sees her fair share of homes. She started noticing patterns emerging in this landscape of homes and had the idea to turn these common design threads into a decorating handbook. And so she, with the help of her team of editors, has brought us the new book House Beautiful Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs.

“The process of editing the magazine truly gives insight into what works in design – what ideas transcend decor style, location, and budget and serve to enlighten a room,” says Donelson. “So, I wanted a book that spoke specifically to that, a book with the breadth of design styles that House Beautiful is known for showcasing but with takeaways that anyone could put into action right away.” Well said, Sophie!

The book is beautiful and instructional without being preachy or pretentious. But if you need a little more convincing on what you’re going to get inside, it’s your lucky day. Donelson shared a few of her favorite tricks with us (there are eight total “secrets” in the book with a corresponding chapter, each full of tips on how to pull them off). So without further ado, here’s what makes for a beautiful room in Sophie’s eyes.

Go big! Scale is certainly something to play with in a room, and Donelson errs on the side of going giant, at least for a few items. “I’ve started buying enormous furniture for my apartment,” says Donelson. “Nothing says gravitas like a tailored but enormous sofa or a giant antique sideboard or a vase the size of a toddler. I have both toddlers and toddler-size vases at home!” You can also do this in a bedroom, as seen here with this beautiful canopy bed, but remember to check for ceiling clearance!

You can’t go wrong with black. “Hits of black always work to add sophistication and impact to a space,” says Donelson. “They’re like a punctuation point in the room.” A decorative accessory is a great way to pull this off, but you could also paint your window trim black or even consider a light with a black lampshade.

Embrace your personal style. Donelson and the editors at House Beautiful “wholeheartedly endorse” decorating with things that are unique, make you happy and represent you and your squad, if you will. “It’s helpful to see how sophisticated interior designers incorporate framed portraits, for example, into a home in a way that doesn’t come off too juvenile—or too granny!” says Donelson. Maybe it’s photos, maybe it’s a collection. The point is to give your beautiful objects and personal mementoes pride of place. Don’t keep all of your personal effects in a box in a closet.

Shine on. Every room needs a little sparkle. Donelson calls it “luminosity,” and you can find it lots of ways, from fancy-pants crystal chandeliers to a single simple mirror. Whatever you choose, these items will bounce light around a space and make it that much more engaging.

There is so much more in the book (along with gorgeous photos), so check it out. And as for House Beautiful, coming your way in 2018, says Donelson, is a continued freshening of the magazine in terms of layout and imagery (but still the colorful, personal interiors we know and love) plus a new series that explores architecture’s role in living happier. They’ll be kicking things off with their “Before and After” issue, so go ahead and get inspired to make some changes around your space.

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