You just moved into a new home. Or maybe you just finished a home renovation.

You have a beautiful space to fill. It’s fresh and new and filled with possibilities-

-and, if you’re like most of us, incredibly daunting. How DO you fill that sterile space with the right elements to create not just a house but your family’s home?

For some design tips and insights, we spoke to Kate Ballou of Hendrick Interiors. We partnered with Kate on a previous house remodel, so we knew her warm, practical style would be the perfect fit.

Figure 1: Touchstone installed custom walnut cabinetry in this kitchen remodel. The warm look pairs perfectly with the Blue lacquered Series 7 chairs and Analog table Kate selected to encourage fun, casual family meals. Photo credit: Laura Metzler

Starting with an empty space can be overwhelming, but Kate’s thoughtful, intentional process takes you through interior design step by step.

Design Matters

Have you ever been in a space where conversation doesn’t flow easily because of the layout?

“I became an interior designer because I’m so affected by the spaces I’m in,” Kate explains. “I feel physically uncomfortable in a poorly designed space.”

We may not be consciously aware of how we’re affected by a room’s design:

  • Is there enough light?
  • Are we comfortable with the privacy level?
  • Are the materials appropriate for how we use the room?
  • Is there a cohesive relationship between the furniture and architecture?
  • Are the proportions correct?

But when those elements are “off,” we can feel uneasy or anxious without even knowing why.

Figure 2: This layout is conducive to conversation AND uses family-friendly, natural materials. Photo credit: Laura Metzler

“When design is ignored or unconsidered, it can make people feel tired or mentally drained.” says Kate.

The Best-Laid Plan

So, how do you create a well-designed, comfortable space? Begin with a plan.

And, as the famous design maxim goes: Form follows function.

The first step, therefore, says Kate, is to define your room’s function. If the space is already in use, consider what’s working and what’s not.

If it’s new, think about how you’ll be using the room. Is it meant to be an inviting area that allows for conversation? Or, is the new COVID reality prompting you to create separate spaces within the space?

(COVID related renovations are powering an uptick in demand for construction and design.)

The home remodeling and design industry is seeing
business activity return to pre-pandemic levels.
Marine Sargsyan, Houzz Senior Economist

Find Your Style

Next comes choosing the elements that will bring your plan to life. Where do you start?

Kate has a process for this, too.

  1. Look at the architectural style of your home. Any interior design must reflect and respond to the space it inhabits. For example, farmhouse style furniture would look out of place in an ultra-modern condo.

At the same time, Kate encourages her clients to have some fun. “I love to take a traditional home and put in Danish modern furniture as an accent,” she explains. “Respond to the architecture, but don’t be afraid to mix and match a little.”

  1. What are your personal preferences? What style appeals to you? Your home should reflect you.

And do you have any heirloom pieces that you want to include? Adding in those types of pieces gives a layered, homey, “collected over time” feel to your space.

Figure 3: Kate’s own dining room is a good example of mixing old and new and creating a space over time. Photo credit: Laura Metzler

3. Consider your lifestyle. That white upholstered sofa is stunning-but how long will it survive your three kids and two dogs?

Speaking of survival, Kate recommends investing in materials and products that will last, especially for high-wear rugs and main upholstery pieces. “You may save money in the short term with cheaper products, but it’s not environmentally sustainable. Those items will soon end up in the landfill.”

Form Your Design Concept

With a plan and style preference in mind, build your design around a central element.

Kate likes to start with a carpet. “It gives you the color palette, texture, and pattern to work from. The other elements in the room can play off it.”

Also, carpets are often one-of-a-kind or contain unique colors that would be hard to integrate into an already designed room. Wallpaper is similar, and Kate will sometimes use wallpaper as her starting point.

Figure 4: Kate selected the wallpaper in her entranceway as the start of her inspiration for her home. Photo credit: Laura Metzler

As you add elements, Kate emphasizes focusing on pieces with integrity. That means looking for timeless, classic designs built of quality materials and meant to last.

One of her favorites is the iconic Egg Chair. The Egg Chair was originally designed in 1959 by Arne Jacobson for the Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. That’s over 60 years ago, but the Egg Chair is still popular today and newly manufactured to exacting standards by companies with original rights to the furniture.

Figure 5: Kate designed this living room in Danish modern style. Note the Egg Chair in the far-right corner. Photo credit: Laura Metzler

Trendy pieces can be fun, too, in moderation. Kate suggests incorporating them in ways that are easy to switch out when the trend goes out of favor, like throw pillows or peel ‘n stick wallpaper.

Dos and Don’ts

Are there hard and fast rules to follow? Not necessarily, but Kate shares some Dos and Don’ts that will help you achieve the look you want:


  • Have an overall vision and concept. Look for inspiration to see what style will fit your home and family.
  • Measure your space first. Make sure that sofa or accent piece will fit!
  • Research what you’re buying. Find out how it’s made and with what materials. A piece may look pretty, but it won’t last if it’s not made with integrity.

I think the problem with design today is that it’s too generic. I think everybody,
looks alike today with what they wear, and everybody’s houses do, too. I’d rather see
some mistakes, but some personality. I like to walk into a house and know you live
there. Not just walk in and have it look like a thousand-dollar hotel room.
-Iris Apfel from Architectural Digest


  • Forget the lighting! It’s an area where you may want to hire a professional since it’s difficult to get right.
  • Stop drapery above the floor. “It’s like wearing pants that are too short,” shares Kate.
  • Be nervous about making mistakes! Have fun! This is YOUR home.

When to Hire an Interior Designer

But even with Kate’s excellent advice, you may have a project that’s out of your league. How do you know when it’s time to hire a professional designer?

“Hiring a designer isn’t for everyone,” says Kate. “It’s an investment. You have to recognize the value of interior design and be comfortable fitting it into your budget.”

39% of interior and building designers cited managing consumer
concerns about costs as a top business challenge. – Statista

Interior designers bring years of education and expertise with them. They’ll have insider knowledge of the industry and connections to related professionals like contractors, flooring experts, upholsterers, lighting technicians, and more.

So, how do you know it’s time to bring in a designer or other professional?

  • Scope – If the sheer size of the project exceeds your comfort level, you need an interior designer.
  • Time constraints – You may want a professional even for a small job if you simply don’t have the time to do it right.
  • Technical level – Jobs like lighting or a/v installation are always best left for the pros.
  • Custom work – If you need custom elements, hiring a designer will save you endless time and heartache. A designer will already have relationships with vendors and artisans. She’ll know how to find the best person for the job.

Are you ready for professional help with a remodel or redesign? Contact us, and let’s get started planning your beautiful new home.