TV design diva Sabrina Soto's new book isn't simply "decorating for dummies," she said.

"It gives good design rules, but it's not just the bare minimum," she said. "It goes a step further by giving you inspiration."

Soto, the host of HGTV's "The High-Low Project" and Target's style maven, taps into her interior design know-how for the book "Sabrina Soto Home Design" (Wiley, $19.99).

The book uses lots of color photos and graphics to offer a step-by-step plan for layering decorative elements, including color, surface treatments, furniture, accents and storage solutions, to create comfortable cohesive spaces.

We talked to Soto about trends, decorating on a dime and combating clutter.

Q You help the design-challenged on your HGTV shows. Why write this book?

A I get so many e-mails from people needing advice. They ask me if I like a sofa or what pillow should they use. There's no way I can answer them all. Everyone's house and style is different, and people just need the tools so they can do it themselves. This was a way to put all the tricks and tips in one place that I've learned over 12 years of doing interior design.

Q You dissect the eight layers of designing a space. What's the trick to making it feel cohesive and pleasing to the eye?

A It's finding the right combination of colors, textures and accents and the right balance. And editing is big. Don't use accessories that are smaller than a cantaloupe. Too much stuff becomes visual clutter. But don't over-analyze decorating. It's supposed to be fun.


Q Which layer has the most impact in a room?

A Color. Sixty percent of a room's color should be on the walls and bigger pieces of furniture -- usually a neutral color. Thirty percent is your first accent color. Ten percent is the second accent color and can be something very bright like hot pink, orange or teal. But use it sparingly.

Q As Target's style expert, do you influence home decor merchandise?

A I pick my favorite pieces for the catalogs and I go on excursions with the design team and go over trends. My passion is accessible home design. Everyone should be able to have a beautiful house, and it shouldn't have to cost a lot of money.

Q What's an upcoming design trend?

A Next year you'll see a lot of garden-party-themed large graphic floral prints that are a more modern take on the old-fashioned floral print.

Q In your HGTV show "The High-Low Project," you swap big-buck items for lower-cost versions that deliver the same look. What are some cost-cutting decorating tips?

A Find things at thrift stores, secondhand shops and online. I like for handcrafted items. If you find a piece on clearance, and it's not the right color, it can easily be transformed with paint. But take your time to find great deals and be patient. On the show, I get it done in 22 minutes. But it could really take me up to two weeks.

Q What are some common decorating mistakes?

A Hanging framed artwork way too high. A good rule of thumb is that the center of the artwork should be 55 to 60 inches off the ground. That's considered eye level. I don't like the look of an area rug over carpet. It's like putting a toupee on the top of hair. And you always assume there's a stain underneath it.

Q What's a hot color combination?

A The new beige is gray -- it's everywhere. I like to pair bright hues -- chartreuse, magenta and teal -- with light to charcoal gray.

Q How can you add architectural details to a bare-bones space?

A Put up crown molding, a picture rail or beadboard. Or you can place a graphic screen in the corner of the room. It's gives a space dimension and detail.

Q You wrote "clutter isn't just annoying -- it's a design killer." Why?

A You can have the most beautifully designed room but with toys everywhere, guests will not be looking at the room. Don't fill up your bookshelves -- leave some empty space to break it up. You don't need to have an entire console table filled with personal photos. That's what albums are for. Place your favorites around the home sparingly.


Q I like the low-cost tip on making a nightstand from a stack of coffee-table books. What's another one?

A Make pillows out of printed dinner napkins. You can fuse them together with hemming tape. I usually find the napkins in a vast array of patterns and colors, and the size is perfect.

Q You encourage using green materials such as Marmoleum. What are some others?

A There's bamboo and recycled paper and wood. It's a fabulous time to decorate when it comes to green -- there's so many eco-friendly home design products on the market now.

Q What's your home like? What's your personal style?

A My style is modern casual -- not stark, but fun and playful. I have a modern New York apartment, with floor-to-ceiling windows, that overlooks Central Park. It has a humongous coffee table that could double as a dance floor. I sent a sketch to a kitchen supply store in Brooklyn, and they made the coffee table out of carbon steel. I kept the bottom open so it doubles as a bookshelf.


Q Your mother had a decorating business. What's something you learned from her?

A When I was growing up in New Jersey and L.A., we went through some hard financial times. I didn't know when I was going to eat next. My mother always said no matter how much money you have, you can still have a home that you are proud of.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619