• In an open floor plan, a lot of unpainted woodwork can look too busy. "Painted woodwork offers a soothing visual," he said. "If you have a beautiful view at the window, you're focused on the view and not the woodwork."

• Select a focal point for the room: artwork, a rug, an accessory or collection.

• If you have an open floor plan, you can define different spaces using varying floor surfaces, wall surfaces, kitchen island or peninsula, area rugs, semi-sheer drapery, ceiling treatments.

• Personalize the room by displaying accessories that reflect your interests and personality. "I love books" for decorating, he said. For more visual impact, group collections of similar items together -- pottery, decorative boxes, framed prints -- rather than scattering them here and there.

Michael Anschel

• The popular trend toward open floor plans is "a terrible idea," he said. "I don't want to be able to look into my kitchen. It puts too much pressure on the homeowners. It's great for entertaining, but then the guests leave and it's just you, in a space that's so much larger than you. It can't possibly be comfortable." On the contrary, "people like cozy little nooks for safety and security."

• Color has a powerful effect on the mood and feeling of a space. Each room should feature at least three colors (Anschel has designed rooms containing upwards of three dozen colors) because "nothing in nature is all one color," he said. "More colors mean the brain works harder, giving the illusion of more space." Colors can also define areas of a room for different uses.

• The ceiling should be white, though, to keep the other colors in true perspective.

• Ignore romanticized paint-chip names ("Tuscan sunset" and the like) and focus on the colors themselves. "People get paid big money to come up with names that evoke an emotion," he said.

• Consider hiring a consultant to help choose colors. You might invest a few hundred dollars, but colors chosen by a trained eye could greatly affect your experience in the room.

• Provide a visual anchor: a heavy cabinet, a door, a darker wall, a fireplace, a headboard. "Give the eye someplace to rest," he said. "Otherwise the room just drifts. "


• Include furniture of different sizes to accomodate family members and guests of different sizes. Overall, select furniture with the scale of the room in mind -- lighter items in a small room; more massive items in a bigger space. Avoid pieces that do not serve a function.

• Add "pops of color" with ceramics, pillows, throws and other items. "It's much better to have a larger object that makes a statement than a whole bunch of little things. If you have a space to fill -- say, on a mantel -- measure the area and carry the dimensions in your smart phone or purse so they'l be handy if you spot something you like..

• Unsure how to arrange a variety of objects? "Look at the fingers on your hand, and notice how the heights are staggered," she said. "Staggering objects in a similar pattern will feel comfortable and familiar." Use odd numbers of objects, and don't arrange them in a straight line -- overlap.

• Don't paint your rooms colors that aren't flattering to you. "If your skin tone doesn't look good with beige, don't paint the rooms beige," she said.

• "Build layers of light" to create a mood. Highlight specific areas or items as opposed to illuminating the entire room. "Indirect light is more pleasing," so consider using sconces and backlighting objects. Use dimmer switches wherever possible.


• "Lighting is one of those things people overlook, but you can really redesign a room by changing the light," he said. Coordinate the lighting with the room to emphasize art work, a color scheme, a material palette. Use dimmer switches, and make sure the light has the correct color-rendering temperature.

• You can even consider installing LED lights in the fireplace.