Townhouse to Your House from Design Star Challenge 1

For their first Design Star challenge, the 10 designers had to turn an empty townhouse in New York City into their "home away from home." Here are my tips for some things they did right and wrong and how apply them to your space.

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Donna and Teman were given the task of transforming this awkwardly narrow foyer/parlor into a great first impression of the home. By placing a large sofa at an angle, they narrowed the room even further.

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  1. Color

Use Angles Correctly

Donna and Teman were given the task of transforming this awkwardly narrow foyer/parlor into a great first impression of the home. As with most rooms, the best place to start is with a plan that addresses the functional needs you're dealing with while keeping visual impressions in mind. In this case, providing a place to converse in a slightly more formal setting, while not interrupting the flow to the rest of the house, was the main intent. By placing a large sofa at an angle, they narrowed the room even further, rendering potentially awkward space useless.

Placing an elegant, armless sofa against the long wall and tailored chairs, at right angles, would have kept visual blockage to a minimum and provided substantial seating for six. Upholstered ottomans or cubes as a substitute for a coffee table would've provided potential seating for two more.

The other important issue would have been to define the space with rugs and substantial drapes alongside the windows (not the staircase) that reached to the ceiling in order to soften the space. Finally, using a substantial color would help make a great first impression.

It's the Little Things

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Painting the room a color which makes a statement on its own is a great way to fill space and give the room substance.

When budget is not on your side, painting the room a color capable of making a statement on its own is a great way to fill space and give the room substance. Fewer and larger accessories would also make an impact and lend more to the space with less.

Don't Close In Seating

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By starting with a space plan that pulled the main seating into the middle of the room, Alice, Temple and Ramona made a warm and inviting place to sit and converse.

Alice, Temple and Ramona had a beautifully proportioned room to work with, filled with great windows and architectural detailing. By starting with a space plan that pulled the main seating into the middle of the room, they made a warm and inviting place to sit and converse.

It's great to have seating floating in the middle of the space if you have the room—but remember not to push it in too tight. If everything looks stacked in the middle without enough space to breathe, it may look like the movers just arrived!

Use Accent Colors

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A rug with some color and texture can help inject character and life into the room.

A rug can define a seating area, and is also an important way to ground a space and warm it up. If you're working with a primarily neutral palette, a rug with some color and texture can help inject character and life into the room. Pulling those rug colors into throw pillows on sofas and chairs and into floor-to-ceiling drapery is also another great way to inject color inexpensively.

The Infamous Mural

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Bold statements, like a large mural on a wall, are a great way to add interest —but make sure they are done well and that you are comfortable with the subject matter.

Bold statements, like a large mural on a wall, are a great way to add interest while making the space uniquely yours—but make sure they are done well and that you are comfortable with the subject matter. This "Miss Utah" mural is at odds with the direction of the rest of the room and is the right mural for the break room at pageant headquarters—not the family room of 10 diverse designers.

Warm Exterior Spaces

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Adding warm elements like natural wood, fresh color, inviting seating and live plants can transform a bleak space into an exterior oasis.

Exterior spaces in the city can be both literally and figuratively hard with their proliferation of concrete, brick, stone and metal. Adding warm elements like natural wood, fresh color, inviting seating and live plants can transform a bleak space into an exterior oasis.

Large ceramic pots in white or terra cotta—planted with tall evergreens and annuals at their bases that can be changed with the season—make wonderful statements that last all year long and give the eye a break from the urban harshness. Joseph and Tym did a great job with the structure of the patio. A few more cushions on the seating with some throw pillows—all made from Sunbrella fabric that is mold and mildew-resistant—would have warmed it up even further.

Warm Exterior Spaces

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Exterior artwork is always a wonderful idea— but a collection of the wrong elements outside can culminate in looking like a junk pile rather than an art statement.

Exterior sculpture and artwork is always a wonderful idea—as long as scale balances out the rest of the elements and the content works to enhance rather than hinder the experience. A collection of the wrong elements outside can culminate in looking like a junk pile rather than an art statement. If you are sacrificing a household appliance to make art, please think twice!

Make the Best of It

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Anytime you are working with larger items, it's always wise to place them first before you even begin to think about color or fabrics. The design team did a great job in laying out these beds.

With one bedroom needing to hold seven beds and the other three beds, these rooms were challenges most people never have to face. Obviously, the space plan is the first and most important place to begin. Anytime you are working with larger items that require significant square footage, it's always wise to place them first before you even begin to think about color or fabrics. In both bedrooms, I think David, Vanessa and Teran did an admirable job of laying the beds out as effectively as possible.

Using Two Colors Successfully

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A secondary color allows accents to pop and be noticed, adding needed detail to the space without cluttering the visual plane.

When faced with so much visual clutter already (beds lining the walls), it's best to take a simple approach to the room design to balance the complexity with some visual ease. Keeping the rooms primarily monochromatic allows the clear communication of an idea while simplifying the room's space plan. One secondary color allows accents to pop and be noticed, adding needed detail to the space without cluttering the visual plane. In rooms like these, it's also helpful to make sure drapery is simple and functional. It's also important to remember execution is key when you're tackling a clean-lined design—every bad paint stroke and uneven edge will show up when you're working in this style. It's all in the details.

Need a new look for your home? Paint expert Danielle Hirsch shows how to create 12 decorative paint techniques you'll love!

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