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I'm an Interior Designer and These Are the 3 Most Important Items to Focus on in Every Room

Following this formula will ensure you craft a functional yet fabulous space.

Whether you're rearranging your living room or redecorating a guest room, tackling these kinds of interior design projects can feel so overwhelming that it's often difficult to know where to start. However, according to interior designer Lindsey Escalera, there are three key elements you should always focus on investing in first.

"In every room in your home, these three items are going to make the biggest difference in completely transforming your space," she said in a recent TikTok video. "Incorporating these elements will create a good foundation for your room, and then you can add from there." Read on to find out more about Escalera's foolproof three-step formula.

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Add a perfectly sized rug.

model living room with diy blanket ladder
Ground Picture/Shutterstock

"Almost all designers begin with grounding their space with a good rug," says Escalera.

A neutral patterned rug makes a statement without competing with other decor. Or, if the rest of your furniture is neutral and solid, you can use a fun, colorful statement rug to add some visual interest to the room.

But according to the designer, the most important thing about adding a rug to your space is to make sure it's the right size—so before you invest in one, always take measurements of the room and factor in the placement of the furniture. She suggests making sure the rug stays at least 12 inches away from the wall.

Hang some drapes or curtains.

bedroom with closed curtains behind bed

According to Escalera, curtains and drapes can make a huge difference in any space—making it not only appear larger but also feel cozier. Just make sure to hang them high and wide, she says, which will give the illusion of taller ceilings and a more spacious room.

To do this, she advises finding a rod that's at least six to eight inches wider than the window frame and hanging it at least four to six inches above the window frame. She also notes that the curtain width should be at least double the width of the window.

Keep in mind that curtains should never drag on the floor—but they shouldn't hang more than an inch above the floor, either. "They should just kiss the floor," Escalera says.

If necessary, you can hem the curtains or drapes once you hang the rod to make sure they're the perfect length.

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Layer your lighting.

dramatic lighting in a home bedroom

"As you may know, lighting is so important in a space," says Escalera, who recommends incorporating three types of lighting into every room: ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting.

In a separate video, she describes ambient lighting as anything that illuminates the entire room—like a chandelier: "Think recessed canned lights or any surface-mounted lights."

Accent lighting, which includes track lighting and sconces, is typically used to highlight a certain area or object in a room, she says—like artwork, plants, or architectural features.

Finally, task lighting is used for a specific purpose, such as reading or cooking. Escalera cites table lamps, floor lamps, and under-cabinet lighting as examples.

"The key to a well-designed home is layered lighting," she explains. "Not only will your rooms be more functional, but also more aesthetically pleasing."

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Don't forget to declutter.

Young woman with her hands on her hips trying to decide what to wear from her well organized closet

Before you start adding any of the aforementioned key elements to your space, Escalera strongly recommends getting rid of clutter.

"The reason I started simplifying my home was because I knew my clutter was stealing my time," says Escalera in another TikTok video. "Your time is so valuable. Stop wasting it caring for items you don't need."

Here are some specific items Escalera recommends tossing:

  • Incomplete decks of playing cards, or board games missing any essential pieces
  • Unidentifiable remotes and keys
  • VHS tapes, cassette tapes, or CDs if you don't have a device to play them on and don't plan to invest in one
  • Wire hangers—which you can replace with space-saving hangers
  • Worn out underwear and bras

When Escalera started decluttering her home, she says she found much more time for meaningful experiences: "It brought me clarity on what I truly want and love. I became more intentional and aware of what that was, and rediscovered things that brought me joy."

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Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
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