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HGTV's Tiffany Brooks shares her tricks of the trade to create welcoming, comfortable and sustainable home interiors.
Tiffany, how did you get into interior design?
It’s always been in me, I just didn’t know it. I was working as an assistant manager at an apartment complex and I took on the task of designing one of the models. They gave me a budget of $3,000 and I designed that model under budget. They liked it so much that they entered it in the CAMMEs, which is like the Grammys for the Chicagoland Apartment Association. I was entered into the category for best one-bedroom model. My boss made a bet with me that if our model won, that I had to pursue interior design for a career. Well, I won! Couldn’t believe it.
So some time passed and the owners sold the property. That was my opportunity to uphold my end of the bet. I took a job at my son’s school in administration so that I could free up time to start my business. My business was part-time and I had no clue what I was doing! I started by putting a Craigslist ad out, looking for clients to give free design service to. I got one guinea pig to bite and my business was started.
Fast forward and I got on as a contestant on season 8 of HGTV Star. Week by week went by and I was the last one standing. I had to keep it a big secret until the show aired. After the final episode aired, showing me as the winner, my career just skyrocketed and hasn’t come down since! I have been so blessed and I am so grateful.
How do you approach your interior design projects?
With the clients’ needs and how they live first in mind, I have to gain an in-depth understanding of what they are looking for. I take that information and add my flavor by gathering inspiration from fashion, photography and other nondesign media to create a concept for the space.
What are small changes people can make in their homes that have big impact?
Drapery and art are a couple of ways. Painting your walls is obvious, but people rarely think about painting their trim and ceiling. When I have time, I like to walk though local décor shops and find interesting accessories or oddities to add to a tablescape, mantel or shelf that inspire me to accessorize a whole room.
How do you approach the color palette for rooms? Do you have a rule of thumb?
My rule of thumb is 60/30/5/5: 60 percent paint color on the walls, 30 percent is found on the upholstery, 5 percent as the first accent color, and 5 percent as a second accent color.
What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when it comes to their interiors?
When homeowners do not measure their space before they buy furniture— there is nothing more embarrassing than someone buying a huge sectional, only for the sectional to be spilled out into their kitchen. So my advice is measure and make a floor plan before going furniture shopping, so you know how big of a sofa, etc., will fit in your space.
Another mistake is adding lighting as an afterthought. You can have this beautiful room and two lamps, and you can’t see anything!
Don’t be lazy and go into a furniture store and buy the entire display. It takes so much time to curate a room. You want your space to display the personality of you and not the furniture shop.
What are some of your biggest challenges with clients?
Trust. You have to trust the designer that you hire. The most successful projects that we have had were with clients who just let us do what we do. You are hiring a designer because you can’t do the job yourself. If you made the decision to hire a designer, trust them.
What are your top picks for a more sustainable home?
We have to watch the chemicals that we use. If you take the tack of wanting everything now, you might miss out on the quality of products. Do your research and find out what is in the furnishings and paints you are purchasing. Harmful chemicals are put into everything from paint to fabrics to our food.
Low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints are a great choice for a more sustainable home. I also love taking the furniture that the homeowner already owns and giving it new life with a new fabric and color. The homeowner can’t believe that it’s their furniture!
LED bulbs are another energyefficient choice—and try to enjoy more daylight than artificial light. That will save on energy costs.
Another energy saving tip: Coming together as a family to watch your favorite shows instead of everyone in different rooms watching different things. You can save energy and promote healthy family energy.
When updating a kitchen, how important is the oven?
To me, it’s all about natural gas. Especially if you love to cook or bake. What I find is that natural gas bakes and cooks more evenly than electric.
If you had to name the top five most important interior design elements in the home, what would they be?
Lighting, great trim work and moldings, color, space planning and dramatic art—but be sure to personalize your space—make your house into home sweet home.