Kelly Hoppen design

Photo: Mel Yates

They Don't Decorate Based on What Looks Good
They Do: Map out how each room should function

Before you decorate, ask yourself what you'll do in the room and where, exactly, you'll be doing these things, recommends Kelly Hoppen, designer and author of How to Achieve the Home of Your Dreams. This is critical for choosing which colors to use (Will you want to be energized or relaxed?), what furniture you'll want and how to arrange it, what storage space you'll need—even what kind of lights to choose. At-home yogis, for example, may want part of the living room clear so they can roll out their mats—and have soft, dimmable lighting overhead while they go into child's pose—while a cook may want bright task lighting and a table in the room so she can dice tomatoes while watching True Detective.

Photo from Kelly Hoppen: How to Achieve the Home of Your Dreams (Rizzoli), 2014.

Photo: Susan Sully

They Don't Model Their Kitchen After Chopped
They Do: Borrow a few decorating ideas from the living room

When updating the kitchen, many people start dreaming of cabinets, fridges and ovens, creating a painted-wood-and-stainless-steel room that looks more like a restaurant than a home, says Susan Sully, author of Houses with Charm. That divide can make you start thinking of the kitchen as a sterile, soulless place you begrudgingly visit to tackle chores. Borrow a few welcoming touches from the living room—crown molding, wall sconces or a washable, low-pile rug, Sully says.

Photo: © Myquillyn Smith

They Don't Make the Furniture Compete for Your Attention
They Do: Have one dramatic piece in every room

That hand-shaped chair, a 3-foot-long taxidermy fish, the beaded chandelier—on their own, each piece can be amazing, but in one room together, they can look chaotic, as your eyes bounce from one bold piece of furniture to the next. That's why many designers stick to one standout item per room. (You know you've found yours when people start referring to your den as "the room with the sailfish.") That one flourish gives the space personality without being over-the-top.

Taken from The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. Copyright © 2014 by Smith. Use by permission of Zondervan.

Photo: Thinkstock

They Don't Keep the Dresser in the Bedroom
They Do: Brainstorm multiple ways it'd work in their home

One of the most popular series on design blogger Nicole Balch's site, Making it Lovely, is called "Making it Yours," where she features one item styled several different ways, like how to make a dresser work in the bedroom, living room or nursery—or what to do if your style changes over time. It gets you to think of how to make the most out of every big purchase, so you don't have to buy all new things every time you want to update a room. To put yourself to the test, pick a table, lamp, rug or dresser in your home and think of three places you could put it.

Photo: Eric Kvalsvik

They Don't Let Natural Light Have All the Glory
They Do: Ensure every room has four sources of light

No matter what kind of windows you have, to really get that bright and airy look, you'll want three artificial kinds of light: one overhead—like a chandelier or pendant—an eye-level one—such as a floor or table lamp—and one that bounces off the walls, like a pair of sconces, Sully says.

Designer: Mona Hajj/Architect: Wayne L. Good

Photo: © 2013 by Simon Upton

They Don't Put Extra Nails in the Walls
They Do: Put their art on shelves

Arranging a set of framed photos or prints on a shelf makes it easy to swap out and update what's on your walls at any given time—and saves you the hassle of hanging (and rehanging) everything. It's a tactic Beauty at Home author Aerin Lauder uses in her breakfast nook, where she rotates out her children's latest art projects. "I've noticed you often stop seeing things once they've been on the wall for a while," she writes in her book. The benefit is two-fold: You always appreciate what's hanging up and the changes help the room evolve with your style (so you actually get around to replacing those circa-2009 sparrow prints that now make you feel trapped in Portlandia's "Put a Bird on It" sketch).

Reprinted from Beauty at Home © 2013 by Aerin Lauder. Published by Potter Style, a Penguin Random House Company.