Darryl Carter’s Top 10 ABCs of Design

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

As we posted earlier this week, local D.C. designer Darryl Carter just launched his new furniture collection for Thomasville; he is on tour to introduce both the collection and to sign his bestselling book The New Traditional. Though we missed the furniture launch because of car trouble, Darryl kindly reached out to share his Top 10 ABCs of design with AT readers…

Darryl is a firm believer in keeping it simple. He believes that most great rooms can come together with just a few thoughts in mind: adapt, blend and create.


  • Make your room work for you. For example, if you do not routinely entertain large groups of people, consider lining the dining room with bookshelves and bringing in a collapsible table so the space becomes more usable as a reading room rather than maintaining its status as a dining room at all times. And then just convert it back to a more traditional space on special occasions.

  • Find perfection in imperfection. In other words, live in your home! When you do, you will find that signs of life make for interesting design elements. Rugs worn with time or a piece of beloved furniture invites continued use and gives a welcoming feel.

  • Personalize your home. Decorating should be an inspiring, creative process. Regardless of your budget, you should never settle for an uninteresting environment. If something speaks to you – whether it is an architectural element, found object, the drawing your child did at preschool yesterday or a precious artifact – incorporate it into your décor. Take a chance. Consider building a room around it.


  • A house should unfold in a way that makes sense, with each room flowing gracefully into the next. This is achieved through continuity of common elements – the most outstanding of which is wall color. Think about how you can make the walls virtually disappear by careful gradation of similar colors that imperceptibly change as you progress through each room.

  • Integrate elements that complement rather than compete. Floor finishes and rugs are essential to maintaining a cohesive flow. Give your floor finish just as much consideration as you do your wall color. Floors frame walls in the same sense as art is framed and the “matting” is critical.

  • Choose classic patterns and colors for drapery and upholstery textiles. Subtle palettes throughout the home support the sense of continuity as rooms unveil themselves. Punches of dark color or pattern should be used sparingly; otherwise they may become too present, defeating the purpose of cohesive blending.


  • Create a sense of intimacy. Try to avoid the impulse to line the edges of a room with furniture which creates a void at the center of a room. If you are working with a large room, consider dividing it into smaller vignettes that are more conducive to conversation with family members or guests.

  • Create a balance. Finding the proper balance throughout the home will create a sense of harmony. The scale of your furnishings is important to consider so that one object, or the placement of that object in the room, does not overwhelm the space, thus compromising the functional and visual comfort. Think of it as visually tipping the scale.

  • Create a welcoming environment. Make rooms that suggest use. Your rooms can be beautiful and approachable at the same time. For example, fill sofa cushions with down feathers rather than foam so that an impression is left after someone sits on them instead of springing back into form. Additionally, choose soft fabrics that will become softer with wear such as cotton velvets, linens and other textiles that feel good to the touch.

  • Create a respite. When you have created a home that fits your lifestyle, a place where you can relax with your family and proudly entertain guests, you know you are finished designing. It’s alright to have a bare wall – not every square inch of a room has to be covered. Know when to stop.

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