9 Designers on the Holy Grail Decor Products They Can’t Decorate — or Live! — Without

published Feb 12, 2021
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I have a pretty big obsession with learning what pros use in their everyday life. Whether it’s the pan that a famous chef can’t live without or a cabernet the somm at my favorite local restaurant loves, there’s something so cool about knowing what an expert who has literally all the options (not to mention all the knowledge) would choose to use in their everyday life. It’s sort of a peek-behind-the-curtain moment, if you will.

When it comes to decorating homes, there are truly endless options. I don’t know about you, but shopping exclusively online due to COVID-19 has only made my design indecision worse. My normal habit of picking something up in a store to tangibly get a feel for it — or asking West Elm sales associates a zillion questions about what they’d buy and how they’d use it — have been replaced by internet browsers with 500 tabs open (yes, I’m that person), lots of Google searches about “the best [insert item here],” and never actually pulling the trigger on purchasing any items. 

All that’s to say what follows here is pretty much a selfish (or self-less?) act in which I tapped some favorite design pros to learn about the items they can’t live without, either in their own home or when designing the homes of their clients. Spoiler alert: I’ve already got my own wish list going, and I have a feeling you will shortly, too. 

No-fail drapery hardware

“Since a lot of my design work centers around vintage, collected, and found pieces, there’s not always a lot of crossover between my projects,” says designer Michelle ‘Meeshie’ Fahmy and owner of Haus of Meeshie. “That being said, one item I can say I have used repeatedly — not only in my own home but also in the homes of several clients as well — is West Elm’s oversized metal curtain rods. They’re great quality, come in several finishes, go with almost any style, and are an affordable way to dress up your windows.”

Buy: Oversized Metal Curtain Rod, Starting at $80.00 from West Elm

Statement artwork

“One thing that every home needs is a gorgeous piece of large scale art,” says Sita Montgomery, owner and designer at Sita Montgomery Interiors. “Whether you choose to invest in original art or purchase more affordable and accessible framed art prints, a piece of large art can elevate any room in your home. Using a piece that is meaningful to you will also help to personalize your surroundings and define your space.”

Plants plus crystals

“We’re all about wellbeing for people and the planet,” says Andrea Kantelberg, founder and designer at Evolved Living. “We love to bring energetic elements and nature into every project we design, and the first thing I always bring into a finished space is a plant. It symbolically brings life to your home, and nurturing a plant teaches you about self-love.”

For an extra bit of decoration, Kantelberg likes to add a crystal or two to potted plants. Just do a bit of research to find a winning plant-crystal combination that you like the look of.

Vintage clay pottery

“One of my very favorite pieces to incorporate into the homes I design are handmade vintage clay vessels,” says Rita Donahoe, owner and designer at Rita Chan Interiors. “When we have a newly-built space, the first thing I want to add is something old, and I find vintage vessels to be so beautiful, soulful, and practical. I love to use them as crocks or vases, but even featured on their own, they add so much character, thanks to their natural patina and the unique story each piece carries with it.”

The best part? Donahoe says you don’t have to spend much here. She suggests Etsy to source beautiful options at surprisingly low prices.

Credit: Young Huh

A classic countertop item

“I love this paper towel holder from Crate&Barrel, and I truly believe it can (and should!) belong in every kitchen,” says Young Huh, owner and designer at Young Huh Interior Design. “Not only is it heavy enough that it doesn’t move when you’re one-handing it while doing dishes, but the look is also so classic. You can never go wrong with white marble, especially in the kitchen.”

Buy: French Kitchen Marble Paper Towel Holder, $19.95 from Crate&Barrel

Credit: Mindy Gayer

Natural fiber rugs

“I use a natural jute area rug in almost every one of our projects,” says Mindy Gayer, owner and designer at Mindy Gayer Design Co. “It’s affordable, neutral, and goes with everything! Plus, jute brings amazing texture to a space, and the natural hue adds warmth in a way that complements any other colors in the space. Rugs USA always has great affordable options.”

Buy: Natural Handspun Jute Area Rug, Starting at $66.29 $35.90 for a 2-foot by 3-foot rug from RugsUSA

Credit: Erika Ward

Luxe bamboo bedding

“Given the times that we’re in, I feel like it’s important to create contentment and peace in my clients’ homes.” says Erika Ward, owner and designer at Erika Ward Interiors.” Rest is one of those things we must all have to feel good every day, so I’m extremely passionate about bed linens. I especially love bamboo sheets for their sustainability and feel; the fabric becomes even softer with washing.”

Buy: Signature Bamboo Sateen Sheet Set, Starting at $138.00 for a Twin set from Ettitude

Credit: Lisa Staton

Super soft sheepskin throws

“When designing for clients, we always end up adding in a few sheepskin throws,” says Lisa Staton, owner and designer at Lisa Staton Interior Design. “They’re a great way to soften up spaces and warm them up a bit. Jenni Kayne has a great selection in different shades, and you can also find them on Etsy.” Faux versions will add just as much softness and texture to your spaces, too.

Buy: Arctic Sheepskin, $190.00 from Jenni Kayne

Coffee table books

“When designing a home, it’s always important to fully finish with accessories that add to the personality of the home,” says Kristen Peña, owner and designer at K Interiors. “Gorgeous coffee table books that speak to the interest of the homeowner are always a must. You can layer them anywhere to add texture and color — plus, they’re great conversation starters when hosting!”