The #1 Design Lesson I Learned From My Mother, According to 9 Interior Designers

Even the pros know Mama knows best.

I can trace many of the things I say, like, and do back to one person: My mama. My signature summer nail polish color? That’s hers. The cheesy grits casserole I love making for guests? She made it first. My affinity for cloth napkins on the dinner table? I inherited that from her too. The same goes for many interior designers, who’ve borrowed a decorating trick or two from their own moms. Here, we asked nine Southern interior designers to share the best decorating advice they learned from their mothers.

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Hold On to Family Furniture

“My maternal grandfather was a farmer and furniture craftsman in Eastern North Carolina, and my mother cherished those pieces that he had lovingly handcrafted,” says Greenville, South Carolina, designer Caroline Brackett. “Of course, my siblings and I weren’t interested in them at a young age, but she held on to them and ultimately taught me the importance and sentimental value of weaving in family heirlooms and antiques into my design.”

Set A Thoughtful Table

“Always set the table nicely, even if it's for a quick meal,” says Lexington, Kentucky, designer Isabel Ladd. “I have no memory of a table at my mom's house not being set with placemats, cloth napkins, and some variation of a floral arrangement, even if it was boughs of evergreens in a julep cup. Even when we were sick, and she'd bring us up a tray in bed, there'd be a sprig of wildflower tucked in a miniature bud vase.”

Steer Clear of Clutter

“I attribute my ‘need-to-edit tendency’ to my mother,” says Jean Liu, an interior designer in Dallas. “She has always been on the side of being a minimalist, and I am now turning into her, especially as it relates to how rooms come together and to be sure to leave room for negative space.”

Shop with Local Makers

"My mother always sourced items for our home from local artisans,” notes Megan Evans, a designer in Covington, Louisiana. “She really believed in supporting people from our hometown, whether it was for a custom armoire, drapery rods, or a mural in our powder room. There was a husband-and-wife ceramic artist duo that created the most beautiful hand-painted tabletop pieces. My mother loved their collection so much, she bought 12 place settings, along with a bolt of white linen for them to paint valances for our kitchen! My belief in supporting local artists and workrooms stems from her, and I still look to them first when working on a project."

Shake Things Up

“My mother always taught me to change everything as often as you can,” says Jason Bell, Director of Design for Walland, Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm Design. “It keeps life fresh!"

Invest in Comfort 

“I have learned so much about design from my mom,” says Dallas decorator Noel Pittman. “The lesson I appreciate the most is how much my mom emphasizes making a room comfortable by using high quality upholstery. A client telling me that they are comfortable in their home is one of the biggest compliments, and I credit my mom with teaching me how important it is.”

Play with Scale and Proportion

“My mother was not an interior designer, but she had a knack for pulling rooms together,” says Charlotte, North Carolina, designer Gray Walker. “She didn't use many small accessories in our home but instead used large statement pieces that spoke to her. My interior design training started early on as I watched my mother collect pieces for our house."

Recognize the Importance of Rituals

“My mother required me to make my bed every day, telling me that a freshly made bed gives you a fresh start to your day,” says Laura Jenkins, a designer in Atlanta, Georgia. “I abide by this in my own home now. For me, an unmade bed equates to stress and reminders of all I need to do, but if my bed is made, it makes me feel like my life is in order in a small way.”

Strike A Balance

“My mother has had the greatest influence on my career as a designer, and I absorb any advice she gives me like a sponge,” says Birmingham, Alabama-based Nicole Roby. “My mother emphasizes achieving a soothing flow to a home through accessorizing with a good balance between items. I always keep this in mind in my design work.”

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