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The home pieces designers can’t stop using

By Sarah Lyon

The Washington Post – Who wouldn’t want to go shopping alongside an interior designer? Although it’s true that pros generally purchase most furniture and other decorative items from trade-specific vendors, many also rely on tried-and-true retailers accessible to the general public. We asked designers to share their favourite pieces that anyone can buy, and why those items never let them down. Here are their picks.


Why not invest in a piece that can serve multiple purposes? Designer Peti Lau likes the Channing three-drawer console table from Jonathan Adler because, with its drawers and narrow footprint, it can “function either as a desk or a console”. “I like the simple white lacquer and silver metal finishes, which give it a more timeless look,” said Lau, who does work in Los Angeles, New York, London and Thailand.


No room is complete without layers of lighting, including overhead fixtures and task pieces. Picture lighting is a simple way to bring a museum-like quality to any home. Tucson designer Priya McCulloch suggested the 18-inch brass picture light from Circa Lighting. “I love using these for built-in bookshelves or to highlight art,” she said. They also are available in bronze and antique or polished nickel and “add a classic touch to any space”, McCulloch said.

A statement-making light fixture will shine in any room. A designer in Memphis McCall Dulkys has incorporated the expansive, 96.45-inch Whit three-light semi-flush mount fixture from Wayfair in many spaces. “I love using it over dining room tables, as the massive width often spans along the entire length of the table,” she said. “It’s perfect for modern or mid-century modern spaces in black, and the white could even be used to add a touch of modern to a coastal home.”

A lampshade is another less-expensive way to make a major style statement. Designer in Kensington, Maryland Laura Hur is partial to the linen shades, handmade in Denmark, from the Etsy shop LeKrazyHorse. They can give an old lamp a chic update, she said.

ABOVE & BELOW: A Chilewich basket-weave woven floor mat; and West Elm’s jute boucle rug. PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST

She also likes that they are pleated, because “they bring a sense of texture, movement and playfulness to any space”, she said.

“Pair one with a sculptural ceramic base, and it is suddenly much more interesting. Pair one with a playful squiggle base, and it feels like a party.”


A go-to accent chair is a must for residential and commercial spaces. Montclair, New Jersey designer Blanche Garcia said Blu Dot’s Puff Puff lounge chair, available in multiple fabrics and colours, is a recent favourite.

“It’s sculptural with a stunning tomato-red velvet fabric, and for the price, it just can’t be beat,” she said. Whether paired with a neutral sofa or jazzed up with a vibrant throw pillow or two, the piece can be styled to appeal to minimalists and maximalists.


An area rug can cozy up wooden floors, be layered above wall-to-wall carpeting or be used to create a distinct zone within a larger space. Boston-based designer Desiree Burns keeps coming back to West Elm’s jute boucle rug. “It’s great quality for the price point and goes with just about anything,” she said.

“I’ve used it for… coastal bedrooms (and) more contemporary living rooms, and it’s always a winner.”

And if you find yourself dealing with messes fairly often, there’s something for you, too. Designer in Austin Christine Turknett Ho said she is “obsessed” with Chilewich’s woven floor mats for the dining room.

“They are super durable (to combat) any food spills, and the designs are timeless,” she said.

“My favourite is the basket-weave woven floor mat, which I have in my own home in oyster, a neutral grey that plays so well with other colours.”


Functional pieces such as glassware, towels and wastebaskets don’t have to be boring. Designers know that artful details are essential for finishing any room.

One way to add both style and comfort is by incorporating plush towels.

Houston-based designer Benjamin Johnston said RH’s ultrasoft Turkish towel collection is a go-to. “It’s that little touch of luxury that makes getting ready for your day all that much more enjoyable,” he said.

Plush doesn’t have to stop at towels; many designers enjoy incorporating plush materials throughout the home. For example, Seattle-based designer Pallavi Kale likes to include alpaca throws, such as the alpaca basket-weave throw from Jenni Kayne Home, in any room she styles. “They are soft and warm for snuggling,” Kale said. “You can also use them to add a layer of texture to your couch, bench or the foot of your bed.”

Another Houston-based designer Hallie Henley Sims said she likes to “make sure no details are overlooked, even when it comes to wastebaskets”. One of her favourites is the whimsical Bunny Williams shopping bag waste bin from Ballard Designs. It’s perfect for a powder room or home office.

And the right glassware can make you want to throw a get-together as soon as possible. DC-area designer Shannon Claire Smith recommends the Lucia collection at Crate and Barrel. “The pieces are a great price and are great everyday or elevated occasion glasses,” Smith said. “They can skew casual enough for on the patio or be set on a table for a formal dinner party.”