Unless you’re a designer or in a super creative field, it can be hard getting the right look for your home. Some people just have knack for putting things together, like Erica Cook, an interior designer and lifestyle and entertaining maven. Erica will be sharing her secrets for how to get a high end look on a budget at the Bridgeland Crossing Sales Centre on June 20. The event is part of the The event is part of the Better in Bridgeland event series hosted by Gablecraft Homes. I recently sat down with Erica to get the low down on smart design tips. She was more than happy to share her secrets with Travels with Baggage readers. Here’s what she had to say.

Smart design tips

Say hello to Erica.

Biggest design mistakes

Erica’s gives her clients building blocks, so they can pull together a solid look together without having to invest in hiring a designer for the entire project. “Working on a budget is challenging. You have to be more thoughtful and more considerate of the details that will be meaningful,” she says.

Case in point, Erica would love to see more people hanging objects that mean something to them versus a set of prints bought at Home Sense. “There’s no need to conform to design norms. Go ahead and hang strange things on your walls, especially if they invoke a memory,” she encourages.

personal style

Erica highlights her favourite brands by framing them in her bedroom.

You can buy everything new at a big box store and do up a swish room, but Erica warns there’ll be a personal touch that missing. “You need to layer in your experiences. You don’t want to live in a space that’s devoid of emotional importance.” How to do this? Let go of the consumerism and shop your own house first. Wander around, go through your photo boxes, your secret stashes and pull out objects, art and photos that invoke strong or happy memories. The best example I ever saw of this was when my friend Kirstie hung up a kimono she bought in Kyoto. And BTW, most folks hang art way too high. 

Tips for choosing paint colours

The good news is that we don’t need to worry so much about paint colours. “Sometimes it’s best to let walls blend away, so the focus on a meaningful memento or even a toss cushion,” Erica says. Every designer has a favourite white. Most seem to love Cloud White by Benjamin Moore, but Erica is a big fan of Clear Moon, in Home Depot’s Behr line. “It’s the perfect creamy white. It’s not too white and doesn’t have any yellow, blue, pink or green undertones,” Erica affirms.

Tip: The secret with whites is not to put anything too white against or else your wall will look dingy.

4 boys and mom

Mom to four boys! Who’s the fifth, I wonder?

How frequently should you update a room?

Huge sigh of relief! According to Erica, there’s no rule for updating rooms, so long as the room wasn’t based on a trend, e.g. 80s Aztec. If the room in question is functional and pleasing to you, keep it. If something makes you happy, no need to change.

Say you are renovating a room, do you ever wonder if you really have to finish off by updating the baseboards and doors? Erica admits this becomes a bit of a slippery slope. Bottom line: if you’re not willing to do throughout the entire house, it’s better to save up and do all light switches or whatever at once, not just in room.

Does your entire house have to stick with one theme?

My house is pretty modern – correction, my interiors are contemporary, but the exterior is so not, nor is my daughter’s room and two of the bathrooms. I wondered if this was a biggie, but Erica assured me there are no hard and set rules. “People make choices that are more personal in their private spaces and that’s OK,” she says. Phew!

Do this before you go shopping

Before you break our the credit cards, you’ll want to do some pre-work. First, create a file on Pinterest. The more you work on it, you’ll probably find a common thread. Maybe’s it’s a repetition of the same profile of a sofa or paint colour you just can’t help but Pin. Try not to be in a rush. Give it time, so you can narrow down a design concept you can live with. If you enjoy looking at it, you’ll probably enjoy living in it. Just don’t pick one magazine picture and attempt to replicate that entire look. Pick and choose and try to inject a sense of who you are into your space.

Where to find inspiration

Erica find inspiration in nature. She recommends taking walks around your neighbourhood and checking out hit new dining spots like Corbeaux Bakehouse and the Crave redesign in Kensington.

Go on Pinterest and read design blogs. Most important is not worrying about what your friends will say. There’s no need to compare yourself to others. If you get joy from an object – hang it! When you trust your instincts, you’ll find a meaningful connection with your interiors.

Are you happy with how your home looks? Where do you go for design inspiration or do you just leave it to the pros?