People often have trouble figuring out what kind of design will work best in their homes, and it can be overwhelming. To help people out on this front, I recently held a forum for consumers to discuss some of their biggest design issues. And it was fun getting together and discussing decorating tips and feeding off one another’s ideas.

Here are some of the questions that came up:

I would love to use some bold patterns on my upholstery. What do I have to know to do this successfully?

I love the use of big, bold patterns that make a statement. The best way to do this is with accents rather than on a large piece, and, of course, pillows are an obvious choice. Using solids as a base gives you flexibility but can also enhance a pattern when one color is used as a background bringing out the print's variety of colors.

Another way is upholstering a screen to use near windows behind a piece of furniture or as a visual divider in a room. I have one in my home, which hides a large electric organ we can’t part with. We use it occasionally but don’t want to see it.

How do you feel about mixing up styles and finishes?

This is one of my favorite things to do. It creates interest in a room and adds personality — your personality — to a room. This is your opportunity to

be daring and experiment.

For example, you can put things together and create your own combination. The word popularly used for this style is eclectic. For example, when you combine a French-style desk with a contemporary chair, you are saying, “I am different, and I’m not afraid to show it.”

I see leather is back in a big way. Is it easy to use when decorating?

Yes, leather is a popular material these days and easier than ever to use when decorating for the following reasons:

Variety. The palate of colors is almost endless, from the brightest to the most muted tones. It’s fun and interesting to use leathers in unexpected colors. It also now comes in textures and designs, which gives leather a whole new look.

Feel. It is so soft that if you close your eyes it feels like fabric.

Price. Leather has become more affordable. However, the softer the leather, the higher the price will be. You can also mix your leathers with fabrics such as chenille and more economical microfibers on the same piece to give interest and contrast, and the look is great.

I have noticed furniture is mirrored. How can we use these pieces?

Mirrored furniture is back. This is a trend from the 1940s, which makes a glamorous and dramatic statement in any room. It is being used on all kinds of furniture.

Years ago a client had a miniature piano that I mirrored, and it was the talk of the home. Today’s interpretation has gone even further — dressers are being mirrored, and sinks are being put into them for bathrooms.

What are some designer trends that you like?

Don’t feel like you have to match your furniture pieces — mix and match both finishes and styles.

It’s creative not to place furniture against a wall. Come up with different ways to arrange the furniture to make it more interesting such as placing the furniture at an angle or floating the seating to make the space appear larger and more open.

Paint walls bright colors. Instead of having white ceilings, paint them the same color as the wall. If your wall color is dark, make sure the ceiling color is lighter, lessening the intensity. This will make the ceiling color appear the same because it is facing down. By painting the ceiling you can make the room feel cozier and not break up the look you created by painting the walls a special color.

There is no one way to decorate a room. Your imagination and understanding of your needs is all it takes when you remember that rooms have no feelings, you do. JN

Barbara Kaplan offers personal interior design guidance, ideas and solutions for free in her monthly Zoom class. Email to claim a seat or visit: &