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Interior Designer Elaine Griffin's Decorating Secrets

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"A beautiful home welcomes and makes you happy," says interior designer, Elaine Griffin. The Harlem-based decorator, who's also known as "the makeover maven" describes her first book "Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator" as a girlfriend's guide to decorating. She spoke to ESSENCE.com about how any one can figure out their decorating taste and shares her favorite tips for decorating on a budget. ESSENCE.com: What is your design philosophy? ELAINE GRIFFIN: I believe houses should look like the people who live in them. So many times you go to wealthy people's homes and you're asking yourself, 'Is this a house or a hotel?' You want to create a space that is tantalizing and makes you want to stay home. And the idea that if you live somewhere like the projects you shouldn't bother decorating is a myth. In fact I believe the harsher your outside environment, the warmer the decor in your home should be. ESSENCE.com: How does a person find out what their decorating style is? GRIFFIN: You have to start by educating yourself. Go on house tours. I go on those all the time and I don't see enough sistas there. Of course decor magazines are always great but nothing beats seeing something in person, which is why I say go on house tours. The more you see the better your taste. An acquired eye takes effort and exposure. ESSENCE.com: What if you're on a tight budget? GRIFFIN: Luckily nowadays taste and style exist at every price point. You have to dedicate the time to finding the items that compliment your style and budget. If you live somewhere like New York City you can literally furnish your apartment with free furniture that you get off the street. The trick is to reupholster and reinvent. ESSENCE.com: What's your favorite kind of customer? GRIFFIN: Like Syms, I say an educated customer is my best customer. Someone who is clear and understands their own perspective. The worst can be first time decorators who are insecure about their taste and have a counsel of girlfriends telling them what to do. ESSENCE.com: Can you share your five favorite design rules? GRIFFIN: Well, just as there are rules in English--you can't have comma's all over the place--so too with decorating. Hang your curtains as close to your ceiling as possible. This gives the illusion of a higher ceiling. Second, the top of your coffee table should be lower than your couch. That's why they say put your drink down, not up. Third, it's not always about arranging furniture around the TV. Think conversation groups when decorating your living room because you want people to be able to talk to each other. Fourth, for any seating group, make sure all the legs of the furniture sit on the carpet. Lastly, at least three out of four corners in a room should have a lamp to create the perfect lighting. [Laughs] The only time you should be using the ceiling light is too look for a lost sock. ESSENCE.com: What are your favorite indulgences for your home? GRIFFIN: I love antique decorative boxes. I also grew up on the coast of Georgia, near Savannah so I'm crazy about seashells so my home has that Southern, resorty feel to it. But I'm bordering on obsessive with the seashells so I'm trying not to bring any more home. ESSENCE.com: What are the current trends in design? GRIFFIN: Oregano green is the new "it" color. So is peacock blue and charcoal grey. And for those bold enough to go there, black walls are in, but I would recommend that only for rooms that get a lot of sunshine. Also check out how Elaine transforms simple spaces into decorated havens. Get tips and find out more about Elaine Griffin and her book "Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator," here.
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