• colleenduffley

A Few Things I've Learned During A Career in Design

After graduating with a degree in interior design in 1985 (yikes), I began my career. I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but my time completing internship programs at “Directions In Design” confirmed my love for creating design in residential spaces rather than commercial. Originally, I was hired to assist the model home division’s senior designer, and so it began.

We would design three display homes for each builder so we could display and hopefully, sell, different styles of homes. Styles ranged from “country” – in today’s terms it would be considered “modern farmhouse”, traditional and contemporary or modern. By integrating my design skills in each of these styles, I quickly learned the different moldings, cabinetry, and door styles required to achieve a client’s vision. Aside from these distinct architectural details, I also picked up on furniture lines, fabric lines and accessories that catered to the particular style. As we fast forward to today, I still love working in all different styles of homes! I’ve learned that the principles and elements all work – no matter the style. As long as you have a few key details down you can work with any design variety.

At the risk of sounding like a textbook, I will give you some of my favorite pointers I’ve learned throughout the years. These are a few staples that I feel are most important, and use continuously in my own design projects.


Personally, I love color. I recognize that not everyone feels the same way, and have to say that sometimes it is the absence of color that truly makes a space. Just think of the all-white contemporary spaces I’m sure you’ve seen, and how gorgeous they are! Using color is fun and I always encourage my clients to see it as an element that helps bring together the entire home. 

So – if you choose one main color, introduce it in every room! You can always accent in different colors but make sure to have your chosen color woven throughout every space.


The color wheel is a design tool used consistently in the industry, for as long as I can remember! Once you choose the main color you’d like to introduce to your space, ideally you’d choose an opposite color on the wheel as your accent. This ensures that there is true contrast in your home, and it doesn’t look like you tried to match the color and missed the mark. How I get this done? I have many different color ribbons – when beginning a design I use my ribbons to discover what colors will be the main focus and which will be used for accents. Contrast can be carried in cabinetry, countertops, paint and fabrics. It’s nice to layer back and forth lighter and darker shades throughout the entire home. 

Scale and Proportion

These are two of the most important elements in design! It’s extremely important if you are working with a small space to use smaller scale items – you don’t want a huge sectional in a small living area! The same goes for larger spaces – fill it up with larger scale items or even divide the space into two or three areas. If you don’t nail scale and proportion, your space is almost guaranteed to come out looking off-centered and honestly just a little out of whack.

Texture and Pattern

Right behind color, texture and pattern are more of my favorite elements when designing a home. You can do so much with texture alone – especially in more contemporary spaces! Texture is a great way to warm up a more modern space. I love using patterns on walls, drapery or as a pop on chair seating and pillows.Pattern can be playful in more traditional as well as modern farmhouse interiors. You typically don’t see a lot of pattern in contemporary homes, but I bet I could change your mind on that! 

White Space

There’s no easier or less expensive way to refresh a space than a new coat of paint on the walls. To be honest, white space tends to be a bit of a pet peeve of mind. You don’t need to fill every space of your home with “something” – although I’ll often hear clients set on the idea that they do! This typically comes from overthinking the space… having something hanging on every wall or filling every corner.Leaving “air” in interior is a good thing – let your eye bounce around the room and give it a break. White space is necessary in every style interior, but especially in contemporary or modern designs. As Mies Van de Rohe once said… “less is more”.

There are so many things I’ve taken away from the multitude of design projects I’ve worked on throughout my career. The elements above are a few of my favorites and I truly feel as though it will help you with any interior space you design. Use these principles and practices and your space will turn out beautifully… or, just give me a call. 😉

For more of my work, follow along on social media!

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