Secrets Behind the Bold and Brash Style of Jeffrey Bilhuber

He’s known for rooms that are confident, colorful and comfortable, and that energize classicism with a more than a touch of whimsy. Now AD 100 and ELLE DECOR A-List designer Jeffrey Bilhuber shares his wit and wisdom in his most practical and easy-going book yet. Everyday Decorating (Rizzoli) is a guide to making rooms happy, personal, charming, and yes, sexy, with tips on everything from mixing patterns to bringing more light into a room. Here, a few of the maestro’s many useful insights.

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Photo: Courtesy One Kings Lane

Pattern is a shortcut to charm, but it’s not always my weapon of choice. I’m at my zippiest when pulling colors together because I love them—not simply because they’re a small part of some larger multicolored chintz. This room is electrified through the mix of the orange in the rug, a blue chair, and a boysenberry tufted sofa. Don’t drive yourself mad trying to find the blue that’s in that print. Strike out on your own and watch how strong a room becomes when you pick the colors you love.

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Photo: Courtesy One Kings Lane

There’s no question that black is a color. These painted floors anchor the room and provide a foil for pattern, which would be only half as strong without it. As an added bonus, light bounces off the dark floor and makes the hall even brighter. 

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Photo: Simon Upton

English rooms tend to be filled with furniture, but an American family living in an English house brings edited clarity and comfort. The primary goal of upholstery is comfort, so proportions should be a direct response to who is going to sit in the furniture and what the purpose will be.

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Photo: Courtesy of Henredon

Romance resides in every detail of this bedroom. From the light green accent on the leading edge of the curtains to the abundance of nailheads on the headboard, everything here is designed to draw you in for a closer look. Sexy makes you look twice.

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Photo: Chi Chi Ubina

A wicker basket, a copper pot, a bamboo curtain rod—all of these elements come together to create an unabashedly charming room. There’s something very friendly about a bench at a table. An armless, backless picnic bench is fine if you need to suddenly flee from a charging bear while having a sandwich in a national park, but really, a bench should provide comfort. This is a job for upholstery. Adding a bench with a seat cushion and throw pillows is just the ticket for a super relaxed breakfast or lunch. This makes those meals so much more convivial and charming.

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Photo: Jillian Wass

When exploring the cozy comforts of a canopy bed, you can always embrace the effect incrementally. When my clients are resistant, I’ll start with just the structure of a tester bed. From there, I’ll layer in a roof and a back panel before going for the full canopy with sides. Nothing makes for a better night’s sleep than a roof over your head.

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The designer’s new book, Everyday Decorating, published by Rizzoli.