Decorating Ideas

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A stunning master bath designed by Mary McDonald, featuring shades of white and gray, an undermount tub, and polished nickel fixtures.

Q: I’m trying to decide on paint colors and design features for an update of our master bath. How can I modernize and best utilize the space we have?—Nonna

A: Dear Nonna,
To set you on the right track I passed your question along to the ever-glamorous decorator Mary McDonald. “First off, I would never go to the paint color first, because you can always change paint,” she told me. “The paint is the least of your worries.” Instead, she suggests focusing on replacing old tile with more-modern stone slabs and adding of-the-moment design features. “A floating vanity that doesn’t go all the way to the ground has a great modern look. Overmount tubs can look dated, so go for undermount, and instead of cutesy shower curtains, try a shower door that’s a frameless piece of glass.”

Mary is cautious to throw out rules—“I’m not one of those people who follow them”—but she does draw a hard line regarding the size of your paint palette: “two colors at the most,” with shades of white and gray topping her list. As for fixture finishes, she declares that “brass is back!” but also pledges her love for polished nickel. “It’s just so classic.” 

This stunning wall has art spanning the entire space, including a few pieces propped on the floor.

Q: My biggest challenge is figuring out how to decorate the tall, expansive walls in my house. Currently the only decor we have is a curtain!—@ewokmama

A: Dear @ewokmama,
“I still feel mentally very challenged to look at a big wall and say, ‘How do I do this?’” says Christopher Wilcox (also known as Curious Christopher), the founder of one of my favorite sources for art, Natural Curiosities, who I called up to chat about your question. “My personal aesthetic is to fill it from top to toe with an eclectic selection of pieces.” As for finding the right matrixlike configuration, Christopher suggests starting in the center and working your way out, but he cautions against overthinking it and favors a freestyle approach. His strategy is hang, step back and assess, plan your next move, and repeat. “The size of the art is less important than the impact each piece has,” he says. If you’re like me and need a little extra help finding the right placements for pieces, this mockup technique is one of my go-tos.

Stylish kid’s storage, spotted in the home of fashion designer Jenni Kayne.

Q: We have a space for the kids that is not enclosed, and I find that keeping their toys contained, hidden, or organized is challenging. Can you help?—@beachbum

A: Dear @beachbum,
Now that my kids are off on their own, my home is blissfully free of kid clutter, but our senior director of photo and style (and mother of two young boys), Elana Frankel, flashed a knowing look when I posed this question. “If I had my way, everything would be behind closed doors,” she said. However, like you, she’s living in reality. “I have a long storage piece. Anything pretty and functional stays out; everything else gets put away.” Elana suggests letting the shelf configuration guide your storage choice. “I buy pieces that have adjustable shelving or no shelving at all. Some stuff gets bigger and some stuff shrinks down as they grow, so you need the flexibility.” When I asked about what makes the cut to be left out, her answer was priceless. “I have a tall rush basket for holding all their swords. It looks chic and can accommodate all 15 Excaliburs.”

Beautify Your Bathroom

Ace the Art Wall

Streamline Your Storage

Send Me Your Questions!

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On Twitter or Instagram (@onekingslane), and use the hashtag #DearOKL to post your question there (extra credit for pics!).

Photography by Miguel Flores-Vianna/The Interior Archive,, Nicole LaMotte

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