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Your Home | Casual Elegance

Five home design secrets from best-selling author Erin Gates

From splurging on drapes to layering rugs, insider tips from the Newton designer behind the Elements of Style blog.

Galbraith & Paul Lotus wallpaper brightens the guest room off the study in a Concord home designed by Erin Gates.
Galbraith & Paul Lotus wallpaper brightens the guest room off the study in a Concord home designed by Erin Gates.(Michael J. Lee)

Erin Gates’s second book, Elements of Family Style: Elegant Spaces for Everyday Life, overflows with decorating advice, personal tidbits, and photographs of rooms designed by Gates and others with similar sensibilities. (Click here to check out her blog, Elements of Style.)

Gates shares five strategies she used to decorate the Concord home.

1. Well Matched

For a back-to-back sofa arrangement, models with straight, flat backs work best. If the backs are slanted, add stools or end tables (or one of each) to conceal the gap. Avoid sofas with rolled backs, which create a wide tunnel. That said, Gates notes, “It makes an awesome hiding place for kids.”

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2. Measure for Measure

Gates advises clients to splurge on custom drapes. “The proper pleat and perfect length make all the difference,” she says. She suggests choosing a neutral solid, perhaps with decorative trim, for longevity.

3. Mirror, Mirror

Swapping out mirrors and light fixtures is an easy way to add pep to powder rooms. For hard-to-come-by sizes, visit a frame shop. Gates had a skinny mirror made at Frame It in Waban for a powder room in the Concord house.

4. Double Layers

Layering rugs adds texture, dimension, and flexibility. The Concord homeowners fell in love with a vintage rug from Etsy for the family room, but it wasn’t quite large enough. Gates layered it over a wool Berber that fits the space.

5. Made in the Shade

A custom lampshade is a bespoke touch that doesn’t require a big investment. “Use fabric left over from pillows or drapery,” says Gates. She did just that for the sconces in the Concord dining room.


Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.