By Lisa Johnson Mandell 

If you love vintage furniture as well as home makeover shows, then the new series “Working the Room” could become your next reality TV fix.

In this show, which premieres on the FYI network on Thursday, America’s top designers work with everyday folks to take rooms from drab to fab. The somewhat promotional twist this time is that the designers must choose items to anchor their rooms from Sotheby’s Home, the online consignment marketplace specializing in vintage furniture, decorative objects, and accessories.

Who knew that Sotheby’s—one of the world’s largest auction houses of fine art and collectibles—also has a website where you can buy (of course) swanky used furniture and accessories? Some of its vast selection, in fact, comes from famous designers such as Thom FiliciaLibby Langdon, and David Phoenix, for only a fraction of what they’d cost new. And those low prices come in handy on this show, because the designers must stay within a $20,000 budget per project.

Curious to get more insights, we got an earful from three “Working the Room” designers about their experiences on set: Mat Sanders (who has consulted for A-list clients, including Jessica Alba and Lea Michele), Nathan Turner (a lifestyle and design expert who got his start in the antiques business), and Tiffany Riggle (an L.A.-based designer who is married to actor Rob Riggle). Here’s some of their top design advice, culled from the home makeovers featured in upcoming episodes.

Colored furniture can liven up a room

On one episode, Riggle had to convert an old, dingy garage into a fun, bright family room. She did this by painting the walls and adding color, including an orange couch and colorful throw pillows. Without color, she explains, “a room can look very sterile and boring.”

Add natural light to a garage

Ever notice that most garages don’t have windows? In a structure where cars are parked, it’s often more practical to skip windows and line the walls with storage space instead.

But for Riggle’s project, since the cars were out and people were in this garage-turned-playroom, Riggle replaced the old garage door with attractive folding glass doors that allowed in plenty of light, which accented the brightly colored furnishings.

Convert a kids’ room into an adult space in seconds with storage

When Sanders first laid eyes on the great room he had to redesign, he immediately noted the challenge of “how to channel all that function into one space—it’s a family room, dining room, playroom—they even want a wine bar in there!” At first, it just looked like a massive kids’ space, because there were toys everywhere.

His solution? Add plenty of clever, covered storage space around the room. Kid clutter could be quickly stowed in cabinets and covered toy boxes, readying the space for more sophisticated activities within a few minutes.

Vintage furnishings help tell a story

For some of the featured homeowners, vintage was not a selling point—in fact, designers had to work to persuade them to use secondhand pieces in their newly designed rooms.

“My people wanted shiny, new everything,” says Sanders. “But I convinced them that vintage pieces add to the story of a room and enhance the interest of a home.”

Bedrooms should be comfy but not ‘too lived in’

“I like to make a room look as if these things have always been here,” says Turner, extolling the virtues of using vintage pieces. But he acknowledges there’s such a thing as too lived in. His clients, who want their master suite redecorated, hadn’t done much to their bedroom since they moved in.

“It [looked] like clutter,” he recalls. “This [was] their bedroom—it should feel luxurious and cozy and inviting.”

He adds, “I [wanted] this to be like a superchic hotel room where you’re on vacation.”

Don’t stop at a Pinterest page—try a mood board instead

You may think a Pinterest page will do, but any good designer will go beyond that, speaking with you about your tastes and preferences, and then creating a mood board—one you can hold in your hands and actually take into the room it’s intended for, so you can experience how the textures actually feel, and how the colors play in the lighting and space.

“Usually I start with colors and fabrics, and then I start building,” says Turner. These are impressions you just can’t get from digital photos on a laptop.

We hope you enjoyed this post. 

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