n today’s HGTV and Trading Spaces world, decorating can seem oh-so-simple on television. But if you’re still a little decorating dense, look no further than budding decorator Shazia Kirmani. President of her own design firm, Egospace Interiors, D Home Magazine called her among the “ones to watch” when it featured her own super chic and uniquely decorated East Dallas apartment. While she does not like to limit herself to one particular style, the fan of designer extraordinaire Barbara Barry and architect I.M. Pei does love to stylishly fuse together the contemporary and traditional: IKEA meets baroque. She takes some of the mystique out of the world of decorating by sharing some basic tips. After employing Kirmani’s tips, your space will look like a pro did it, even if you’re just a decorating novice. It’s ok, we won’t tell.

Finding Your Inspiration

When decorating any space, inspiration can come from blogs—some great ones are Oh Joy! and Design Sponge—and magazines specifically aimed to inspire and inform. Kirmani is a fan of Interior Design magazine; others include Domino and Martha Stewart’s new Blueprint.


But don’t limit yourself to the printed word. Kirmani suggests drawing inspiration from a beloved item or idea. “I always like to start out with some kind of favorite inspiration piece, whether it is a favorite color or even a spoon. It could be anything, a T-shirt. Anything that gets you going,” she says. In fact, in her D Home featured apartment, the inspiration for the living room was a tree branch. The inspiration piece can help set the colors and feel for the space. See the sidebar for how Kirmani drew inspiration from a South Asian outfit to find sophisticated bohemian pieces for a room.

She suggests making a list of your favorite things and putting together a scrapbook. “When you find things you like, whether it is jewelry, fashion, a sofa or textile, rip those pictures out of magazines and start compiling them. These can serve as your inspiration pieces.”

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

Once you have a few stylish ideas for your interior, time to get in planning mode. Measure furniture that you know you will be keeping and make a sketch of how you would like things situated. Kirmani also says, for pieces that have not been purchased yet, tape down measurements on the floor to get an idea of how the size feels in the room and how it will affect walk space.

But planning isn’t just for furniture layout. Kirmani suggests having a plan for when you hit stores. Be prepared with a list of measurements and your color scheme and take your scrapbook with you for ideas. “You don’t want to go out to the stores without a plan because you will come home with 15 million things and none of them will go together and you’ll be very frustrated,” she says. She recommends looking for particular items on your list on each outing. She also says if you see a piece of furniture or accessory that does not click when you see it at the store, do not buy it, “I promise if you didn’t like it right away, you will not like it later.”

Kirmani adds, “Think about paints and wall coverings after furniture is decided. Sometimes when your furniture, lamps and accessories all come together, it gives you inspiration for your walls.”

Color Me Bad

A new coat of paint is perhaps the most dramatic transformation for any room. But before picking up a paint can, it may be a good idea to brush up on your colors. Options can be overwhelming. Benjamin Moore makes more than 3000 colors. Kirmani suggests balancing what you like with the principles of color therapy. Grays, greens and blues tend to be more subdued and relaxing on your mood while reds, oranges and yellows are more stimulating. Kirmani says, “If you want a dramatic room, do bright colors, but use caution with purples and yellows. They are very strong colors.”

Finding Inspiration: Desi Chic

If you want to add some South Asian flair without going Back-from-Bombay overboard, Kirmani suggests utilizing the rich, vibrant fabrics of old saris and dupattas to create accents such as pillows and drapery. “Don’t be afraid to mix IKEA with some desi, traditional touches,” she says. “Dupattas are great for window treatments or if you don’t have a headboard, use some dupattas on the back of your bed to create a really cool effect.”

“Color can change your world,” she says. But pros like Kirmani advise clients who are a bit color-phobic to ease into it with sticking to colors of nature. “You can never go wrong with chocolate brown and greens mixed with cream, taupe and white,” she says. For beginners experimenting with color, she suggests taupe colored walls but adding jolts of color with bright accessories like pillows or a bright sofa color.

If you’re ready for more than just colored accessories, dip your toe in the color pool by starting with an accent wall. One wall keeps your investment small while still giving you a feel for the color. Well, except for you red lovers—“Please don’t do red accent walls. Red accent walls are out,” Kirmani warns.

An inexpensive designer trick: If you do not want to paint or are renting and can’t paint, take some fabric and use a staple gun to attach to the ceiling. “It creates a great illusion and texture,” Kirmani says. “It changes the whole feel of a room almost immediately. It’s the greatest thing.”

Accessories: Are Those Real?

When picking accessories, be creative and try to add things with a personal touch. Kirmani’s reminder is to limit fake flowers. “You don’t have to do flowers all the time. Do some twigs, do some branches. Let’s not be scared of wood.” And maybe you need to fill up a space? Kirmani encourages clients to look at sculptures and oversized vases, keeping in mind that vases don’t always have to be filled to serve as decorative pieces.

Perhaps the quickest and easiest decorative transforming tool is to add a rug to a room. “A rug changes the look of a room dramatically,” Kirmani says. If the space is small, and you are trying to make it look bigger, go with a neutral colored rug. For a more intimate, cozy feel, Kirmani suggests darker colors. As for size, remember this standard rule: The coffee table and either the whole or at least half of the sofa should be able to fit on the rug.

Frame This

Personalizing a room can be as simple as stylishly displaying significant photographs or artwork. Consistency and a unifying theme is the key to creating a wall of pictures.
“Frames need to be consistent,” she says. “Not necessarily in looks but definitely in color. If you have brown frames, stick to brown. Don’t mix brown and black or silver and gold.” If you do have a variety of unique frames and you simply must show them off on the same wall, make pictures black and white to give the viewer a sense of order.

If photographs don’t sound appealing, think outside the box. In Kirmani’s own apartment, she hung Life magazine covers in black frames for inexpensive art. Also, anytime when you’re doing a wall of pictures, Kirmani says to lay out your frames on the floor first. It will save time and extra holes in the wall.

Look Up

“We forget about ceilings and they are very important.” Kirmani says. Painting the ceiling or adding decorative molding can create a dramatic affect. If ceiling renovation seems overwhelming, try using lighting to pretty up the ceiling. Kirmani’s super simple decorator tip is to add dimmer switches. They are relatively easy to install and allow control over the lighting to create different moods. Changing out lighting fixtures can also be inexpensive and can be a great opportunity to be bold and even add a little glamour. As Kirmani reminds us, “Never be afraid of having a chandelier in your bathroom.”

Look for Kirmani’s elegant workspace to be featured in a future issue of .n

Sarah Das started watching HGTV to research for this article, and now she can’t stop.
Published on January 28, 2007.
Photography: Courtesy of Steve Wrubel.
Comments are closed.
  1. January 30, 2007, 5:10 pm amee

    I always wondered what the rules are on rugs and carpeted floors. I absolutely love rugs and feel like i can’t have them b/c i have carpeted floors.
    Good tip on the accent walls and desi inspiration.