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Starting From The Bottom: Layering Brings Interior Design to New Heights

One thing I love about being an interior designer in NYC is that every day, every project, and every client is different. Each space I work on ties together in a unique way. That said, every interior design project follows a similar pattern. Every design begins with a base concept upon which to layer and build an aesthetic and atmosphere in the space. Let’s talk about layering!

In interior design, thoughtful layering is what makes a space feel complete. Done well, the layers in a space provide both complexity and cohesion. Read on to learn about my approach to layering in interior design:

(Playful Palette, Photo: August Black on Facebook)

Concept and Color

The first step in any interior design project is to identify a base concept from which to work. For some clients, the color palette comes first. From there, each layer is selected to bring that palette to life.

For other projects, a particular design inspiration or aesthetic is the base concept. This can also come from textile choices like carpet and wallpaper. In some cases, the color portion of the color palette might come later as the layers come together, and we start with neutral core pieces.

No matter where the base concept or colors come from, it is important to have a clear foundation before beginning to select materials and procure furnishings for the space.

Core Pieces

Once the client and I have selected a base concept to work from, it’s time to source the core pieces in the room. I think of the “core pieces” as the most prominent pieces in a space.

For example, in a bedroom, I would start with the wallpaper, bed, headboard, rug, and nightstands. Or in a living room, the decorative paint idea, sectional or sofa, media unit, and cocktail tables would come first.

Starting with the core items is crucial for successful layering in interior design. After all, these are the largest and most obvious elements that will be used the most from day to day. So these are the pieces that we will build upon as we continue to tie the room together.

If the core items in a space aren’t cohesive with the foundational concept you’re going for, all the layers from there will feel disconnected. That’s not what you want - your home should feel harmonious! As a designer, it is my job to help my clients make purposeful selections that will layer together beautifully.

(Bold, neutral layers in modern kitchen, Photo: August Black Interior Design)

Accent Items

Once the core pieces have been selected, the real fun begins! That’s when it’s time to start sourcing side tables, accent seating, window treatments, and all of the other elements that will give dimension and personality to the space.

Don’t get me wrong, I love selecting the large items that serve the function of a room. But once it’s time to start layering in the secondary pieces, accent items, and textiles - that’s when the magic really happens.

One thing that’s important to remember when layering in interior design: It’s important to be flexible. Don’t get too stuck on what you expected and allow yourself to be open to ideas you didn’t think you would consider at the start.

Sometimes, I’ll find a gorgeous fabric, a unique wallpaper, or a quirky table that takes the design in a new direction. Guess what? That’s the beauty of layering! When you take the time to build your design properly - you have unlimited opportunities to adjust the base concept to make room for the pieces you can’t live without.

(Modern layers, Photo: Boscolo Group)


The final layer of any space is made up of the accessories. The core pieces and the accent items will make the space feel filled, but your interior design won’t feel complete until you take the time to add in the special touches. These should be touches that reflect your personality, functionality and aspirations. Accent pillows, artwork, sculptures and other decorative items are what elevate your space from a house to a true home. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself in a space that feels it was designed just for you.

Need help envisioning how the layers of your space will come together?

Get inspiration on our August Black Interior Design Instagram page!

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