Photograph by David Land
HGTV star Vern Yip
If you’ve flipped on HGTV in the last 17 years, you know Vern Yip. From Trading Spaces to HGTV Design Star, the friendly architect and interior designer has transformed thousands of living spaces across the nation. Armed with a new book, he’s ready to empower more homeowners with tricks of the trade.
You’ve transformed homes before our eyes for nearly two decades. Do you have a favorite design challenge?
Being invited into somebody’s home is such a huge honor, so for me, I really like to work on the spaces that are going to have maximum impact on their lives. Kitchen transformations are a great example because the kitchen is where so much of our life unfolds today. I also love designing master bedrooms because I think everybody needs a sanctuary. We’ve worked on so many homes for busy parents, and I think it’s always such a nice thing to do because it’s the one place where they can kind of get away and rejuvenate.
You recently published your first book, Design Wise, which gets specific with numbers and dimensions. What is your hope for its readers?
My hope in putting out the book was to really make design less daunting. For so many people, design is like this mystical thing that seems very ethereal and touchy-feely. In fact, so much of it is very attainable and understandable through hard dimensions. Dimensions are great because they’re not up for interpretation. They are what they are, and so many of them are standardized because our world is standardized. Your dining room table, for example, is going to be somewhere between 29 and 31 inches tall. By making dimensions like that really accessible in bullet point lists, I’m hoping to de-mystify design and empower people to put together their most perfect home.
You’ve also developed a line of home fragrances, including wax melts. How much does scent play into the aesthetic of a living space?
It’s huge. Most people don’t think about it because you don’t really get to smell the rooms in the pretty design books. It’s really important from a design standpoint that it’s making you feel the way that you want to feel when you walk into your home. We have a wide variety of scents in the line and I change mine up depending on the season. We’re in fall right now, and I just changed from one of my favorite scents, White Sands, to Sandalwood. It’s another part of my seasonal rotation of pillows and throws.
What’s one of your favorite emerging trends right now?
I really love this trend of layering patterns, and I think it’s here to stay. People used to think if they had a patterned rug, then everything else in the room had to be solid. They didn’t really understand how to layer in patterns of different scales – a small, a medium, a large, and an extra-large-scale pattern. But when different patterns relate to each other, usually through color, it’s another way to really help make your home feel like you.
In your experience, what’s the most common mistake people make when taking on an interior design project themselves?
People tend to want to piecemeal things because they think in terms of budget, meaning, “Okay, we’ve set aside a budget to refinish the kitchen.” But it’s really important to have a master plan as you are renovating your house, down to drawings and budget spreadsheets. It could be over five or six years, or even more, but having that big-picture understanding of everything you want to do helps you to spend your money in the wisest fashion possible.
For people seeking a small project, what’s one fast, affordable, yet high-impact change they can make?
One thing that a lot of people don’t think about doing is to edit, which is free. Sometimes, it’s even best to remove every single piece of furniture from a room to gain a fresh perspective. It’s hard for most people to do because we get stuck looking at our house the same way day in and day out. But oftentimes, the biggest change you can make is just by editing and rearranging.
Another trick that I like to employ is to hang a really big mirror on the wall opposite your window wall. It effectively looks like you’ve added a window to the opposite wall. It’s a great way to increase natural light in your home and make these shorter days a little brighter.
What’s next for you in your career?
I’m working towards finishing my second fabric and trim collection, and I’m really excited for its debut later this year. The first collection debuted two years ago and it’s been a great way to get into more people’s homes with my thoughts and ideas because with everything that I do, I like to problem solve. When it comes to mixing patterns, for example, I realized that a lot of lines weren’t putting within the same color book small, medium, large, and extra-large patterns that would all go together. I did that in the first collection to make it easier for people to pull together an entire room within one book. The second collection will be an extension of that, offering the same kind of problem solving in a different set of patterns and colors. I have a new lighting collection that’s debuting this year as well, and I’ll hopefully be starting on a second book really soon.
What do you wish more people would consider when they are designing a room?
The most important thing for people to consider, that they don’t, is what they honestly and truly desire functionally and aesthetically. Instead, a lot of people are more concerned with trends and what they’re supposed to want. I encourage everybody to step away for a second and give up the anxiety associated with, “What will my friends think? What will my neighbors think?” People’s homes are their personal spaces. When you walk through that front door, it should put a huge smile on your face. It should be completely tailored to you – to your functional needs and to your aesthetic preferences. It’s where the most important moments of your life unfold. So if you like something that’s a little off, if you like something that’s a little quirky or that somebody else says is dated, weird, or wrong, that’s okay. Embrace that because that’s what’s going to make your home really sing to you and your family. Give yourself the luxury and the freedom to design something that is really a reflection of you.