HGTV’s Vern Yip Knows There’s No Place Like Home
The celebrity designer shares his tips on making any space feel like an escape.
By Rebecca L. Rhoades
It’s been 20 years since interior designer Vern Yip first graced TV screens across America as one of the original cast members on TLC’s “Trading Spaces.” The popular progenitor of home makeover shows transformed the way people look at their houses, and Yip, who owns a successful design practice in Atlanta, Georgia, became a breakout star, beloved as much for his friendly demeanor as for his beautiful, functional and comfortable rooms. Since then, Yip has served as a judge on HGTV’s “Design Star” and hosted the network’s “Deserving Design,” among numerous other TV appearances. Recently, he released his second book, “Vacation at Home: Design Ideas for Creating your Everyday Getaway” (Running Press Adult), and we spoke with him about his tricks and practices that will turn any abode into a soothing sanctuary.
Phoenix Home & Garden: What was the inspiration behind your book?
Vern Yip: It’s really an extension of this idea that I’ve always had and that I’ve built my brand around, which is that your
home should be the most special place to you on the planet. In my years of being a designer, I came to realize that for so many people, their house isn’t their ultimate destination. It isn’t a place that rejuvenates, relaxes and restores them. In fact, it’s a source of stress. People come home and see shoes in the hallway and a stack of catalogs and bills and keys piled on the closest surface, and their first impression isn’t “I’m so happy to be here.” Instead, it’s “Ugh, there’s something else to take care of.”
PHG: What are the major tenets of the “vacation at home” design philosophy?
Yip: First, you should really have only two kinds of things in your house: items you honestly need and those that you really love. Anything that falls into the categories of “kind of like” or “I spent too much money so I feel guilty about getting rid of it” should be donated, sold or disposed of. Every piece in your home sends you a message whether you realize it or not, and you always want that messaging to be as positive as possible.
The other major tenet is learning how to maintain your home once you’ve gotten it to the perfect place. Incorporate elements that are going to permanently take things off your to-do list. For example, a lot of people love the look of a white marble countertop, but it’s somewhat delicate. It scratches; it stains. Now we have beautiful quartz products that give the look of marble but you don’t have to worry about your friend resting a wine glass on it. The same goes for performance fabrics. I developed a line that uses inside-outside technology. You can literally draw on a white sofa with a Sharpie, and it can be cleaned with diluted bleach and some soap and water. It’s all about enjoying the aesthetics and not worrying so much about maintaining something by restricting its use. Instead of having 15 decorative throw pillows on your bed, have one really big one that expresses your personality. It becomes so much easier to make your bed in the morning. Get a piece of furniture that has a drawer, or a hinged lidded box, where your mail, keys and dog leash can go immediately when you come home. This will keep your surfaces clean.
PHG: You often refer to “little luxuries.” What are they, and why are they important?
Yip: There are a number of small things you can do that make a big difference in your home. Bud vases are great. Place one on your bedside table or next to your kitchen sink. You don’t have to be a florist to cut a stem. I also love white sheets and white towels. When you walk into a room and you see crisp white linens, you tend to relax. Your mind says “Ah, everything is clean.” There’s power in that.
PHG: Your book refers to exteriors as “the most magical of all spaces.” How do you create a comfortable outdoor area that enhances the home?
Yip: There are so many wonderful outdoor products available at our fingertips. Not that long ago, outdoor fabrics used to feel plasticky, and they came in a very limited number of designs. Now, they feel good, feature a wide range of styles, and are fade- and stain-resistant, antimicrobial and affordable. The book discusses the different furniture frames—whether
it’s teak, aluminum or wrought iron—and the advantages and disadvantages of each. There’s outdoor lighting that looks like it’s interior lighting. The same for rugs and throw pillows. Basically, everything that you would put inside your house can be found for the outdoors. It’s just about being informed.
PHG: What design question do people always ask you?
Yip: The No. 1 question, bar none, is ‘how high do I hang the pictures in my home?’ The answer is 60 inches from the finished floor to the center of the painting, mirror or grouping of pictures, unless it’s over a fireplace mantle or a headboard. Why 60 inches? That is considered the average human eye level. Art is meant to be viewed and appreciated.