For the Love of Design

Learn how to design the room of your dreams with these helpful, expert tips


Since the 1960s, Dove and Distaff has been selling upscale rugs, antique furniture and all the necessary accents for designing the perfect room. Owner Carla Davis has 28 years of experience in upholstery and drapery, having taken the store over from her father. The inventory reflects her unique style aesthetic.

What started your love for design?
My appreciation for design was a more gradual thing, and it continues to evolve. I feel that one’s choices are often very different at different times of life – for most of us, the patterns and colors we love at 20 are pretty different from the things we choose at 50.

What is an inexpensive way to spruce up the design of a room?
I think an inexpensive way to liven up a room is always with a change of pillows, or the addition of one animal print or bold color choice. I find that most people are uncertain when using strong colors. Take a chance; trust your instincts! When customers are choosing fabric, I am always waiting for the words “I love that.” I love so many things; I am always surprised when people cannot find something that moves them.

When purchasing a rug, how do you decide what to go with?
The question of rug content is determined by where you will be using the rug. Luxurious wools are delicious under foot in your bedroom, and give a sense of formality to a living room or dining room. Cotton rugs are generally less expensive than wools, but still offer a wide range of colors, patterns and textures. Indoor/outdoor rugs are great for patios and decks, but are also very practical for bathrooms and entryways, because they are usually very easy to clean. Our line of outdoor rugs from Dash and Albert can be cleaned with your hose, and hung over a railing to dry, making them very appealing to dog owners and people whose feet may not always be spotless. Which means everybody.

Does room design start with the rug?
One of the reasons I started to carry rugs was that when you are starting to decorate a room from scratch, design wisdom says to decorate from the floor up. Generally a rug is a reasonably large purchase, not something you might be changing often. It is easy to pull colors from the rug of your choice, and if you are using a rug with a lot of pattern, you generally would not choose too strong a statement for your drapery or upholstery fabrics. If your rug is more muted, you might choose something more inter- esting for your windows or furniture.

What are your preferences for choosing patterns and solids in the house?
My personal favorite would be a rug with a great pattern, then solid colors and textures for your upholstery and either a subtle geometric or coordinating pattern for the windows. I am also a big fan of a beautiful patterned fabric on the windows, but I generally feel that your furniture should be somewhat more subdued. Not always subdued in color, but in pattern, except for smaller pieces. A sofa in a large or bold pattern will be what really stands out in a room, and that is fine if you are absolutely sure, or just very confident in your choices, but it is not where I would choose to put my strongest pattern.

Is there such thing as too many ac- cents, pillows or throws, in a room?
Sure, clutter is hardly ever appealing. But everyone has a different tolerance for such things, and I prefer the clutter of things that you love to the stark emptiness of someone who just doesn’t care to make their space more beautiful and inviting.

What piece of advice could you give someone when redesigning a room?
The advice I give to someone designing a room would be to find one thing – be it a rug, a fabric, a pillow or an accessory or lighting fixture – that you absolutely love. Adore. Cannot live without. From there, we can pull colors, shapes and patterns that will complement and uplift your favorite item. Trust yourself – who else is more important to please?