Solutions: Real decorating for real people

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Decorating devotees may remember Matt Fox and Shari Hiller as the hosts of the inaugural HGTV show “Room by Room” that first aired 20 years ago. Currently they can be seen on the PBS series “Around the House With Matt and Shari.” The popular TV personalities also made an appearance at the Novi Home Improvement Show on Jan. 23-25 where they presented their “Top 20 Decorating Essentials” twice daily.

As Fox explains, “Shari is known for decorating and I’m known for getting stuff done.” One of his suggestions is to create the right work environment at home for all of your projects. He recommends decorative garage floors made from sheets of plastic that are easy to install and easy on the eyes.

“The garage is the first room you see when you come home, so you might as well make it look nice,” he says.

Hiller likes to teach people about pieces that will work in any home. “They’re classics and they’re versatile,” she says. “They’ll work in any space, like a secondhand hall desk that you can refurbish and recycle.”

She suggests placing one behind a sofa facing the television as a desk that doubles as a sofa table. You can put one with drawers in a guest room as a desk and a dresser.

In a larger bathroom, a hall desk could become a vanity.

Though much has changed in the design world since the debut of their HGTV show, some things remain the same. For instance, Hiller says the enthusiasm for decorating is still there, but people find information in different ways.

“We used to take decorating challenges and show how to solve them step by step,” she says. “Today, there aren’t that many how-to shows and there is more information on the Internet.”

Fox says we’ve gotten away from real ideas that real people can do. “Everything seems so escalated and a normal person couldn’t afford what is shown,” he says. “We should go back to being real because people want to do projects on their own.”

People approach them all the time for advice, which is why they stick to the basics on their PBS series. “Our moniker is real decorating for real people,” Hiller says.

Simple tips go a long way, like the contrast she added to a black dining table with grass mats and blue-and-white accents.

Hiller has lots of ideas for adding details to your home, like she and Fox did with a beige wall in a soft contemporary setting. “We always promote paint,” she says. “It’s inexpensive and you can create such drama and change with it.”

They created a unique backdrop to highlight a piece of art. The design features dark beige, gold, and metallic paint that picks up on the nearby lamps. “It pulled the whole room together,” Hiller says.

In the end, that’s the goal for most of us.

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Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at