7 Decor Tips From a Trip to Portugal

Being out in the world inspires me. Whether I am in a local park, or another city half way across the world, inspiration can be found for interior design. Here are 7 decor tips I am reminded of, from a trip I took to Portugal.

decor ideas

Tip One: Don’t Be Afraid of Saturated Color

One of the highlights of any trip for me is seeing the design influences of another location. Wherever you go, near or far, color trends and decorating ideas are always different. My favorite is seeing the use of colors in a specific area.

I know everyone is all about white on whites, and neutral tones everywhere. This may be calming to some while others love color. Adding color is another way to share your story and vision in a room.

decor ideas

I love to see colors that are popular in different regions of our country and abroad. Portugal was full of vibrant color, and it was something seen throughout the many areas we traveled. I think sometimes we forget how beautiful saturated color can be.

Color evokes emotions, and saturated colors can make a space feel rich and designed. This doesn’t mean you should paint your entire home dark colors, but using saturated tones can certainly make different elements stand out, especially on furniture.

door and detail in a castle dining room

As long as you have a variety of light sources, dark colors will look beautiful throughout the day. Think beyond just your wall color. Dark colors can also help camouflage problem areas, where they can help an area to pop or recede, depending upon your usage.

I especially loved this shade of yellow that looks just like our color called Picnic Basket in the Bungalow 47 Furniture Paint line.

interior designer yellow


If you’re new to dabbling in bold colors, try pops of color in temporary items such as throw pillows or fresh flowers. Decorative objects are a perfect place to add personality and showcase a dark color.

A dark shade on the walls can be the perfect quick refresh needed for a room. Consider darker paint colors on wall paneling with the same color for the moulding and doors. A bright color on the front door can let your visitors know they are about to be dazzled with more personality inside.

interior designer red

Saturated color can be especially powerful in a small space such as a powder room. Many think that a small room cannot handle such dark, moody shades, when actually the opposite is true. Powder rooms are the perfect place to try something bold.

new vanity with vintage mirror

Consider painting a small piece of furniture in a bold color. Something like a cocktail table, side tables, or bedside tables can be a great place to add saturated color to your space. Of course, painting a statement piece of larger furniture in a saturated color could really liven up the room.

Tip Two: Mix Patterns

Mixing patterns is what Portugal does best, and all the tile patterns had me swooning. Even when many were mixed, they all looked great together. I had a million decor ideas running through my brain, and was loving the play of pattern.

mixing patterns

Consider mixing patterns to give your space some visual interest. Patterns can be used on fabrics, art, tiles, wallpaper, window treatments, throw pillows, and rugs.

Living rooms come alive with a mix of pattern, and provide a cozy haven for family. Mixing patterns is very forgiving if you live with pets and children, as stains and imperfections show less.

If you are new to pattern mixing, staying within similar color tones will help your eye see continuity throughout the mix. Also mix one larger pattern with medium and smaller patterns throughout the room, providing a variety of shapes and sizes.


A throw pillow is a great way to try something new. Purchase individual patterned pillows, rather than pairs. These can easily switch rooms, to gain a fresh look at different times.

maintaining a home

Build patterns as you go in a room, maybe starting with a great area rug. A large rug can be textural, with a small rug layering over it displaying a great pattern. With rugs, remember nothing is worse than the wrong size rug for the space, especially in a seating area.

creative home office space

A gallery wall is a great place to show off art and pattern and will make a great focal point. This can serve double duty providing a mix of patterns and showcasing your personal style.

Play with fabric swatches, until you find the right balance that looks comfortable to you. Consider a pattern for shades on table lamps, or a busy pattern for kitchen chairs pads. This not only will make all the difference adding detail near the dining room table, but can hide stains effectively too.

slanted ceiling with beadboard

Tip Three: There’s Beauty in Peely Imperfections

Old world charm is wonderful to see in an older city, and is often accompanied by dilapidated plaster walls and faded colors. But it is often the wear of time that creates the beauty, especially in wood.

interior designer inspiration

How many museums or preserved points of interest have you visited where everything was new? Probably none of them, because with time comes wear and tear, and respect for the past.

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Think of hardwood floors with a wonderful patina, and soft, uneven wear. People pay extra for this look. I could probably open to any page in a million coffee table books, and find something in every room that has a patina and wear to add beauty and interest.


My favorite way to get this look in a room is through peely, chippy vintage furniture. Distressed barn wood also adds interest. Small decorative elements can add a touch of patina if you prefer a more pristine living space.

vintage cat bank

If you have small children, you may want to keep any peeling paint up higher and not at their level. Old paint colors can contain lead, so sealing peely chippy goodness is a good way to contain the age.

vintage high chair with basket of collected vintage brushes

Even slightly worn and faded fabrics can add a bit of timeless beauty and imperfection to your space. I love the vibe found in an English Country style, where a wood floor with a patina is a foundation for further imperfect beauty all throughout the room. Can’t you picture cozying up into a reading nook, with well-loved patina all around? Quality furniture passed through the generations is a look I love from this style.

Tip Four: Mix Styles

Mixing modern and old styles side by side look great in a vibrant city and eclectic decor. Gone are the days of stringent decorating rules. The new rule in mixing styles is that there is no rule.

Mix the furniture style that truly speaks to you and create a look that is authentically your own. There’s no need to define it. I feel like as humans, we are always changing and growing. Most of us have tastes that evolve over the years. We can mix styles, layering and defining our unique look over years.

You can get beautiful spaces using professional interior designers, but make sure you choose one that has a knowledge of the mix that you like. As you curate things beyond their original design, your true personal style will come out.


Begin or continue with buying what you truly love! Your style will emerge as you pull together the items that match your lifestyle, things you inherit, flea market finds you adore, and important basics that make life comfortable.

Purchase your largest piece of furniture new, with all the proper form and function needed for your lifestyle. All the support furniture in a room is a great place to mix styles and create your one-of-a-kind look.

stripping furniture Bungalow 47

A gallery wall is a great place to mix styles, in art and frames too. Add mismatched chairs to your dining table rather than a “set” to create a cool vibe. Furniture should never be bought in a showroom set if you are looking to create a look that is truly you.

Tip Five: Pink is a Universal Color

For a long time, it seemed pink was used just for little girls. I loved going to Portugal and seeing, not only a variety of this shade, but pink commonly used in building exteriors. It’s a great testament to the strength and versatility of the color pink.

Pink casts such a lovely glow in a room, especially with great overhead light. It’s a lovely color to wake up to. Use pink on walls, in fabrics, and on furniture. Play with fabric swatches that have touches of pink, and see how they make a difference in your room.


Use pink as an accent to almost any color! Think about it, pink looks great with everything. Pink with black or brown? Yes, please. Pink with whites and neutrals? Of course! Pink with green is a natural, along with pink and blue, they’re like best friends. Pink and orange play nice and bold, and pink looks sweet alongside purple or yellow.

vintage doll dressers in home office

Remember back when interior designers said “you should have a touch of red in every room”? I’d say pink is the new red in that regard. Try a bit of pink in artwork, a small decorative accent, or a throw pillow. A touch of pink looks great in any room.

sitting area

Tip Six: It’s All in the Details

When walking all over Lisbon, Portugal, I really could not believe all the amazing detail everywhere I stepped! All the sidewalks are made from small stone tiles, and details were found literally on every street! Why make a boring vent in a stone wall, when it can be a detailed design?

Everywhere I looked, there was a flower detail, triangle icon, or swirly shape that made something stand out.

This was such a good reminder that the strength of design is in the details. Adding special touches will elevate your room and make your space feel personal.

Open your favorite magazine or online source for decorating tips (like Pinterest) and notice the details of the rooms that speak to you. Your eye may see an entire room you love, but as you look closely, you will notice the magic is in the small details.


Look at any given space in your home, and you can find a place to add detail. Update a kitchen with new hardware, paint a detailed line or frame with painter’s tape, even outlet covers can be made to be special.

Think in terms of layers. With details, you are adding layers to a room. Many designers talk about this idea of “layers”, which essentially refers to making decorating special through the details placed in your space.

Any family room, dining area, powder room, or living room can be made more YOU by upping the details. An interior decorator can share tricks of the trade, or you can decorate your space with details you love for a truly authentic room. Decor ideas are everywhere, begin to notice the DETAILS!

Continue to study the elements found in interior design, and make notes for things you can try. Decorating ideas can be high or low, so take notice of the small things in a space. Details go beyond throw pillows. Notice trims, hardware, moulding, details on furniture and more. These things make a room feel special.

beadboard ceiling and hutch

Tip Seven: Add Soul and Personality

I was listening to a tour guide that was talking about the history of how things were built in Portugal way back when. As he explained ancient practices, he mentioned about how locals went about adding a soul into the house. The tile patterns, iron work, wood details, and plaster work really brought character into these spaces.

My mind began to wander about how we do that today. I love seeing so many tell stories about how they bought a ‘basic builder-grade home’ and made it cozy and personal. When you add detail, you are adding to the personality and soul of your home.

When you focus on details, patterns, color in decorating, your room can become a space that feels more like home. A house is definitely more than just four walls.


I think it’s important to get your basics right and then add personality. Your basics include the proper function, and form of your space. Soul and personality will come in when you add the beauty and layers. This will increase over time as well.

kitchen white cabinets

Some homes have that soul already, even when they are empty. These are homes with history, where you just get that feeling of the lives that have been lived there. I believe it is important to respect a bit of that, while renewing the space for how you live and the personality you will add.

Consider where natural light enters the room, views from the inside to the outside, and more when creating home as a haven. Live with things you love all around you, and the soul and personality of your house will begin to shine through.

One of the benefits of leaving home for a short time is returning with fresh eyes. After a long trip, entering our home and seeing everything familiar and comfy definitely pulls at the heart strings. After all, there’s no place like home.

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  1. Thank you so much Susan. Portugal is such a wonderful country, I can’t wait to go back for more inspiration.

  2. Love this! Portugal looks amazing. I really like the way you shared how we apply the elements to our home. It’s all beautiful!

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