Home Design Tips from Michael Murray

Michael Murray, Rach's go-to design guru and General Manager of Rachael Ray Home, has spent decades helping people create spaces they love without blowing their budget. He answers your design questions so you can face that daunting reno head-on.
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numbered bathroom artwork tub and window

1. Art adds personality and color that can easily be switched out when you’re ready for a change. 2. Light neutral walls make your bathroom feel airy and bright. 3. Bring in a potted plant (if you have natural light) or a bud vase of flowers—natural elements add texture to an otherwise sterile room. 4. Metallic accessories, like this gold mirror, up the sophistication level without going over-the-top glam.

Q: We just bought a house in Greensboro, NC, and need to renovate the bathroom and kitchen, but we can’t afford to do both at once. Which do we do first? 

If you’re new to the house, I recommend the less expensive room first, so start with the bathroom. And you might not need as much renovation as you think. There are a lot of really cheap and cheerful ways to make places feel updated with things like contact paper or a little paint color— painting cabinets is a go-to for me. Everything starts with paint. 

And when I talk about paint, I don’t mean scary colors. Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore is a color I use a lot. I go heavy with the neutrals and just neutralize the whole bathroom. Never use color in your tile or your fixtures. You can change towels, you can paint walls, you can add artwork, but you cannot undo the tile. Try going with a somewhat modern look, but nothing too ornate with your faucets. White porcelain fixtures are classic. Tiles should be a really light gray, a white subway, or a lighter beige. No dark tones; nothing too strong. 

"I love artwork in the bathroom. It pulls your eye away from just staring at the wall." —Michael

Have fun with accents. I always love a piece of artwork in the bathroom. It’s something that can pull your eye away visually from just staring at the wall. Go for really beautiful lighting because lighting is artwork. Some people get too sterile with their bathrooms. There’s no rule that you have to be so utilitarian. Have fun with it. You don’t always have to change the whole space. 

Q: What is the most durable, pet-friendly, family-friendly, easy-to-clean flooring product?

Vinyl wood-grain flooring is very forgiving and easy to put together. It floats on the floor and the pieces adhere to each other. Anyone can install them with a razor knife and a little bit of moxie, as Rachael would say.

With pets, there’s the issue of keeping the flooring clean and giving them something to grip onto so they don’t slide around and hurt their backs. Carpet squares or area rugs made out of squares offer a lot of solutions. With many carpet-square installations you can just throw them down, and when you get stains somewhere, you can just pull that square out and replace it. Arrange them as an area rug, or do the whole space to protect the flooring and keep it safe for your fur babies.

Q: The main room when you first walk into our house is open and bare: high ceiling, sliding doors to the porch. It could be beautiful but I have NO idea what to do with it?! 

First, I always put a set of panels on each side of a sliding door to warm it up. Sliding doors can feel institutional, so give them a sense of place. Next, if you have high ceilings, you can paint the whole room a linen-y color with a linen drape. This tricks the eye so you can’t tell where corners are, where ceilings stop, and where walls start. It feels ethereal. The quickest route to finding your own style is to remember a hotel you love. Hotel lobbies create an experience by the way they’re designed, and they play the same role as your main room: It’s where you receive people.