Ask a Designer: Betsy Burnham

The Los Angeles designer dishes on her love of vintage comfort and well-defined personal style.

Betsy Burnham
Photo: Photographer: Amanda Bevington

From the best way to use wallpaper to the perfect beach house color, Betsy Burnham shares her design dos, don'ts, and the products she loves right now.

Wallpaper or paint?
BB: Wallpaper adds something extra to a space, but I recommend limiting it to a smaller area, like a sunroom or powder room, or even an accent wall.

One design rule you always break?
BB: People say you shouldn't paint a small room a dark color, but I don't buy that. A deep, rich color in a tiny space can look elegant and special.

Tips for using bold color and prints?
BB: It's all about balance. If you're using one striking print, make sure the others are subdued. Bringing in more neutral elements allows the statement-making accents to shine.

My favorite vintage scores are ...
BB: Furniture with midcentury shapes and faux bamboo details, or Mastercraft brass pieces.

Color thoughts for beach houses?
BB:
I always opt for white over cream or beige and like to mix it with very crisp colors like coral and lavender.

Go-to for a quick bath update?
BB:
Switch out your hardware—it's a tiny thing that makes a big impact. Waterworks and Restoration Hardware have great options.

TAKE FIVE
We asked Burnham to share the products and shops she's loving right now.

  1. Sea Grass Chairs (pictured above). "I've been using a lot of woven chairs lately; this one has beautiful lines." Ralph Lauren Home Sea Grass Chair (850-27), from $2,775; ralphlaurenhome.com
  2. Poppy Prints (pictured above). "This fabric looks incredible on drapes, pillows, even upholstery." Fireworks Fabric in Marine Blue and Cupcake Pink, $121.50 per yard; hinsonco.com
  3. Angelini Osteria (pictured above). "This L.A. restaurant is small, intimate, and always crowded. The chopped salad and swordfish are to die for." angeliniosteria.com
  4. Beach Read. "I will read absolutely anything by writer Ann Patchett. She's brilliant." Bel Canto, $12.68; amazon.com
  5. Terry-Cloth Towels. "They're a must-have when I'm hitting the beach. This one from The Beverly Hills Hotel feels old-school and chic." Signature Beach Towel in Pink and White, $79; shop.beverlyhillshotel.com
    1 of 1

    Most Popular

    1. 29 Delicious Salads

      Our best and most flavorful salad recipes play more than just a supporting role, they are the star of the table.
    2. 20 Beautiful Beach Cottages
    3. Dreamy Massachusetts Cottage
    4. 100 Comfy Cottage Rooms 
    5. Top 21 Beaches, Coast to Coast