Celebrity designer Vern Yip shares his rules for creating a beautiful home

Popular interior designer Vern Yip describes himself as "a book nerd." And so at 48 he is publishing his first book, “Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home” ($27.50; Running Press). What’s more, Yip, who has appeared on the design shows “Trading Spaces” and “HGTV Design Star,” has written not just a coffee-table book filled with beautiful interiors, but a grab-and-go resource on what it takes to create timeless style at home.

“People keep asking me, ‘How come it took you so long to write a book?’” Yip said this week from his home in Atlanta. “I needed to see where I could make the most impact and how I could help problem-solve. I wanted it to be a beautiful book, but I also wanted it to be super useful. It’s designed to be something you take with you when you go shopping.”

Frustrated with design books that bury the details or exclusively showcase inspirational imagery, Yip decided to meld the two concepts and create a book filled with tried-and-true rules on everything from the ideal distance between you and your TV screen (1½ to 2½ times the diagonal measurement of your screen) to the most comfortable kitchen counter height (36 inches) along with tours of the homes he shares with husband Craig Koch and kids Gavin and Vera.

It’s a wonderful resource, not just because it gives readers cheat sheets, but it also offers an opportunity to go inside the homes of a famous designer and see his strategies in action.

“People think design is mysterious, ethereal,” Yip said. “It’s not. A lot of it is standard. The rules help you create a house that is usable. That’s what the rules are about. They are supposed to take the paralysis out of designing a home. By giving people good, hard concrete rules to navigate their paths, my goal is to free them up and focus on the fun stuff.”

When it comes to socializing in a seated area, Yip says Americans like a lot of space. According to the designer, the most comfortable distance between seats in a group configuration is between 42 and 120 inches. And, if possible, passages through a room or between a piece of furniture and an adjacent wall should be between 24 and 36 inches.  “If you have the right numbers, you can design spaces that work, and no one need ever stumble over tables, fall over a couch, trip on electrical cords, or battle other impediments again," he writes. 

Asked what homeowners struggle with the most, Yip’s response was immediate, and a little surprising. 

“People need to really accept that what they love is OK,” he said. “You walk in to so many homes that feel generic or trend-driven. People think their bedroom is supposed to look like a hotel room. Or their living room is supposed to look industrial chic. Those spaces don’t last. They won’t endure.”

A designer renouncing trends — he’s not a fan of accent walls — feels positively affirming for those of us with kids and limited budgets.

So what’s the solution?

“Take the time to have an honest conversation with yourself,” Yip continued. “What makes you smile? If we are really saying our homes should be physical manifestations of who we are as a person and a family, you have to reflect all the dimensions of who you are. Nobody is 100% anything.”

It’s not, he notes, free license to buy whatever you want. “You have to have some threads of continuity. You need to have a soul in a home.”

Yip says he hopes that readers will gain a sense of security from his book. And if they don’t like his style, that’s OK.

“I am excited to share my homes and I want people to enjoy them,” he said. “I didn’t design them for anyone but me. I feel completely secure in that. I wish that for everyone. When I walk in my home, I feel happy. This is where I am happiest.” 

Yip will be in Los Angeles on Sept. 27 to sign copies of his new book at Calico Corners at 2 p.m., 12717 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.


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