1. Claw-foot tubs are beautiful and classic, but aren't ideal in smaller bathrooms.
2. When it comes to kitchen and bathroom fixtures, don't overlook the details.
What are the fixtures worth splurging on?
JC: It's worth splurging on things you use every day: beautiful coat hooks, a handsome toilet paper holder, high-quality cabinet pulls in the kitchen, architectural heating vent covers. I'm often surprised that people skimp on these details (I've been in lavishly decorated homes and noticed plastic light switch covers and cheesy cheap heating vent covers). Especially if you live in a small apartment and don't need to buy multiples of these items; spend a bit more and you'll be pleasantly surprised how often you appreciate something as seemingly unimportant as a toilet paper holder.
3. Factor upkeep into big decisions like tile and flooring.
I'm lazy. What are some decisions you've seen people make that have been a disaster in terms of upkeep?
JC: A friend of mine stained his wood floors a dark espresso shade and immediately regretted it; every speck of dust shows (not to mention cat hair, lint, just about anything). I used white grout on my white tiled bathroom floors and I definitely regret it; in fact, I'm about to call a grout specialist to come and freshen it up. Open shelves in the kitchen are a great choice if you're very organized and have nicely coordinated dishes; otherwise I'd go for deep drawers for dish storage. If you want your countertops to look new and unblemished, don't get marble; it stains and requires upkeep. If fingerprints on a white or pale wall bother you, don't use a matte or a flat sheen paint; go for an eggshell or a low-luster sheen that is easier to clean.
4. Go ahead and mix metals.
5. Create a cozy and lovely lighting plan for the dimmer areas in your home.
When buying a house, chances are, whether it's a basement bedroom or an office, there's a room with no or very little natural light. What's the best kind of lighting for those situations?
JC: It's a huge challenge to light a room with no windows. I'd recommend layering as many light sources as possible: an overhead fixture with a dimmer installed so you can regulate the brightness; task desk lighting or bedside reading lights (depending on whether you plan to use the space as a bedroom or an office); a couple of wall-mounted sconces for uplighting and for washing the ceiling with light; and I'm also partial to Noguchi's Akari floor lamps in a corner, which are made from rice paper and give you a soft column of glowy light. (Ed.: Ikea has some cheaper versions if $850 is not in your budget.)