Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.
Accessories complete a space, give it character, add vibrancy and create a sense of cohesiveness. Without these little extras, a room has no soul. As important as they are, many of us throw our hands up in frustration when choosing and arranging accessories.
We envy design professionals who seem to possess an innate ability to style a room down to the smallest detail. Some may indeed have a special gift, but most acquire their skill through experience—and so can you. By employing tricks of the trade and following a few basic design principles you’ll be accessorizing like a pro in no time.
Collect Over Time
Resist the urge to dash out and buy a bunch of fashionable accessories just to finish a room. If you do, it will look more like a nondescript model home rather than your personal space. Collect accessories over time and concentrate on objects that speak to you.
DIY home decorators and professionals alike create artful displays from carefully curated assortments of art, souvenirs, vintage accents, rugs and one-of-a-kind accessories. These items should be a reflection of you and not the latest home décor seen in magazines and on TV shows. Feel free to interject a few trends into your design, but do so sparingly or it will look contrived.
Create an Accessory Closet
Have you ever pulled an old belt out of the back of your closet and paired it with a different outfit? Suddenly it looks brand new. You can do the same thing for your rooms by compiling an accessory decor closet.
This way you can stash accessories away as you tire of them. Rotate and reintroduce items as the mood strikes. Use your decor closet to limit the number of accessories displayed at one time. Your “secret” accessory closet is now your very own personal home decor store.
Think about all the accessories you use in the home. Some are seasonal basics, others are the latest decor accents, and the majority are classic, timeless essentials. Try to find things that work with all your furnishings. Move them from one room to another to keep your rooms looking fresh without having to buy new accessories.
Clear the Deck
Room design involves decorating from the inside out using a layering technique. Taking individual elements and placing them in an orderly progression creates a balanced and pleasing space. The final layer of decorating is where your personality and design style shines. Accessorizing is the jewelry of the room just like a necklace, bracelet or earrings that coordinates with your favorite dress.
When it’s time to accessorize a room, start with a blank slate. Clear out all the small and mid-size items including lamps, decorative items, artwork and pillows. A decor-free space helps avoid distractions and allows you to visualize placement of accessories. This also gives you the opportunity to rearrange furniture before styling the room.
Consider Balance, Weight and Scale
Visual weight of accessories should be consistent throughout a room. It refers to an item’s mass, color or pattern. Say you want to create balance with an arrangement on a mantel. Anchor one side with one large object and a grouping of smaller objects on the other.
Items of different shapes and sizes can work together in an asymmetrical arrangement. Use a tall vase and pair it with several smaller ones. Place them together to magnify the group’s visual weight and depth. Choose items from the same color palette to unify the composition.
Choose oversized accessories for grand spaces. A collection of tiny, delicate figurines looks out of place in a spacious room. Conversely, large-scale accessories can easily overwhelm a small area.
Apply height and scale to help the eye travel around a room. In a living room, a tall mirror adds vertical interest and works well with high ceilings. The eye naturally moves up the mirror, then down to accessories and furnishings.
Fun Accessory Shopping and Styling
Play With Color
Choose accessories that make the most of your room's color palette. Blend them into the overall color scheme or introduce contrasts of accent color. Start with accessories in two colors that coordinate with walls and upholstery. Throw in a third to add a jolt of unexpected color to your room. Decorative pillows provide one of the best ways to play with color, pattern and texture when styling a room.
Accessories are the least expensive way to introduce color. Painting all walls in a saturated color or purchasing a bright statement sofa could result in a pricey decorating mistake. Incorporating vibrant accessories are much easier to rotate in and out as you tire of certain colors.
Make a Group
There's nothing more forlorn than a single vase sitting on the shelf of a bookcase. Make a design statement by placing decorative accessories in groups. Take it one step further using this interior designer trick by grouping odd numbers of objects to provide greater visual impact. Group like items together to create continuity—by color, theme or both. Give your vignettes prominence by mixing items of varying heights.
Any type of table or shelf provides space to display a variety of objects such as coffee table books, floral arrangements and decorative pieces. To keep things simple and visually satisfying use trays to group items such as candles or ceramic figures.
Keep collections neat and tidy. A mishmash of collectibles strewn about a room doesn’t allow you to focus on any one item. Simplify your collection by choosing the most interesting pieces and group them by similar size and color. Gather the items and display them in one spot to create an orderly grouping.
Check the Books
Books are often a source of consternation when it comes to accessorizing shelves. The tendency is to position every book vertically like in a library. Instead alternate horizontal stacks with vertical rows to create an interesting visual mix.
Add in a few decorative items to break up expanses of books and to serve as casual bookends. Organize the bindings by color or cover them in handmade jackets of the same paper. An important design rule is to have accessories positioned at different levels throughout a room. You can use stacks of books as decorative pedestals to give your treasures a needed lift.
Eye Your Art
Avoid the trap of hanging art too high or too low by keeping it at eye level. Eye level refers to the sight line of an average height person while standing. In a dining room or home office, eye level becomes lower when you’re seated.
One exception to the rule pertains to gallery walls or stairways where a grouping of pictures spans a large area. To make a gallery wall cohesive, choose frames with a unifying element such as similar frame color, size, shape or matting.
Designers often use a combination of artwork and accessories. For example, pair an oversize map with a grouping of antique globes. Hang the art 8 to 12 inches above a table to form a visually pleasing relationship between the decorative items and the art piece. Use several taller globes to complete the effect, making it appear as an integrated display.
5 Accessorizing "Don'ts"
1. Don't match everything or you'll end up with a theme-like room. Mix accessories, patterns and colors so your space looks original and unique.
2. Don't arrange pillows like bookends. Use a variety of sizes and place them in a casual grouping instead of lining up identical pillows on each side of the sofa.
3. Don't use old college things in your apartment. Send them off to the thrift store and start anew by updating accessories
4. Don't buy all your accessories from one big chain store. If you do, your room will look like a familiar retail window display.
5. Don't let extraneous stuff overshadow your beautiful accessories. Get family members to organize and stow away their clutter.
© 2018 Linda Chechar
Start a Conversation!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 14, 2018:
R Talloni - Good to hear from you! It sure doesn't make sense to run out to Pottery Barn and grab up a bunch of trendy accessories for a room. It just won't look authentic. Keep it real, simple and inexpensive is the way to go. Thanks!
RTalloni on September 13, 2018:
Nice tips here. Slow collecting is what ends up making the new place home, isn't it. Everyone helping to keep stuff and such uncluttered is important to having a calm environment, even in a relaxed decor.