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Joshua Smith

Up the Ante – Designer Styling Tips for Your Home

Do you like your home or do you LOVE it?

Did you start your home design project but never quite finished?

It’s easy to run out of steam, especially as life spins you in another direction. For many, placing the furniture is the easy part. But a well-designed room has various layers. Art, throw pillows, blankets, vases, objects, trays, books, crystals, stones, flowers, plants, candlesticks, etc. are all important to making a space feel complete and bringing the room to life. But pulling it all together gets tricky — and that’s where people most often get stumped.  Designers have all sorts of tools on their belts so I thought I’d share some with you here.   Up the ante of your home by following these guidelines below:

Group objects in odd numbers. For example, on a sofa end table you may have a lamp, a decorative box and a geode of your favorite crystal.

For visual interest, vary the height and widths of objects. For example, you don’t want every piece in a grouping of ceramic vessels to be the exact same size.

As a general rule, sofa pillows should be 20×20. You could do 20x20s with 18x18s, or, for deeper sofas, you could go with 22x22s with 20x20s.  But I like pillows the same size so I can alternate which ones take center stage.

Throws are a great way to up the coziness factor.  Opt for blankets that are super soft, like cashmere. Or add more texture with a chunkier throw.

Woven baskets – these are my favorite!  They are a great way to incorporate a natural element, add texture and provide storage.

It’s easy to add too much, so don‘t overdo it. Edit, edit, edit. To paraphrase Coco Chanel‘s mantra, when you think the room is finished, take one thing out.

You also want to leave space between furniture and objects. Just like us, our furnishings need room to breathe. If your things feel cramped or crowded, then you feel cramped and crowded, too.  Remember: Empty space gives your eyes a rest.

Add reflective furnishings to bring more shine to your space. Consider metal candlesticks or bowls or lamps. If you’re buying a new upholstered piece, get a chair or sofa with nail-head trim. A fail-proof option is to hang a mirror to bring in more light to a room, but always pay attention to what will be in the mirror’s reflection. It should be something pretty, like a light fixture.

To ensure you home is always stylish,walk around the house and pick up the stuff that is lying around. When things are in their proper places, rooms will feel more calm and balanced.  Also make the rounds to each room to fluff cushions, throw pillows and bed pillows, and to refold throw blankets.  This may just seem like maintenance but it actually has a huge impact to how your space looks and feels. Think about the go to little black dress.  When pressed its super stylish, but if it’s a crumpled mess, then not at all.

Style with Books! Books are a must for creating layers in a space. They make a home feel pleasantly lived-in. Use books not just in bookcases but also on surfaces as part of vignettes. Many clients starting out in that first home don’t have as many coffee-table books. So I make sure to choose books that reflect client interests. Do you like travel or cooking or art or fashion? Are there favorite cities you love? Select books that speak to your soul and reflect who you are.

Sign up on my homepage to receive a FREE 24 page ebook on how to Zen Your Home With Style.

Photo credit:  Eric Piasecki – design by Steven Gambrel



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  1. I love my home, and i always love to decorate it with respect to change of season, like I love the wooden flooring which makes my home cool in summers and hot in winters. I too love the proper spacing of the furniture which brings positive vibes.

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