Living Room Series: Accessories

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As I began to discuss in my last post, once a room is furnished and all of the major elements are in place, it’s time to focus on wall décor and decorative accessories—the proverbial icing on the cake. However, while this last stage may seem somewhat trivial, it’s actually crucially important. Many people stop decorating once all their furniture is in place, but without these final accents, a room will feel incomplete. No matter how well your couch coordinates with your rug, if you have bare walls and empty shelves, the space is going to look like its missing something. 

There are two main categories of decorative accents: wall décor (i.e. artwork, mirrors, etc.), and accessories. I addressed one option for wall décor in my last post, and I will devote several more posts to this topic later on. However for now, I’d like to finish up this series about decorating my living room by sharing how I incorporated accessories into the space. 

One of the first issues is, where to put these objects? For a living room, a few obvious places are: the fireplace hearth/mantel, the coffee table, side tables, and bookshelves. Of course, that doesn’t mean you actually need to fill ALL of these surfaces—or you may end up cluttering up the room. The level of “stuff” that you are comfortable with really depends on your aesthetic sensibility. However, it may be helpful to focus on two or three main areas to accessorize, depending on which elements of the room you most want to highlight. For instance, in my living room, since I knew I wanted the fireplace as my main focal point, I used decorative accents to further bring attention to that area. In addition, since our coffee table is already an important display piece, I decided to finish it off with a really beautiful central vignette which complements the style of the table. 

The next question might be, what objects do you use? Whenever possible, it is great to use things that you already have lying around, which have some sentimental and/or practical value. You may also find that you need to purchase additional pieces for aesthetic reasons in order to supplement the items that you have.

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Finally, and most importantly, how do you style these accessories? Creating decorative vignettes can be tricky but it is also extremely fun and rewarding. Since I’m an artist, I often think of them like paintings, and all of the same artistic concepts apply—color, balance, proportion, scale, and texture. In a good vignette, objects are combined together using these principles in order to create an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Here are some easy design strategies to keep in mind: 

Color harmony: Using different objects all in the same palette helps them to feel as if they belong together and keeps an arrangement from feeling too busy. 

Rules of three: It’s always a good rule of thumb to group objects as a trio—for some reason, odd numbers seem to be more aesthetically pleasing. Keep in mind that sometimes multiple objects can function as one unit—i.e. a stack of books might count as one object in a display.

Elevation changes: Varying the scale of the elements by pairing low objects with high ones helps to keep the eye moving throughout the arrangement.  

Telescoping: Try stacking or arranging objects from largest to smallest. 

For example, in my coffee table vignette below, I used gold as an accent color to tie the grouping together, while also pulling in hints of color from my living room palette (rose red in the floral spray and the deep navy blue book). Furthermore, I arranged the objects in a grouping of three on the tray: the stack of books and candleholder which count together as one, the small vase with floral arrangement, and the decanter set with tumblers. I varied the scale of the elements, so that the eye moves from the candleholder and books, to the floral spray, and finally up to the decanter, which provides a sense of height. And lastly, the books are arranged casually from largest to smallest. 

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Hopefully, the overall effect is that the vignette looks natural and almost effortless—even though it may have taken hours and many different arrangements to achieve that end. If successful though, the result is totally worth it. A really beautiful vignette adds that extra sense of polish to a room and elevates your decorating to the next level, making the room feel truly complete!