GREAT FINISHING TOUCHES FOR EXTRAORDINARY HOME
Decorating a room but stopping short of accessories is like running a race and not completing the last mile. The right accents—which can include everything from fine art to quirky collectibles—are just as important to a scheme as the furniture, the flooring, and the window and wall coverings. These finishing touches can follow the lead of your decorative style; in a primitive country bedroom, for instance, a stack of colorful Shaker-style boxes is a perfect fit. Likewise, in a contemporary space, an avant-garde work of art reflects a penchant for modern design.
Just as important, accessories provide the single best opportunity to surround yourself with the things you love, those items that give you comfort. A traditionalist might fill a mantel with ancestral photographs, while a free spirit might put a collection of antique lunch boxes on display.
That’s not to imply that decorative accessories throughout your house need to be of the same style, type, or even vintage. In fact, it’s much more visually appealing to mix old and new, fine objects with found items, handme- downs with newly purchased pieces. From time to time, change your perspective by changing and rearranging things; items you’ve had for years will take on a fresh look. Likewise, go “shopping” in your own home from time to time. You may be surprised to discover long-forgotten treasures that will blend into your scheme beautifully.
Today’s approach to wall decor is more eclectic than ever before. While some people prefer to hang fine paintings in their homes in gallery-like fashion, others are more inclined to let their imaginations run wild, showcasing everything from vintage maps to garden gates. In fact, anything that can be supported by a nail in the wall presents an opportunity for an artistic wall accent.
And what if the objects of your desire don’t lend themselves to being hung on the wall? Custom-built shelves can play a supporting role. Use one alone or stack several—whether in perfect vertical rows or barely overlapping one another. In contemporary settings, you might also consider three-dimensional cubes in lieu of standard shelves. Not only can they provide a dramatic place to display collectibles, but they also become an inherent part of the room’s architecture.
PICTURES AND PRINTS
Arranging pictures and prints—like the pieces themselves—is largely a matter of personal preference. Still, there are some guidelines that will allow you to appreciate each to its utmost. Large works intended to stand alone should be given a place of prominence, over the fireplace, for instance, or as a focal point at the end of a hall. The smaller the pieces are, however, the more flexibility you have.
A single painting might be placed over a desk, where it’s in plain view each time you sit down to work. Or, you might give several pieces more emphasis by grouping them together. Even if they don’t have similar subjects, you can create continuity by using matching mats and frames.
Composing a wall grouping doesn’t have to be an overwhelming prospect. Simply arrange the elements on a tabletop or floor first, then transpose them to the intended wall. Start with brown kraft paper that’s slightly larger than your finished grouping. Put it on a flat surface, and then play with the composition of your arrangement. It’s a good idea to establish one strong horizontal line and, if possible, a vertical line, too. Keep moving the pieces around, balancing heavy and light—from both physical and visual points of view—while keeping spacing equidistant.
Once you’re satisfied with the arrangement, mark where the nail holes for each piece should be. Then, with painter’s tape, attach the kraft paper to the wall. (For an over-the-sofa grouping, hang the bottom pieces low enough so there’s a visual link to the piece of furniture but not so low that you’ll hit your head against them.) Drive nails and/or hangers into the appropriate places, and then remove the paper from the wall. If wall anchors are needed, determine their positions on the paper, but don’t install them until after the paper’s been removed. After the nails, hangers, and anchors are in place, all that’s left to do is hang the individual pieces—then stand back and admire them.
MIRRORS AND CLOCKS
Even the smallest decorative mirror can add sparkle to a space, bouncing light back into the room. As a general rule, position a mirror where it will reflect something worth seeing twice, such as a breathtaking view or an eyecatching work of art. Or use an oversize mirror at one end of the room, seemingly doubling the dimensions of the space.
Mirrors can make a strong decorative statement on their own or in a group; you can put together a collection just as you would paintings or prints. For that matter, the same applies to clocks. Used alone, a classic timepiece fitted with chimes can be a strong focal point. On the other hand, a collection of basic round clocks—each set to a different time zone—will clue your guests in on your penchant for travel.
There’s an art to creating a successful tablescape, one that doesn’t overwhelm the display surface. A collection of framed photos, for instance, may be well suited to the top of a console table but too crowded on a smaller end table. It’s always a good idea to incorporate a little breathing room into a tablescape; it lets you better appreciate the merits of each piece. To create a visually pleasing arrangement, use an odd number of items; it will keep things from getting static, encouraging the eye to move from place to place. Start by placing your tallest item at the back and then work your way forward, ending with the smallest piece at the front of the area you’re working with. For a well-balanced look, be sure that heights vary—from side to side and front to back. If too many items are similar in height, use small books—or something similar in size and shape—to give them a lift.
PILLOWS AND BED LINENS
To infuse a room with color and pattern, sometimes all it takes is a soft touch—in the form of pillows, throws, or bed linens. Plus, they lend themselves to a quick change of scene; a white sofa with pink floral pillows, for instance, can take on a dramatically different look by simply switching the pillows out for black-and-white geometric forms.
Damask pillows may speak to the traditionalist in you, while those with hand-painted covers might reveal your appreciation for art. Like pillows, bed linens are both fashionable and functional. Today’s sleeping spots are often decked out in multi patterned layers that can make them the focal point of a room. It’s no surprise, really, when you consider the current affinity for eclectic style. Home decor is infinitely more interesting when things mix but don’t match.
Collectibles are some of the best candidates for putting a personal stamp on a room. When showcasing collectibles of any kind, be sure that you don’t break up the set; pieces grouped together make a more dramatic impact than if they are scattered throughout a room.
Sometimes the collectibles themselves will offer clues as to how to present them best. Items that are graduated in size or color, for instance, have a built-in order. Likewise, if you’re a collector of colorful glassware, you might organize it according to the rainbow’s spectrum. Whether you have just a few treasured pieces or they appear innumerable, the effect is sure to be striking.