Photo: Tria Giovan/The Age of Elegance: Interiors
Just Add Water (Sort of)
The difference between the home you've spent so much effort redoing and those you've torn from magazines (beyond a seemingly limitless budget) might be a well-placed little bouquet. We didn't believe it either, until we were told to place a finger over the vases of flowers in photos. Poof! The room suddenly feels less pulled-together.
Emily Henderson, star of HGTV's Secrets of a Stylist, has a foolproof arrangement that works anywhere: several flowers in a single style—like peonies or grocery-store white roses—arranged loosely in a cylindrical vase. "It's more natural if you use a mix of open and closed buds," she says.
Photo: Courtesy of Fawn Galli
Conduct a Brown Inventory
Chances are, there's one color that's quietly overtaking your living room, because it goes with any color scheme and hides stains, but too much of it could be making the place look dated and, well, lair-like. "You shouldn't have more than three or four brown items in any room, including wooden floors or dark carpets, yet so many people do," says Olga Naiman, a stylist whose work has been featured in House Beautiful, Veranda and Real Simple. Count the items in the color and choose the three or so to keep. The rest? Paint them, reupholster them (Naiman recommends other spill-camouflaging neutrals like olive green, khaki or gray) or move them to another room.
Create the Illusion of Organization
Lotion, soap, bacon-flavored tooth floss—there are certain items you use too often to hide away, which is why Naiman suggests decorating with them. "In the bathroom, trays are invaluable," she says. "It contains items, which makes them feel less cluttered. Plus, you can put your prettiest bottles in the front and add in a plant to make it seem more thought-through."
Try a No-Fail Pillow Combination
All too often, we fall victim to the adorable throw pillow trap and buy a bunch in the same size. That's why the sofa looks overwhelmed with cushions, instead of styled. Really, you only need three: one 20-inch by 20-inch, one 16-inch by 16-inch, and one 12-inch by 16-inch. "Those three sizes look good together no matter how you arrange them," Henderson explains.
Photo: Courtesy of Fawn Galli
Find Your One Missing Color
Some people are drawn to cool tones, others to warm tones, but what most of us don't realize is how a pop of the opposite—say a few coral accents in a room of blues and white—can enhance our favorite shades. "It's like how salted chocolate is so popular right now, because the salt brings out the richness of the chocolate," Naiman explains.
Give Your Contemporary Sofa a BFF
Modern homes tend to have a lot of clean lines—which can also mean more than a few hard edges. To soften this look and make the room appear more inviting, Henderson recommends adding a throw or (her favorite) a $30 RENS sheepskin rug from Ikea
. It can be draped on a chair or sofa like a throw would be, but it works anywhere because "it adds texture without adding pattern, and warmth without color," she says.
Photo: Roger Davies/The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus
Balance Out the Big, Comfy Couch
Overstuffed sofas have gone the way of sponge-painted walls, but they're not as easy to get rid of. If you aren't ready to invest in a new sofa, take a look at the other items in your living room. You need just a few big pieces to even it out. "A coffee table in the same scale and a few sleek, modern pieces—maybe a side table or a floor lamp—can freshen things up," Naiman explains. Just beware of tchotchkes: "Little accessories will only make this sofa seem bigger, and it'll make the items seem bitsy and cluttered."
Rethink Your Trios
We've all heard how important it is to decorate in odd numbers, but it's not just the quantities of threes (or fives) that make things more pleasing to the eye. "You never want three of the same thing. I vary the texture, size and, sometimes, color, so the overall effect is collected but not matchy-matchy," Henderson says.
Tame the Rustic Pieces
As the country style heads to that great pasture of once-popular designs, you don't have to give up the farm table you fought for at the flea market. "The fastest way to update a table is to change the two chairs at each end of the table, whether that's replacing them with something lighter, or just reupholstering them in a modern fabric, like a thick stripe or zebra print," Naiman says.
Photo: Jean-Christophe Aumas
Burn Your Colorful Candles
Variety usually makes a room more interesting, but when it comes to candles, there's one color stylists almost always like to use: white. An array of vibrant-hued candles can "look really old-lady no matter what you do with them," Naiman says. If you love a mix of candles, she suggests using different heights and widths.
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