After the Reno: Finishing Touches

For an interior decorator, the renovation isn’t over when the workmen leave and the structure is complete.  That’s just the beginning of the end, so to speak.  After the dust settles, we get to make it truly personal with paint, furniture and fabrics, followed by art and accessories.  My clients often forget this last part of the process, and a project always feels unfinished (and very unsatisfactory!) when they don’t see the process to this stage.  Many of them are stymied when it comes to  accessorizing, so I thought I would share my approach to styling my rooms.

First of all, I think that the art and accessories truly personalize a room in a way that  nothing else can.  Or at least, they should!  I am not a fan of those crazy magazine images of books re-wrapped in plain paper to blend in with neutral schemes, or shelves filled with new objects like something out of a store display.  There’s no right or wrong, and if you like it, it works.  But if you are stumped, here are my ‘rules’ for accessorizing….

Rule 1: Make it personal. The first question I ask when a client wants me to style their space:  what do you have stashed away in the closet/kitchen cupboard/china cabinet that you’ve forgotten about?  Then I look for ways to group those personal objects together so that they tell little stories.

nov 18 wall unit left side

I gave up a bookshelf in the redecorating process, so I needed somewhere to keep a few books. I like books, so I made them part of the display, laying some of them on their sides to be used as pedestals for other items. Here’s an example of a ‘story’: my husband had a Dalmation growing up, so I placed his Dalmation figurine next to a photo of his Dad, and near a photo of my husband as a boy.

Rule 2: Avoid clutter.  I like my ‘stuff’, but I also have a place for everything, and I like everything in its place.  These cabinets have glass doors that close, and no one dares to put something in there without my approval.

The other side of the same cabinet houses things I love to collect, like pottery, plus family photos and inherited pieces.  Another 'story': the Scottish piper and lord and lady figurines sit in front of a 'clan' photo of my husband's family at a wedding.

The other side of the same cabinet houses things I love to collect, like pottery, plus family photos and inherited pieces. Another ‘story’: the Scottish piper and lord and lady figurines sit in front of a ‘clan’ photo of my husband’s family at a wedding.  Tip:  when placing items in front of photos, be sure the photos are still visible.

Rule 3: Use art and accessories to reinforce focal areas.  Here, the sconces on either side of the painting help to draw attention.

On top of a desk, I grouped a 'new' sculpture with my father-in-law's clock and a crystal jar we received as a gift. With the painting of the abandoned bicycle, above, they work together to create a sense of nostalgia.

On top of a desk, I grouped a ‘new’ sculpture with my father-in-law’s clock and a crystal jar we received as a gift. With the painting of an abandoned bicycle, above, they work together to create a sense of nostalgia.

Rule 4:  One big object is more eye-catching (and easier to dust!) than a bunch of little ones.  Plus, in a high-traffic area like this stairwell, it’s less likely to be knocked off the ledge.

I like the combination metal and wood on this sculpture.  I also have a thing for birds; this one reminds me of the Great Blue Herons that used to feed in the stream behind the house where I grew up.

I like the combination metal and wood on this sculpture. I also have a thing for birds; this one reminds me of the Great Blue Herons that used to feed in the stream behind the house where I grew up.

Rule 5: Hang art in a space appropriate to its size, and at a height that makes sense for the area.  In the stairwell, we hung a single piece of art, at a level best suited to those viewing it from the entry door and on the stairs.  If we hung it any higher, it would need to be much larger, as the tall mirror on the opposite wall.

This is a print of the village in Scotland where my mother-in-law grew up.

This is a print of the village in Scotland where my mother-in-law grew up — another ‘story’.  It’s also a seaside village, so it works with my water bird sculpture.

Rule 6: Vary the heights of objects in a grouping.  Here, your eye travels from the drapery down to the lamp, then down to the vase, then to the teapot, slowly circling down to the tabletop.

I like the colour of the vase with the lamp.  I like the teapot because it repeats the colours in our drapery fabric, and it has an Oriental vibe that speaks to the drapery as well.

I like the colour of the vase with the lamp. I like the teapot because it repeats the colours in our drapery fabric, and it has an Oriental vibe that speaks to the drapery as well.

Rule 7:  Rules are made to be broken.  Look at these photos or those in magazines that you admire, then just play around with your stuff until you get it right.  Some areas will come together more easily than others, and some will remain ‘unfinished’ for a while until you get inspired by a new piece of furniture.  Don’t sweat it — it’s meant to be a bit of a challenge. But the results are worth it, when you get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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