The right accessories give your home character and depth.

July 10, 2019

The walls have been painted, the rugs rolled out and the furniture installed. So why doesn’t the living room feel finished? Because it isn’t.

What it needs are accessories — cushions and throws, trays and bowls, stacks of books, maybe a plant or two — to make it look interesting and inviting. A room before it’s accessorized is often flat. It doesn’t have the depth and character that only those elements add. The trick to a great room is always finding the right accessories. Here’s how to get it right. 

Make a Plan

The key to choosing accessories is understanding that they all need to work together. You can’t just select them one by one. Don’t even think about giving yourself an hour to fill a house with accessories – you’re asking for trouble. Think of them as a collection – a home should be like a puzzle.

Everything should go together, and be thoughtfully curated. 

That’s why accessorising a living room involves more than merely buying whatever catches your eye. You need to do what designers do, and think about accessories from the beginning. Prepare to splash out on a few hero accessories that will take a room from whatever to wow.

As designers pulling the schemes together for different rooms, they look for fabrics that might amplify or accentuate the overall colour palette, or further develop the mood they’re trying to evoke, and they use them later for cushions. Read more, ‘Improve Your Mood with These 50 Top Decorating Tips.’

Choose a Colour Scheme

Accessories can either coordinate with the overall colour scheme of a room, for a calm, cohesive look, or deliver punches of contrasting colour and pattern to invigorate the space. If you’re working with neutrals, using as many different textures in a room as possible is important.

Try using pieces in muted hues – camel-colours cashmere throw on a tan sofas, beside sculptural vases in earth tones, raffia table lamp bases, etc. Or you can take the opposite approach. For example, use subdued greys on the walls, sofa and rug, and then introduced a contrasting pink for stools and lamps, and acid yellow for a throw and piping on cushions. The goal? To create a vibrant, electric and exciting room by introducing a tiny bit of fabric, but allowing the acid yellow steals the show. 

Modern Hamptons Barn by Michel De Piero

Pick Your Cushions

Cushions and throws, add visual interest and comfort, and should never be an afterthought: the right cushions allow people to adjust their sitting position on a sofa, and throws provides warmth, comfort and sensuality. They bring life to a room. 

How many cushions do you need? If you have a regular sofa, three is the perfect number. On a sectional sofa, it can be more. They don’t have to match, or even be the same size, but they should be part of a coordinated plan. Anything from cotton, felted wool, bouclé, alpaca, printed linen to velvet or silk to reflect the surrounding space can works beautifully for cushions – to add confidence to a room. 

Add Sculptural Elements

Think like a curator and arrange favourite bowls, containers, candlesticks, books, vases and other objects on tables, shelves and the fireplace mantel. If they have sculptural appeal, it doesn’t matter if they’re empty.

You want a wide assortment of things that add interesting shapes and extra layers to the room. It’s always important to mix the materials, shapes and heights. 

West Village New York Townhouse by S.R Gambrel

Combine Form and Function

Consider which accessories will make daily living a little easier — trays and catchalls that help contain clutter, for instance. Trays are accessory items that we use constantly, on almost every surface, because they can contain all your things: your watch, your wallet, your phone, your keys. That way things aren’t just strewn about.

Are you short on seating for children or occasional guests? Add a pair of lightweight stools, poufs or floor pillows that can easily be moved around. Is your coffee table overwhelmed by magazines? Find an attractive basket or rack to contain them. Do you have a fireplace? Look for distinctive tools and firewood containers that are pleasing to look at, even if you rarely build a fire.

Do you have a collection of favourite books? Use some of them as décor. Books are actually a great way to add another colour. Try a small stacks of books that are interesting to you, but also beautiful. Read more, ‘Why Books Will Never Go Out of Style.’

A Plant Is A Really Good Way To Bring Your Eye Up

Ever notice how homes in lifestyle magazines often have big bunches of cut flowers and branches on display, or spectacular potted plants? You can use the same strategy.

That pop of green, that sign of life, is very comforting. 

When a room needs some height, a plant is a really good way to bring your eye up. Just make sure that between the furniture and accessories, there are different levels of scale, so that not everything is on the same plane. Read more, ’10 Things Nobody Tells You About Indoor Plants.’

Make a Few Adjustments

Even with advance planning, accessorising a living room often requires small tweaks at the very end. That’s why designers often take accessories out “on approval” from suppliers. As you survey your living room, look for areas that seem too empty or too contrived.

There’s a moment at the end where it’s like using a highlighter to underline the whole design intent,” Ms. Galli said. “The accessories are conceived in the beginning, but in the end we ask, ‘Does it need to go further, or need to be pulled back?’ It’s that last moment of finding the balance and completing the story.

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