You are listening to episode 12 of the Decorate Like a Design Boss podcast. Today I’m excited to share with you one of my favorite topics and it happens to be the secrets to good styling. Yeah, if you need help adding those special touches and doing so in a thoughtful, but aesthetically pleasing way, then this episode is for you. I’ll be sharing my top 10 accessories that no home should be without. So, let’s get going as we take this deep dive into how these accessories can bring your home to life.
Welcome to Decorate Like a Design Boss, a podcast for design lovers who want to create beautiful spaces in their very own homes. My name is Kimberly Grigg and I’m a professional interior designer who teaches design lovers like yourselves how to decorate. And when I say decorate I mean decorate like a design boss. If you’re ready to create a space that your family loves and your neighbors can’t stop raving about well, buckle up honey because it’s time to design.
Hello there, design enthusiasts and design lovers. I am pretty excited to be sharing this episode with you as I think accessorizing is far more than just icing on the cake. Accessorizing is not only my secret source as a designer but it’s the secret source that I think can you take your own home to a whole new level. A home without the right accessories is like a little black dress without any jewelry. It’s just a little black basic boring dress. Let’s not let this happen inside our homes because accessories are the wow factor.
And they are the wow factor that you need to incorporate so that you can take your home to a whole new level. Accessories set the stage for how to show off your own personality but in a meaningful expressive way. Have you ever been frustrated because you purchased the accessories and you’ve tried your best but perhaps your styling of them still looks a bit amateurish? You aren’t just quite sure that it’s a pro looking style or if it feels like you or even if it’s quite right. I see this happen often and here are a few tips that might prove helpful. So here we go.
Number one, group your items and objects in odd numbers. You will hear me refer to the power of three often which means grouping accessories in groups of three. Using odd numbers is important and grouping is important. Instead of one small object vary the shape and size and include at least three. Do this often. This is a gamechanger.
Number two, vary the shapes of your objects. It’s far more interesting to choose and work with different shapes than one particular shape over and over.
Number three, vary the sizes of your objects. Three objects of the same size often becomes ho-hum. Instead vary the sizes so that you begin to create interest. For example, try using a tall, a medium and a small. Take two away and notice the lack of impact. Occasionally I will use two of the exact same object in the exact same size just to create impact. But this actually becomes one object.
For example, it’s not unlike me to use two candles on a coffee table tablescape that are exactly the same. I just like the weightiness of this and I treat it like it’s one object and then group two others with it to signify the power of three.
Number four, try and create a rhythm when you accessorize. Take your hand and wave it over the tablescape or the shelf to make sure your creativity has obvious movement. This is akin to an orchestra conductor and how he moves his hand and baton to signify the rhythm of the song. You are trying to signify a similar rhythm in your tablescape or bookshelf to purposely incorporate movement into your styling. This seems silly maybe but I have had students in my course tell me over and over that this was the one analogy that really works.
Number five, be eclectic in your pursuits. You can purchase meaningful objects but they don’t all have to be meaningful. Mix it up some. Have some accessories that are meaningful and that tell a good story. Perhaps it’s something you found while traveling, or maybe it’s a gift that someone special gave to you. Be wary of collecting obvious souvenirs as they end up looking like obvious souvenirs. If you have something in your collection that is in your repertoire and you want to incorporate this collection into your décor.
Say it is souvenir ish and say it’s shot glasses from every place you have been then sit them all out together grouped on a large tray and have them make a statement versus scattering them about or they will end up just looking like clutter. I have relegated many a match collection to a giant but lovely glass urn of some sort. I wanted the memory to be special but a million little matchboxes thrown into a basket or scattered endlessly everywhere is just clutter. Things carefully displayed in a meaningful way is, well, it’s meaningful.
Number six, have some accessories that are just absolutely beautiful to you.
Number seven, it’s always a good idea to have some accessories that have a thread of consistency and that you can group together for impact. This would be like a group of three vases that relate to one another or a group of three candles that are all the same. You’re going for impact here.
Number eight, have collections and show them off when they’re grouped together. Be careful to always keep your collections carefully edited or else they can become overwhelming.
Number nine, this is one of my faves, go big. You can gain more impact with accessories that are larger than a lot of small items. This is one thing that I often spot as an obvious design crime in people’s homes. You can see the fear in this expression and most people go for smaller because they are scared to make the big leap. Try it. I promise you won’t be sorry or disappointed.
For example, let’s say you love a good bust as an accessory. Most people will go for a smallish bust and these are great. But if you want to make a statement, get a large one and place it atop a pedestal and watch the magic start happening.
Now that you know these few tips about the how to’s, let’s dive into some of my favorite items that I like to use when I decorate.
The first is bookshelves need books. Use books as a statement but also use them laid on their sides as risers. Books can also be great on coffee tables and in those tricky spaces that you don’t know what to do, well, think about books. Stack a few books and put something pretty on top and bam, you’re decorating.
Alright, here’s another one for you, pedestals. Pedestals are my go to accessory when I don’t know what to do. They are fabulous for showcasing a lovely vase or perhaps a piece of sculpture. A pedestal is a wonderful item for a corner where you might feel like you need a tree, or a plant, or a faux tree or plant. A pedestal is also great for replacing those torchiere lamps that point the light up to the ceiling. We bought those back in the 80s and 90s and they look like it. I say get rid of the torchiere and the faux plants in the corner and choose a pedestal instead.
Let your creativity soar when deciding what to top it with. And when you’re stumped and don’t know what to do, I want you to think about would a pedestal look great there?
I also love bust. I can’t get enough of a good bust. They just mix in so well in every setting, or they can also be a standalone accessory. I love elevating them on some sort of riser. And if they’re weighty enough I use them as an object, as a standalone object just by themselves on the end of a chest opposite a lamp. They’re also very sculptural. And if you’re feeling holiday festive, well, you can adorn them for a touch of whimsy by draping scarves, jewelry, or some other festive item such as a witch’s hat. Then that accessory becomes the fun.
The very first sculpture I ever bought was a pottery bust. She is so imperfectly perfect and I was entering a phase of my life where I really needed to express this sentiment. I was tired of creating absolutely perfect interiors and I wanted to show more personality. And I think deep down I was trying to say it’s okay to be you. I bought her in an art marketplace at the furniture market in Highpoint. She is so ugly that she is beautiful to me. I placed her atop a malachite, one of my favorite materials by the way, a malachite pedestal. And she just makes me smile.
Sometimes she even makes me laugh out loud. I ran a contest on a Facebook Live to help me name her. I settled on Matilda and I affectionately refer to her as Tilly. I occasionally will adorn her in something just to express my own personality. She typically is a statement piece. And people who visit my home always ask me about her. For me I adore her because she shows me that it’s A-okay to be yourself no matter what. If you can find a piece or two like this I highly advise searching and investing in an accessory that conjures up meaning and tells it like it is, whatever that is for you.
Another thing that I love to incorporate my designs and interiors is artwork, all shapes, and forms. I love artwork just as an accessory. This is the place that I really encourage you to find your inner voice. We’ll have a future episode that will cover a lot of tips and tricks for how to hang and what to hang. But for now, I want you to start training your eye to find artwork that you simply like. That’s the only rule that I think you need to follow. You must like it and it’s even better if you love it.
I source artwork from a bazillion different places for myself and for my clients. Try art festivals, look on Etsy. Find artists that you like on social media. It doesn’t matter to me how much you spend for your art. But it does matter to me that you like it, that you’re connected to it. Mix small pieces in on bookshelves. Hang large impactful pieces to create drama and group together various sized pieces to make a collage wall.
Another accessory that I love to use is blue and white porcelain. I have been collecting this porcelain since I was 10 years old. I have some vases, and jars, and boxes, and stools, and lots of them. It is a basic that seems to mix into most styles fluidly. It’s not so right for some of the boho and California cool styles. But it is always right for any décor that has a touch of being classic.
When my second daughter got married I helped her plan the décor for her wedding. I kept asking her, “What kinds of flowers do you want?” She basically kept saying she liked stargazer lilies. These are the pink ones. She really didn’t like anything else that she wanted to use or incorporate. So, I crafted her entire wedding using only the beautiful pink stargazer flowers. And I used my collection of blue and white vases as the flower holder or vessel on all of the tables. I sprinkled the remainder of the smaller vases around the centerpieces on each table.
And I used two giant blue and white vases filled lavishly with the stargazer lilies at the altar. It was magnificent. As a private personal wedding present, I let her pick the vase she loved the most and gave it to her so she could begin her own collection. This collection is often grouped together in certain rooms of my home. But I have some sprinkled in each and every room, it sort of serves as a connector. It’s an easy yet beautiful accessory to work with and can be impactful or subtle, whichever you prefer.
Another thing that I use in styling and accessorizing are risers. What I mean by risers is some sort of platform that will elevate other items. Sometimes I use books for this. But I have used boxes, like boxes from Tiffanies or Louis or some other boxes that are especially beautiful. I have also used risers just to help create a rhythm. I like to use Lucite risers, especially when a lamp just isn’t quite tall enough. Or if I need to vary the height of the three things that are all the same height. Books can be used as risers and you can also just use your imagination here.
Lots of things can serve as risers. Just note that it’s important to incorporate them into your styling if you want to create a professional looking job.
I love fresh live orchids as an accessory. I incorporate fresh orchids in many of my rooms. They are simply grocery store finds and I usually repot them in clever ways. I have used beautiful porcelain pots for orchids and/or I have simply bought and repotted in vases using rocks. I recently used oyster shells in the bottom to keep them from getting too soggy from watering. Oysters need to be up so that the water can drain through.
You simply put something in the bottom of the container like rocks, marbles, oyster shells just to create that good drainage. That way the orchid will last a wee bit longer. Take the orchid out of the original container and plop it down into your new container that has something on the bottom to keep it elevated. Add deer moss or potpourri to the top as a finishing touch. And voila, this elevates a grocery store orchid into something that is so beautiful, last 8-10 weeks and is easy to replace.
Alright, the next accessory that I incorporate is lamps, the more the merrier. Incorporate beautiful lamps into your décor and more than one per room. You typically need a lamp on each side of your sofa. If there’s no space for an end table use a sofa table but a pair of lamps tend to anchor your space. Of course, you could use floor lamps here. If you have a desk it needs a lamp. Typically, most chests in a room need a lamp at least on one end. And longer pieces of furniture like credenzas need two or a pair.
Most people underestimate the number of lamps required in their spaces. They think if they have one lamp, well, you’re done, that’s enough. That’s not necessarily true. The other thing that becomes a design crime with people is using the wrong size lamps. This is a bit of a faux pas and actually I see it happen often with the lamps that you purchase in HomeGoods or discount stores. They’re just too short. A good rule of thumb for a lamp is at least 30 inches.
We’ll have an entire future episode on how to choose the correct lamp but for now don’t use skinny lamps unless you’re an experienced designer. A skinny lamp looks kind of like a stick with a shade. They look cheap. An experienced designer knows when a skinny lamp might work. But for now, until we have our lamp workshop episode I’ll leave it at that. Use lamps with color, even if the color is white. Try and stay away from crystal or see through lamps that end up looking unimportant.
Avoid torchiere lamps, they date you. I really was never a fan but a good floor lamp in the right spot like beside a reading chair or beside a chaise is fabulous. Make sure your lamps are tall enough and are proportionate to the furniture that the lamp will be sitting on. If you have soaring ceilings then your lamps need to be a little taller. This is a subject in and of itself. But if you don’t get it right you’ll throw the scale off in your space.
Alright, another good thing that you need when you’re accessorizing are boxes. I love a good box. And I don’t think I have ever completed a room without a good box or two. They come in any style, shape, and form for any décor no matter. They also are wonderful to use as containers for remotes and other things that are functional. They also make a good collection. They’re architectural and they fit into a million different places like bookshelves, coffee tables, mantels, and a top chest. If you don’t have a good collection of boxes now is the time to add them to your décor.
Alright, another accessory that I love to incorporate, trays. Trays are perfect for encouraging layering. I love a good tray to ground a group of things. I also love a good tray that provides a new texture on a surface. When you can find an accessory that can be purely decorative, but can be removed and used in a purposeful way then how can it be anything short of fabulous? This is what trays do. I use trays in practically every setting. In a bathroom they hold bottles and useful items. On a coffee table they hold books and perhaps a candle and maybe even an orchid.
On a kitchen counter they can provide the bases for whatever holiday décor is desired and/or as a place for a bowl of fruit and other items. I even sometimes include a tray on top of another tray if I’m trying to feature of grouping of objects within the tray. For example, large tray, orchid, some sort of object, small tray, maybe a small, tiny collection of something, or perhaps it’s two candles together or three candles together. Trays are super fun and are an element, you can even circle back around to when you feel like you just need to step your styling up a notch.
Go and gather a tray that you have and try and use it in one of the settings that I just described and see if it makes a difference. I’ll just bet that it will.
Stools, I call stools convertible furniture. They are so useful. I discovered stools when my family began to expand. I have six children, two are his but basically grew up in our home, two are adopted and two are our biologicals. They’re all ours but they have multiplied over the years. And I was always looking for expanded seating options. I have stools everywhere. I use them in front of a fireplace, or in front of a credenza.
I have a small little round table behind a sofa in my own home, I call it the cereal table where we can literally grab a breakfast on the go and watch The Today Show on the TV over the fireplace. Chairs would have been too heavy and too much for this table. So instead, I have four round stools that if we sit there we can reach the table perfectly. When we are all together I pull those easy to move stools out and place them randomly so that we can simply gather and all be together.
Stools are a functional accessory that I think provides a way to show personality and a way to accommodate additional people in your home. I have a client who are empty nesters but they love to entertain. They’re always looking for extra seating options when they have parties for 65 in a rather smallish home. They love, love, love art. And have a gorgeous collection.
So, I suggested that they gather a collection of hand-painted little stools painted by various artists and scatter them throughout their home. They even went to certain artists that they loved and collected and had them paint a stool for them. The extra seating is great when entertaining, but when they’re not they have all of these little pieces of art carefully placed around their home.
Bowls, a good bowl is a gamechanger. Bowls are perfect for the center of a dining room table or for a foyer entry table. This is a place I want you to specifically go big. Don’t put a teeny tiny bowl in the center of a big dining room table. Think about the scale, large furniture requires large pieces and accessories. I use bowls all the time in homes and for a variety reasons. I typically use a sculptural type bowl that seems like a piece of art on dining and breakfast tables.
I use a blue and white bowl that I have had for years between a favorite pair of lamps in my foyer. It has been a tasteful dumping ground for everyone’s keys and stuff. Once a month I do a mama cleanout. The point is that bowls are fabulous and can look great and serve a purpose. So, incorporate a bowl into your own décor and see how it becomes a gamechanger.
So, what can we learn from today’s lesson? Know that accessories are so much a part of making a house a home. Most people really struggle with styling. And rest assured that I will have many episodes about this subject. And if you really want to know more check out our Interior Design Insiders Club which will not only provide you with all things interior design, including over 100 hours of video training and our interior design course. But also, there is an entire module there on accessories and styling.
And of course, use this tips that I laid out today to help you get your accessories just right in your home. An episode on accessories wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention my number one go to accessory. I use this in almost every décor, it’s my infamous monkey bowl. He is appropriate in any setting. And I will be giving a monkey bowl away to three lucky listeners who subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. I love your comments and I love your feedback. So please help us out and check out contest details at kimberlygriggdesigns.com/podcastlaunch.
And you can not only check out the contest rules there but also see a picture of this adorable monkey bowl. I sincerely hope that these accessory tips and tricks will help you style your home in a meaningful way. Thank you for being here. And remember, I like to say, don’t wait, today is a great day to decorate. Bye for now.
Thanks for listening to Decorate Like a Design Boss, if you want more info on how to decorate your space like a pro visit kimberlygriggdesigns.com. See you next week.