As I mentioned in the introduction to 31 days of Interior Styling, I am mildly obsessed with learning the art of styling in my home. I have to use it everyday to get good pictures for my blog. That exercise alone challenges me to try different things, and often times the new styling sticks long after I finish photographing.
Besides, just playing around to see what works, I am studying up on interior styling. Sadly, it is not that easy to do. It is like this big secret profession and only people in-the-know to get the information or learn the craft. Well, my goal with this series is to crack the code and uncover the rules and tips to make styling your home easier. I am off to a great start with my Styling Tips pin board.
Through all the articles and tidbits I pinned, I noticed some trends about what not to do. Before figuring out what to do, I think it is helpful to know what pitfalls to avoid. I compiled a list of the 10 biggest no-no’s in interior styling below.
1. Matching Everything – It looks like you bought your room off the furniture store floor. Try to avoid using all matching furniture sets, matching frames, etc. Mix it up to create more interest and depth in the room. Try it today. If you have a room full of all matching furniture, swap the chair or ottoman with one from another room and see the difference it makes.
2. Spreading Out a Collection – You might think by displaying one of your treasured collectibles in every room of your house, you are getting the biggest impact. When in fact, you are diminishing the impact of the collection. Instead, display all the same type of collectible in one place for the biggest bang.
3. Grouping Objects in Even Numbers – It is better to place objects in odd number groupings, like 1, 3, or 5. Groupings of 3 objects with varying heights always works (I will show you tomorrow)!
4. Everything the Same Height – To create interest you need to vary the height of things grouped together. If you are grouping things in threes, as suggested above, make sure they are three different heights.
5. Ignoring the Rule of Thirds – The rule of thirds is commonly used in photography and art to describe the best place for the subject. Draw imaginary lines on a picture vertically at 1/3 and 2/3, and horizontally at 1/3 and 2/3. Compositions with the subject placed on those lines, especially at the intersection of those lines, are the most interesting. The same rule can be applied when looking at a vignette in your home. Instead of placing an arrangement in the center of the shelf, try placing it 1/3 of the way in from the edge. It is more pleasing to the eye.
6. Empty Space Under a Console – This may seem minor or more specific than the others on this list, but it is one of the most commonly un-dressed spaces. It looks unfinished and uninviting. Tuck a stool or basket under the console table for a quick fix. The same trick can be applied to sofa tables and benches.
7. Over Accessorizing – There is a fine line between a well-styled space and over-accessorizing, which looks cluttered and messy. Keep it simple and realize sometimes less is more. Try one big statement piece, instead of a bunch of smaller accessories. Edit!
8. Lots of Little Things – A bunch of small items together looks like clutter. Trust me on this one. When you have the option of small, medium, or large…go large. Small accessories quickly get lost and create visual clutter. Fewer, larger accessories make a bigger impact. You might think you are saving money by buying the smaller version of the vase you love, but to make the smaller version work in the space you will have to buy other items to fill out the space. If you love it, go large.
9. Fake Greenery – I get it, I have a black thumb, too. But fake vines don’t look good in anyone’s home. Try easy to care for plants, like succulents. Another option which is better than fake, plasticy greens, is to use natural elements like branches, natural vase fillers, or some dried greenery (grasses or preserved boxwood).
10. Lack of Meaning and Personality – Model homes and show room floors don’t have the lived in look, because they aren’t. Don’t forget to breathe life into your space by using personal touches and mementos in your decorating.
Oh no…I am Making Some of Those Mistakes
Okay, we are all friends here. It is time to confess. Do you make any of the above mistakes? I know I do. In my home, I am currently breaking:
1. Matching Furniture – but only in my bedroom. We have matching dressers and nightstands. I still love them, but think I could mix up the nightstands.
6. Empty Space Under a Console – The sofa table dividing our living room and kitchen is bare and boring. I am on the lookout for the perfect stools! We also have a bench in the entryway, that could use a little styling…a basket, a throw…something.
9. Fake Greenery – I confess, I cheat on this one a lot. I love the curly sticks in my dining room, the dried grass on my mantel, and other dried vase fillers sprinkled about…my black thumb can’t kill them. What is really a violation, is the faux succulents in my kitchen. In my defense, they are high up where I would certainly never water them, and succulents look fake and plastic-y anyway…so these look real.
Your turn…which mistakes are you making? Hopefully, throughout the rest of the month I can fix some of my styling mistakes and give you ideas to fix some of yours.
What a great list. One piece of advice I would add is to be patient in searching out the right pieces. Many times when a client calls me in to help accessorize, they have wanted to finish a project so have bought something that works not something they love I would rather see an empty spot than just something the client picked up to finish a display.
Wendy, Great advice. I couldn’t agree more. It is far better to live with an empty space than to settle for something that merely fills it up!
Cheryl @ The Creative Me and My McG says
woo hoo – I am not making too many mistakes…my collections are together…my furniture is definitely not matchy…but I have to fill the spaces under my console..and I must confess – that is the solution I was looking for…got up and filled one before even writing this comment – and wow that makes a difference. I have a couple of faux plants but like you they are up on top of my kitchen cabinets -I might try some natural elements there today as well…thanks for sharing these great ideas!
Cheryl, That is awesome…you already fixed your console problem. I will be sharing my sofa table solution later in this series.
thanks for all the great advice! will sooooo come in handy while I’m working on my new place:)
Reeve, Yay! You will have a clean slate and can avoid all of these upfront.
Great advice! I get stuck when I want to display my momentos because they end up looking cluttered. I love to be surrounded by memories so it’s been a learning experience to know what to keep out and what to put away.
I am happy to have found your blog, and know I will enjoy this 31 days! Thank you:)
As with everything else, guidelines are helpful, but sometimes you’ve gotta break the rules!! These are the rules I’m breaking:
1. We have a matching bedroom set, matching sofa tables & matching Ikea TV entertainment unit & storage, but I honestly don’t mind. I’d say I would like to add some details to each of those to spice them up though! Maybe in the future you can do some tutorials on how to take matching furniture that you don’t want to separate (like your bedroom set) & adding some contrast or interesting details!
6. I have a bench/shoe storage under my small entrance table, but don’t have anything under my sofa tables because I haven’t found baskets that would fit so the hunt continues :)
9. I have a few pieces of fake greenery, but I love them. I have a small little plant on my entrance table (grouped w/ other items), a little heart shaped topiary that fits in a shelf nook & 2 vases up high on the wall with some fake flowers that I change out for each season.
What do you think, am I in trouble? hehe :)
You are not in trouble at all! Definitely stick with what you love. Thanks for the post idea about sharing how to break up or modify matching furniture. As soon as I figure that out for my bedroom, I will be sure to share!
Jessica Moroney says
Well, well. It appears I’m only breaking one rule…fake greenery. I have to disagree with you on that one. I think a realistic fake plant can make a room!! I’d much rather display our fake plants than our currently half dead ‘lucky’ bamboo! I think it’s the brown leaves that just don’t cut it! haha!
I may also be slightly breaking no 7 in the dining room, but only because we are waiting to do an ikea trip to grab the correct brackets for our shelves, then the masses will be evenly spread!
Our house has completely not matching furniture, and it kills me! I would love to swap out just a few pieces, so we have some kind of repetition! :)
Jessica, You are right to disagree…there are some amazing high-quality realistic-looking fake plants. I dream of having an awesome faux fiddle leaf fig, because I will never keep on of those alive. What I am actually referring to in this mistake, is the cheap fake greenery you can buy at the craft store…like ivy vines above kitchen cabinets…especially once they get all dusty!
Jessica Moroney says
Haha! Dusty plants, the ultimate giveaway!
Our bedroom furniture is a five-piece matching set, bought over 10 years ago in the days when it was trendy to buy five-piece matching sets. I don’t like it, but it’s solid Thomasville furniture, and I can’t justify going out and buying something new. Help?
Totally with you on the plastic plants. The dusting alone is enough to deter me.
Cinday, Is it the matching headboard too? Consider swapping out the headboard, maybe for a DIY fabric one. Also, consider if you could trade pieces with another room like a guest room. You don’t have to mix everything up. Swapping out even one piece of the set will help. I think since we have a different bed, it helps in our room.
Stephanie Hager says
I am the queen if matchy match, as I’ve told you before. I’m trying to do it again in our guest bathroom now. I’m going to have to go through your bathroom moodboards to get some ideas. Gray floor tile, white vanity and top- with some gray streaks, sage green walls. Was going to do purple accents, but am doing peach/ coral and tan accents but I still feel like maybe I’m going down the matchy road. I’m also guilty of buying things just to finish a room
I am really going to try to get you after pictures of the living room/ kitchen this week! Living room looks awesome and so does the kitchen but we still have some work to do there. Thanks so much for your help!!
Stephanie, So great to hear from you! The matchy matchy rule here is in reference to buying matching furniture sets. Coordinating colors in your rooms and throughout your home is a good thing! Sounds like you just want a little contrast and color pop.
I’m a violator too. Mostly things the same height. Hard to avoid when things are displayed on shelves though. And putting things on shelves leads to lots of little things. Guilty of that too. Even though I fully realize that the most impactful things are large.
Maybe as a solution, this means we should remove some shelves? Shelves are designed to hold books which are usually a certain height, but that doesn’t mean we have to use all the shelves that come with a bookshelf, right? I’m sitting by an 8′ tall bookshelf and while it’s still cluttered, it’s less than it used to be because I removed two rows of top shelves to allow room to display tall frames and carved wood pieces.
I also use fake greenery but only for temporary fall and Christmas decorations. Not year-round.
Yes, it is totally okay to remove a few shelves to make space for larger items. I think the guideline on styling bookshelves is to make sure you are mixing in objects, vases, picture frames with the books. But larger objects (that fit within the shelves) are still better than tons of little ones.
Good point on the fake holiday greenery. I have a fake tree (but a good quality one) and I have fake garland for the stairwell, but it is more of a felty material and actually really nice. I just can’t stand pine needles all over my house!
I love little things. I don’t have tooo many out but guess what I’m always drawn to? The little birds, the ’50’s little angel. I’ve made mini gardens for by my front door where there is room for several. I get my fix for little things there! So cute to see little visitors bend down to help the little hen eat her corn.
Another problem. I’m extremely sentimental. You give me decor? I love it out to fill in my space with items someone took the time to pick out for me. I do try to switch things around as seasons change but I often keep stuff because ‘you’ gave it to me!
Another rule breaker. I shop fake greenery only at quality stores. It is not much but these few pieces of an airy stick and thistle like top look good in my room which has a unique kind of nature theme yet its kind of not like any person I know. Dried plants would make my hubby sneeze. I also have a large potted olive tree, with the olive branches hand attached to the real olive wood. It sits in a glazed pot and on my sofa table in my very vaulted ceiling great room. The French doors are just beyond which open to my Mediterranean styled yard. Over and over I get compliments on it. I move it like now its tucked on the floor by the doors so I could put up PB pieces that are made of iron. For fall. But my few pieces of quality greenery tiny leaves that flops out of a Trader Joes canvas natural bag looks great. But I do have real plants too and many windows that for now open to the great outdoors of a riot of blooming and tall cypress and browning grapevines and sparkling water with a trickling fountain and real succulents galore.
My kitchen and walls need the update!!! And my coffee table, end table tucked under a window and sofa table are the same wood with glass. But all are different shaped. Since all other furniture is not a set it gives my eye a rest from pillows, Suzani drapes, bookcases in another wood, two PB consoles in a reddish brown chippy paint, wooden floors, and a piano in another wood open to kitchen cabinets that builders oak light gold color.
So I win some and lose more!!!