As I study all the wonderful Interior Styling how-tos and inspiration I have pinned, I noticed a pretty solid formula for styling most surfaces. Whether you are styling a coffee table, end table, night stand, dresser, or console table, there seems to be one simple no-fail formula. The formula requires one horizontal thing, like a tray or a stack of books. Then, add in something vertical, like vases, a lamp, or candlesticks. The last part is the glue that holds it all together…an object! The right object in an arrangement not only bridges the horizontal and vertical planes, but it is also often the most interesting item. Objects give character to a space.
I see it all the time, clients that are struggling to style their space. They have tons of accessories, but they are all vertical…vases, candles, frames, lamps. Occasionally, there is a tray or box. Rarely do I see objects. No matter how much you vary the heights of all those vertical items, you are still only playing with one dimension. An all vertical arrangement doesn’t help keep the eye moving. It gets boring really fast. The same for a horizontal arrangement with no height. You need a mix of vertical and horizontal items AND objects to give the arrangement dimension.
You saw first hand what an object can do to spice up an arrangement using the Rule of Three. Objects give contrast and interest to a grouping of decor. They might be personal, they might be a conversation starter, they might just be beautiful to look at.
A few years ago, I noticed the lack of objects in my decor and started to make a conscious effort to add more to my collection. My sticking point was cost. It once seemed crazy to me to spend $20-40, or more, on a completely non-functional item, which most objects are. For the same money I could by a functional item, like a vase or tray.
Once I started working on my decor and styling more, I realized how big of a role those non-functional objects play. Not only do they bridge the horizontal and vertical planes, but they also add the most personality to a space. Without objects a space feels flat and devoid of personality. Objects aren’t just expensive space fillers, they can make or break an arrangement.
Over the last few years, I have been steadily adding to my collection of objects. I focus mainly on decorative objects that I consider my decor idols. These are symbols and collectibles I inexplicably love and happily use all around my house.
Here are the 7 of my favorite objects to decorate with:
1. Decorative Spheres – I love decorative spheres. I have to hold myself back from buying every one I see. Decorative spheres are a great way to add movement to your decorating and break up all the linear shapes.
I have this decorative wood veneer sphere from West Elm.
I also made these DIY fabric wrap spheres.
2. Animal Figurines – Cute and totally personal! Add some of your favorite animals to you decor. They look great anywhere and add a fun whimsical touch to even the most serious room.
This brass lion is the newest addition to my menagerie.
I adore my mommy and baby mercury glass owls.
A spray paint makeover took this owl garden sculpture from fugly to modern.
Our animal themed nursery shelves have a few woodland friends including a modern white squirrel.
3. Stars, Urchins, and Other Pointy Things – Stars, urchins, and other geometric shaped objects are fun to decorate with. I started collecting jacks, as seen on the nursery shelves above.
I also used a mirrored star ornament to top a stack of books to style this ottoman tray.
5. Small plant – A small potted plant can stand in for an object and add some life to an arrangement.
I used a small pot of succulents on the open shelving in my kitchen.
6. Lanterns – Small lanterns with interesting lines or in a fun color can help break up the monotony of vases and candle holders.
In this pair of teal ones, I tucked a small succulent inside one to create a mini greenhouse.
I used another fun, retro-style yellow lantern on the bar cart to hold napkins.
6. Letters, Numbers, Symbols – Monograms and typography are always eye-catching and help break up straight lines. Larger letters hang or lean in gallery arrangements. Smaller letters can stand on a shelf or tray.
I love the ampersand leaning on our gallery wall.
The brass stencils, T&L for Teal & Lime, are one of my favorite things in my studio.
7. Bells – The bell shape seduces me. I have a hard time passing up bells. Plus, I love the It’s A Wonderful Life saying “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings”.
I have a larger bell on the living room built-ins. I love how sleek it is next to the textured vases.
I also started this small collection of brass bells in my studio.
There you have it, some of my favorite decorative objects.
Objects add the character to your room. You can use almost any type of object in your decor with bonus points if it has a special meaning to you. Think of artifacts and objects that can represent your hobbies and interests in your home.
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Very good ideas and advice. I see a couple places that could use a bit of help tweaking! Thank you for yet more god advice!
I love the idea of using lanterns for other purposes than displaying candles. I think I will have to think about how I can use these in a new and unique way. Thanks for the inspiration!
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Oh wow! Thank you thank you thank you for such a great tutorial. We have two big built in book shelves flanking our fireplace in our new house and this is exactly what I needed. I was really wrestling with the issues of buying things just to look good vs be useful. Your examples were perfect and I really appreciate your scientific approach to decorating!
Great post! There are so many designing blogs out there that are like, “Ta-da! Doesn’t it look GREAT!?” but never say why they look great. Huge, huge help to have a no-fail formula. Thank you!
Cindy, Your welcome. I personally have a good eye for color and scale, but I am a bit list when it comes to styling. I have been on the hunt for the formulas, and I am happy to share the ones I have found that work.
Melissa G says
I soooo love this post, because I am one of this people who has a lot of vertical. I am, however getting better. Thank you Target for having stuff! Can I get your advice? So my house is pretty neutral with pops of color. In my family room/great room, my pops are turquoise and coral, and I love it! In my den, I was trying to pull a little of the same pops, and got some curtains with a teal pattern…I sort of use turquoise and teal interchangeably as I speak!! Anyway, I already had some throw pillows in there that are navy, 2 are a green ikat pattern, and one has a black tree on it. I love the reclaimed wood that is all the rage, and have some in there. My style is very Pottery Barn-esque, but with a little more color pop. Again, neutral furniture and walls. I want to get your opinion on the throw pillows! Please and thank you!!
Oh thank you! This may very well change my house! All I have is vertical! What a simple thing to make a huge difference. Thanks so much for your tutorials!
Brynn, your welcome. Have fun adding some objects!
Great tips! I’m really loving your styling series thus far : ] Time to load up on some small pointy things…
Thanks, Jennifer. You can never have enough great pointy objects :)
These are such great tips, Jackie!! I’m totally pinning ;)
Jamie @ somuchbetterwithage.com
Great way to add pizzaz. I am a birdcage lover and have to stop myself from going crazy with birdcages, but they do look adorable with plants or an unusual, quirky piece inside. Thanks for your tips.
Ooh, birdcages. That is a good one. They come in so many great shapes.