Put Accessories in Their Proper Place

Follow these eight guidelines to get the best look out of your interior design accessories.

By Ande Waggener

 

Interior design accessories can make or break your room décor. You may have chosen a great paint color, awesome window coverings, and eye-catching upscale furniture. But if you then let the wrong crowd of design accessories into the room, they will crash the pretty party faster than drunken frat boys at a Mozart concert.

 

I learned this lesson at a young age when I visited a friend who had just bought and decorated a lovely home in our neighborhood. When she invited me over, I was excited to see what she’d done with a beautiful interior of hardwoods, vaulted ceilings, and tasteful trim.

 

Imagine my shock when I entered my friend’s home and the only thing that caught my eye was the literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of family photos, scented candles, and pottery bowls scattered around the rooms. The home’s beauty was lost in my friend’s accessories.

 

We all have things we love, and we want to display them. But we want to display them in ways that not only show them off but also show off the room they’re in.

 

Here are eight guidelines for accessorizing your rooms to get an interior design you can be proud of.

 

1. Create Balance

This is, of course, your overriding goal in all interior design. Too much of anything in room décor isn’t a good thing. (This is why my friend’s accessories didn’t work.)

 

You want to balance your accessory groupings and balance how the accessories work in the entire space.

 

To do this, you need to consider two things: scale and visual weight.

 

Scale

Scale is the size of an object. Too many big things or too many small things throw a grouping or a room out of balance. Too many big items overpower a room. A grouping of small items ends up looking like random clutter.

 

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When scale is in balance, the elements combine to look like a whole picture instead of disparate pieces.

 

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Visual Weight

Visual weight isn’t how much something actually weighs. It’s how much weight it appears to have. Generally, darker items, busy patterns, complex shapes, and heavy textures have more weight than lighter items, simple patterns, straight lines, and smooth surfaces.

 

You can see how visual weight impacts an accessory grouping when too many “characters” are grouped together.

 

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In the photo above, the girl on the moon, the entwined couple, and the elephant all have visual weight. The candles and the photos have less visual weight. So the grouping looks unbalanced; it has too much visual weight on one side and not on the other.

 

Now let’s rearrange.

 

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See how the balance shifted? As a general rule, putting representational objects together (things that depict a person or animal or the like), isn’t a good idea unless they’re similar items (like a group of elephants of varying sizes).

 

2. Vary Height

Accessories that are all the same height are visually boring. They tend to glom together and get lost.

 

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When you combine accessories of varied height, they complement each other instead of washing each other out.

 

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3. Use Odd Numbers

An odd number of accessories will work better together than an even number. Odd numbers of items create a more cohesive visual impact because the asymmetry results in an interesting focal point that draws the eye.

 

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4. Work with Your Backdrop

When you place accessories, think about the wall space or shelf space behind them. Use accessories to fill in blank spaces, but don’t make them fight with what’s behind them.

 

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The vase in the photo above fills in the wall space between the cabinet and the photo on the wall. But what happens if that vase is in front of wall space already occupied by a print?

 

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See how the print detracts from the vase above?

 

5. Contrast Colors

Although you can group together items of the same color, if you do so, you need to contrast them with their surroundings.

 

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Without color contrast, accessories will fade into obscurity.

 

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6. Connect the Dots

When you group related objects together, they create more emphasis.

 

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See how the shells above combine into a whole scene? In contrast, when you scatter the elements of the scene, in this case, the shells, they end up appearing chaotic instead of coherent.

 

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7. No Straight Lines

Objects arranged in straight lines look like items for sale in a store.

 

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To avoid this linear fail, use triangles. Groupings of three objects placed in a triangle are nearly always effective. Put each object at one point of the triangle.

 

Keeping in mind Guidelines 1 and 2 above, each item should vary in height and visual weight. Place the tallest, most substantial object in the back. Set the middle-height one in front of that, but off to the side. And place the shortest object in front so that both back pieces can still be seen.

 

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8. Do an Assessment

Once you’ve finished accessorizing your room, walk away. If you can leave the house for at least half an hour, great. If not, just step outside for a moment.

 

Now, reenter your home and look at the room with fresh eyes.

 

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What impression do you get?

 

Do you get a feeling of a cohesive design? Does the room feel balanced? Does it appear to be orderly but not too orderly? Is it inviting?

 

When you assess your room this way, you’ll notice if an accessory is out of place. If something feels off, try different combinations of objects until you get the look and feel you want.

 

When you follow the above guidelines for placing interior design accessories, you will find just the right places for all of your beloved items.

 

Have you discovered some other tricks that put accessories in their place? Please share what has worked for you.

 

Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener

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