Every designer has his or her own style rules. Over the years, I’ve honed mine down to the top five that I come back to again and again. Follow these ideas — or break them if you see fit — and I guarantee you’ll be able to take any space from feeling like it’s a boring, everyday thing to something you love every day.
1. A midcentury piece. I’m a huge believer in always using at least one midcentury modern element for a number of reasons. For one thing, the design period, despite no longer being technically “modern” (in the sense that it’s now technically a retro style from the past century), still feels current and timeless.
Modern pieces work well in virtually any space, whether contemporary or traditional. I love the pairing of this classic Eileen Gray table with the curvy traditional chest and soft bedding, adding just one punch of truly modern style to keep this room from feeling too formal.
One of the easiest ways to introduce a modern piece is through seating. Midcentury chairs are always stylish with traditional wood tables for that old-world, new-world mix.
2. A touch of white and a touch of black. Our eyes expect to see a full spectrum of colors, and how we perceive a space can change based on the range of colors represented. This is why I try to always include at least a hint of white and a touch of black in each space. White is often easy, but be mindful of adding black accents. Black picture frames and other elements on white backgrounds will make sure both ends of the spectrum are represented and balanced.
Notice how this room has a lot of off-white but still includes a little pure white, which helps reveal the undertones of the other shades. Pure black can be easily introduced through lamps with black bases or cottage-inspired cage shades, as seen here.
3. A mix of textures. Whether your space is bold and colorful or subdued and neutral, a truly designed look involves a mix of textures for that subtle richness. Besides different upholstery textures, like cotton, burlap, hides, linens, silks and sheers, you should always strive to include some wood, metal and glass. The materials in this no-fail trio are easy to mix and will add lots of depth.
(Also notice again how this room includes small accents of black while still feeling very airy and open.)
Other textures to consider mixing in:
- Woven baskets
- Smooth woods (vs. worn-in woods)
- Plant life
- Plastic (such as Lucite chairs)
- Wool or cashmere
- Exposed bulbs (the glow is almost like its own texture)
4. Personal imperfection. Besides all the perfectly chosen materials, a space should have at least once piece that speaks to a sense of history, with some true vintage character or personal meaning.
These vintage suitcases make a beautifully quirky side table, balancing the sleek bedding and custom drapery to make sure nothing is too perfect.
This sense of history doesn’t have to come from furniture or accessories. A simple vintage detail like old moldings, preserved and teamed with modern accents like these midcentury stools and contemporary sconces, will give your home a subtle story that relates to your past, present and future.
5. Fresh flowers. Lastly, to me a space is never truly finished unless it includes some fresh flowers or growing greenery to give it a sense of life and care that keeps it from feeling static.
Even just a few simple blossoms in a bud vase, as shown here, immediately draw the eye in, adding a new color and delightful detail as you change them out. They’ll help make sure you enjoy your space every day, long after the hard design work is done.