While I am decidedly devoted to the vintage-mixed-with-modern decorating ethos, I think a room amounts to little without a curated assortment of art and accessories. The tone and feel of a space are made more solid through personalized touches. A white sofa in a room with bare walls is just that, but underneath a vibrant 1970′s style painting, it becomes fun, whimsical, contemporary. A mix of portraits – painted and photographed – above that same sofa would create a warm gallery effect. Furniture is a building block but accessories make the space.
You can take accessories to the next level by letting them stand in for actual furniture. I am totally inspired by the vintage suitcases as a piece of entry furniture! Visually it’s an interesting alternative to a small table and yet it’s just as functional but definitely more cool. A stack of metal boxes, a tall wine barrel, or even a large wooden wire spool are also amazing choices.
Europeans understand accessorizing better than any tribe of people I have ever encountered. They know when to edit, how to layer, and they aren’t afraid of mixing periods and pieces. They have been doing it best since time began. The Dutch, Belgian and French Country looks are all relaxed, elegant, eclectic and muted in palette, but warm in feeling. They are more “modern” to me than most modern interiors. I don’t know many people that thrive by living inside a white box. You can still be a minimalist and use vintage. Minimalism doesn’t mean nothingness, it means less of something. So, you could be a vintage minimalist!
Vintage-style art like this super cute silk-screened piece by Jane Foster is the sort of accessory that gives edge to a room that might otherwise be ho-hum. I love the idea of it above an industrial style cabinet, a Plexiglas bookcase or even above a sleek entry table. It would make me smile every time I saw it.
“Accessories” can be anything that adds a dash of magic to your space. It’s the extra-something you do to make a space your own. Using collections of vintage en-masse makes a unique statement. The humble bread boards above look somehow more important when hung on the wall.
I often have people come into the shop who say they don’t know how to accessorize, but there isn’t really a set formula to follow. The room above was done with by a highly creative and eclectic individual. It’s not for everyone, and it shouldn’t be! Our homes should be unique to who we are. Clients tell me they would see things in a magazine, or buy something they loved, and they wouldn’t know how to create a meaningful vignette with the objects once they got home. Instead, they ended up with a mish-mash of really nice stuff that became clutter. I didn’t really understand how frustrating it was for them until I met my amazing client Janel Lehman.
I was hired to decorate the Lehman’s home in San Mateo, (they’ve moved to Chicago. Sniff.) and I was so excited to get to work with all of this gorgeous art Janel’s mother-in-law painted, their collection of family photos, and family heirloom furniture. Janel had a vision, and had so many perfect ingredients, but she didn’t know how to put them together. It was almost paralyzing for her and after a while, she gave up. She liked so many things but not everything worked in combination, so we spent some time defining her style and an amazing home emerged. Now, she knows what questions to ask herself when she’s out shopping.
I give my clients a simple set of questions they need to consider when they are deciding what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to buy:
Do I LOVE it? Do I use /need it? Does it match the vision I have for my space? If it were changed would I feel differently?
It’s really that easy. Even with family heirlooms. She didn’t love OR need a pair of antique chairs so I painted them bright orange and we used them in the Master bedroom. Some people may think that’s sacriligious, but these chairs did not work in her life in their previous form. By changing their color, they fit perfectly in that space. That’s what matters when you are accessorizing. It has to work with your space or it has to help you get closer to your end vision. Believe me, I fall head-over-heels with so many things but they just won’t work in my current space, so I let them go. Sometimes you just have to admire a thing, thank the Universe for it, and walk away.
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