I am so excited to have my friend Jackie from Teal & Lime and School of Decorating visiting today! Jackie has a great talent for taking decorating– something that we often think of as an “art” — and breaking it down into steps to make it more of a “science” that anyone can grasp. My linear brain appreciates this SO much, and I’ve learned a ton from Jackie over the years. I know you’ll learn a lot from her too, so I’ll let her take it from here!
The one decorating skill I think every home maker needs to learn is interior styling—the art and science of how to arrange your home decor.
It doesn’t matter how nice your furniture is, how pretty your rug is, or how great your wall art looks; your home won’t ever look finished until it’s properly accessorized.
Styling is the glue that holds a room together.
The good news is you don’t need new decor to get started, you just need new ways to arrange your existing decor.
Or maybe you’re like Abby and want an ever-changing display of seasonal and holiday decor, but you dread the hours of tweaking it takes to get the new arrangement looking just right. The secrets I’m about to share with you will fast-track the styling process.
Interior styling is my favorite decorating topic to teach because you can instantly improve the way your home looks and feels. See just how easy it is with my free video course Home Styling 101. I’ll show you step by step how to arrange your home decor like a pro. Click here to start the free course.
The seven secrets I’m about to share with you will make all your decor look better instantly, and that gives you the power to transform your home quickly and easily. These are the interior styling secrets the pros know to make any room look amazing.
Secret #1: Variation
There are three things you should always vary when you’re mixing and matching decor: height, shape, and texture.
For height, unless the objects are identical and they’re all the same exact height, then they should all be different heights. You want to vary the height of the decorative items you display together.
You should also vary shapes. For example, displaying a skinny vase with a wide vase and a short round vase is more interesting than all skinny vases. When choosing different shapes to go together, focus on contrast: fat and skinny, tall and short, straight and curvy.
You should also vary textures. With an interesting mix of textures you can punch up any arrangement. When choosing different textures to go together, focus on contrast: smooth and rough, shiny and matte, soft and hard.
Secret #2: The Rule of Three
Objects look better when they are grouped in odd numbers, and groupings of three are the most eye-pleasing. You can display a solo object if it’s a large statement piece. If you have a large area to style, you can use groupings of five, seven, or nine objects.
But three looks the best. So why not keep it simple?! My favorite way to apply the Rule of Three is to group together two coordinating objects that are different heights with a contrasting decorative object. Below, the two mercury glass mushrooms contrast nicely with the squirrel figurine.
The Rule of Three also works well for creating a simple arrangement on the wall. Group wall decor in clusters of three. It’s a great trick to do with several small mirrors, like in my pirate-themed playroom.
Secret #3: Visual Triangles
If your decor looks haphazard, try arranging it in a visual triangle. The simplest way to start decorating in visual triangles is to place your tallest object in the center at the peak of the triangle. Put the second tallest off to one side, the third tallest to the other, and then keep tapering out to the sides.
Once you get a little more adventurous with your arrangements, you can try an asymmetrical triangle where the tallest object is off to one side and the rest of the objects taper down in height order.
Creating visual triangles is especially helpful when decorating shallow display spaces like a mantel, bookshelves, or single-sided arrangements like on a buffet or dresser top.
Secret #4: Grounding and Anchoring
The secret to reducing visual clutter on any surface is to reduce the number of footprints on the surface. You do that with grounding and anchoring.
Grounding creates order and a visual connection to the surface your décor is sitting on. Grounding your decor will give it a more finished appearance and make the arrangement look intentional. You know how you use a rug to define a seating arrangement and ground the furniture? The same principle applies to grounding your décor.
When in doubt, put a tray under it. This is a must on coffee tables and ottomans. Not only does it look nice, it makes the décor easy to move when you want to put your feet up. Trays also work wonders in clutter-prone places like kitchens and bathrooms.
Not every decorative grouping needs to be grounded, but if you feel a grouping looks random or disjointed, try putting it on a tray or another horizontal layer. It might just be the finishing touch the arrangement needs.
Grounding your groupings helps anchor items so they’re not just floating around. Everything has a place to go back to. When I put the jars of coffee beans and the coffee grinder on a tray in my kitchen, suddenly countertop clutter became a coffee bar.
Secret #5: Breaking Planes
One of the biggest decorating mistakes I see is forgetting to bust out of the vertical and horizontal planes. If all you have is tall vases and candlesticks or flat trays and books, your decorating won’t ever look done because you’re only addressing the vertical plane and the horizontal plane.
How do you break the planes? With objects that can’t be categorized as vertical or horizontal. Allow me to introduce you to what I like to call “plane breakers.”
The dresser top in my studio used to lack dimension. I wasn’t breaking any of the other styling secrets that I’ve shared with you, but the arrangement looked really boring. It looked like something was missing. To bring this space to life, I had to mix it up and bust out of the vertical and horizontal planes.
The plane breaker on my re-styled dresser top is the fan. The round shape of the fan creates movement because it’s bridging the horizontal and the vertical planes.
When you’re looking for plane breakers, you want decorative objects with an organic or abstract shape, like spheres, urchins, stars, plants, animal figurines, sculptures, lanterns, or bells.
Secret #6: The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a photography guideline to improve the composition of an image. It’s dividing the photograph into thirds vertically and horizontally creating a grid. You might have seen a grid like this on the back of your camera.
A strong visual composition is one where the subject or focal point is on one of the vertical or horizontal lines. The strongest composition is when the subject is at one of the intersections of these lines.
To apply this concept to decorating, I want you to try to break the habit of centering everything. We naturally want to center things, but that can look boring. You don’t have to have everything off-center either, but you should always try it when you’re styling.
For example, in my dining room above the armoire I could have centered the family picture in the middle. I tried it, but it looked boring. Instead, I put the family picture off to one side. On the other side I leaned the large letter H. In front of the H, I layered in some other décor without blocking the family picture. The end result is a much more interesting arrangement.
Secret #7: Layering
One of the things that I think separates professionally decorated spaces from amateur spaces is layering. Layering helps create a separation between two surfaces. A layer between the furniture piece and your decor can help ground a decorative grouping. Putting a tray under objects is one simple way to layer.
In this example, the faux fur spilling out from under the pillows adds yet another layer and gives the arrangement more depth. Even the blankets inside the basket, and the fact that the basket is sitting next to the bench, creates more visual layers.
You can also layer on vertical surfaces. What takes a mantel from boring to beautiful is layering. It’s easy to get trapped in a pattern of lining everything up on a mantel because the surface is really shallow. To make your mantel decor look better try layering flat pieces behind other objects for more interest and depth.
Picture frames, art, mirrors, decorative screens, and even trays are great leaners for vertical layering. Use them leaning against the wall to add a vertical layer on a nightstand, picture ledge, or on the top of a dresser.
What space will you restyle?
Now that you know the seven secrets, make me a promise, okay?! Don’t let this be just another blog post you’ve skimmed this week or pinned to look at again later. Promise me you’ll take action now. Pick one or two of the seven tips above and go rearrange your sofa table or your nightstand or a shelf. Once you see how simple and effective these secrets are, you’ll want to restyle every surface in your home.
To see all seven secrets in action, plus more styling tips and examples, take my free Home Styling 101 video course. You’ll get twelve short and sweet videos with all the styling strategies you need to rock your home decor. Click here to get started.
Thank you for inviting me over, Abby!
Jackie Hernandez teaches women the science behind the art of decorating so they can create a beautiful, meaningful home, even if they aren’t creative. Jackie can help you discover your true decorating style and show you step by step how to create a home that reflects you. Get started with her free Home Styling 101 course.