Have you ever wondered why your room doesn’t look like the ones in your favourite magazine? No matter how much you decorate, there’s still something missing. And it’s not fair! You’ve followed all the rules: You have nice furniture. You’ve taken a chance on a new wall colour you saw on Pinterest. You’ve even tried arranging your books by colour. Then why does everything still feel jumbled, disorganized, and, well, flat?
ENTER THE PROP STYLIST
Here’s something you should know: The secret sauce behind those gorgeous rooms in the magazines is the prop stylist, who comes in after everything is set up and tweaks each piece of furniture, accessory, and throw pillow, so that when the camera captures the shot, everything makes sense to the reader’s eye. And here’s what that means: You too can have a home that’s ready for a magazine shoot, even if Instagram is the actual destination for your pictures. This doesn’t take much money, nor does it take a lot of time. And it doesn’t require years of art school or an expensive design course on the rules of balance and scale. All you need are a stylist’s secrets, and that’s exactly what this article is going to give you. First, you should know that there are no hard-and-fast rules to styling your home—only tons of tricks and tips. Once you try out a few and get the hang of them, everything becomes simpler—shopping becomes less stressful, redecorating becomes fun, entertaining is all of a sudden second nature. Life gets easier. Your house will begin to match your personality, and you can finally be that person who exclaims to impressed guests, “Oh, that old thing? I just found it at the flea market and plopped it down right there.” Stick with this article, and you’ll gain the confidence to make anything you touch look amazing.
Themes For Your Home
Hello, Sunshine. You’re the nature lover of the minimalist bunch and oh so happy! You celebrate the sun and throw your windows open at every chance to bring in the light. You forgo too many accessories because you want it to feel open and fresh and you’re not home much anyway, always enjoying the outdoors while the weather is nice and keeping active during cold months to stave off winter blues. Scandinavian style celebrates minimalist decor and functional furnishings with a lot of whites, hits of black, wood tones, and a few pops of colour to keep things happy and a touch quirky. LOOK ON THE LIGHT SIDE: Light woods like maple, birch, and oak; Plastic modern chairs; Clean lines; Natural or whitewashed floors; Hits of black; Bright, warm colour accents; Wintry comforts (candles and faux fur).
Hoarders may think you’re uptight and OCD, but you might be the most free of all of your friends. Who needs things? They only get in the way of the life you want to lead. Anything you do bring home involves major consideration. After all, this will take up space. So you tend to collect just the attractive versions of the stuff you need, displayed in a simple, organized way. Minimalist design is stark, clean, and modern—nothing further can be removed to enhance the design, and the spirit of the materials speaks loudly. Great things were born out of minimalism, such as the walls coming down between living rooms and kitchens to create lush, open spaces and furniture that looks like modern art. LESS IS ALWAYS MORE: White surfaces; Chrome accessories; Streamlined platform beds; Modern panelled storage; Spare floating shelves; Minimal sculptures; Sleek furniture with simple legs; Multifunctional pieces.
You believe in “flow,” and whether you realize it or not, you’re always seeking ways to unlock the chi in your rooms: lighting candles or folding your throw so that it lines up perfectly with the sofa. Your home is your haven, so just stick with honest, pure basics. NAMASTE, MY FRIEND: Tonal or monochromatic colour palettes; Diffused light, such as from paper lanterns; Essential-oil burners and natural scents; Solid bedding, rugs, and curtains; Natural materials, like sustainable woods and linen; Contrasting textures, like a woven basket on a smooth side table; Simple furniture with little to no ornamentation; Indoor plants like terrariums
You have little use for the past. Instead, you live in the here and now and look to the future. But that doesn’t mean you’re changing your style every five minutes. You know what you like and you stick with it: quiet nights in, clutter-free bookshelves, casual rooms. My theory is that any current style that doesn’t reference the past is Contemporary, but conventionally, this style is sleek and casual, with nothing that feels too over the top. Skip anything too decorative and feminine. But most of all, free yourself of any clutter. BACK TO BASICS: Neutral, masculine colour palettes; Colour blocking in the accents; Oversized artwork; Low, simple sofas; Glass tables; Smart, hidden storage (behind walls or in furniture); Arc lamps; Chrome or nickel finishes
You’re the tinkerer and enjoy a good DIY, a bit unrefined with that whole nerd-cool thing going on, never getting enough of craft beers, built-from-scratch bikes, and record players. You love design in its raw state with its interior still visible so you can figure out how it works. Your dream home would be an abandoned factory loft in Brooklyn with exposed plumbing that matches your shiny Edison lightbulbs hanging from simple plug-in cords. You find yourself collecting lots of metals and woods but never anything too refined or polished. Industrial style is a more masculine look that has made a huge comeback in the last ten years. Factory carts, typewriter tables, anything that was once utilitarian has become popular furniture in modern homes. Raw and rough surfaces look intentionally unfinished. Old materials are transformed into tables or shelving units. Architectural elements throughout the space stay in view, which can help keep design costs lower. WHAT’S HAPPENING, HIPSTER?: DIY pipe shelving; Chalkboard paint; Steel kitchen islands; Subway tile; Simple pendants with exposed bulbs; Rusted architectural wall hangings; Metal chairs;
There’s nothing extraneous or frilly about your style—everything you wear is impeccable, iconic, and always perfectly put together. You know the power of a slim suit or a simple, elegant shift dress, accessorized with a statement necklace and simple heels. You enjoy dressing up for dinner and might even indulge in a Manhattan while cooking. To you, good design is everything and the death of Steve Jobs was a huge loss. The way he stripped technology down to its most functional state in beautiful, simple designs is total genius. Still reminiscing over that season finale of Mad Men? Lucky you; now you can bring the spirit of Don Draper into your home. Mid-Century Modern is all about masculine, sleek, and sexy shapes with a strong retro vibe. The style emerged in the 1950s and ’60s as a rejection of traditionalism’s ornamental design and the aristocratic attitude that ruled before World War II. After the war people were optimistic and wanted a change, and so modern furniture and architecture became more democratic with pieces scaled back to their most functional, sculptural, and ergonomic shapes. Furniture became lighter with slimmer legs and more versatile so folks could live simply and rearrange at will. Geometric, bold patterns and neutrals with pops of bright colour graced the rooms. SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Tulip or Eames-style moulded plastic chairs; Warm wood finishes, like rosewood or teak; Geometric patterns; Long, streamlined sofas; Low, long dressers or credenzas; Bar carts; Furniture with tapered legs; Chrome and brass accents.
As a flower child, you can’t help expressing yourself—whether through art, music, or close conversation. Being touchy-feely extends to your home, too: you love the indulgence of fur (just make it faux), a shaggy rug, or a super-loungy sofa. Indeed, Tom Wolfe coined the term “the me decade” to describe the seventies, when folks were disillusioned with the Vietnam War, and turned their attention to themselves and their families. Nature-inspired neutrals mixed with bright Technicolor splashes as patterns became zanier than ever: you basically wanted to ogle everything in the room. CHILL OUT, MAN: Groovy wave or floral prints; Earth tones with a dash of red, turquoise, or goldenrod; L-shaped sectionals to create conversation pits; Lots of texture: shag, faux fur, felt, macramé; Teakwood; Curvy chairs like the iconic Egg Chair; Hanging plants and terrariums.
You leave no room for fuss or rules. Why? You’re simply too busy layering your textiles and making sweet love to your Moroccan poufs. You consider yourself a creative type—an artist or writer (by profession or just in practice) and your look is usually flowy and easy, layered and casual, with global vibe. Because Bohemians have a hard time curtailing their hobbies, multipurpose decor is a must. Want to meditate? Here’s an oversized pillow. Taking a walk? Grab the sarong on the sofa. When guests pop by, floor pillows, ottomans, and occasional tables come to the rescue. OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Worn rugs and upholstery; Intricate global patterns; Handmade tribal accents; Indoor hammocks; Distressed furniture; Hand-dyed linens and fabrics; Strong, saturated colours on furniture and textiles; Patterned dhurrie poufs; Tropical indoor plants.
Welcome to Hollywood. To you, all the world’s a stage, and peopleare simply your audience (and hopefully your guests). If someone calls you a drama queen, you take it as a compliment because you are theatrical, glam, and larger than life—and so your home should be, too. You can’t stay away from luxurious throws, bold colours, and ornate patterns, and if given the chance, you would cover your walls in a red lacquer that matches your lipstick. So what are you waiting for? Modern Glam morphed from Hollywood Regency, which was born of 1930s movie sets that had to be loud enough to look luxurious in black and white. Thanks to the fabulous starlets who brought home the decorating inspiration, the trend spread quickly. Rich and lux, over exaggerated, heavy, and saturated are key to this style. The focus is on feminine curves, metallics, lux finishes, and generally just bling anywhere and everywhere. LIFE IS A CABARET: Lacquer walls; Plenty of bling from chrome or brass; Really big statement mirrors; Lux fabrics like satin, velvet, and fur; Bright graphic wallpapers; Asian details and motifs like chinoiserie and bamboo; Velvet ornate furniture; High-contrast colour palette with lots of jewel-tone accents.
You’re all about having fun and dancing in the streets—you only live once, after all. You take risks and flock to eccentric shapes and crazy colour combos—it wouldn’t be unlike you to set a vintage beanbag chair under your Warhol print. As Andrew in The Breakfast Club reminds us, “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” While 80’s home design is adored for so many tacky details (an overkill of mauve and chintz), it also had some fun moments and art deco influences that can look youthful, vibrant, and a little out of control—in a good way. JUST ANOTHER MANIC DECADE: Neon lighting in any colour; Glass and brass dining tables or coffee tables; Colourful pop art; Mirrored furniture; Geometric patterns with an art deco bent—a scallop or triangle; Round-arm upholstered furniture; Pastel colours—they are back, folks; Lux fabrics like patent leather and plush velvet
Life is simple, and you wouldn’t want it any other way. For a natural homebody like you, nothing beats a long hike in the woods followed by a dinner at your reclaimed table with veggies plucked straight from the garden. Country style is set up to feel like a home away from home: always cosy, laid back, warm, lived in, and comfortable. Casual patterns like stripes, plaids, checks, and floral are all common in these spaces. It’s like the house that Ryan Gosling’s character built for Rachel McAdams’s character in The Notebook: chock-full of romance. RELAX, YOU’RE ON VACATION IN BIG SUR: Furniture with an aged and beautiful patina; Red- or blue-stripe pillows (especially ticking stripe); Cotton or linen slipcovers; Sofas with deep seats and padded arms for afternoon naps; Washed linens; Wildflowers cut and arranged in an ironstone pitcher; Cast-iron or copper accents; Pretty, old hardbound books; Rustic wood floors.
You’re like the oldest sibling of all the personalities—dependable and an upholder of traditions. You often reminisce about the past—the way things used to look. The chaos of the modern world makes you crazy; instead you long for black-and-white movies, old hardbound books, rooms softly lit by candlelight. A Traditional house is warm and inviting, with an air of sophistication. The set of Downton Abbey is a (very lux) version of what this style used to be, but the house in It’s Complicated is a modern interpretation called New Traditional. AS IT ALWAYS WAS: Persian rugs; Wingback chairs; Crystal chandeliers; Antique tea sets; Tufted headboards; Gilded accents; Alabaster lamps and marble busts; Oil portraits or landscapes.
What is a Vignette?
A VIGNETTE is a smallish piece furniture to show your personality and information of the person who lives there. On a magazine shoot, our goal as stylists is to show information about the design of the space but also tell a story about the people who live there. The photographer captures the room as a whole—in what stylists call a pulled-back shot or an “overall”—which is important, for sure. This kind of shot helps you understand the room layout, composition, and the overall colour scheme, but you’ll also want to get in there closer to know more about the person who lives there. So the photographer will always get tighter shots that show off the more intimate details and what makes this person unique. This is where a stylist starts obsessing—and stylists do obsess. Stylists make the most of these moments, creating beautiful, self-contained stories to tell you, the reader, how interesting these people are. Vignettes are your secret sauce to a well-styled room.
VIGNETTES: YOUR SHOW-AND-TELL
When you invite people into your home, you want them to see who you are. Often, what tells them that isn’t your couch; nay, it’s your weird country milking chair that sits under a vintage portrait of a man who might be either happy or drunk. This particular vignette tells people more about you than many other pieces could. For instance, do you have a secret dream of being an Olympic cow milker? Or are you just simply inspired by strangely shaped chairs that reference another time? You want your guests and friends to know about your interests. While you could blab on and on about yourself, you’re better off letting your favourite objects and mementos tell those stories for you.
IT’S SO YOU
The biggest compliment guests can give you is to say that your home is totally you. You want them to see your personality as soon as they step through the door, but that’s not going to happen only through big pieces of furniture. Your sofa may be tufted or velvet, but it won’t tell the complete story about where you’ve travelled or what you’re into specifically. On the other hand, a corner styled with a vintage guitar and a few framed rock records takes your story a bit further, helping you express your love of Led Zeppelin. Creating self-contained worlds around themes or with a collection of littles you love will result in a beautiful, highly personalized room that guests will immediately pick up on.
TIME TO OBSESS
Create one vignette, you’ll find it a teensy bit addictive. You’ll start obsessing over the details (in a good way), and you might even choose to refresh your vignettes rather than rearrange your space when you want an easy room update. If you get tired of the style in your bedroom, instead of redesigning it, restyle it, then, boom! Your room feels brand new, and you didn’t move a piece of furniture.
HONE THE DETAILS
Start moving things from one vignette to another so that everything feels harmonious and the details are evenly “peppered” throughout the room. This does not mean you need to cram your room full of accessories—it just needs to be balanced. When you think about creating multiple vignettes, you end up with a space that looks intentional, well-designed, and full of your personality because every area and surface—even the corners—is considered. To get you started, here are some of the vignettes to style. Play around with these ideas, and substitute objects that you already have.
CONTRAST is the combination of opposite elements in a room, such as styles, shapes, colours, patterns, sizes, and textures. The amount of contrast you have directly correlates with the amount of “energy” you have in the room. Simply put: A room with a lot of contrast will feel more energetic and busy, and a room with less contrast will feel more calm and quiet. Get the contrast right and get ready for compliments like, “Oh my, isn’t this room just so relaxing, I just want to curl up on that low-contrast chaise and have monochromatic dreams.” Or the opposite: “OMG, hi!!! Your house is so fun, your face is so big, you have so many colours, I’m not going to sleep for days!” Most people fall somewhere in the middle—they want their rooms to feel interesting without looking insane and quiet and without boring them to tears. You can create contrast in a room through six elements: Style, Pattern, Colour, Shape, Size, Texture. Choose the amount of contrast for your room based on your personality as well as on functionality.
When you want to take more style risks, think about doing so in your more “temporary” spaces. You’re less likely to get sick of the design in these rooms: Powder rooms, Guest rooms, Kids’ rooms, Mudrooms, Hallways, Dining rooms, Entryways.
Opt for a quiet, restful mood in rooms where you’ll spend more time and want less visual noise: Your bedroom; Potentially your living room, if you’re the type of person who uses it as a refuge. If you love colour, don’t paint your walls. It’s counterintuitive, but here’s why: if you have a tendency to buy lots of colourful accessories and you also have colour on your walls, then your room could look like a crazy person lives there. By keeping the foundation of your room quiet, you give yourself permission to layer on the chaos, and the result is graphic, lively, and colourful without being too busy. If you love muted tones, use colour in a bigger way. Paint an accent wall or buy a large solid-coloured rug. Remember that your instincts will be to shop for and to buy things that are safe in colour. A saturated and joyful shade like sky blue or a slightly more saturated neutral heather grey will help you avoid a beige-on-beige-on-beige room. And you should not care how colour shy you are—nobody wants to live in a beige room.
You’re not just one style and your room shouldn’t be either. Keep in mind that opposites attract: Styles that are the most different actually look best together, and mixing any of them with streamlined or modern furniture usually keeps them looking fresh. For instance, if you only mix Moroccan with Spanish—two very ornate styles known for their inlaid, carved furnishings and lots of detailed tile work—the styles look too similar, and you’ll end up with a room with a lot of competing pieces, where nothing catches your eye and the style looks too Old World. If you have a lot of South American fabrics, then think about combining them with a simple French grain sack stripe, instead of an ornate damask; with a little less going on in one, the details of the other sing. Mix as many different styles as you want, just limit the amount of colour you bring in. Seven wildly different styles can work in a room with a very firm palette. But multiple styles in twenty-five different colours? That’s been done and is called “schizophrenic non-chic.” It’s not trending and it’s not coming back in. style secret Quickly switching up your room’s contrast is more difficult with an insanely patterned wallpaper or hot pink sofa. So keep those larger, more permanent surfaces quiet and bring in contrast through fun accessories and smaller decor.
So you want your room to feel lived in, collected, and storied, but you also want it to be very calming? Every room should have contrasting textures. If all of your furniture were upholstered in the same fabric, it would be like wearing a denim jacket and a chambray shirt with jeans—no offense, Canadians. It’s just too much and your eye wants some relief. So when you’re choosing materials like velvet for your sofa, spring for linen or leather on the side chairs. Mix up the fabrics for your throw pillows (wool, velvet, silk, cable knit, or metallic).With lots of different textures, keep your colour palette limited to a few different colours. If you have eight colours in a room and you layer in too many bulky textures, then the room can start looking a little heavy.
TONAL OR TONE-ON-TONE
TONE-ON-TONE involves styling different tones of the same colour together. Tone-on-tone is the Coco Chanel of room styles. Classic, quiet, iconic. And like Coco’s advice about pulling an outfit together—“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”—so too with a tonal room. This less-is-more look works best in the bedroom. If you are going for a tonal look, follow these three simple tips: Don’t go OCD and pick only tones on the same paint swatch. You can push the colour palette until you find your eye jumping to a colour in the room (believe me, it’ll stand out like a sore thumb); Include a wide spectrum of some darker tones and some lighter tones.; Don’t forget texture: mix in plenty of shapes and different fabrics to keep it interesting.
A COLOR PALETTE is a selection of colours for a designed room. The colour palette is one of the most essential elements in your room, and while you know what the term means, know that when it comes down to identifying colours you’re going to live with for a very long time, you’ve probably gotten stuck once or twice. Follow these five steps for the best colour palette ever:
1.Find the colour you love putting on your body the most. The biggest hint about the main colour you should decorate with is hanging in your closet. The hue that keeps popping up most often is the one you probably feel most confident around. Use it as the jumping-off colour for the rest of the palette. That is not to say that if electric blue is in fashion this year, you need to paint your walls that colour; it just means to take a cue from what you love to wear. If you’re drawn to a lot of blues, think about incorporating that colour into the space. If you find yourself never wearing purple, then maybe it’s not for you—in your fashion or in your home.
2. Add a highlight and a lowlight. Ever had your hair highlighted before? You’ll notice how the lighter and darker shades work together to create depth. Highlights are brighter and a little bolder and add punch; lowlights are more pulled back and subtle and help ground everything. Add variance to that one big colour you chose and bring in one lighter, brighter hue and one subtle, softer hue that complement your main colour. If your main colour is French blue, then maybe your highlight is teal and your lowlight is heather grey. If your main colour is pink, then your highlight could be a brighter fuchsia and your lowlight champagne.
3. Don’t stop at just three colours. A room with a small colour palette may be easy to understand, but it can look like an uptight person lives there.
4. Mix in warm tones and cool tones. Every room has to have a mix. Include both warm tones (reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and beiges) and cool tones (blues, greens, greys, whites) to create balance in the room. Surprise yourself by springing for colours you aren’t typically drawn to. And remember that materials like wood, gold, and silver count, too (wood and gold equal brown, silver equals grey).
5. Choose one fun accent colour. Add a colour that you can take out or change whenever you want. It should sit far away from your main colour on the colour wheel (like a very happy yellow to a masculine navy) and can be very bold. Think: hot pink, flashy coral, or bright kelly green. Just like that chunky necklace that you are obsessed with for one season and can’t look at the next, keep your accent colour flexible and replaceable. In other words, don’t paint your beautiful hardwood flooring in the Pantone colour of the year.
Think a small room looks bigger with dark paint? Nope. It doesn’t mean that it won’t look good, but dark paint will just make it seem small. This is a proven fact; ask every woman in America. Everything looks smaller in black—even our rooms.
LAYERING involves placing items in front of or behind others to create a collected look. It can apply to vignettes or whole rooms. When a stylist arranges the furniture, accessories, and textiles in a way that creates depth and texture, the result is a layered room that looks like it’s been lived in and loved for years—even if it’s just a staged set. You see items in the foreground and background, up high and down low. Every space feels appropriately filled out—even if it’s minimalist. But you don’t look at it and think, I’m suffocating, I can’t find one pocket of air to breathe from. Nay. One of the keys to layering is knowing when things are too perfectly placed; it’ll feel like a robot designed your room. So give yourself permission to let loose a little. By working things on different planes, you’ll create the illusion that history is in play, as if your stuff has been collected over time. You’ll also fool anyone into thinking you’re a natural—as if you just threw everything together already knowing how great it would look (even if you rearranged it ten times, or forty). If you’re a minimalist, leaving all surfaces in your house unadorned is not an option if you want it to feel like a home, but keeping them tightly decorated is. It’s all about adding larger-scale accessories in the foreground, background, and on surfaces. Instead of a gallery wall, think one big piece of art. Instead of a collection of miniature gold shoes (what?), think about getting a huge, simple gilded vessel.
The Golden Rule of 3s
The rule of threes is no secret—it works for writing, photography, and design, and it’s a great trick for layering vignettes. Presenting information in 3s makes a more memorable group, but variety should be included. Trying to look at three similarly sized objects at once is too chaotic—they compete with each other. (It would be like looking at a parade of floats that are all similar in size, style, and colour—after a bit you are super bored, of course, but more important, you feel like you’re going insane because of the repetition.) Your eye wants a bit of variety in order to decipher what’s really happening. So I’ve come up with a super-easy, you-can’t-lose rule. For every surface (be it a mantel, console, coffee table, or dresser), add these three things: Something vertical; Something horizontal; Something sculptural to tie the two together. For a mantel vignette, a vertical art piece can be choose and books stacked in horizontal position. Then you will need something that connects those two to soften the jump your eye makes from a vertical to a horizontal plane. So always include a bridge, an object that has more organic, sculptural lines. A vase of soft peonies might be all you need. Instead of placing three objects next to each other with the same amount of space in between them—which will looked too propped, like a store display—arrange one in front of another to create depth and then move the third one off to the side, giving the trio a bit of room to breathe.