Of all the decorating crimes you could commit, there is probably only one that rivals "too cluttered," and that is "too catalog-y." While we like our homes neat and tidy, we admire homes that look like, well, homes, not stage sets. As we've seen in countless house tours, "signs of life" are highly praised. But what are those subtle touches that create that pleasing lived-in look? No, I don't mean stylist tricks like leaving your bed chicly disheveled or placing carefully nibbled scones on a plate just within sight. We're talking concrete, long-term touches that are compatible with both tidiness and personality. Here are a few suggestions.
• Plants. Modern, boho, rustic, glam… a plant looks at home surrounded by any style and brings a refreshing visual break from a room dominated by like forms, hard edges, and bulky objects.
• Mix woods. Like wearing white after labor day, this is somewhat of a stylistic departure from the dictates of yore. And it's not the easiest to implement. However, if you've ever walked into a dated hotel room and cringed, it probably had to do with more than just the chintz floral bedspread. When your headboard, dresser, side tables, and arm chair legs are all the same wood and finish, a room will likely feel sterile and lifeless. The key to keeping the mix from looking like the furniture corner of Goodwill is mixing finishes (as in glossy, raw, distressed, etc.) as well as wood type, and having at least two pieces in the same tone.
• Original Artwork. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just can't be from Homegoods. It can be a framed finger-paint portrait by your 3-year-old nephew or a piece from your local high school's studio art show (a great source for original, well-priced art, by the way), but the point is that it was made by an individual and means something to you. One or two generic pieces can work if the image has some sort of significance for your life, but a room full of store-bought, mass-produced art is strangely soul-sucking and is probably the number one culprit in a flat feeling room… aside form no art at all.
The list could go on to include a long list of must haves, but if you use these three as a launching point, it will be hard to go wrong.
(Image: Tommy Smythe's Master Vignettes)