Finishing Touches for an Unfinished Room: Tips from the Pros

published Mar 27, 2014
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(Image credit: Jill Slater)

I don’t remember where I read it or exactly when I read it, but it had to be well over five years ago. Nevertheless, that one little sentence of advice is still stuck in my head to this day. It went something like, “if your room doesn’t feel finished, add a touch of black”. It’s such a simple suggestion, easy for any novice to try out, and it got me thinking. What other tricks do the pros have up their sleeves? Here are a few design and decorating tips from the pros that could easily be the missing piece of the puzzle to rounding off your unfinished room.

When in doubt, add mirrors for extra glamour, put a piece of mirror on top of a cabinet to make it sparkle or in a niche to create the illusion of depth.

Layer, layer, layer. Unexpected touches are the soul of the MAXIMALIST HOME: a painting hung on a bookcase, a chandelier in a closet, a brass lion’s-head door knocker in a modern apartment.

When in doubt, repeat, repeat, repeat your patterns.

From Rita Konig:

It doesn’t necessarily follow that if everything in the room is beautiful you end up with a beautiful room. I think the best rooms are those that have a mix of things and an ugly lamp with a crooked shade, or an inherited table or the rug from your childhood bedroom. These are the things that add texture and life to a room.

Beefing up your architectural molding can go a long ways toward making your rooms feel richer. Wider crown moulding, taller base moulding and box trim can be added. Here’s one of my favorite tricks: Install a thin piece of trim several inches below your existing crown moulding. Paint the drywall area between the two trim pieces the same color and finish as the trim. The bulkier your trim molding, the pricier it looks.

Throw pillows that are 18 inches or less can read store bought. Search for or have larger pillows made for your sofa — you’ll make the whole look of your living room more high end. Overfilling your pillow covers helps too. Stuff 24-inch down-filled pillow inserts into 22-inch pillow covers for a more luxurious look.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

We’ve all heard how important it is to decorate in odd numbers, but it’s not just the quantities of threes (or fives) that make things more pleasing to the eye. “You never want three of the same thing. I vary the texture, size and, sometimes, color, so the overall effect is collected but not matchy-matchy”.

For a no-fail pillow combination, you only need three: one 20-inch by 20-inch, one 16-inch by 16-inch, and one 12-inch by 16-inch. “Those three sizes look good together no matter how you arrange them”.

The difference between the home you’ve spent so much effort redoing and those you’ve torn from magazines (beyond a seemingly limitless budget) might be a well-placed little bouquet. For a foolproof arrangement that works anywhere: several flowers in a single style — like peonies or grocery-store white roses — arranged loosely in a cylindrical vase. “It’s more natural if you use a mix of open and closed buds”.

(Image credit: Katie Gard)

When it comes to decorating, repetition speaks loudly. For example, one lamp works as an accent piece, but two lamps are a focal point. Curtains? An excess of fabric ramps up the feeling of luxury, so spring for two or three treatments instead of one.

From Brad Weesner:

“Float something in the room — a sofa, a lounge chair — to avoid the ‘dance hall’ look. Think of it as an opportunity to show off the back (do something with the back).”

“If you have a painting that looks too small above your sofa, don’t center it. Offset it a few inches to the left. The negative space — called ‘ma’ — becomes part of the image.”

From Jan Showers:

“Every room needs a touch of black, just as it needs at least one antique piece.”

Do you have a tip or trick that has worked for an unfinished room in your home? If so, please share!