3 Designer-Approved Tricks for Decorating with Knickknacks Without Creating Clutter

published Sep 22, 2022
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White built-in bookshelf between kitchen and living room
Credit: Daria

I absolutely love knickknacks and a maximalist aesthetic — the more textures, colors, and layers overlapping each other, the better. Sometimes though, I get sensory overload in my apartment and feel like I need to declutter, even though I don’t want to. My eye begins to get dissatisfied with the lack of white space, and I feel like there are too many vignettes and my possessions are closing in on me. I don’t necessarily think it’s because I have too much stuff; instead, I think it’s because it’s not arranged correctly.

There’s an art to arranging trinkets. If you put them haphazardly on shelves and furniture, your room can quickly begin to look like an estate sale with all its treasures lined up on tables. If you occasionally struggle with how to group your collectibles and decorative items and want to create some breathing room in your space, these designer tips can help you make your home look curated rather than cluttered.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

Focus on bigger pieces.

The easiest way to avoid feeling like you’re drowning in stuff is to focus on decorating with larger collectibles. “Our rule of thumb is to intentionally buy larger decor pieces instead of many smaller items,” says Bria Hammel, owner and creative director of Bria Hammel Interiors in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. “This way, it’ll feel fuller without the clutter or having to buy multiple small accessories to fill empty space.” That might mean weeding out your smaller pieces to let the larger items shine. Just stow your “littles” for the time being, and rotate things in when you get bored of the trinkets currently on display.

Credit: Dani Sandels

Group similar items together.

If you love your assortment of tchotchkes, but they still feel a little cluttered, try grouping similar items together to create a thread of consistency. “I find that placing like mementos together in a group lends a sense of order,” says Darryl Carter, a Washington D.C.-based interior decorator and furniture designer. “If keepsakes are dissimilar, one way to solve this is by executing them in the same manner.” Take photographs, for example. You can frame them all in one frame style for visual continuity. If you have a candle holder collection, tie your pieces together by using the same color candlestick in each vessel. A vase collection can hold the same type of flower or greenery throughout a room and so on.

Credit: Lana Kenney

Create height differences.

One reason your room might feel like an avalanche of knickknacks is because you’re not utilizing height to break them up. “Use books, stands, and elevated trays to create mini platforms for your small decor items,” Olga Zymon, a Chicago, Illinois-based interior designer, suggests. “Our eye likes seeing items clustered in groups of three, but even that can fall flat if those items are all the same height. Take a stack of Vogue [magazines] or books and use them to elevate one vase higher than another. Use a tray with legs to raise knickknacks next to vases or vessels, and put planters on top of small boxes.”