Accessorizing Your Living Room

Just a few stylish changes make a big difference.

By Pamela J. Wendt


The accessories you choose for the living room define its style and add the finishing touches that bring the space alive. As you accessorize the living room, follow a few guidelines used by decorators to ensure this special gathering place reflects the comfort and beauty that you intend.

Select a style. 
While it is not necessary to present a picture-perfect example of Colonial American or French Provincial interior design, if you have a sense of what you want the room to look like will keep you on track. Even those of us who pull our taste from a variety of styles need to tackle decorating with purposeful intent. 

Look around your living room and take stock of your treasures.  Do you have pieces of artwork you collected while traveling, your grandmother’s English country floral sofa, and Asian-inspired ceramics?  If everything you do builds upon their similarities, these can all work together. For example, unify these seemingly disparate elements by pulling a common color from them and using that to tie them together visually throughout the room.

Choose what stays. 
Now that you have a plan, decide what items fit into your scheme.  Don’t be afraid to relegate furniture and knick-knacks to other rooms, even if they’ve “always” been in your living room. Anything you keep that is not purposefully part of your accessorizing plan will dilute your decorating impact. Worse yet, too many items placed willy-nilly can simply make your room look messy.

Remember the tripod effect. 
Just as a tripod provides stability for a camera, so does a grouping of three provide visual stability for a room. This can be especially powerful when you add spots of bright color or bold pattern.  For instance, place a large red vase in one corner, then echo the scarlet hue with a beaded cushion next to the fireplace, and again in the flowers depicted in a painting above the mantle.

Keep things in proper balance. 
Symmetry tends to convey a formal tone, while asymmetry communicates a more casual feel. Nevertheless, these conventions will result in sheer boredom if they’re followed to the letter. For visual interest, use symmetry wisely. Hang a cluster of mismatched gilt-framed mirrors, and then border the grouping with two larger rectangular mirrors. The collection lends visual interest, and framing it symmetrically brings order and keeps it from looking cluttered.

A picture is worth a thousand words.
If accessories are intended to express your personal story, then none is so effective as the photo. Group miniatures in pretty frames atop a shelf or side table. If you put them at or below eye level, then they will be easily viewed, even if staggered one in front of another.  Create a gallery on one wall, mixing single and group portraits with multiples.  Commercial montage frames are crafted especially for this purpose, and many of them feature beautiful, relatively inexpensive frames.

By keeping in mind few simple rules while accessorizing, you will create a living room that communicates your own sense of style and welcoming warmth.

Pamela J. Wendt is a freelance writer who lives in Tempe, Arizona.