How To Style Your Space
I think interior design is the Best Job Ever TM and styling finished projects is often the highlight of my week! Though there are a few recommended rules, like styling accessories in odd-numbered groupings, they’re not ALWAYS true! As I was sitting down to write this blog I kept trying to make the rules “don’t leave a blank space…unless you do” or “Never use even numbers…unless it’s right.” Haha. There are standard Principles of Design that every artist, graphic designer, and interior designer follows. I’m going to let you in behind the curtain to talk about each principle and how we use them to style like a pro! Then you’ll be able to tell if you’re following the rules—or breaking them on purpose! As we go through our principles we’ll imagine we’ll styling shelves, which most people say is the “hardest part”!
1. Emphasis: This is always my first question to the team—what is the star here? Who is getting top billing? Who’s making the millions on the film—is it the large chinoiserie ginger jar? Is it the family portrait? Is it the collection of trinkets? Whichever item we want to notice first should be placed and then designed around. We want the star to be the focal point! If your favorite piece ended up in the back/bottom shelf…that’s not right! Generally our star will be at eye level with breathing room—nothing crowds the star!
2. Balance: Every item we place on a shelf has visual weight. The weight can come from size, color, or texture. In the same way that we wouldn’t put all of the furniture in one corner of the room, we wouldn’t put all of the visual weight in one shelf or on one side of the shelf. If we’re going to have one large item on the left, we may have one large item on the right (for symmetry) or have several smaller items on the right (for asymmetry).
3. Contrast: We wouldn’t want to put a white vase on a white shelf with a white wall…you’d never see the vase! Think opposites here—black vs white, smooth vs rough, shiny vs matte. On a smooth, white shelf a carved, wood sculpture or bowl would stand out. So would a stack of black books. Or even a plant—natural vs man-made!
4. Pattern/Rhythm: If, on our shelves, we had a whole scheme of black and white objects and then we placed one blue object it would read like a mistake. Maybe in the store we thought it was different! That’s because the blue is interrupting the pattern/rhythm of the black and white. We either need more blue, or less. The same is true of texture. If everything we have looks like handmade pottery and then we have one high-gloss lucite sculpture it will look like a mistake. We need to either add more “smooth and sleek” or remove the single piece.
5. Proportion/Scale: Imagine your shelves were being used to display marbles—tons and tons of marbles and then all of a sudden you also placed a bowling ball. What?! He would look out of place and disproportionate and throw off our groove! This tip is a friend of balance. Balance is analyzing the whole while proportion/scale are analyzing the individual pieces. We wouldn’t want to display our matches collection with our life-size suit of armor. Or even our children’s bronzed shoes with our Remington bronze sculpture.
6. White Space: This tip keeps us from stacking our shelves so full that we’re worried things will start to fall off! Every grouping and item needs breathing room. It is ideal to have blank space on shelves. Instead of having a vase AND a candle AND a succulent AND a stack of books could you just have a bowl? A stack of 3 books only? Instead of 20 4×6 frames of family vacations could we just have one grouping of 3 frames on the entire shelf? Giving yourself space emphasizes that you’re confident in your styling!
7. Unity: We want one shelf to flow to the next shelf—everyone should be friends and inviting you from one shelf to the next. If any shelf is being exclusive—something isn’t right in the above rules. If your eye goes to your star but then stops? Something is out of balance or missing contrast. Your entire room should invite your eye from one vignette to the next!