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How accessories make a difference


Published: 08/24/2012

by Kimberley Seldon

If a picture is worth athousand words, there’s little I need to say about the impact of accessorizing when you compare
these two photos of the living area in this home. The ‘before’ photo shows a room that was to include only the fundamentals – furniture, an area rug and draperies. The ‘after’ photo of the finished room speaks for itself, wouldn’t
you agree? So why, after more than 20 years of practising interior design, do I still have challenges convincing clients to budget for this important part of the decorating process – accessorizing?


Too often with decorating projects, all available funds are allocated to large-scale furnishings – necessary to be
sure. However, in my experience, the ultimate satisfaction doesn’t arrive until the finishing touches are firmly in place. I typically suggest that clients save 20% of the total budget for styling and accessorizing.That may mean limiting the number of
rooms you tackle at a given time, but I think the final results justify the delayed gratification.


Fortunately, styling is a skill that’s easily learned, and the only tools required are a digital camera and a healthy dose of
patience. If you’re trying your hand at this for the first time, or if you’re nervous because you’ve made mistakes before, begin with a small, containable area, like a mantel, bookshelf or coffee table.


Choose a vignette from a favourite design book or website that you’d like to imitate. Next, gather together some
decorative items you already own. Open up all your cabinets in search of forgotten pieces shoved into the back corners. You might be surprised by how well they work when you try them in a new location or group them in a fresh
way. Choose items that are similar in size and feeling to the ones in your chosen vignette. Now you’re ready to start styling!


Styling like a pro

Try arranging accessories in a manner that mimics what you see in your inspiration vignette. Don’t over-think your


I’ve often tried things I was sure wouldn’t work, only to discover something fresh and interesting. Mistakes are
opportunities to learn, so just go for it.


To illustrate, in the ‘after’ photo you see a wire ball sculpture. In theory, it’s too large for that table, but when I
placed it there, I knew immediately it had the impact I wanted. I initially envisioned tall vases for the coffee table, but the bronze tray and books keep things low, which translates into a contemporary feel that’s just right for this space.

When you think you have a pleasing display, take a digital photo of it. Here’s where you become the expert. You’ve probably
seen enough magazine photos to know what works and what doesn’t.


Be honest: Do you need to replace one of the items? Is something jumping out at you or obviously wrong?


Try replacing one item at a time until you find a harmonious grouping. That’s how stylists do it at photo shoots, by the
way – constantly evaluating what the camera reveals. Keep working in this manner with a single vignette until you have something beautiful.


When you finish one location, try another. Work systematically and don’t give up. I promise it won’t take long to uncover
your hidden stylist.  


Kimberley Seldon Design Group is a full-service design, build and decorate firm.

For more information, phone 416-780-9187, ext. 227, or visit

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