“Accessories, art, plants and flowers bring “life” to any room. Always keep a little in the budget reserved for these finishing touches. Otherwise, even a space with the most beautiful furnishings will look like a showroom, not a living room.” ~ Linda Merrill
Last week, interior designer Vivian Benjamin kindly posted my quote on the importance of accessories in interiors on her Instagram. I thought it made for an interesting topic for a blog post.
I can’t stress how much I truly believe this. Not only do accessories really make the space but you can move them around to keep the rooms fresh – an inexpensive refresh of the space.
Accessories tell the story
The simple space above is a good example. We first focus on the image as a whole – the stone wall, the washed out palette – it’s romantic and evocative. But it’s the details – the flowers, the bunnies, the pillow and books – which pull it together to give it “place”. The accessories actually tell the story.
My clients for this Duxbury Garden Home project were retirees who are well-traveled and avid collectors. When we did their new home, I was like a kid in a candy shop with her collection of accessories. What happened was that they had sold a large family home in Truro, MA a couple of years before and had put everything into storage. They then bought this attached home and my job was to turn a basic space into something special, comfortable and stylish. I’ll tell you, going through their boxes of art and accessories was like being a kid in a candy store. Not everything was precious or valuable, but everything did have meaning or purpose. Family heirlooms, children’s books once owned by grandparents, fine art and a sculpture from their travels in Mexico. It all tells a story and fleshes out the space. Without the accessories, we’d have a pretty chair and rug, and a fireplace, maybe the painting. Everything is lovely, but would certainly be a bit sterile.
Fleshing out the space with Accessories
Here is a little sneak peek of my finished Modern Coastal project that I’ve been working on in The Pinehills for the last year. I am going to be taking better photos but here are some semi-styled images that I think really show the value of accessories. The rendering above is just the main furnishing elements in the foyer. All very pretty but I do think it feels much more welcoming with a little more personality as you see below.
This sideboard was specifically chosen to offer storage as well as a bar top for entertaining. It’s in the main sitting area of the space and needed to be slim to keep the walkway open. For parties this might be filled with a bar set up and glasses or an appetizer station. But for everyday some well-chosen accessories keeps it from feeling sterile.
I hope you can see how big a difference the right accessories can make.
And this below is a photo I took (and a bad one, at that) of my Boston South End townhouse project. This is probably the best example I have of a “before and after”. We filled the room with beautiful furnishings from Baker Furniture, Maitland-Smith, Theodore Alexander, Restoration Hardware, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and more. The lighting included a gorgeous antique crystal and bronze chandelier and pair of sconces and the carpet was handmade. The window treatments were custom. And you know what? It still looks bare, doesn’t it?
Et voila. The finishing touches included the addition of the sheer window shades, flowers and vases. The clients opted not to have a cocktail table right away as they had a toddler, so for the photoshoot, I borrowed this vintage brass Maison Bagues-style table. I also borrowed the art on the walls, which was added with photoshop magic. I think it’s super-obvious the difference those finishing touches can make.
Of course, how many accessories is the right amount is subjective. Some people like a lot of “stuff”, others prefer a more streamlined approach. For me, it needs to be personal, possibly functional, always beautiful. Also, remember, you can, and should, move your accessories around the house just to shake things up.
I’d love to hear your go-to’s for great accessories!
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