Styling| How to Style the Perfect Surface in Your Home

March 13, 2017

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Image: Design Soda

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I’ve spent a lot of time recently moving trinket-y objects around the house, partly because I’m trying to style the house properly for photo shoots (which I’m sure will be re-styled on the day!) and partly just to shake things up a bit, finding new homes for old favourites (I think this is known as ‘shopping’ your home!) and making space for a few new items (has anyone else noticed how amazing H&M Home is this season?). We’ve been in this house for a little over a year now and I really feel I could have got my styling game on a bit better here. Each time I clean I’ve been trying out new ways to style things and paying more attention to the ‘rules’ of styling more readily. Actually I think if you’d been watching me over the last few months you might have found something quite comical in all of this, a vase moves downstairs one week to its new home, is rejected and moved upstairs during cleaning a week later, and so repeat. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in this but I do spend a lot of time faffing around with surfaces so I thought that today I’d share some of the things that work for me. If you are looking for an in depth deconstruction of all things home styling related I thoroughly recommend Emily Henderson’s Styled, or the very similarly named beautiful coffee table book Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, if you’re looking for shortcuts, read on.

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 My Nine Tips:

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, bohemian mid-century modern interior decor ideas, brass lamp vintage

How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, kinfolk slow living

Images: Design Soda

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Odd numbers

Starting off with an all time classic rule of design, but for a reason – it works! Symmetry of values is great for creating balance to a vignette but actual mirror image symmetry is awful, there is nowhere for the eye to focus and it will just skim and move on. If you are clustering objects together then the rule of three (or five) is a good one for creating tension and breaking up the boring. The surface above has five items, two are in common (the cork coasters), the cup breaks up the symmetry of these and creates a visual bridge to the two items in the fore.

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Image: Design Soda

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Texture and tension

Unless you are displaying an actual bonafide collection, then texture and tension are your great friends for adding interest. Having slick or shiny items, say the brass candle holder or glass bottles in the image above, next to something wooden, woven, aged, or colourful will pull the items together and create the right balance of tension. In the picture of my bedside occasional table in my first tip, I have layered cork coasters and a naturally distressed cup next to the fashionable magazine and the shiny surface of the Normann, Copenhagen table to create textural interest. The same goes for colour, you can have many hues of the same shade and it will look beautiful but without another colour (or two) to anchor your collection, it will start to recede and may look a little bland, see the bedding behind in the shot above, the pinks on the cushion would be lost on that mainly white duvet without the knitted black and green elements (which again add texture). 

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks vintage bohemian eclectic style hallway interiors farrow ball Oval Room Blue faux cactus brass mirror

Image: Design Soda

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Greenery

My god is this a clever shortcut to cohesion. I’m all about bringing the outside in in general, it’s a staple design rule in our house, from the natural history items we’ve collected to the natural pigments in paint. A well placed succulent, cactus, houseplant or even some dried foliage adds both texture and vibrancy and to my mind is often the final missing touch on a surface. This vignette of the radiator cover in our hallway pulls together all kinds of natural elements (fresh flowers, a succulent, dried flowers hanging from the mirror, a fossilised coral, does the fake cactus count?) and as it’s the first thing you see as you enter the house I wanted to make a play of these elements. But in general greenery is often a great completing element, you don’t have to layer them quite as much as I have in this picture. 

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, bohemian mid-century modern interior decor ideas, eclectic style

Image: Design Soda

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Books on their backs and in stacks

Now this one is so counterintuitive to me, I work in a library so a pile of books means a stack to shelve and not one to enjoy, but books stacked on a surface (esp coffee table ones, which I will allow are intended for this direction) add interest to a surface, the direction of them is everything, it creates tension since most objects will be placed upright, and it doubles as a great surface to add things without much height that you want to bring focus to. The image above only has one book on its back but it gives just the right height to my vintage pineapple candle holder and creates a nice juxtaposition to the other books which are in a traditional direction.

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks eclectic-modern-bohemian-vintage-interior-decor-farrow-ball-teresas-green-industrial-lamp-typewriter-natural-history-shells-

Image: Design Soda

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Heights

Similar to the point above, all my favourite styled surfaces (and I look at a lot of them) make a play of objects by varying height and scale, there is usually something vertical, something horizontal and an object that bridges the two together. Lights, vases, that pile of books with something on them, are all great ways of making sure your surface isn’t only peopled by the little things which can get lost on their own without a backdrop. In this shot of the living room, I have added height to the area with pictures above, this is because the items on the chest of drawers are best viewed close-up from above, but the whole surface would get lost without an element that drawers the eye up to the rest of the room and acts as a bridge. 

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, bohemian mid-century modern interior decor ideas, vintage and kitsch

Image: Design Soda

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Surprise – (for me it’s kitsch)

Something that doesn’t quite fit is a great way of injecting interest into a space, for me my go-to surprise is almost always something kitsch, it’s stops a surface feeling too styled (even when every inch of it has been planned) and, because I like stylish things but I don’t see my home as an entirely serious space, a little dose of kitsch goes a long way in breaking up pretension. This squirrel moneybox and snowglobe are a counter point to the natural history I have framed on the other side of the shelf (just out of shot).

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Image: Design Soda

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A slightly off centre focal point

This one is another golden rule of styling, we all have that one object that we want as a focal point right?, but unless you’re super minimalist and only displaying that one said object, placing it (or the group of central items) just off centre keeps the focus on them but also allows the rest of the surface to play off them and come alive too.

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, botanical eclectic bohemian style, dried leaves and feathers dsiplay

Image: Design Soda

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Find a theme, but don’t stick to it rigidly 

This is similar to some of the points in texture and tension, really effective vignettes usually have a vague theme in common, it may be the era or the design sensibility of the objects themselves. Too much of a mishmash can look a little crazy but being too rigid with themes can also be more than a little boring. This Cascade tray by Lizzie for Smug has elements of natural forms to it, but it’s shiny highly patterned surface acts as a foil to the items of collected nature here.

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, kinfolk slow living

Image: Design Soda

 

Layering 

This one takes time in my eyes, I don’t ever expect a sideboard, surface or bookcase to be finished quickly, finding just the right items takes time, years even, so don’t expect Rome to be built in a day. A manic shopping spree is unlikely to bring about the vibe you are hoping to create and may just lead to many regretful piles of items to go to charity. Try and find vintage objects that strike your fancy, especially ones with patina, the element of unique will keep interest and your display will never look generic. Layering can be done successfully in many forms, it should tell a story but that could be a story about texture as much as it is about the objects themselves. The image above combines new modern geometric design and dried flowers and foliage, because some of the modern items are wood, the look becomes layered without effort.

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How to style a Vignette or suface, interior design stylist tips and tricks, tutorial on how to create interesting surfaces in the home, bohemian mid-century modern interior decor ideas, brass lamp

Image: Design Soda

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What do you think? Do you have any styling rules that you turn to time and again? I’d love to hear them. 

 

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