Have you ever walked into a friend’s home and it just feels “just right?” More often than not it’s the smallest design elements that really pulls a room together. Of course, we’re talking about accessories. For many homeowners “accessories” is the big black box of decorating. How does it work? What’s the right combination? How do I avoid over or under-accessorizing? And where are the best places to place accessories?

Let’s get a couple of items out of the way. First off, there is no correct answer to most of these questions. Professional interior designers use balance, proportion, color and creativity when placing accessories, along with their years of experience. Secondly, fake ivy doesn’t belong anywhere in your home! In all seriousness, here are some tips and tricks you can use to get those last few details just perfect.

Accessories should compliment, not take away from your room’s decor. This idea of “complimenting” can be interpreted two ways: match the decor or enhance. In the two pictures below we see very different accessory plans. In the first picture of a living room in Austin, TX, take note of the color of the accessories spread around the room. Glass bowls on tables, small vases on the bookshelves, artwork and pillows all tell a consistent blue story. It’s elegant without being overpowering.

In Tobi Fairley’s room below, we see her expertly used white accessories on the bookshelves and on the coffee table. The white elements allow us to see the beautiful furniture she placed this room - a soft blue sofa and chocolatey occasional chairs. The tone-on-tone allows us to see all the textures of the room without being distracting.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes a space needs almost nothing extra because of the architectural details present. I envision this home on a tree-lined street in Manhattan or Boston or D.C. The contemporary furnishings and simple accessories are perfect compliments to the ornate moldings and weighty architectural details. Notice the lack of extras. Each accessory used is sculptural and unique in it's own rite. This creates a room with a more art-focused feel where all the design elements work together beautifully.

Create Groupings for Real Impact. Understanding human vision will help you accessorize more effectively. Negative space is your friend with accessorizing a room. Think about the way in which a museum shows off their prized art collection. They don’t cram all the pieces right next to each all the way around a room. Instead they deliberately space pieces which allows the eye to notice each individual piece before moving on to the next one. This same principle applies to your home. Create groupings that are interesting in which each piece has some connection with the adjacent pieces. The connection may be color, texture, size (or size differences) and subject. Take the first room below. What an amazing collection of art pieces, each with their own niche. The separation allows us to notice and appreciate each one.

In the example below, notice how objects are placed in groupings based on their similarity. Different heights, sizes, colors are used to make each group interesting to the viewer.

JBi's final word. When you tackle your own home, remember to keep these rules in mind and your project will come out great. More than anything, have fun selecting your accessories and don't be afraid to take a risk.