By Susan Bohlert Smith, Bohlert Massey Interiors
Accessorizing is about personal style and needs to be determined ahead of beginning the project.
Having accessorized professionally for both residential and commercial clients over the past 24 years, I have distilled the process down to some basic, logical givens that will elevate an average composition of objects into a curated one of seemingly effortless style.
Creating successful vignettes when working with furniture, art, and accessories is much like dressing. A beautiful woman can put on an expensive Prada dress and Christian Louboutin shoes, but apply too much makeup and too much of the wrong style and scale jewelry and the look is ruined. The same thing can happen with a beautiful home.
Accessorizing is about personal style and needs to be determined ahead of beginning the project. A home that is too matching and coordinated looks like a furniture store set up but not in a good way. Combining and balancing diverse styles, periods, and textures is layered and real. You want your home to feel as if you have been there forever and to surround yourself with things that mean something other than that it matches the sofa or it was purchased because it was on sale. A home should reflect the best of the person or people who live there.
When identifying your personal style, create a list of the things you love, and a collection of images that make you happy. Your list of items and images should give you a sense of calm when looking at them, as well as colors that just look right to you and complement your coloring. I am extremely visual and prefer using a bulletin board to pin images, fabrics, and paint color samples together so that I can step back from the selections and see what begins to emerge. From your list and images, you should be able to see a pattern, a strand or multiple strands of style and elements that are in harmony.
Once the furnishings are set in place, take a critical look at the overall direction the style of the house is taking. The art, accessories and lamps that are added in the space at this point are the make it or break it items and should be carefully considered. This is where you can add a little edge if the furnishings are feeling too safe and predictable or use restraint if some of the base pieces are elaborate and demand a lot of attention.
Begin treating the wall space in each room first. Determine how you will balance the types of items you hang on your walls. Don’t overuse any one element within the room. Whether it is a large collection of objects or paintings used on one wall, one large mirror, or one large piece of art, try to diversify your elements and avoid duplication. The biggest mistakes I see made in selecting and placing art is that pieces are typically too small and hung too high. Let the bottom of a mirror, painting or collection begin as low as 6” above the surface or furniture piece below it and increase the height if needed by adding additional items above.
Lighting is the most important element to tackle next. Choose lamps with updated, simple shades. Round, square, oval and pyramid shades in white or natural paper, true dupioni, or linen give the best light. Avoid lamps with ornate patterns, pleats, or shiny synthetics. Consider the proportion of the lamp against the furniture it will be resting on; if against a wall that has a an object hanging, consider how this lamp will layer or, the opposite, block what is on the wall. If the chest or table is petite, be cautious not to overwhelm the furniture with a lamp that is too large. If a chest or table is large scale, the lamp must scale up accordingly. Look over the room once your key lamps are in place and determine if the lamps are dispersed with good balance. Too many lamps on one side of the room can look cluttered. If additional light is needed for reading or just visually at the end of a sofa or in an area without overdoing lamp shades, floor or table task lamps with metal shades are a great option.
Now that all of the wall hangings and lamps are in place, you can focus on table scapes. Adding stacks of your favorite book titles at a cocktail table, bedside chest, or console table is always strong. Using beautifully potted live plants or blooming orchids are ideal as well. Both books and real plants add great warmth to any space. Avoid artificial plants and faux books when possible.
Accent Pillows and Throws are the final touch to warm up a room and make it complete.
The insert of choice for accent pillows is down and not polyester for shape and comfort. Using pairs of pillows that are at least 20” to 22” square anchor the sofa to then layer slightly smaller accent pillows in different patterns or textures. This is one of the easiest ways to bring in your color to the room, and can be changed over time as your look evolves.
The best and most important advice I can give on putting the final touches on your home is to never be in a rush.
Never buy something just to be done or fill space. Wait patiently for the perfect pieces to materialize and add as you travel, keeping a list of ideal sizes and photos of your spaces with you. The perfect interiors never happen quickly, they are thoughtfully layered and collected over time.
Having practiced design professionally for twenty three years, Susan founded Bohlert Massey in 1998 in Grayton Beach, Florida. In 2005, the firm relocated to its current location on the East end of 30A. Bohlert Massey Interiors has completed over 200 projects throughout the country. Susan brings an instinctive sense to her design projects, and is precise in applying her personal stamp. However, her high art approach to interior design never overshadows the core purpose: to channel her client’s personal aesthetic. She and her team provide comfortable, functional backdrops for their clients, while elevating the state of living well.