One thing I have learned through years of poring over design magazines and blogs is how big a role styling plays in the feel of a home. You can style pretty much any little nook and cranny and instantly make it look more appealing: a coffee table, dresser, kitchen counter, bedside table, desk. Today I am going to share some of the styling tips and takeaways I have learned along my quest to improve my own styling abilities.

Let’s start with a few examples of some very well styled spaces so you can see some styling done right.

All these gorgeous spaces did not come together by accident. And although the structure of the room may be nice, and the furniture beautiful, it is the styling that gives each their “wow” factor.

Basic Styling Elements

After “studying” styling for a while now, I have been able to identify a few elements that keep popping up. Shelves and built-ins are a good place to start because they can make such a difference when done well. Here are some basic elements to consider before tackling your shelves or built-ins.

  • Breathing room
  • Greenery
  • Leaned art
  • Sculptural objects
  • Stacked books
  • Varying heights

Let’s take a look at a few bookshelves and built-ins so you can see how these different elements keep popping up:

You can also carry over the same elements to a freestanding shelving unit. Here’s an example from Ballard Designs. Everything’s there except for the leaning art which would fall 🙂

Those examples are all for shelving situations. There are definitely tweaks and slightly different approaches if you take on a different surfaces, like a bedroom dresser or a bathroom counter, for example. But I guarantee you if you start here, everything else will start to fall into place.

Here are a few other pieces of advice if you would like to tackle a styling project in your home.

Styling Tips & Takeaways:

  • Take everything off and start with a clean slate. Don’t try rearranging what you have while it is still on the shelf. You’ll be able to make much better judgements, plus identify which pieces are not working.
  • Do not feel like you need to use and display all your stuff. Just because you have it, don’t force it. You will most likely need to leave some of your items off the shelf. Remember that breathing room is important.
  • On the other hand, if you do not have one of the elements, you may want to pick some up. Most of us tend to buy and accumulate the same type of stuff. Maybe you have too many picture frames. Or a bunch of small figurines. If that is the case, you may need to pick up some key elements and drop some of your existing things.
  • Keep an eye out for good, hardcover coffee table books. As we’ve seen in the sample photos, books are great for adding interest and especially for stacking. Old paperback novels won’t do the trick. So keep an eye out for nice, large coffee table books.

Speaking of good hardcover books, you might as well order this one. It is by the master of styling, Emily Henderson. I have been reading her blog which is an incredible resource for learning how to style for years now. So when she came out with this book last year, I bought it right away. If you want a more in-depth look at the “how to” behind styling your spaces, this is the book you want. Plus, don’t think she didn’t go with that beautiful gold spine so that it would look good “stacked”.

Design Lesson: How to Start Styling Your Home - The Outside and In

I hope seeing the common threads in a few well styled spaces was helpful to you. Now it’s time to choose a little styling project in your home!

If you liked this little design lesson, you might also like my posts on Mixing Styles, Adding Black and White and Finding Balance.

6 thoughts on “Design Lesson: How to Start Styling Your Home

  1. Anya

    I absolutely loved this article, Alejandra! We are about to purchase a home, and I am competely lost in the amount of “where to start” info on the we. Thank you for sharing!

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