Decorating is in the Details

home decarting with Kitty BurrussA casual acquaintance recently commented to me that she can always tell which of her friends have used interior designers.  When I asked how she could so easily identify this, she replied that, although many people have pretty homes, “decorated” rooms have all the details.

When I step back and consider all of the thought and effort interior designers put into every last detail of a project, this comment makes complete sense.  Who else would devote hours to hunting down the perfect trim for a single sofa pillow? Who else would walk into a room and instantly believe that it’s “missing” wainscoting?  These details are just a few of the slightly crazy obsessions of decorators, but they do make all the difference.

One of the details designers can never get enough of is trim.  We love using it on window treatments, accent pillows, the skirts of upholstered furniture,  lampshades and any other upholstery we can.  For a little extra oomph in your space, try adding a length of tape trim to the bottom of a lampshade.  Though professionals typically have a seamstress stich the trim onto the shade, you can try it yourself on an inexpensive shade with superglue.  Trim is also a fabulous way to dress up store-bought drapery panels.  Have your local tailor add some to the leading edge of your drapery panels for a custom look.  If you like a modern, stream-lined style, you can apply a simple grosgrain ribbon trim in a solid color or try a graphic Greek Key print.  If you want something more traditional, be bold and look for tassels or a wood-bead trim.  There are thousands of options in the trim world, so you’re sure to find a color and style that works in your space.

Another detail designers rely on is molding.  Good molding adds instant character and a sense of established architecture.   To my eye, a room without crown molding just doesn’t feel finished, so it is a great place to start.  Once you’ve installed your crown, take a look at your base moldings.  If you have small, typical builders’ base molding (3”), I like to replace it with something more substantial (at least 5” though 6” or 7” is optimum).  You can stick to simple, clean molding styles; it’s the height that provides the impact.   Chair rails and wainscoting are also wonderful molding details to add to a space that lacks architectural elements.  While adding these details can be relatively costly, they add value to your home in a way a new sofa or coffee table cannot.

decorative details interior designA bookcase is another fabulous opportunity to introduce a few extra decorative details and create a visually pleasing vignette.  Avid reader that I am, I still never treat a bookcase as just a place to store books!  To start, be sure to break up the masses of your books by stacking some horizontally and others vertically.  Place a decorative object on top of a stack of horizontal books, and break up vertical clusters with framed photos, objets d’art, or small plants.  The eye needs a few spots to rest among all those books, so don’t feel like you need to fill every inch of space.  For extra credit, try painting the back of your bookcase a pretty color or wallpapering it in a colorful grasscloth.

The most important detail to keep in mind when decorating is the “element of surprise.” Have you ever been to a formal wedding where a waiter brought around flip-flops for the ladies after a long night of dancing?  Or stayed at a hotel where champagne spontaneously appeared at your door every day at 4:00 pm – without you ordering it?   Similar to a party or a vacation, it’s the unexpected luxuries that really make a space memorable.   I love the idea of making bill-paying more fun by painting the inside of your desk drawers a vibrant color, like lipstick pink.  Another decorator trick is to wallpaper the interior of a closet in a fun print.   Be daring and use a paper you might tire of if it were covering an entire room; when used in a small closet, it can instead feel like a special greeting when you hang up your coat at the end of the day.   For a touch of tongue-in-cheek, frame and prominently display something you’ve always loved but didn’t think was living room worthy, like a painting your son made in kindergarten.   One of my favorite “surprises” was an elegantly-framed, slightly smudged napkin on which was written  “You Look Fabulous.”   It was hung next to a bathroom mirror, and, thanks to the dim lighting in that powder room, I believed it.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when designing your home, including all of the tiny details that bring a room to life and make a space appear well thought-out.   Try not to neglect them, as it’s truly the details that make a space uniquely yours.   The pleasure they are sure to bring you and your guests will be well worth the extra effort.

[blockquote class=blue]Kitty Burruss is an interior designer in Briarcliff Manor, NY.  She works for Barbara Sternau Interior Design.[/blockquote]

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About the Author: Kitty Burruss