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November 18, 2011 > Real Rooms For Real People: Displaying accessories successfully

Real Rooms For Real People: Displaying accessories successfully

A house becomes a home when the owner's personality is reflected in the decor. The best way to accomplish this is through accessories. Family photos, your mother's teacups, and the ceramic box your daughter made in third grade - all of those cherished treasures deserve a special place in your home. How do you display accessories successfully? When I redesign a home, I keep several things in mind when arranging my clients' accessories.

* Arrange accessories in odd-numbered groupings. On any surface such as a coffee table or chest of drawers, arrange accessories in groups of three, five, or even seven if the surface is large enough. One large-scale item, like a ceramic urn or pot, can also work well.

* On a tabletop, arrange accessories of varying heights in a pyramid or triangular shape. Use a tall item like a lamp, pillar candle or sculpture in the center. The next item should be approximately 2/3 the height of the tallest item. The last item should be about 1/3 the height of the tallest item. Boxes or books can be used to raise items to the desired height.

* Group like items together rather than scatter them throughout the room. Your collection of antique cameras, for example, will have more impact if you group them together in a bookcase. Try mixing in some old photographs or other related items to add interest and build on the theme. Collections of small items such as buttons or shells can be displayed in glass bowls or vases.

* Arrange a grouping of accessories on a tray to corral the items and give them more impact and importance.

* Plants and flowers add life, color and texture to your groupings. If you have a green thumb, real plants are best, but high-quality silks work well also.

* Use platters, plates or trays to create backdrops for other accessories. This looks especially nice in china cabinets, bookcases, and that space above the kitchen cabinets.

* Use accessories to accentuate the theme or color in artwork. For example, a red vase placed in front of a painting will highlight the red found in that painting. Another example: Place an antique musical instrument alongside a painting with a musical theme.

* Large-scale rooms need large-scale accessories. Small items will just get lost in the room.

* Resist the urge to fill every inch of shelf or tabletop space. Leaving some "white space" will allow the eye to rest and also to focus on the accessories that are there.

Anna Jacoby of Anna Jacoby Interiors is a local interior designer. Send your design questions to her at Call or fax her at 510-490-0379 or visit

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