Décor Decoded: Six Top Tips from Decorators

By on March 17, 2015, in Soft Surroundings

Unless you do it for a living, decorating your home can be daunting. You can skim at all of the décor books and magazines and fall in love with lots of the looks. But are they practical, livable? Is there an easier way—something simpler than a large-scale makeover? Where do the professionals start?

Professional interior designers know how to quickly access a room and its contents—big and small—to decide what to keep and what to replace. They do this with some key principles in mind.

The fundamentals revolve around basic concepts such as light, texture, balance, interest, focal point and surprise. But even that seems like it would take a practiced artistic eye, doesn’t it?

Not necessarily. Whether you are re-doing a room from scratch or just trying to add freshness to one corner at a time, these six tips will decode the puzzle and get you started.


1. Start at the Bottom 

Where do you begin? Rugs are an easy starting point because they can help determine the room’s color scheme and tone. That doesn’t mean a rug has to be colorful and dominant if you don’t want it to be. The colors can be subtle, when the texture is bold. Or…the pigments or pattern can attract attention while the rest of the room plays more quietly.  Either way, the rug is a great launching point.Our Zen Garden Rug is a lovely example of the balance between bold design with understated elegance and style. This rug’s sleek, shimmering leaves and branches of russet gold, ivory and loden curve and bend across a sage-colored wool and viscose field. The feeling it gives a room is tranquil and gardenlike, but unmistakably confident too.


Texture and pattern are underappreciated ways to add interest to a room and the rug is an easy way to accomplish these things. Our Arles Rug has what it takes. The ivory-colored, ultra-soft microfiber pile is carved and sculpted into a dimensional and abstract floral pattern. The texture is luxurious under bare feet. In a corner of the boudoir with an overstuffed chair like Provence Matelassé, it becomes a favorite spot in the house.

2. Use Your Precious Things 

One of Soft Surroundings’ favorite designers always said, “Use your precious things!” So often we save our best china, sterling silver bowls or cut crystal vases for special occasions and entertaining. So stop. Get that delicate heirloom teacup out right now and sip from something that makes you happy and special while you finish reading!


Now, keep going, and use your imagination. Try pairing your precious things with the not-so-precious ones. That French Engraved Vase or our Galle Glass Hurricane would make an exceptional pencil holder on the desk in your corner office (even if the corner office is at home!)

Or fill our Antique Mercury Glass Boxes with sticks of gum or penny candy and place them on the entryway console. What a sweet and unexpected way to welcome your guests.

3. Group Objects that Look Alike 

To create displays with dramatic presence interior designers often use the simple technique of grouping items based on repetition of form, color or theme. For example, clustering green glass jars of varying sizes and shapes, like our Vintage Glass Bottles, on a mantel or table draws attention and adds color.


Gilt accents, ganged together, do the same thing with a little more glitter and glam. Imagine our rust-gold Trianon Pendant shimmering near the gilded highlights of the Feuille Mirror or the Dauphine Game Table. The combined effect of the embellishments says opulence without coming on too strong.

When decorating the walls, designers often use the trick of gathering like things together. Similar style frames or like-colored picture mats can unify a diverse collection of photos, paintings, even mirrors across an expanse of wall.

Or, let Soft Surroundings make the connections for you with our weathered Chateau Collage Frame. This all-in-one unit is an easy way to arrange nine of your favorite photos, just pop them in the backs. The colors of green and cream and the distressed wood bring everything together.

4. Let there be Light—Evenly 

Nothing makes a space more inviting or look more put-together than lighting. Make it a point to evenly disperse light in a room. If the entry way is shadowy and dark, add a chandelier if you have the space, or sconces and a mirror. The additional light will be magnified by the reflective surface of the mirror and literally light up the place.


Consider mixing things up and using asymmetry to bring more illumination to your home. We love the idea of using a table lamp at one end of a couch and a floor lamp at opposite end. If the two lamps have similar styling like our Iron Sphere Table Lamp and Floor Lamp, the room will have visual intrigue, cohesion and balance.

Another option is to place flameless candles in gloomy or unlit spots. Of course, candles are always attractive on the mantel above the hearth, but you don’t have to have a fireplace mantel to achieve the same look. Line up our Fabulous Flameless Candles slightly above eye level on a shelf like our Rouen Hanging Shelf and they’ll draw attention like a moth to the flame.


The last little lighting tip we have to share has to do with shades. In certain rooms, like bedrooms and the bath, indirect light is a nice option to have. That’s why we’re so fond of our Linen Chandelier Shades and our Toile Lamp Shade Cover. In lieu of a dimmer switch, these shades do the trick. And because they are removable, you can easily change the look and brilliance of your lights—perhaps for a romantic dinner in the dining room?

5. Add a Sculptural Element 

Some of our most popular products at Soft Surroundings are our nesting tables. One designer called them the stylish alternative to the TV tables of the 60’s! Nesting tables are hard working space savers. But there is another sometimes-overlooked design strength to them. When pulled out slightly they create a sculptural element with their stair-stepped shape. Little things like this give a room more visual interest.


Our hand-carved mango wood Avril Hanging Shelf is another way to infuse a room with sculptural character. By choosing objects and accents that look like architectural artifacts like this and the Corinthian Side Table you can mix the classics with the beauty of nature just like the ancient Greeks and Romans did.

6. Enjoy the Unexpected 

Last but not least, our Soft Surroundings designers and stylist insist on every room having something unexpected in the décor.

We’re always delighted when members of our staff find new and surprising ways to use our products.

For example, we originally imagined our Porte-Clés to be a beautiful, but very useful way to keep house and car keys handy. That was until someone tied thin ivory ribbons on a collection of old skeleton keys and used the Porte-Clés like a glassless vertical vitrine or shadow box. The metal of the keys against the gilded finish of the box was magical.

We’ll share one more unexpected design idea and then we’d love to hear yours. Just drop us a line in the comments section below.


We are getting rave reviews from our customers for our Rue de Bac Grille and our Rue Le Verrier Grille. They love the way the cutouts let the color, pattern or texture of their walls come through against the grey finish of the woodcarving and the gilt frame.

But some inventive customer told us about a new use. She hung the grilles vertically in her double hung window—one on the top and one on the bottom. She said she loves the curtaining effect, without a curtain. And she enjoys the shadows cast around the room when the light radiates through the carvings! Brava!

  • Linda Johnston

    We are in need of alternate living quarters while our home is updated, so we bought a 90% completed tiny house on wheels that we can later use for traveling. We are planning to utilize the Rue de Bac Grille and another similar one as “doors” for a couple of our cubbie storage areas we are creating in the tiny house to add character and interest. They are quite classy – JMO.

    • Soft Spoken Soft Surroundings

      How exciting, Linda! Thank you for incorporating some of our pieces into your new living space 🙂

Trackbacks and Pingbacks