Decorating or styling?
Ok. I get to put on my slightly snooty decorators hat for this one. Decorating a book case, or a coffee table, or a shelf or the top of a dresser means painting designs on it, or adding tassels or nail-head trim, or adding some wood trim. It means embellishing the surface. Styling refers to the arranging of items on that surface. So, yes, you could style a decorated book case. But you do not decorate a coffee table with books, just as you do not style a coffee table with new paint.
There, that’s out of the way.
I was in a group discussion the other day and this came up when talking about how to arrange items on the top of a bureau in the living room. And as that was the reason for the discussion, I’ll share what we decided. These guidelines apply to bureaus, coffee tables, decorative shelves. mantles — places where you are displaying things.
1. Things always look best in groups of three.
-don’t know why, but this is true. It’s one of those truisms which you just have to accept. I wish someone would explain why this is true. I’d be interested.
2. Pick items which belong together.
– for example: typically, a vase, a softball and a rock don’t belong together.
– successful tablescapes tell a story, or reinforce the room theme or color scheme.
3. Choose items of different heights and sizes.
– but one super large and two tiny doesn’t cut it either.
– three books stacked on top of each other make one taller, larger item. They don’t qualify as 3 books.
4. Make sure that any item is large enough to be easily identified from the normal viewing distance.
-it isn’t a valued part of the tablescape if you can’t tell what it is.
-your tablescape will lose its importance completely if you have to get right up to it to see the components.
5. Vary texture.
-some smooth, some rough, some shiny, some dull.
6. Use items which relate to the theme of the room.
– a small table-top lighthouse, a miniature boat and a reed ball belong in the sea- side cottage. A victorian picture framed photo, a small nose-gay of flowers and a book about needlepoint belong in a Shabby Chic room.
7. Pay attention to scale and balance.
– a great big flower in a tiny vase — no. Two blue things and one green thing — probably no because the green one will take visual importance over the things which are the same.