It’s a Tuesday night, and you’re finally cleaning that cluttered inbox from all the websites you’ve unintentionally subscribed to. If you’re anything like me, it will be emails from Architectural Digest, Domino, Dwell, and Apartment Therapy. Part of me gets sucked into the vortex of clicking on the pictures of beautiful spaces, and the next thing you know, I’ve spent three hours hitting “next article” instead of cleaning my inbox, as I had previously intended on doing. Similar to the YouTube rabbit hole we all get sucked into.
So what exactly is it that catches your eye? Is it the essential design element of the photograph? Is it because it followed the rule of thirds, and the scale of the items are placed so that it draws your eye around the photo, so you’re intrigued? For me, it’s always this blend of different textures and materials.
As I’ve gotten a little bit older and have designed my own spaces, I find myself stepping away from the “matchy-matchy” look that you’ll see in furniture catalogs. Your space is YOUR space, so make it unique to you. If you like bright colors, do bright colors! If you want neutrals, follow your heart and make your whole place tan, white, and gray. Do whatever makes you feel good in that specific place.
Whenever I’m starting a new project, I create a vision board. What materials look good against each other? What colors do I want to choose for my design palette? What shapes do I want to play with? How do I want to feel in this space? Should it be relaxing, energizing, and encourage focus? How do I want to organize the area? (I’m a sucker for a clutter-free environment and a well-organized space makes me sparkle with joy.)
So how do you go about creating a vision board? My go-to before I started getting involved with photoshop and InDesign was, of course, Pinterest. You can also just screenshot or snip photos from websites that inspire the feeling you’ve decided that space should provide for you.
My Pinterest is a mess. I’ve got boards for chairs, couches, rugs, paint color palettes, and my favorite board is the “build me a home” board. This is where I place all the fantastic architecture and design pages that push me out of my comfort zone (I’ve always been a neutrals girl, but I can appreciate a bright space too!). Because one day, I’ll be building and designing my own home, and I’ll have 15 years of pins to sort through.
So now that you know where your heart lies with your design aesthetic, how do you step it up a notch and elevate your style? The easiest way to achieve this goal is through mixing materials. Adding different textures, shapes, and contrast will boost your space no matter where you purchased (or, in some cases, got for free) your items. Include organic materials if you can. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, something as simple as picking up some fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s will not only bring a new design element to your space. But who doesn’t love fresh flowers? There’s always the option of going faux; just be picky there as this can have the opposite effect on your space, and you’ll end up with a dust catcher you end up sticking on the sidewalk hoping someone takes it.
Don’t be afraid to layer a shag, braided, or even a faux sheepskin area rug on top of the tight-knit loop carpet often found in apartment bedrooms. Layer your curtains with embroidered sheers and a heavy velvet in a bold color. Think outside the norm of cotton sheets with matching pillowcases and a cotton duvet cover. Find a printed sheet, a knit blanket, maybe a quilt or one of those amazing oversized knit throws (I know you’ve seen it all over Instagram, the one where they use their arms to knit? It’s so cool!). Microsuede sofas with one of those ridiculously soft pillows you always have to touch when you’re at HomeGoods (you know the ones I’m talking about! They’re always white too, aren’t they?) Don’t be afraid to pick up some Rattan dining chairs to add contrast and bring in a unique natural texture. Or even using a natural-fiber area rug in your living room against a hardwood or vinyl flooring.
Play with your scale. Hang your curtains at the top of the ceiling to draw your eyes up. Choose end tables of different widths and heights—table lamps as well as floor plans. Play with the geometry of the space. Once you find your aesthetic, the options are truly endless, and you can work on making a space uniquely your own with that wow factor that will have your friends and family asking you, “where did you get that!?” And who doesn’t want to take pride in their home? Never be afraid of playing with different materials. There are thousands of options out there for a reason, so go take advantage of it!
Written by: Jacquelin Blegen