styling tips | for home

Marian ParsonsDecorating, Popular, Secret Weapons28 Comments

A few days ago, I shared part one of the “styling tips” series – for retail.  Now, it’s time for part two – styling tips for the home.

While styling for retail and photography is about making a space and individual items look beautiful or appealing without much regard to practicality, styling the home is about making the everyday beautiful.

It’s a whole other ball of wax.

As an example, here is Megan’s office, a room I worked on last fall.  For the “beauty shots”, we removed the keyboard and things that weren’t as photogenic, but when it came to styling the room to live in, we had to take the keyboard, paperwork, printer, recording equipment, etc. into account.

It was an office and creative space, after all.  It wouldn’t have made sense to banish the keyboard to the garage or the basement just for the sake of a pretty room.


We also took function into account when selecting the decorative items for the room.  For example, we needed to find a rug that would be easy to roll the desk chair over and we opted for closed storage, so Megan could just close the doors when it’s messy or she could keep them open for easy access and display.


I can’t take credit for styling the wardrobe above.  I curated some of the items, but Megan made it all work for her and I think she hit the nail on the head.  It’s the perfect balance between function (the printer, the plastic organizing drawers, the baskets for paper storage) and style (the antique accessories, the papered boxes, the books turned spine-in, etc.)

This leads me to my first tip…

Remember Balance 

Yes, we want our homes to be pretty, but they have to be functional as well.  If no one can sit down on your sofa because it’s piled with so many fluffed pillows and blankets, that’s taking things a little too far.  On the flip side, if your home is all about function with no regard to how anything looks, well, that might work okay for some people, but I think most of us wouldn’t feel at home in a space that has no reflection of our personal tastes.

Even my little boys like setting things up in their space the way they like it.  Clothes may be strewn all over the floor, but their drawings are taped to the wall just like so.

Keep it Simple

A few well chosen pieces makes a bigger impact in a space than lots of little ones.  To my design eye, that’s one of the most common styling mistakes people make.  I want to stress that’s just to my design eye.  When I see a space with lots of little things scattered over the tabletops and hung on the walls, it’s hard to really see and appreciate everything.  The eye doesn’t know where to land.

A huge part of successful styling is editing.



Group Like Things Together

If you haven’t tried this yet, it will change the look of your home!  Gather like accessories and display them in a group.  This is a common styling tip, but it’s easy to stray from, especially if you’re a shopper and you tuck new things in here and there.  You’ll find that a cabinet that was once filled with a collection of like items is now a hodgepodge.

Try to be intentional about where you put things.  Always take a step back when you make changes to accessories and see how it looks in the context of the room and the vignette.



Add More Interest instead of More Stuff

Again, decorative stuff can just get in the way.  Too many pillows on a bed can look just as uninviting as too few.  Instead of adding and adding more things to a room or vignette, make intentional choices about the things you do select, so you’re adding a lot visually with each choice.  This is where color and texture come into play.  When you use both strategically, you don’t need more stuff.


Practical can be Pretty

Styling isn’t just about the decor and accessories.  You can style the utilitarian pieces, too!  I know it’s just toilet paper, but it can look pretty cute in a vintage wire locker basket.  Stacks of fresh towels folded and stacked become a part of the overall display, as do bars of soap in an antique jar.  A pot rack can provide great storage and be an eye-catching display.

I love it when things can be both.

mms-8304 mms-8243

I’ll close with this…  Styling is about personal taste and there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it.  There is convention and “rules”, but you can ultimately do whatever works for you.  That’s why I’m just sharing “tips” and not “rules” or “musts”.

If the styling in your home makes you happy, then it’s okay if you’re marching to the beat of your own drum.


styling tips | for home

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28 Comments on “styling tips | for home”

  1. Lol, Christopher Lowell agrees with you about lots of little things he calls it “room dandruff” that stuck with me and informs my vignettes still.

  2. I love your home tips. I love so many things that sometimes it’s hard to edit. It’s a constant struggle with my husband and I both being collectors and then trying to combine both of our most loved things. One tip I try to follow is the like with like technique. Thanks for sharing your beautiful home and all the tips that make it work. P.S. My husband ordered three pieces of ironstone from your Lucketts Left-over sale and it all arrived safe and sound. That’s some impressive packing! Thanks!

  3. I think I have a problem with nick knacks (spelling?). I have to constantly restrain myself and still I have too much. Hubby says our home looks like a gift shop. sigh. Good reminder and great tips.. thank you.

    1. I have the same “knick-knack” problem Debbie and now I’ve come into a bunch of my Sweet Husband’s Mother’s silver and china. Have to decide what and how to display it. Certainly don’t want to let it all languish in a box. Marian’s photos have been invaluable!

    2. Me also…I have several different collections. I hate to get rid of them, but I need to clear out my house! It too looks like a gift shop. And with living in the country, I am constantly having to dust EVERYTHING. ugh!

  4. I have been thinking about my decor and i know i need to get me a box and get rid of some of it or at least put it up. Thanks for all these wonderful tips.

  5. Another good tip for those with too many small items or too much clutter, is to pack away some of those items and then change them up regularily. I have too many collectibles of all sizes and I change them out with the seasons and it is fun and exciting to pull out those treasures to appreciate them all over again and it makes the space where they are displayed new and interesting again without having to give up any of my treasures.

  6. You hit the nail on the head with restraint! I downsized a few years ago into a darling cottage- my adult kids call it mom’s doll house, if that’s any indication of its size- all 736 square feet of it! I got rid of so much stuff when I moved in 9 years ago. Now each time I purchase something, right down to kitchen utensils, something else has to go. – not to the garage, not in some cupboard, but out! This is the only way to keep the clutter down in such a small space. Yet it still looks cluttered to a point! Organization is the key here, vignettes, like with like, and so forth. Thank you for always providing such useful and valuable information!

  7. A few years ago Nester did a series where she boxed all the extras up for a month and then later posted pictures of other people who did the same thing. After looking at her reader’s before and after photos, I was sold. I have edited tons of littles since then. Most of my decor now is pretty pots with plants or things we actually use.

  8. Always fun to see your decorating ideas and hear your tips but like you said if I like my home then that’s all that matters — to me anyway. Thanks!

  9. Whatever happened to good old Christopher Lowell. Loved him. He just seemed to disappear….Great tips, Marion. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. I see that darling little angel pig I want so badly for my Granddaughter. I so hope you are able to find more. I love what you did in Megan’s office and also the bold red and white curtains in the bedroom. It’s always so fun to see what you are working on next.

  11. Hello! I, too have way too many things…moved to a smaller place and do have a difficult time getting rid of those “treasures”…I know, I know….I have tried to access “the mustard seed pages” and whenever I do, it brings me to a Yahoo page or something similar….Have you closed that shop? I thought that I could list some of my items on it…perhaps have to find another option.

    1. We did close the Mustard Seed Pages, because we weren’t doing anything to maintain it, but we are going to launch it again soon!

  12. Boy, editing is a real struggle for me! I just have so many items that I love to look at that my “styling” just looks like over-kill when I step back and look from a design perspective. When I do make a place more sparse, I can see that it looks a lot better artistically but it won’t stay that way. I swear that if there’s an empty wall space or a shelf with a gap in the display, I WILL fill it! It’s like a disease! It’s like I need somebody to tie my hands behind my back and keep me from filling every nook and corner in my house! Help!

  13. I find all this styling really beautiful and so WISH I could do the same. I try to edit, and I tend to look at items individually, instead of as a whole, and find I have too many “smalls” that I find difficult to get rid of. I am getting better, but still too way over the top. Having too many smalls does look cluttered, but then I really am the type of person that enjoys color and some clutter in the home. Makes me feel warm and cozy – but as you said, to each his own and that’s just me. When I look in a magazine and see sparse as opposed to a bit cluttery with all the cherished items, I always pick the cluttery!

  14. I find your tips so helpful! I, too, have so many collectibles and “stuff” that I love. I switch it out for seasons or just on a whim so that I don’t have too much clutter around. Also, I do clean out every couple of months. I tell myself that it’s time for someone else to enjoy my treasures.

  15. I think we all belong to the same sorority! My children say I have too much stuff. My reply is that I love my stuff as each thing reminds me of someone or some place etc. Fortunately we have a nice basement and I bought those cheap put together plastic shelving units that snap together.
    All the things on hiatas (sp?) go there until I decide to recycle. I also keep things in units down there for seasonal “smalls>” It is really really hard to keep the clutter down. My additional enemy
    is the paper clutter. I really try but it just grows and I have to continuously weed wack it down. lol
    Well I am glad we all speak the same language. I think I will go and declutter now……….

  16. I love these tips! I can’t decide which ones are my favorites! Every one of them leaves you with a tidy area/room but they are all so welcoming!

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