Through reading various interviews with designers and just generally learning about interior design, I’ve come to believe that there are certain things that every space benefits from having. Some of these are elements that I’ve incorporated into my space, and I think that without one or the other of them my apartment wouldn’t be as well-rounded. Of course everyone’s opinions on this will differ – let me know if you agree or disagree and what you think successful rooms need!
Something from nature or suggestive of nature
Nate Berkus is definitely the best at this – he always incorporates natural things into his spaces and it lends an organic, warm feel to his designs. Whether it be a piece of driftwood, a bowl of shells, a plant, or a piece of amethyst, incorporating something natural into your space is a great way to add life. Lauren Liess is also amazing at this, and I suggest reading her book if you’re interested in learning more about bringing the outdoors in (my review of it is here).
Something rustic, something warm or wooden
In a similar vein to the first item, adding a touch of something rustic, warm, and/or wooden adds a warmth to your space. It creates a cozy, welcoming feel, and adds a richness and dimension to your space. It can be anything from a small accessory to full pieces of furniture. Of course if you’re going for a full all white, clean, Scandinavian look, sans wood, that can totally work – either way, just make sure it’s done in a purposeful way. If you are doing that all-white thing, you need to employ other strategies to warm it up (like texture, which I’ll talk about below). Above you can see a gorgeous wooden dresser in Michelle Adams’ home, which adds a ton of character and warmth to the vignette.
Touch of metallic
You gotta have metallics. They add so much to a space – a little shine, a reflective surface, a tiny bit of glitz and glam. They add a luxe touch and sophistication while helping to create a layered quality. My Nate Berkus lamp above is just one example of a metallic in my space (and bonus points for the faceted surface which adds a great texture!). Jayson Home is an excellent resource for metallic touches, but really they’re not hard to find at all (especially as the holidays approach!). And don’t be afraid to mix metals in your space – totally fine and encouraged.
Texture is SO important, especially if you are trying to create a a neutral or all white decor scheme. Texture warms up your space, adding layers of interest and depth. Plus, I mean, it feels good! And it looks good – without texture a space can look flat -texture brings it to life. I have some textured pieces in my space (my duvet as I talked about the other day, my sherpa blanket, and a faux sheepskin blanket), but I think the best example is the Melanie Turner room created for the Hampton Designer Show House, seen above. Look at how she brought that all-white room to life by adding layers and layers of amazing, chunky texture.
Again, personal opinion – some people don’t like any pattern but I think it adds so much interest and life to a space. Even if it’s just a touch!
I love modern touches because for one thing, I just like them in general as a design element – but in the overall scheme of a room, they create a focal point and can be a good surprise in a space that isn’t fully modern. Deborah Needleman says every room needs a touch of quirk, and while there are lots of ways to do that, a thoroughly modern chair, bookshelf like the one above, or piece of art can certainly provide that in spades. I think I like them also because they can be weird, but they’re really stylish, not just weird for the sake of it.
I think successful rooms are all about contrasts and juxtapositions. By bringing something with a patina into your space, you can create the feeling that you’ve lived there for a while and decorated over time, rather than decorating all at once with everything all new. This is another thing that great designers like Nate Berkus and Lauren Liess stress – collected over time, and truly lived in (not tiptoed around). I love the vintage dresser in the image above – again, so much character and a unique, lovely piece.
I mean, of course. A room without books has no soul!
I could add a lot more to this list, such as color, art, something quirky, personal touches…but I think these core eight really can help to create a foundation for designing a layered space. Let me know what you think are the essential elements of lovely rooms!