Rules for understated and overstated living

We all need a bit of the overstated and the understated in our homes. There is much to learn from both sets of rules.  My rule is that if I like something it will work and I will always manage to find somewhere in my home for it.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to work hard on how to display items; remember to group them so that you always have a focal point to which the eye is drawn. This is the cardinal rule of any design.

Kelly Hoppen's understated living rules

Kelly Hoppen is the queen of the art of understatement, and I find her rules for understated living very helpful when doing interiors styling.

Plan your space

Don't rush into anything, take your time, create a mood board: the more thought you put into the planning the better the outcome will be. 

Here's a very simple mood board

Here's a very simple mood board

Think of light sources in terms of task and ambience

What will you use the space for and how much light do you need for the purposes? An excellent tip is to be generous with light as you can always remove some of it with dimmer switches.

Aim for symmetry and balance

This is facilitated by having a focal point in a room.  But you can achieve this with a key piece e.g. beautiful table, chair, etc. A pair of chairs is an easy way to create symmetry. 

My lovely Regency sofa is the focal point in my sitting room

My lovely Regency sofa is the focal point in my sitting room

Have a collection

Take care with this rule not to overdo it as too much of one thing can be off-putting.  I'm a big fan of vintage glass (as you can see from previous posts) and have a collection of vintage bottles, some of which are on a window ledge with small flowers in them.

Art, photos, ceramics are also good items to collect — whatever your collection is, it should spark your imagination.

My collection of vintage bottles

My collection of vintage bottles

Display items you are proud of

Don't be tempted to display everything. You can rotate your items, which adds freshness to a room.  It takes a lot of trial and error to get displays just right; use your gut instinct when creating the displays. I love my artwork and am happy to rotate it on a regular basis.

Avoid the cardinal sin of display: symmetry

Don't create the 'altar' effect where everything is symmetrical. This is frequently done over fireplaces where it's tempting to have candlesticks and other items placed symmetrically.  Try putting the candlesticks on one side and a group of pots on the other side.

Use plants and flowers to soften a space

I love this rule as, having been a florist, I have a passion for flowers and plants.  Here I have grouped three vases of country-style flowers on the mantle piece:

Use cushions to add colour

Better to add accent colours with cushions than to paint your walls in a bright colour; cushions are easy to change.

Use books to create interesting levels

Placing books on a coffee table can draw the eye but placing objects on top of the books add another dimension, e.g., a vase, sculpture of other small item.

Here I have placed a vintage biscuit tin on top of the books.

Here I have placed a vintage biscuit tin on top of the books.

Use towels and organic elements to soften bathrooms

A bathroom has shiny and reflective surfaces, so towels, on rails or folded, can add texture.

Jonathan Adler's rules for overstated living

Jonathan Adler's rules for overstated living are equally important.  If you are brave enough to go for bold, it can reveal your inner exhibitionist in the form of mixing bright colours, louche art and lots of glitz and shimmer. I'm a big fan of these rules!

Lacquer the front door

Paint your front door in gloss paint rather than matt paint as it looks nicer but is also easier to clean. Paint it in a bold colour and add giant brassware. This way, your guests know who you are before they have entered your house. What about naming your residence?

Install a chandelier

Make sure it is bigger than you need and more expensive than you can afford! It should be on a dimmer switch both for economical reasons but also to ensure the dimmed, soft light flatters your guests. I have chandeliers in all my rooms including the hall, landing and even the kitchen. You can never have enough of them.

Add twinkly metals

Shiny brass or polished nickel will make your home sparkle and add allure to your décor

Use a patterned rug for a bold foundation

Nothing quite grounds a room than a patterned rug and is something on which to feast your eyes.

Provocative art and accessories

Why not buy an Allen Jones porno coffee table or, if on a budget, a 1973 Allen Jones Pirelli calendar (which you can purchase on eBay and frame)? A little touch of louche never hurt!

Introduce a bar cart

Bar carts tell the world that you are up for a good time and the wine and laughter will both flow freely.

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors

You can never have too many mirrors in your home. You can even have mirrored furniture. And a little bit of Perspex for extra glamour. I love the impact of this large mirror resting on the floor against the wall.

Mix fancy with frisky

Mix high cost with low cost, for example, a Louis XIV love seat could be complemented with a mod cushion or a desk with a charity shop lamp.

Don't worry about decorating rules

If you love it, it will work. And your friends and family will be jealous of your overstated or quirky décor.

Be brave, follow your instinct and most importantly of all, ensure that your home is a reflection of you. I would be interested in your feedback on the above. Please post your comments.

Seeking style inspiration?

Get in touch with me to see how I can help you bring your personality to your interiors.