there will be no photos of living room accessories with black bars
across them to shamefully mark as erroneous don’ts, the passionate
responses from top local designers on what accessories can completely
make a living room may be just as dramatic. Here’s what they had to
say on the subject of accessorizing your living space.
Illuminate the Room
Lamps serving just to light a room? Not exclusively, according to
Mark Van Ess, co-owner of Cranston, Milwaukee. "Let your
decorative lamp be an expression of yourself and your
environment," he says. A great, easy tip for a change in season
or personal style is to have a custom shade created to fit your
Celebrate your Inner Fluffy Side
"Pillows and sofas are like a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich," says Donna Sweet, designer and co-owner of Haven
Interiors, Milwaukee. "The pillows are the good stuff — the
peanut butter and jelly." (The couch, like the bread, holds the
good stuff.) Pillows have the power to pull in color, patterns or
texture. Quoting today’s hip, young fashionistas, Sweet says the
spot to splurge is "on a fierce fabric and a down insert."
Be Classic and Approachable
No living room should be without a comfortable yet classy chair,
says Anne Francois, interior designer at Collaborative Designs,
Waukesha. "One with beautiful lines and fabric that fits the
personality of the room," Francois says.
Accessorize With Art
Multiple designers pointed to a painting or piece of artwork as the
most important accessory to set the tone or complement the décor of a
living room. "It’s the jewelry on the little black dress,"
says Peg Winters, interior designer at The Winters Partnership in
"Artwork can add drama or make a strong design statement on
how it is arranged," says Milwaukee’s Thomas Hoffman of Hoffman
Design. "It can set a mood, add a calming effect, bring back
memories — it can give insight into you and your family or tell
people what you are about and what interests you have."
Beyond being an expression of the owner, a significant piece of
artwork is so important, says Nancy Miller, owner of Form &
Function in Bayside. "It should serve as the focal point of the
room." She suggests mixing the style of the painting, photograph,
textile or sculpture with the style of the room. "A contemporary
piece will work well with traditional furnishings and design,"
Miller says. To really showcase the piece, proper lighting is an
important consideration, too.
Reflect Your Personality
Insert accessory here. Few designers say the biggest "do"
in accessorizing comes down to individual personality or passion, or
simply establishing a focal point for the room.
Barb Brinkman, owner of Barb’s Interior Design in Cedarburg,
suggests that more and more often today, the TV is the focal point.
"You need to artfully place them so that you and your guest enjoy
the comfort of the room as well," she says, adding that other
than the kitchen, the living room is the second most popular room to
hang out in.
"So many things go into the selection process," agrees
Sarah Steltenpohl, interior designer at Swan Furniture and Interiors
in Wauwatosa. "Who the people are, what the style of the house
and the rest of the rooms are, what are the needs — and their
lifestyle. Do they have kids, for example." Steltenpohl may try
to place the one accessory that reflects their passion and then uses
that piece as inspiration.
Personalizing with collectibles is a tip from Betsy Hoke, owner of
Sturgeon Interiors in Whitefish Bay. "Glass collectors can
accessorize their space with vases, pots, plates — and will want to
consider proper lighting and showcasing on a glass shelf or
pedestal," she says. Accessories are the finishing touches once
the basic things are in the room, and they can be as different as the
Don’t choose the hot trendy accessory of the moment — unless it
works for you and the room. "I do not sell a giraffe unless it
complements the room or reflects the personality of the owners,"
Steltenpohl cautions. "If it is a good fit, they will love it for
Look At the Layout
Don’t place the fireplace and TV on opposite walls, Brinkman
says. "You want them on the same wall or close together so the
furniture can face and nestle around them. M