5I have talked about this before (originally as the Smarter Alec Five Easy Pieces), but think the concept bears repeating. These are my five go-to/never fail ways of completing a room.

Whether I am doing a high-end design job, or simply helping someone with a quick makeover fix, these five basic design tips will add warmth and depth to a room. Any budget. Any style.

5 pieces sconces

SCONCES. Specifically plug-in, because they don’t need to be hardwired, and are easy to install. Perfect for a rental. I love using sconces because they put the light where you need it, and allow you to keep overhead lighting to a minimum. Lighting is everything (repeat: EVERYTHING) and sconces help create mood, as well as bring much needed light to, say, a reading area. Also, a sconce is a great way to fill wall space when someone doesn’t have a lot of art. So many amazing styles and at every price point. You just have to let the hanging cord be part of the aesthetic.

five pieces wood shade

NATURAL WOVEN SHADE OR WOOD SLAT BLIND: Nothing diffuses light like a wood slat blind. For me, they are the perfect window treatment, whether on their own or matched with a full drape for a more elegant look. A slat blind can angle to let in light while giving you privacy, and the shadows that the slats create make you feel like you’re living in a film Noir movie (read: sexy). A woven shade also adds to to the warmth of a room.  In general, I think a dressed window makes all the difference, and of course I also love fabric shades of all sorts. But, the woven shade is often a great and not cost prohibitive way to dress your windows, adding texture and warmth without fuss or frills.


A TRAY: The thing these five pieces all have in common is that they add layers to a room, and the tray is no acceptation. Whether it’s wood or lucite or rattan or decoupaged (like the one above), a tray can be the pop of color and/or texture needed while offering the practical aspect of organizing clutter in a space. A tray keeps papers and pens from falling around. A tray can hold magazines, or a collection of small frames, or a cocktail, or anything. And the tray allows for personal style to show itself in yet another form.

five pieces throw

A THROW: A throw adds both aesthetic and literal warmth. I like mine folded neatly on a chair, but thrown casually over the back of a chair or couch works, too. A throw should feel luxurious, ideally made of something good like cashmere or mohair. The simplest choice is cotton in an easy, thick cable knit. Used especially wherever you watch TV, a good throw says relaxed and cozy time ahead.

five pieces living

SOMETHING LIVING. Maybe it’s a vase of fresh cut flowers. Maybe it’s a great plant. Maybe it’s a bowl of fruit. The point is to always have something living in your space. A home with plants and bowls of fruit is a home that is alive and present. The flip side to this is to make sure you toss said plants/cut flowers/fruit once they’ve gone bad and died. Nothing worse to me than dead flowers, or a dead plant shriveled in the corner of a room.

So, if you are struggling with a space that doesn’t feel complete, try adding these five simple ideas to make it the warm and inviting home you dream it to be. Xo

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