These are photos of a truckload of pillows—part of a joyful array ordered by a favorite client to complement the furnishings in her newly remodeled home. Pillows, intriguing or beautiful objects, pottery, flowers are often grouped under the general heading of accessories, but they shouldn’t be. Think of an accessory to a crime: a sort of criminal hanger-on, not terribly important, but culpable all the same. Decorative accessories are often thought of this way: an afterthought, or “fluff,” that appears after the main work of creating the room is done.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Accessories change your room from just any well-appointed room into your room. Accessories are what make the difference between room settings on a furniture showroom floor and the home of a unique individual. Ideally, the pillows and objects used could belong only to that individual—because no one else would put that combination together.
Accessories bring soul into the room: colors that delight, a soft place to rest your back, objects to touch or to delight the eye. They establish an undercurrent of warmth and meaning that infuses the room and make it more than a collection of upholstery and case goods.
Like a special seasoning that makes all of the flavors in a dish sing, every room needs items that unite the colors used in the major pieces. When you are blending a number of different colors in a room, it’s good to be able to reiterate each color a few times. Accessories can be the bridge between a variety of colors, the “secret spice” that allows all of them to live in harmony.
If your room is relatively neutral, a shot of color from a vase, or the shock of an unexpected color on a pillow’s welt cord can extend the impact of the room. Another friend of the neutral palette is texture. I love having objects that tempt people to touch, or to play with them. A small tray of printer’s letters and illustrations is fascinating to look at, and fun to rearrange. Artifacts of any kind are tempting: a collection of rocks, small boxes, paperweights, crystals, acorns, pieces of bark, pieces of beach glass: whatever invites interest and encourages touch.
Enchanting objects are not afterthoughts. They are usually not found in discount stores or chains. ( Remember the partthe part about rooms being individual?) They need to be snapped up when you see them. To commit to interesting objects, you need to have faith in yourself and your own taste. If you find something fantastic, don’t worry about where it will be placed in your home. If it’s great, you will find a place for it. I have never regretted bringing home something I honestly loved. I have regretted NOT buying something I loved and knew I would never see again. I’ve also regretted vacation purchases ( it’s so easy to fall in love with something that reflects a tropical climate, and attempt to bring it home to New England ) as well as objects bought because I needed something for a particular event.
Enchanting objects are found through a mixture of serendipity, discipline, and vision. Look everywhere, make sure it makes your heart sing, be bold and go for it.