Minimalism can be chic, but there’s a fine line between a space that’s stylishly sparse and one that’s lacking warmth and personality. The difference is in the details, and that’s where the artful use of small decorative objects comes in handy.
Often times people think that styling with small objects creates clutter. Though that can be the case, adding in a colorful candle here or a handwoven basket there can actually create a lot of impact — and design experts often use this trick to make spaces feel more inviting, more dynamic, and well, more like you. “Small decor items can be the jewelry to your space,” explains Lisa Queen, founder and principle designer of Lisa Queen Design. “Think of your favorite LBD and how different that looks and makes you feel when you dress it with dainty diamonds vs chunky chains. Small decor items can really tell the story of a space maybe through a collection of natural items like feathers or shells, or through a collection of vintage finds like colored-glass perfume bottles displayed on a tray.”
Another benefit to the addition of small decorative objects, including textiles, ceramics, dishware, and art, is that it’s an easy way to play with pattern and color trends — even if you’re a minimalist. Dressing up your tabletop, desktop, or shelves with these types of items requires little commitment and they don’t take up much real estate, so your overall space can still feel clean and monochromatic, even as you’re adding in more personalized or playful pieces.
And as Queen explains, you don’t have to spend a lot to get the benefit either. In fact, a great place to start is scoping out your home for pieces you’ve already got and then doing a bit of rearranging. “Look at your existing collections, favorite books, or photos, and go foraging outdoors,” she says. “Identify what makes you feel most at ease with who you are or objects that tell a story. Some of these objects could be cookbooks, art books, or a small black and white photograph simply leaned up against another element or two. These could be a small indoor plant or cluster of fresh flowers. Use scarves or jewelry to dress a table lamp or a water goblet to bring a personal element and dimensional texture to that item. Small lamps are great for unexpected places, especially on a bookshelf or on the counter in a bathroom to create ambient light.”
Once you’ve exhausted your existing stock of decorative objects, you might find you’re still seeking a few more goods to achieve your desired effect. If that’s the case, Queen shares that when working with clients, she loves to search local antique stores (including online versions like Chairish and 1stDibs) and flea markets. For newer pieces, she says that St. Frank, Rolling Greens, The Little Market, Memoky, and Anthropolgie all have reliably great decor.
Finally, to keep from over-cluttering, Queen employs the classic Coco Chanel tip: Remove one thing before you leave the room. “Because having a bit less can be the key to having a bit more,” she explains. For some ideas of small but impactful pieces to add to your space, read ahead.
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