Developing accessory sense

DESIGN LINE

May 29, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Many people claim -- and I do believe them -- that adding accessories to a room is much more difficult than planning the overall layout or choosing the main pieces of furniture.

Recognizing the difficulty is actually a positive sign. Those experiencing this quandary at least understand the importance of accessories. They know that small decorative items are no minor matter and can in fact affect the entire look of a setting -- for better or worse. But while it's appropriate to ponder the selections, there's no reason to become paralyzed by doubt.

I wish I could offer a sure-fire formula for finding the right kind of accessories for each and every situation. That's impossible, though, because so much depends on personal taste and on the specific style of a setting. Choosing accessories is a lot like adding herbs and spices to a dish. Most of us wouldn't have too much trouble preparing the meat or fish, but knowing just how to season it for maximum flavor -- that's something of an art!

It's also, to some extent, a matter of instinct -- of sensing what will work and what won't. A person with a knack for color and volume will probably be able to select some perfectly complementary accessories without any great difficulty.

There's nothing deeply mysterious about this process, however. The ability to choose the right sort of decorative object can certainly be acquired, just as someone who experiments long enough will eventually become adept at correcting seasonings.

A sense of order is perhaps the most important factor in successfully decorating a setting. And almost everyone knows the difference between orderly and disorderly. In the case of accessories, it can be as simple as grouping like objects together rather than scattering them around a room. For instance, several candlesticks, sea shells or finely bound books will look better if they're displayed as a coherent collection rather than strewn here and there.

Don't forget that fabrics can make excellent accessories. A room filled with wooden furniture can be given needed softening simply by draping a shawl over a chair and by bunching a few pillows that have been covered and trimmed in a lovely fabric.

Originality is another valuable trait in anyone searching for accessories. No law demands that coffee tables be decorated ** only with ashtrays, candy dishes or (yawn) coffee-table books. A few short candlesticks offer one attractive alternative, particularly when they're lighted. You can also say it with flowers. They seldom fail to add beauty to a room, though their arrangement and placement will definitely make a difference in their success as accessories.

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