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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro

April 17, 2017
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Take your home from drab to fab with a little interior styling magic!


Boho-chic, Scandustrial, mid-century modern; a little styling can do wonders in accentuating your desired style. But with so many different ways to go about jazzing up your home, you may be baffled on just how and where to start!

Fret not – founder and principal stylist of Arete Culture, Caroline, shares some expert, insider tips on how to style your home, so you can decorate like a pro too!


On Colour

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Caroline (C): I like to start with colours: I always advise clients to select a more neutral base palette (sand and taupe, for example, or darker, like charcoal and slate). Your neutral palette should be able to accommodate a fairly wide range of tones within the colour family.

From there, pick one or two accents colours for things that you can easily switch out should you get bored of the colour or want to refresh your space. Using accent colours in décor accessories (e.g. cushion covers, vases, trinkets, even books) is an easy way to avoid a boring, one note look while ensuring your home isn’t too trend-led.


On Texture

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: When it comes to mixing textures, I always recommend a little bit of everything, and a lot of organic material. Organic materials include wood, shells, feathers, flowers – these things will both warm up and soften a space, making it more livable and cosy.

I also really like using glass and metallic surfaces to add some glitz and glam, as well as to keep things a little more light and breezy. Using too much of one material will make a space feel clunky and dull, so be aware of your proportions. Everything in moderation!


On Prints

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: I have two major rules when it comes to mixing prints. One: abide by a colour palette. Just because you’re using prints or patterns doesn’t mean you can choose whatever you like. Make sure they fit into the colour palette you’ve chosen otherwise you’ll end up with a look that’s haphazardly thrown together.

The second rule is scale: avoid using too many of either large-scale patterns or small-scale patterns together. There are tried and tested rules, for instance, using florals and stripes together is quite classic, but you’ll want to make sure they’re of different scales.


On Focal Points

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: Creating a focal point is in fact very nuanced. It starts with the right layout: you need to make sure the spatial layout works for the lifestyle and the space. If you have an adjoining outdoor balcony, for example, determine how you want to use it.

Make sure you don’t have any large pieces of furniture obstructing the passageway to the space. And try to pull furniture away from the walls! It’s such an easy trick to do but difficult to remember when you’re confronted with bare walls.

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: I personally love using artwork and mirrors to create focal points in a living space. They add texture, visual interest, and personality to a space, and are easy to use elsewhere in the house should you want to move things around.

Also consider adding a large rug for practical softness underfoot but also subtle visual interest in the room, grounding the entire look. Again, whatever you choose should adhere to your colour palette—these items are often large and will stick out like a sore thumb if chosen incorrectly.


On Vignettes

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: Decorate by vignettes. Instead of having random pieces strewn around the space, create pleasing mini collections of items around your home. I like to use a tray to ground the entire collection: there isn’t anything wrong with a shell, candle, and book on a coffee table, but add a tray to tie the disparate elements together and you immediately have an intentional-looking collection that’s chic without creating clutter.

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C: I also love the use of textiles to add warmth to a space. I add throws and cushions to living rooms all the time. I like to use runners and napkins in the dining area, and I always use a combination of a fluffy throw, oversized cushions, and quality linens in the bedroom.


On Negative Space

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: Negative space is about maintaining the tension between objects in a room, so you must be mindful of your spatial planning first. Know where all your major pieces will be, including anything on the walls (artwork, wall lighting, mirrors etc). Then curate and limit the items you use in your display—give each item “breathing room” so you end up with a space that feels tranquil but not sparse.


On Lighting

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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C: I firmly believe in the power of lighting. My rule of thumb is to use ambient light in every space—table lamps, task lamps, hurricane lanterns, and even candles. Overhead ceiling light is often harsh and casts unflattering shadows, so you have to balance this with ambient light.

Try using table lamps in the bedroom, dining room, and living room. Use additional wall sconces in the bathroom if you can; otherwise, light some candles when guests visit. Don’t forget your corridors, especially your entryway! A single table lamp can help set the mood from when you walk through the door.


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C: People often forget interior styling is a complete sensory experience. It doesn’t just have to look good; it should also make you feel good. Adding scented reeds and/or candles in spaces is a small touch but one that makes a world of difference when you walk through the door and are immersed in a space that takes you away from the stresses of the city.

This article was done in collaboration with Arete Culture. All images were contributed by Arete Culture.


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About Arete Culture

Interior Styling 101: Insider Tips To Decorate Like A Pro
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Established in 2010, Arete Culture is an interior decorating firm specialising in fast, affordable, and fuss-free home makeovers. We believe in creating beautiful and functional spaces that clients can feel at home in. Arete Culture also operates two retail stores comprising a wide range of soft furnishings and furniture designs.

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