How To Layer Decor When You Decorate

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One of the best interior design tips you need that will give your rooms a pulled together and finished look.

There are a lot of different things to consider when creating a beautifully decorated space, but one of the best interior design tips that I can give you is to layer your decor.  It isn’t difficult at all!  Once you learn a few tricks from the design trade you’ll be able to use this decorating technique in every room of your home.

Neutral accent chair with pillow and throw.
You might be wondering exactly what layering your decor means.  It’s the art of building a room from the ground up.  It’s the interior designer secret that adds depth and interest to a space.

Beginning from the floor up, here’s a breakdown of the many elements in a room where layering comes into play:

  • Flooring: carpeting, area rugs, area rugs layered over one another
  • Walls: paint, wallpaper, framed artwork, mirrors, decorative wall hangings
  • Windows: draperies, valances, shades, blinds
  • Furniture: sofas, chairs, tables, beds, coffee tables, end tables
  • Lighting: overhead lighting, table lamps, task lighting, accent lighting
  • Textiles: pillows, throw blankets, bedding
  • Decorative Elements: greenery and flowers, books, containers, tchotchkes

Consider each one of these elements as a different layer.  Focus on building the room by adding each layer, one at a time.  Let’s take a look at layering in action in my recently refreshed family room.

FLOORING

I have hardwood floors in all of the living areas of our home.  Some of the areas have area rugs and some do not.

My family room is one of the spaces that does have an area rug and during its refresh, I layered another area rug on top of the existing one.  The additional rug broke up the soft sea of gray that was my large main area rug and helped to pull together all of the colors in the room.

A WHOLE NEW LOOK FOR MY FAMILY ROOM

White entertainment center in neutral family room.

 

WALLS

In the world of interior design tips, layering decor on a wall can be as simple as hanging a single piece of artwork on the wall or as complex as creating a stunning gallery wall.

If you crave simplicity, then that single piece of artwork is just fine.  On a larger wall, such as the one above my sofa, I needed to add dimension to the wall because of the architecture of the room.  I created that dimension by the adding three sconces centered above the pretty watercolor prints.  Now my wall doesn’t look so flat up under the overhang above my sofa.

Gallery wall with watercolor prints above sofa.

 

WINDOWS

A simple pair of draperies on a window can be just fine.  In fact, that’s what the majority of the windows in my home are like.  But – sometimes a window (and the room) needs more.  Adding another layer to your windows can turn a bland wall into so much more!

For example, if you study the fireplace wall in this room, you’ll realize that it’s really just one looonnnng wall of flat stuff.   There’s a fireplace, flat against the wall flanked by a pair of flat French doors.  Left alone, it would be boring and well…..flat.

Neutral living room decor with roll shades on the windows.

To get rid of all of the square angles and to frame out the entire wall, I added the softness of pretty drapery panels.  But instead of just hanging a drapery panel on each door, I also added wood slat blinds and then hung the drapery panels over them.  The added layer of blinds adds some much needed dimension to the wall!

Stylish neutral recliner with pillows on it.

FURNITURE

Using a coffee table in front of a sofa is just one example of layering furniture in a room.  Left to his own devices, my husband would much rather never have a coffee table in a room.  He’s a tall guy (who’s eyes aren’t always looking down – translate that to bruised shins!) with a long reach, so his desire for a wide open space is understandable.

As much as I try to accommodate his wishes, that just doesn’t work for me.  I need the coziness of enough layers of furniture in a room to keep it from feeling like an incomplete space.

There is a neutral couch with soft blue/grey pillows on it in the living room.

 

LIGHTING

The idea of layering lighting in a room means that instead of just having one light source, such as an overhead light, your rooms should have multiple types and levels of light.  Think of it as creating a “lightscape” by using an overhead light source + table lamps + floor lamps + task lighting (when needed) + accent lighting.

All these things combined together will give you a room that’s functional as well as a visually balanced room.

The family room with a large clock on the wall and a neutral ottoman with a tray and a vase on it.

TEXTILES

Pillows, blankets and throws make layering with textiles so easy!  Think of textiles as the works of art that add instant personality and style to your home.  The exact same sofa decorated with boldly colored and patterned pillows or throws will give the same room a whole different vibe than that same sofa layered with soft neutrals.

And don’t be afraid of mixing patterns!  The trick is to make sure that the colors and sizes of the fun patterns compliment one another.

Here’s the key: 1) include one pattern that is larger and will be become the dominant one in the group, 2) choose a second pattern that’s half the scale of the first pattern, 3) mix geometric or plaid patterns with floral ones, 4) for a fourth layer, add a solid or something with a tiny pattern and 5) groupings of odd numbers always look best.

Neutral sofa with gray throw pillows.

 

DECORATIVE ELEMENTS

The decorative accessories that you add to your room act as the final layer of the decor.  In addition to textiles, this is your opportunity to really let your personality shine!  It’s also an opportunity to draw the eye where you want to or to disguise some aspect of the room that’s less than attractive.

When adding the accessories layer to your decor, you want to strike that soft balance of not too much and not too little.  If you’re unsure, try snapping a few photos of your room with your phone.  You’ll be amazed at how differently things come across in a photo than in real life.

Pine sofa table beside the sofa in the sitting room.

Let me encourage you to take a little time to experiment and to try different combinations and you’ll become a master of this important aspect of decorating before you know it.  And above all – have fun!

 

Need more interior design tips and solutions to design dilemmas?  Click HERE!

 

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80 Comments

  1. My favorite is your tiny boxwood wreath on the lampshade.

  2. mattsgramma says:

    I’m going shopping for a tray!

  3. Thank you for the great tips!

  4. I’ve added some pillows and a large clock over my mantel and it already looks more pulled together!

  5. I like your mantel with the arch. Everything you have on there looks great. I guess it is all about layering.

  6. Great ideas for layering.

  7. Great advice. I almost purchased the same houndstooth pillow yesterday. Now I wish I would have purchased it! Maybe another trip to the store is in order!

  8. Kelly Middleton says:

    Love trays! I just bought two this week at Home Goods. Also, where did you get your mini boxwood wreaths?

    1. I love your mantle….so pretty!

  9. You have so many good tips. I’ve taken screen shots of several pages for future reference. BTW, where did you find that cute little blue side table next to the chair in your family room?

    1. Thank you, Susan! I bought that little table years ago at a local home decor store. It used to be olive green, but obviously I painted it. 😀

  10. Love all your rooms, but your office. Wow

  11. Anne marie says:

    Thanks for the great tips – love your home.

  12. Plan to follow your advice about layering window treatments.

  13. Dianne Kropp says:

    l wish l had your courage in painting furniture. l fear that if l do my cherry pieces they’ll come back in style and l’ll be sorry. Your rooms are gorgeous.

  14. Rebecca Nelson says:

    Thanks for the tips. I am in the process of trying to “crisp” up my look. I love the things I have, but want it a bit fresher looking

  15. I love how you layer. Since I have found your website, I have been constantly changing things up more often in my home. It is amazing how moving things around more often gives you a whole new look.

  16. Thanks for your great tips!!

  17. Linda Charlton says:

    As always, love your ideas.

  18. Carol Elkins says:

    Thank you for the great tips! I love how you explained how to layer things. Great ideas!

  19. Jill Miglin says:

    Layering seems to be the way to go. Thanks!

  20. Lisa Marutz says:

    Great ideas!
    Thank you so much, I just love your blog!!

  21. Great article! I’ve realized that I have too many small details decorative small items and I need some larger pieces.

  22. Laura Laskey says:

    Love those large pine cones!

  23. Linda Manuel says:

    Love all these ideas!! Layers it is!!

  24. Thanks for sharing. I love the layering idea, it feels so cozy. The decorated tray is beautiful!

  25. Great ideas! Thanks Suzy:)

  26. Just love, love your blog. Where did you purchase window shades?
    Thanks!

  27. Great ideas! Everything is so beautiful and well put together. Any ideas of how to decorate a 90 degree angle mantel behind a free-standing wood stove? It’s hard to put a large item in the center, when the center is a corner behind a stove pipe.

    1. Hi Shelley. I dealt with the exact same problem in one of my houses! I’d probably keep it rather simple. I think I’d try something on the large side, like a piece of art or a large clock, centered on one side of the corner. Then add a roundish potted plant (real or faux) off to the side of the large piece (on the side closest to the end of the mantel), that is layered in front of the corner of the art/clock. Then on the other side, toward the end of the mantel, I think that I’d place something with a little height to it, like a grouping of different height candlesticks or a couple of different height lanterns. Having the height of the candlesticks/lanterns would help to balance the height of the art/clock on the other side. Just those few items might be all that you need so as not to wind up with a too-cluttered look. Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you so much, Suzy! I really appreciate your advice, and I’m going to try your ideas this week.

  28. Mary Chris says:

    Great job. Love the layering.

  29. Kelly Smith says:

    All of it is so beautiful!!

  30. Lycinda Yount says:

    You have such great ideas. Love your style. Look forward to your post every day. Keep them coming with all your great inspirations.

  31. Love these simple ideas!! Thanks, they definitely help me!

  32. I agree layering makes a huge difference! I love those shelves and how you styled them.

  33. Wonderful tips, Suzy. I like the idea of putting something large on the wall as a starter. 🙂

  34. Thanks for helpful tips

  35. Pam Ballard says:

    The mantle really inspires me. I have a very tall one too. Mine has outdated 70 style plank walls behind which I am thinking of staining. Thanks for the pictures.

  36. I love all the tips! I’m currently trying to redecorate our house and these tips are really helpful. Thanks for linking up at the Family Joy blog link up party!

  37. What about all the Lego’s on the hearth?? But I see you don’t have that problem!! LOL the other day I said it was time to redo my office; my 12 year old son said, I like it when the desk is facing out in front of a window. That’s great, but my office (now junk collector) which I can’t even walk in; has no window and is 6X8!! Besides the built in bookcase and the free standing one.

  38. My house is very dark and I don’t keep much around because I have 6 cats. I need to go home and look at everything with a fresh eye…thanks for the ideas!

  39. What a beautiful home! Decorating has never been my thing, thank goodness I have a mom who loves to. Thank you for sharing at the Creative Muster Party. Pinned
    Robin | Fluster Buster

  40. Very beautiful home you have! Thanks for the great tips. I like the tiny wreath on the lamp shade too!

  41. I am so glad you linked up at the #HomeMattersParty this week. Your tips are so helpful as I’m working on redecorating. Thank you!

  42. Your home is absolutely gorgeous! I am definitely going to steal some of your tips! I especially love how you layered blinds with gorgeous curtains. Thanks for sharing your tips with us at Merry Monday!

  43. These are wonderful tips for those like me who are under-accessorizers! I know the “bones” are there, but I need to go through my house and flesh it out with a few new items and some brought in from other rooms.

  44. There are so many good tips here…and your rooms look so lovely with all of the layering! Thanks for sharing with us at Wonderful Wednesday! Hugs- Christine at Light and Savvy

  45. Great tips! I love to layer and mix patterns. I love your house too. You have great design!

  46. Candace Geldreich says:

    Beautiful home. I can’t wait to try some of your ideas in my own home

  47. You’re home is truly beautiful! I have a lot to do in my own home and I love your tips. Thank you for sharing them with us at Funtastic Friday!

  48. shirley cordell says:

    You have a real talent for putting things together and the tips are most helpful. Also, love that your decorating is done with a cost saving approach……who doesn’t want to save money without sacrificing a great look!!

  49. Thanks for the great tips! I especially liked the one about layering textiles. I love blankets and pillows, but between my kids and my husband, both usually end up on the floor, and I’M the one that picks them up and puts them back. So I only have two lonely little pillows on my couch right now. But I’ve never been good with mixing and matching, so thanks for the tips!

  50. I feel so inspired….even living in a small apartment. I’m going to try more layering and grouping.

  51. Susan in NC says:

    Your posts are very helpful. I am moving into a larger home and have found so much inspiration in ideas. I especially appreciate your encouraging us to use pieces we already have and look at them in a new way.

  52. LOVE THE OPEN SHELVES AND THE MANTEL IDEAS. TIMELY AS I HAVE A 2 STORY FIREPLACE. HARDER THAN IT LOOKS TO BALANCE SCALE AND STYLE. LAURA

  53. Linda Leone says:

    I am looking for ideas for a home office for our new mountain house. I presently have a coastal home office at my beach house, that I love, but do not see that decor in the mountain house. Your home office is just the look I was going for and I hope to incorporate many of your ideas in my new project.

  54. I love your ideas…I want to duplicate your office, can you help me ?

  55. LAURA HODGES says:

    Could not agree more! I think layering draws a person into a room vs a cold, flat sterile room. Having vignettes to look at, whether on tables or walls, distracts a room visitor from whatever daily stresses may be at hand and somewhat forces us to pause and visually focus on something else. – like a sweet wreath on a tiny lampshade. Having said that, I wonder if I should rename all my decorating ‘stuff’ as ‘mental transitioning supplies’ – LOL!

  56. Nancy Walden says:

    I love your design style! I just updated my living room drapes by adding new decorative rods with finials that remind me of the fluted feet on my large coffee table. I put the rods at 96″ and visually widened the windows by hanging the solid drapes at the edge of the glass. The 48″ window is now 72″ and almost all the morning light streams in. The 6 foot window, which faces north, now looks like an 8 foot window and lets in far more light than it used to. Both windows have new voile shears so people walking by don’t have a clear view into the living room. Visually widening the side window had the added bonus of being a better visual balance for the 9 foot fireplace on the same wall.

  57. Tracy DeLoach says:

    The changes you’ve been making are certainly inspiring me to make some of my own. I love the wreath around the pig. So many times we forget about the small touches.

  58. Stephanie says:

    I completely agree. I have several small groupings of different items in each room that I use to add interest & warmth & keep things from being flat & boring! I love your office! Where did you get your bookshelves? & what is the thing on the wall with all the cubby holes? I need one of those! I also love the huge pinecones in the basket! What a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

      1. Stephanie says:

        Thanks Suzy! I’ll check it out!

  59. Thank you so much for breaking all of these ‘steps’ down….to me it makes it much easier to tackle and not an overwhelming task, but a fun adventure!

  60. I liked that you mentioned that on larger walls adding art and lights can really bring a room together. I have recently moved into a new house and I’m kind of a rookie when it comes to decorating. Maybe I should look for some home wall decor products to see about giving a little flair to my walls.

  61. If you can master the ability of viewing a particular setting or scenario and delving from it the key elements of its visual success, you are enormous steps forward in your journey of learning interior design.

  62. I found it interesting when you said to not be afraid of mixing patterns when you decorate your living room. My sister just bought a new living room and she told me that she would like to make it feel cozy. I will share this article with her so that she can have better ideas and she might find the pillows that she wants.

  63. I love your mantel! In one picture you have a wooden box with candles under the picture. Where did you find the wooden box? I am wanting to do the same. Thank you!!

    1. Thank you! I’d be glad to help you out, but I’ll need the blog post where you found the picture. I’ve been blogging for 10 years and have hundreds of pictures, so I’m not sure exactly which one you’re referring to. Can you give me the link for it?