do it yourself, home inspo, my works

Adding color and accessories to style your space

How’ve you been doing? I’ve been a bit busy with several freelance projects that I haven’t been able to sit down and blog. So here I am, writing this on a weekend, after a business meeting, grocery duties, and dinner with the family. Because I’d been busy at work, I’ve also neglected finishing up some of the projects I’d meant to do in the house, so I thought of writing about how I styled someone else’s home this time.

Most of the styling duties I’ve done are for photo shoots I do for Cosmopolitan Philippines magazine, but sometimes, the owners of homes I style end up purchasing the props I bring over. It’s a great compliment, because it means that I was able to help them decorate their own space in a style they like or want. In a way, it’s great practice for me when I eventually become an interior decorator.

For Cosmo’s June issue, I styled my friend JK’s one-bedroom condo. We’d actually been discussing her place for the longest time over WhatsApp, with her asking me about where to get certain pieces of furniture. It’s already a spacious flat to begin with, so I understand why it has taken her a long time to really fix it up. In our interview during the shoot, she said that she really took her time to fill her home so that she would end up with pieces that she truly loves and appreciates. When I asked to shoot her condo, I also got her permission to bring in a few items that would help give her an idea on how to decorate her pad.

Have a look at the BEFORE and AFTERs, and just some of the simple styling tricks I used to populate her space with a little more color and accessories.

This is her living and dining area, and a portion of the kitchen counter in the foreground.
This is her living and dining area, and a portion of the kitchen counter in the foreground.

Picking out a color palette is often the most daunting task for any home decorator. I would know because I have always had trouble in this department. But a great trick that I picked up from one of my favorite design books, Big Design, Small Budget: Create a Glamorous Home in Nine Thrifty Steps (by Betsy Helmuth) is to use the 60-30-10 rule.

“We aren’t going to use [the three colors we selected] in equal amounts throughout the room. That would be too expected, too formulaic. We will use one of the colors 60% of the time, another 30%, and the third 10% of the time. In this [example pictured in the book], the [60% color] is used significantly more: for the wall paint and side chair. (FYI: Anytime you use a true color like a yellow for wall paint rather than a neutral, that automatically becomes your 60%.) The [30% color] is used second most for the throw blanket, the accent pillows, and portions of the diptych painting above the sofa. The [10% color] is sprinkled around the room in small doses: the brown and white embroidered throw pillows, the ottoman tray, and certain areas of the painting.”

—”Chapter 4: Color Decoded”, Big Design, Small Budget: Create a Glamorous Home in Nine Thrifty Steps by Betsy Helmuth

Sometimes, we pick more than just three colors. That’s perfectly fine, so long as we still follow the same principle of using them in different amounts in the room. With JK, she had already picked four colors: ecru, taupe, blueberry, and mauve. She placed her dominant color (ecru) on the walls; relegated the second color (taupe) to the sofas, chairs, certain portions of the wall bounded by moulding, her curtains and rug; the third color (blueberry) to a slipper chair, some pillows, curtains, and rug; and the fourth (mauve) to just the pillows and curtains. Note that her pillows, curtains, and rug also share colors from the palette, but you’ll see that the blue slipper chair makes a big difference in the amount of blueberry used in the space.

JK Palette

Note also that JK stuck to hues that aren’t so bold or intense. She wanted feel instantly relaxed upon entering her home, so soft neutrals and hues worked for her. This is a great tip when picking out paint colors and furnishings: the intensity of the colors also has an effect on the overall mood and ambience that you want to go for. If JK had picked a saturated navy or royal blue instead of a somewhat muted blueberry, it would have altered the look and feel of her relaxing living room.

I kept this palette in mind when I was sourcing for furnishings to style her place with. But obviously, I needed to get a coffee table for her living room.

JK had initially shown a preference for metallic accessories to provide an eye-catching accent. Metallics keep the space from looking too bland and boring, and add a touch of glam to one’s space. She’d been looking for a metallic coffee table for her living room, and we’d actually exchanged several photos of tables we’d seen in stores and online. Then, I saw this pair of brass, hexagonal, stone-topped tables at Moss Manila Home:

Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines
Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

The price of the tables are a bit steep—way beyond JK’s budget—but we were able to pull out the pair just for the photo shoot. JK liked it so much that she asked me to look for a supplier who could customize a similar table for her.

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Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

Here is a photo of her living room with the hexagonal coffee tables. I love how the shape of the tables mimic the shape of the customized pouf ottoman at the foot of JK’s slipper chair. Notice that I also added more throw pillows to fortify her color palette. JK was actually worried that the prints on the throw pillows would clash with the curtains, the rug, the wall treatment in the TV cabinet. On the contrary, as long as you stick to similar hues, prints and patterns have a tendency to recede into view.

Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

Here’s another shot of her slipper chair and pouf, and the TV cabinet in the background. If you cannot cover up wires and cables with moulding (or if you cannot embed them in the wall), it pays to do so using accessories and personal belongings, like books, plants, and even a vintage-style electric fan, which, because of its great form, also acts as a conversation piece.

JK’s dining and kitchen already had good bones. I love what she did with the wall to the right of her dining table: To make it more interesting, she framed certain portions with white moulding and painted the wall inside the border with taupe. The white-bordered taupe look is echoed in JK’s dining chairs.

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Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

I simply added a few accessories—like a tall flower arrangement (actually a faux flowering plant that I placed on top of a candleholder, both from The SM Store), and JK’s colorful goblets and plates—to create a vignette.

Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

Since JK lives by herself and without any househelp, she cleans up her own space. This is why she would rather sparsely decorate than fill surfaces with all sorts of baubles. She knows how much bric-a-brac can become major dust gatherers, so she chooses only a few items to populate her shelves.

In the bedroom, JK wasn’t really making use of her palette’s color accents.

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JK also didn’t use art as of yet (she had been in the process of selecting framed prints for her home), which in my opinion, does so much in pulling together all the colors of the palette, as well as add personal and visual interest to a room. So I added this abstract art triptych from Our Home, which JK ended up buying.

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Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

For the photo shoot, I “borrowed” JK’s blue slipper chair from the living room, and recommended that she replace the leather reclining sofa with a blue couch or armchair instead.

JK's Prizmic & Brill vanity was something she'd earned from her work as a property specialist. The chair I provided for the shoot is also from Moss Manila.
Image courtesy of Toto Labrador for Cosmopolitan Philippines

JK’s Prizmic & Brill vanity is actually a desk that was something she’d earned from her work as a property specialist. The chair I provided for the shoot is also from Moss Manila.

While the items I used for the photo shoot were eventually returned to the stores (with the exception of some throw pillows and the triptych art that JK liked), JK was able to get some tips on how she would eventually finish decorating her place.

What do you think? What are your own tricks and techniques to styling your own place?

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