This weekend, Jaithan and I were back in the city, helping our good friend (and Team Ross superstar!) Jordan Perry do a little DIY decorating in her West Village apartment. Now I think Jordan has a great eye, and she's definitely not afraid to get her hands dirty, IKEA hacker-style, but with this project (accessorizing a dresser in the living room) she just needed a little help pulling it all together.


Rewind ten or so steps and this is what we started with—a dresser she'd found years ago at an antiques mall in Mississippi. Its clean lines and simple shape will allow it to mix well with other elements, but it's still hefty enough to ground the composition.


To create a focal point above the dresser, the first thing I did was prop up this old barnwood mirror she bought at a framing shop in the Village. They're a great resource because most of them will find the mirror, then put it together for you! Though I certainly could have used a large piece of art instead, I like how the mirror magnifies the natural light and creates the illusion of space. The texture too adds instant warmth.


Now back in the fall, just after Top Design started to air, one of our readers asked me if I had any rules of thumb with respect to accessories (How do you know when is too much or too little?), so I decided to do a post with seven of my best stylist's tricks on the subject. Even here, in Jordan's place, all the same rules apply, and the first and foremost (at least in my book) is symmetry. It's such a great way of
bringing order to a room. Plus, it makes accessorizing so much
easier (and more livable!) when there's a sense of balance. Speaking of, check out this pair of alabaster lamps Jordan found at a tag sale in Jackson! My friend Heather over at Habitually Chic bought a similar pair on my recommendation during a shopping trip to the Hell's Kitchen flea market. These, however, are a bit leaner, and in this space, I love the architectural detail, overscale drama, and elegant, airy feel they bring to the mix.


Now that the largest elements are in place, and the overall scale and shape of the scene are set, it's onto the details! Coffee table books, we all know, are every stylist's friend. But perhaps what you didn't know are some of the insider tricks we use to make them work even better in a larger composition like this. To keep the palette neutral as a quieter backdrop for elements to come, I turned the books around so that the binds face the wall. It's unexpected, casual, and textural too. My other favorite trick I used to do all the time for photo shoots back in the city is to remove the jackets altogether; sometimes the linen hard cover is even prettier and far more sophisticated than the jacket!


To build further on this part of the composition, we stacked her collection of favorite magazines (Vogue, Country Living, and of course, the dearly departed Domino), still with the binds facing in. They're stacked higher than expected, so they stand up to the lamps and mirror, but with a quieter, textural feel.


For the final addition to our monochromatic stack, we topped it all off with a simple set of boxes, clean and white. The more storage, the better, right? Plus, they add just the right finishing touch to the pile without overpowering it. 


Next, up against the mirror, we leaned a cherished print Jordan found at a flea market in North Carolina. The layered look is casual, spontaneous, and best of all, very personal. In fact, in a composition like this, art of any kind—an old movie poster, a black and white lithograph, even a family portrait—is a great way of adding graphic punch to the mix.


For a pop of color against an otherwise neutral backdrop, we added a single brightly colored candle. A pair would have been too much symmetry with the lamps. Plus, it's such great way of using all those onsie candlesticks from the flea market!


Every composition of accessories, whether on a desk, a vanity, or a coffee table, needs a bit of sparkle. This one especially could use a collection of more light-reflective elements like lusterware, porcelain, or (a favorite of Jordan's) beautiful silverplate! The smaller scale of these elements fills in the gaps on the dresser with a grouping of objects in a single material but in varying shapes.   


Finally, to inject a bit of life (literally!) into the mix, we added a lush arrangement of lavender tulips, low and full. Now, I've always loved doing flowers, not only because they're beautiful but because they're such an important finishing touch. They don't have to be expensive—carnations are my favorite!—and the arrangements themselves can actually be kept quite small. It's the details—garden roses on a side table, daffodils in the powder room, or lilies of the valley on a writing desk—that add life and beauty to any room.


And so, if you need a little how-to help accessorizing a piece of furniture in your home—a dresser, a sideboard, a console in the foyer—start with symmetry, experiment with scale, then layer in your elements, piece by piece, and I guarantee your composition will be picture perfect. That's it for now from the city. Back Tuesday with a delicious bit of country you'll love!