In all but the most minimal of interiors, accessories are a key component in creating a particular mood and aesthetic. Accessories can be practical, decorative, or both. A strictly practical accessory is chosen for a purpose and does not fulfil any aesthetic function. For example, a bin designed to hold food waste may be tucked away out of sight in a kitchen. On the other hand, a piece of art may serve no practical purpose whatsoever and may be hung on a wall just because it is aesthetically pleasing. Somewhere in the middle are accessories which are both practical and decorative. For example, a storage container may serve as a receptacle for papers, but there is no reason why it need look cold or utilitarian. A client may not realise that accessories are essential in lifting a space and creating a professional finish, or that they need to be factored into the project budget. Depending on the client’s preferred style, the accessories budget may range from modest (for instance, if they are looking to achieve minimalist aesthetic), to large.
Working with art
Selecting the perfect artwork for a space is a matter of accommodating practical factors, such as space and budget constraints, alongside personal preference. Sometimes, a client may already own a special piece of artwork and ask that you make it a focal point. This means that you will need to put together a colour scheme that works with that contained within the piece. If the work contains neutral tones, then this will be fairly easy to do, but bold or contrasting colours may pose more of a challenge.
Other clients may not have a specific piece of artwork in mind, but still want one or more paintings or sculptures that will enliven the space. Since taste is so subjective – particularly when it comes to visual artworks – it is a good idea to interview the client about their likes and dislikes, to show them a range of artwork so that you can understand their tastes and to always ask them to view a piece before you acquire it. Ultimately, the accessories placed within a space should reflect the client’s personality. If they or those close to them have produced artwork, try incorporating these pieces into the décor. Folk art, which is that created by independent craftspeople and artists, is usually more characterful than pieces available from large companies. There is often a story behind each piece and if a client tends to use their home to entertain guests, they can act as talking points.
Incorporating personal items and mementos into a space
When embarking on a project, you should always ask a client to list the items in a room they are happy to discard, items they wish to acquire and items they intend to keep. You then need to work with the client to devise a design that incorporates their favourite possessions and their aesthetic preferences. This creative challenge is at the heart of interior design practice. It may take multiple rounds of consultations, before you and your client agree on a layout and colour scheme. As a general rule, the more value a client places on a personal item, the farther you need to go in basing your design around it. However, you do not have to let a beloved piece of furniture or a collection of items completely dictate your creative vision. For example, suppose you are hired by a client who wishes to create a sitting room decorated in a minimalist or industrial style. However, they also want to keep hold of a wooden antique chair that has been in their family for decades.
It is difficult to reconcile these two demands, but there are a couple of solutions you could try. First, you could suggest that your client has the chair upholstered so that it matches the colour palette you intend to use. The structure of the chair would still be somewhat at odds with the overall look and feel of the room, but if its colour fitted in perfectly with all of the other elements in the room, it could be made sufficiently coherent. You could make it a focal point and even highlight its structure with strategically-placed lights. Another tactic would be to introduce a couple of other elements in the same style and suggest to your client that you combine a conventionally minimalist or industrial style with a touch of traditional class. Mood boards and 3D colour models of how a space could look would be helpful in communicating your vision.
Making use of plants
Plants made excellent accessories. They are available in a huge range of sizes, shapes and colours. Most people react positively to plants, as their green colours and natural forms are intrinsically calming. They can make a statement when used alone, or can be arranged in small groups to create a pleasing display. Choose a plant with leaves that suit the size of the room. For example, a small plant in a large room will be overlooked and a large plant in a small room will look clumsy and oversized. Unless your client is a keen gardener, it is best to choose resilient houseplants that are known for requiring little in the way of care and attention. Take note of how much water a plant will need, whether it will need repotting on a regular basis and whether it will need pruning. If you have no background knowledge, do some research at your local garden centre. The staff should be able to answer your questions and you will quickly learn which varieties to recommend to your clients. For example, the fiddle leaf fig plant is considered a robust plant that can withstand a degree of neglect, which is useful if your client leads a particularly busy life!
Aside from maintenance, other practical considerations include toxicity. If a client has young children or pets, make sure that you only recommend plants that pose no threat to human or animal health if eaten. Finally, think about the amount of natural light that comes into the space in which you intend to place the plant. Some thrive on bright sunlight, whereas others wither near windows. Take their needs into account, when setting out your floor plan.
Once you have chosen the right plant for the setting, you will also need to think about the container. This presents a good opportunity to solidify the style of a room. Metallic and monochrome containers are appropriate for industrial and minimalist spaces, whereas warm terracotta or wicker is a perfect fit for a rustic scheme. Delicate, pretty ceramics in washed-out colours make good additions to a room with a vintage or shabby chic décor. A tall, thin container gives an impression of elegance, whereas a short, squat container appears homely and friendly. For a utilitarian look, you could even leave them in their original black plastic pots.
Pillows and cushions
The number of pillows and cushions used in a room is a key factor in determining its warmth and cosiness. When choosing pillows and cushions, think about the following points:-
What size do I need? When you look at cushions in shops, you will notice that they tend to come in uniform, or “standard”, sizes. As a general rule, a standard square pillow will go well with an average-sized sofa or chair. Small cushions appear more formal, especially if they are placed on a relatively small piece of furniture. Large pillows lend the room a more casual ambience. A very large pillow needs a substantial sofa, otherwise people will become confused as to where the pillow ends and the seating beneath begins.
What kind of filling do I want? The material inside a cushion or pillow will dictate its price and how it feels to the touch. Down filling is more yielding to the touch, feels warmer and is more expensive than synthetic options. Down-filled cushions will sometimes require “plumping”, in order to restore their usual shape, especially if someone has been sitting on them for a few hours. Foam cores and other synthetic fillings are cheaper and generally more resilient. This means that they keep their shape. However, some people find them less comfortable.
What kind of texture am I looking for? It is a good idea to choose two contrasting textures, when selecting cushions and seating. If both are smooth, the pillow is likely to slide onto the floor. Varying the textures also adds interest. For example, a smooth leather cushion can provide a refreshingly cool, simple contrast against a warm sofa covering. You can also choose two or more cushions and pick a range of “clashing” textures.
How will it relate to the other pillows and cushions in the room? Using the same pillows or cushions throughout a room will create a unified look, but the end result will also be formal and may feel a little boring. Compromise between chaos and order, by choosing one aspect – texture, colour, or size – upon which to focus. Think about the ways in which you will arrange the cushions. Will you be able to stack them on top of one another, or will they slip and slide around? If you want to create a colourful display, how will the hues work together? If you are shopping for a cushion and already have others in mind, take photos (or even the cushion itself!) along with you, rather than relying on your visual memory.
Can I purchase an odd number of this style? The “rule of three” is a key rule in art and design-based disciplines. It states that an odd number of items, provided they are arranged carefully, will usually look “better” than an even number. You will probably be able to fit three, five, or perhaps seven cushions or pillows on a sofa or bed.
Is this fabric a suitable choice for my client’s lifestyle? A silk-covered pillow may look beautiful, but it may be too high-maintenance for some households. Equally, whilst a cotton-covered cushion may be practical, it might not feel sufficiently luxurious if your client wants a high-end interior. Ask your client if they are happy to invest time and money in furniture upkeep, or whether they prefer to keep their cleaning routine simple. If you are looking to buy cushions or pillows with fringes, beads, or other small items that could potentially come loose, rethink this decision if the client has small children – they may represent a choking hazard.