It's the little things that count

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

There's no doubt about it; accessories can really spice up a space. I can still remember having people over after we bought our home almost 20 years ago. While everyone seemed to appreciate the house, they were more interested in the miniature shopping cart that was on our kitchen table.

Decorating with accessories at Gorman's furniture store in Novi, Michigan on April 13, 2015. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

That was when it struck me that the details make a difference when you're decorating. Not only are accessories the more affordable part of the process, they put a personal stamp on your interiors.

Last weekend, I did a presentation called "Conversation Pieces for the Home" at the Michigan International Women's Show in Novi. Here are some of the tips from my talk, along with some other ways to make the most of your own conversation pieces:

¦Whether you prefer real or faux plants, greenery breathes life into your decor. The same can be said for fresh or decorative fruits and vegetables that make a colorful statement in a glass container. Opt for something other than the standard bowl, like a lantern or a cake stand with a dome, for a change of pace.

¦It takes a variety of colors and textures to create a cohesive space. Look for pieces that speak to you and choose a few large-scale objects to make a statement. Add some floral arrangements done in the same palette to make your arrangements pop.

¦Accessories let you update your rooms without making a major commitment because they're easy to move around. Play with your displays to see what works and what could use some rearranging. Borrow ideas from magazines and catalogs, then tweak them to suit your needs and taste.

¦Shelves let you showcase your favorite collections at various levels for a better view. Repetition of colors, shapes and materials draws attention to your vignettes. Add or subtract a few pieces on a seasonal basis or whenever the mood strikes.

¦Whenever possible, consider functional items when making your selections. Decorative boxes can hold remotes and table lamps come in an endless array of sizes and styles. Other practical purchases include mirrors, clocks and trays.

¦When decorating your home with accessories, don't miss the master bedroom, where a table or a bench at the foot of the bed can highlight a few key pieces. Revive bathrooms with a handful of accents that don't have to match. Experiment with odd numbers and objects of varied heights and hues for more contrast.

¦ Paintings and posters aren't the only pieces that can adorn your walls. Add three-dimensional elements like sculptures, shadowboxes, ledges and shelves for a touch of the unexpected.

¦If you have a piece of furniture that is functional, but not your favorite, surround it with some lively art and accessories that can make even the most basic designs look better. Flanking an old dresser with an umbrella stand filled with branches and a coat rack with colorful clothes will make it look like new.

¦Themes make accessorizing easier and they can keep you focused when you're shopping, too. Play up a nature theme with animal figures or something that depicts flowers and trees. Try a movie motif for your family room and a cooking theme in the kitchen.

¦While a continuation of bright colors packs a visual punch, neutrals make a great starting point for any space. Add a few of your favorite hues for an entirely new feel by investing in some decorating staples like pillows, throws and trays.

¦Those who prefer to stick with lighter tones can rely on texture to make an impact. A mix of textiles, wicker and wood is one way to go to add layers of interest. Another approach could be to create a subtle contrast with white against silver and gold.

¦Sometimes our interiors tend to take on a formal tone that doesn't fit our lifestyles. In this case, you might inject your space with a little whimsy. Even a home office can benefit from a few lighthearted pieces like decorative letters that spell TGIF or a napkin holder that stores envelopes.

¦Create a dialogue among your accent pieces with an assortment of attractive objects that relate to each other in some way. Hanging your art closer to your furniture not only makes it easier to see, it also allows it to become part of your arrangements.

¦Scour flea markets, antiques shops, and garage and estate sales for timeworn pieces to add to the mix. Store-bought styles paired with family heirlooms and secondhand finds can join sentimental treasures like children's artwork for a truly unique display.

¦Go beyond the obvious by trying a new purpose for items you already have on hand. The bottom of a decorative box can act as a tray for magazines while a bread basket can hold washcloths in a powder room.

¦The way you arrange your accessories is just as significant as the selections that you make. Books act as a platform for other objects, while easels help to elevate your art. A wooden dish rack can display your favorite plates more prominently and a series of wall-mounted storage cubes can showcase a pottery collection.

¦Get creative with kids' rooms by adding accent pieces that are functional and fun, like brightly colored storage bins to corral books and toys. Canvas art is a safer option for a space geared toward little ones, because it's lightweight and requires no glass.

¦Don't forget about your outdoor areas when selecting your accessories. Everything from garden art to urns can make your property more inviting.

¦Stick with pieces that hold special meaning, speak to you in some way, or simply make you smile. Chances are they'll do the same for others, too. And remember to revisit your displays every so often because it's always fun to rework them.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at