Style: Discover the ingredients of a well-dressed room

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

Just as you need a few key pieces to make a great outfit, I’ve found there are five essential ingredients of a well-dressed room:

Wall color that sets the mood: Wall color sets the tone for your entire space, creating the ambiance. Right now, we are seeing a trend toward both light, bright wall colors and deep, rich shades. White and cream — timeless classics — are showing up big. We are also seeing lots of our customers gravitating toward subtle shades of their favorite colors, like pale blues. On the other end of the spectrum, moody colors like moss green, dark teal and navy are also making a splash, as is statement-making wallpaper. When selecting a color scheme for your room, don’t forget your ceiling. One of my favorite looks right now is to paint the ceiling a clear, rich color, then leave the walls white or cream. You get a splash of saturated color, yet still have a neutral palette to play with.

Interesting light fixtures: I love to cut corners when I can, saving precious dollars in my decorating budget for my splurge items, but light fixtures are just one of those places where you get what you pay for. When you invest in great lamps, chandeliers and pendants, it shows. If your spaces have lackluster lighting, I would encourage you to begin upgrading and get the best lights your budget will allow. You’ll be happy in the end because the lighting will take your space to the next level.

A mix of fabrics: One tip is to pick a modest fabric for your bedding, drapes or upholstered furniture, perhaps a solid or a subtle pattern, then give it a great story with an interesting trim or contrasting welt. Or, invest in one killer fabric and use it to make a pillow for your sofa or bed, then fill in with others that are made from less expensive fabrics. When picking the fabrics for your home, try using a variety of patterns, colors and textures to make your rooms more interesting and unique.

Arresting artwork: One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they invest in decorating their homes is to fill a room with great furnishings, then leave the walls blank. As a result, the room falls flat with a big thud. Artwork is absolutely essential for a well-decorated room, so refuse to allow yourself to be paralyzed when picking and hanging art. When I select art, I purchase pieces I love that speak to me and lift my heart, then find a way to work them into my decor.

Something personal: As much as we all love to look at dreamy decor in magazines and on Pinterest, no one should live in a room that looks like it’s been downloaded from a catalog. Every space in your home should reflect your unique personality, your well-lived life. Decorating accents are powerful tools to help tell your story. I like to weave in treasures from my travels, snapshots of special moments and those I love, gifts from people who mean the world to me. Add a touch of whimsy when you can, like taking that odd clay sculpture your child or grandkid made in art class, putting it on a cake plate and topping it with a glass cloche to give it the stage it deserves. Every time you walk past it, I bet it will make you smile!

One final bit of advice: Don’t let your room remain static, once you have decorated it. I believe good design evolves, and rooms should change to reflect the seasons, your interests and life stages. And above all else, have fun!

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at