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When accessorizing, start with what you have

Dear Gail: I’d like to give my family room a little face-lift for the summer. I don’t need any furniture or artwork but would like some new accessories. I love wandering around the home stores but they can be overwhelming, so I end up frustrated and walking out empty-handed. What advice can you share when shopping for accessories? — Thanks, Marlene

Dear Marlene: So you know you are not alone. Besides selecting paint colors, accessorizing seems to be the most frustrating decorating area for most homeowners.

Accessories are a simple and inexpensive way to update a room without having to remodel, paint or buy new furniture. What I love about accessories is there is no long-term commitment. You can change each season, add colors or have fun with a new trend with just a few pieces.

Accessories are the finishing touches that make your home personal and bring each room together, just as jewelry shows your personality and dresses up your wardrobe. They both complete and complement your foundation.

But just like jewelry, there are so many different colors, styles and sizes. So let’s get you past being overwhelmed and again enjoying shopping with a couple of steps to follow.

When I’m accessory styling for a client, the first thing we do is walk through the house and decide if there are any current items they want to use. After a while, we don’t notice the things we have, especially when they’re in rooms we don’t go in often.

Take those items and stage them in one place. Group them by type, candles, vases, boxes, plates, greenery, frames and so on. Now take pictures of them to have when shopping.

Next, clear everything off the areas you want to accessorize. This will give you a blank canvas to work with. Look at what you have and place the things you want to use. Now, this does not need to be the final place, but it will help you see what you need to shop for. And if you’re not sure, no worries, you have pictures of all the items you want to use.

I also take pictures of each area, tabletop, fireplace mantel, bookcase, where we’re looking to update. This reminds me of what we’re shopping for without having to make a list. Plus nothing beats having a visual. Now I know you’ll have them on your phone, but it’s so much easier to shop with the pictures in hand. So I’d suggest you print them out.

If you have any specific colors from your room you want to use, bring something in that color, whether a pillow, fabric, flowers, whatever you may have. If you don’t have anything to bring, grab a couple of paint chips and match them up.

We have a very short color memory of the exact color. It’s said that after 3 seconds or 36 inches we no longer remember the exact color. We know it’s red, but is it barn red, cherry red, watermelon red or merlot red.

Accessorizing is about fussing with things until they feel right, which I know is where many people get frustrated. If you’re not sure where to start, take pictures at model homes, cut from magazines and mail-order catalogs; some of them have amazing stylists.

Then, of course, there’s the internet. Just don’t spend hours; you’re just looking for groupings that catch your eye. You can then re-create the group by selecting similar accessories.

Look for items in the same shape, size, and color as in the pictures. So if they have a grouping of a jar, box, and greenery, look for those items in your style and color. If you can’t find your color, you can always refinish it. Chalk and spray paint can transform any accessory.

When looking for accessories, think in odd numbers. An easy way is to form a triangular pattern that has three layers or heights, as well as a variety of textures and color.

Although you can create a stunning grouping with all the same textures and colors, you still need to vary the heights. So start with your tallest accessory and place it off center and to the back of the table, instead of right in the middle. You want to create a grouping versus lining them up.

Now select the next one you’d like to use that is smaller, place it at the second point of the triangle. Then the third, which will be your smallest piece. Many times my third accessory is greenery to soften the grouping.

If you have a large table or would like more than three, place two more items into your triangular pattern. I do like using odd numbers, but nothing says you have to. It’s all about balance and once you’re comfortable creating groupings, you’ll know what looks and feels right.

When shopping, don’t be afraid to gather the pieces you like and lay them out in the store. I have no problem spreading them out in an aisle or clearing off a tabletop. Some stores are also more than happy to help you find the right pieces. Which is why having pictures is so helpful.

I always buy a few extra items if I’m torn between some. But make sure you know the return policy. I ended up with a $400 store credit because I didn’t look at the receipt, and they had changed their policy from 90 days to 30 days.

Accessorizing really is the fun part and does make all the difference in a well-made room. So jump in, fill up a cart and have fun.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.

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