When you look at photos of beautiful houses in magazines and on web sites, over half the photos are of close-ups of display.  It’s actually very hard to get a room looking great from all angles, and few photographers ever show the reality of these rooms.  The secret lies in the styling.

Most people have their ornaments, pictures, flowers etc spread evenly throughout the house.  This is the styling equivalent of putting eyeshadow and lipstick evenly all over your face.  It’s kind of missing the point.  These things need to be group in strong areas of focus.  This is what makes your lips and eyes stand out on your face. And this is what can make a stand out room.

I was with a client on Saturday and we spent a couple of hours doing just this, and transformed her living and dining rooms without spending a penny.  So here’s roughly how you do it.

Take the image below….

Doesnt cost the earth to style

It doesn’t look too bad?  Well – it’s nowhere near magazine quality.  Firstly, group things by colour.  Pick a colour (or two) from the room, and hunt through your house for items with that colour in.  Our eyes see colour before anything else, so it’s the easiest way to make something look ‘done’.

Make sure you include some largish hard back books.  Lay these on their side, in graduating size order to form a pyramid.  Now pop something on the top – a box (smaller again), a paperweight, whatever looks good to you.  You can actually include several of these piles actually (you’ll notice they are in all magazine photos).

Now prop up a couple of smallish pictures or mirrors behind to create a  back drop.  Try and unify them with colours again.  Slightly overlap the frames if you’re using more than one.

Now include a vase or something with height.  Put this towards the middle of the display to creat height.  Again, look for a pyramid effect with the display higher in the centre.

Low cost interiors: restyle your home

As this is quite a big surface, more than one colour is used, but all the greens are largely grouped on the left.  Gold and black are accents.  This is also reasonably practical as displays go as it includes the perfume etc that was already here to be used.

Beautiful homes on a budget

If you’re doing something with shelves (rather than a table top) make sure you put larger items lower, so it doesn’t look top heavy.  Stylists often use rustic baskets or piles of books.  I think if you’ve used books above it can look monotonous to use them below too.  Here, two throw pillows from the bed are piled up –  a useful place to store them, and visually pleasing.  You could also fold up a blanket or throw from the bed or sofa here.

The colours pull together the look.  If it were in a magazine, there would be flowers in the vase – but we’re doing this on a zero budget here.  A spray of leaves from the garden might suffice.


Even if it’s a tiny table, a book and box on top can make it look ‘meant’ – especially when it picks up the colours of the room.

If you want help getting started, I do ‘lessons’ in your home – usually two hours is all it takes.  You can even invite friends (and share the cost) so you can all learn, and then put it into practice yourselves.  Alternatively, I can work with you to completely re-style and ‘shop’ your home – so that your interior doesn’t cost the earth.