Arrows :: A Secret Weapon In Decorating

focus on the good


For years my parents participated in their neighborhood yard sale. With so many different sales going on, most people put signs out on the main streets of the neighborhood so you were sure to find their sale all buried back behind their house on a quiet street.

If I’m in a car driving through a neighborhood looking for a sale, I’m just looking for an arrow. Right?

I don’t need specific directions, a list of everything you have for sale or even times all written out in tiny print on a cardboard sign.

Make it easy one me, just point me in the right direction.

Dad always just made huge arrows and pointed the arrows towards the house. Every intersection had another arrow. Mom and Dad always had a ton of traffic because the arrows were obvious, clear and easy to follow.


It’s the same in decorating.

You get to be in charge of where people look and what they see when they are in your space.

You are the director.

breakfast area

When we first moved to our last house this room made me sad. It had so much potential but I didn’t like some of the choices the builder made. But we were renting. What could I do?

I used arrows. Do you see them?

I removed things I hated: the blinds in all the windows (and packed them in big garbage bags in the attic).

And that accentuated the ONE main positive: SO MANY WINDOWS!

Then I placed some arrows :

“Look at me!” says the big huge chandelier. (we stored the tiny builder grade light in the attic with the blinds)

“Look at us!” the plate grouping shouts.

“Me, Me, Me!!” says the big shell on the table.

You might notice that our tile floors are pink. Or that the windows have no casing, no molding, no character or that I didn’t want to have to rewire the chandelier when we moved so I kept all the length on the chain, but it’s probably not the first thing you notice and even if it is, it doesn’t ruin the room because the positives are stronger than the negatives. I told you what to look at by what I placed in the room.

wood chandelier

I made you look at what I wanted you to see because I placed arrows around the room so you’d focus on the things I want you to focus on.

The chandelier is an arrow.

The unobstructed light from the windows is an arrow.

The pretty grouping of plates on the wall, that’s an arrow.

The big shell on the table? Yep, an arrow.


Don’t underestimate the power of adding in the positive. It automatically helps to eliminate the negative.


Pin It


  1. Great example photo! I had to scroll up and look at it again after reading your list of all the things I didn’t notice the first time because of your arrows. Also, I love Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, fun choice!

  2. We all know the question is inevitable. Where is the light from!? My money is on One Kings Lane or Joss and Main. Have you ever seen it for sale since? La la love!!

  3. YES! Sharing!

  4. I had NEVER thought about this!!!! Thank you for the reminder that we can train the eye to go exactly where we want it to. Personally, the grouping of plates caught my eye immediately upon first look at the photo.

  5. Love this idea! I’m a fan of naked windows with no mouldings, but this is a great way to make them work for you. The concept of arrows is a great one to grab onto and run with. Thanks!

  6. I am going to focus so so hard on this for my small get-together this weekend. I got super sad that my kitchen wall still looks awful (at least 4 layers or old wallpaper almost stripped down, almost), and no time to finish it.
    I came up with this: I am not going to appologize. I am going to stick a few color samples right in the middle of that wall so it will be obvious to everyone that it’s “work in progress”. Ha!
    Thank you!

  7. This is a great reminder! I currently have a huge circle mirror hanging in the dining room of our rental that came with the place, but it looks terrible and it just scareams “look at me!” removing that ASAP!

  8. I never noticed there was no molding around your windows!!! I have always LOVED this spot in your home…now I know why…the arrows……..!!! Good job director! Going to go work on some of my own arrows! :)

  9. Melanie Miller says

    Well, this is brilliant. I’ve learned to spread texture and color around the room to keep the eye moving, but to intentionally point to what I want highlighted… well, that is genius. And a little bit, duh, why didn’t I think of that? I do it in other areas of life: if I don’t want you to notice that my hips are wider than I wish, I will wear something that pulls your eye to a smaller place, my waist, highlighting the inner part of the curve instead of the outer part. I wonder where else I can use this principle? thanks, Nester Amy :)

  10. I have been reading this blog for a LONG time and Always looked forward to all you did with your rental. It never felt like a rental to me because I really did think it felt like a beautiful home, even virtually! Who would ever have noticed the negative things you pointed out. I am totally taken with your arrows. Love this post! And I have to admit, I miss this house just a little even though I LOVE your new farm house and all that surrounds it.

    • I know what you mean, because this house is SUCH a fixer upper, I miss being able to take lots of photos of large finished spaces! I was running out of things to talk about at the last house (unless I wanted to start over decorating it) but this house, I feel like I don’t have much to talk about yet unless you want to hear about how my husband fixed the hot water heater in my office for the third time!!! So unphotogenic!!!!!

  11. That space is so gorgeous with your big arrows! I think I’ve got some decent arrows in my main living areas, so my friends tell me I have a lovely house. My problem is that I know what the arrows are disguising, and I focus on those. And it is sometimes so hard not to apologise for things that others don’t even notice! I need to start being distracted by my own arrows. Like my lovely mid-century thrifted chair that I’m in love with ;-)

  12. I love this! Instead of always worrying about what we don’t like about our homes, we should accentuate the positives! Hmm..this could fit so many areas of our lives.

  13. What a great way to think about highlighting the good in a room. I know alot of the time I let overwhelming negatives stop me from making the changes I want. We live in a rental as well so there is only so much I can change. Thanks for the great inspiration.

    • yes, those darn negatives can be SO overwhelming, this post actually is encouraging me in my office right now, it’s HIGHLY imperfect so in a way I wrote this post to help ME too.

  14. Such a brilliant post, Myquillyn! Even though I love decorating my house, I never thought of it this way. Arrows! Eliminate the negatives and bring attention to the positives. What a simple approach that makes so much sense! Now I really can’t wait to read your book! ox

  15. This is fantastic advice for decorating! It seems so obvious that you would want to set up a room in way that compliments it’s natural beauty but sometimes it’s really hard to pull that off! This is a perfectly simplistic way of stating how it’s done. Thank you!

  16. Thanks so much for writing this article! We live in a rental, and I too lament some of the cheap builders grade touches in our home so decorating often seems like a chore since it can’t be as perfect as I envision! You’ve given me a ray of hope, if you will, an arrow pointing me back in the right direction of how to work around the imperfections of the house! so Thanks for the arrow ;)

  17. Now I completely understand what you’ve meant all this time by using arrows!! Please share more examples! Now I will always look for what arrows are not pointing to. Ha ha!

  18. Only saw what you pointed to! Well done!

  19. I love the idea of using arrows in your home! I definitely feel like it’s a skill that has to be developed, though. This post was a great reminder that I can detract attention from some of the those less than desirable design features in my home.;) I’m going to take a look around today and see if I can rearrange some items and use those arrows! BTW, where did you get the super awesome shell?

  20. Shazam! You got your buttons!
    We should probably go into some kind of techy business together now…

  21. Brilliant! I paint paintings, and i should already know this, but really haven’t thought about it for my home. Today i am going to go home and see if i can play with this concept a little bit, It’ll be fun!


  22. Gorgeous! Especially love the plates. And if the pink tile bothers you, an on-trend indoor/outdoor rug would add in the color/design you like, cover much of the tile, and it’s an inexpensive item that you can take with you when you move!

  23. Oh, how I love this! You beautifully painted the picture with the arrows of the garage sales of your youth to your decorating. I needed that. I’m in a season of seeing FAR TOO MUCH of the flaws rather than the spending my time “pointing” to the good. Thanks for the push!

  24. This is so great, and is encouraging to me. It’s going to change my attitude in decorating our home! We’ve only been in this house 8 months, and there’s many things I’d like to change. Some changes will happen; others are not likely to. But with this mindset, I can better deal with the things I can’t change.

  25. Great post! I love this idea…I have a beautiful house with a lot of “unfinished” rooms and for some reason I have this tendency to point out the negative for apologize for the unfinished. I will try this more often now.

  26. I love this! Our current home is outdated and recently have decided to make the most of what we have that fits into our budget. Great post!

  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My house is a big project, not even halfway done, and I’m going to try to think in these simple terms. Instead of obsessing about what’s NOT done, I’ll just try to get some arrows in place. Wonderful!!

  28. I think that was a very well written post with a very valuable, useful point. Thank you.

  29. I love the room, nothing is missing or wrong anywhere. It’s wonderful and I say that after I looked at the picture of the room AND before I read the text…. Was I missing the arrows? I looked at the room as a whole and saw the pink floor and the extra chandelier chain and I thought that was just part of the wonderful room you intended. So, am I grossly observant; have I no eye for detail?
    How could I have even known about the concept of the arrows? The things that caught my eye first were the glorious light streaming in, the incredible chandelier, the fabulous plates above the window and that magnificent shell bowl! I’m stumped!

    • yep, you saw those things because I made you see them with my ‘arrows’ the chandelier, the unobstructed light, the large expanse of floor is even part of it, unbroken with a rug–it all works. the person looking doesn’t see the arrows, it’s a concept for those of us feeling like we can’t escape the parts of our house that we hate.

      So you proved the point! yippie!

  30. I get it! Arrows. Focal points. Thank you!

Leave a Reply to Melanie Miller Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.