Our living room surfaces are many.

Built in shelves around the window, a large coffee table and a black side table. And that’s just what you can see from this angle. 

Stuff always seems to pile on during the holidays and I have to be purposeful to reevaluate every January. My goal: the most amount of style with the least amount of stuff. So my surfaces can’t be too empty or too full, and I want them to look pretty, both individually and together as a whole. 

Here are three rules I followed to simplify my surfaces without sacrificing style:

Nail that Scale:

It takes a lot more small items to fill the same space as one large item. Plus, one large WOW item will always have more impact than three, four or often five smalls. So I removed most of the smaller items and let the larger pieces breathe. More style, less stuff.

Contrast is Queen if You Want to be Seen:

The bookshelves are a medium color which is nice because both dark things and white things actually show up on them. I’m careful not to use too many medium tone colors because they’ll become invisible and blend into the shelves themselves. On the top shelf I wanted to use my head bust planter and he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved because he’s a medium grey color, so I hung a grouping of black dishes strategically so they allowed the profile of the bust to stand out.

Criss Cross:

Designers talk about how your eye moves across a space. The idea is that different things will draw your attention in a certain order that we find pleasing. Notice the black items on the built-ins cause your eyes bounce back in forth in a good way? The same goes for the larger white items creating a criss cross of movement in front of the window. If I had all black items on the left shelf and all white on the right it would feel stagnant and heavy on one side.

Our coffee table is getting a break for awhile, so she’s getting just one big plant in the center. I just noticed there’s a criss cross happening with the greens on the shelves and the coffee table as well! I didn’t purposely do that, but it just felt balanced! 

If you are adjusting your surfaces, my advice is just to start and when you run into something you aren’t happy with, THEN consider these three tips and see if you can work them in to help problem solve. 

Want more Surface Styling Tips?

I’ve got a video just for you! In it, I share 4 truths and a lie about surface styling, click here to watch it.