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TOP THREE DESIGN ELEMENTS: When Your Home is Missing Something, and You Can’t Tell What It Is

One of the things I’ve learned from twenty years as a designer and one time owner of design stores is the powerful effect scale (definition to follow) and the right accessories have on the look and feel of your home.

If your home looks like it’s missing something, and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is, it’s most likely scale, texture or greenery.


Scale is relative. In referring to the home, its architectural elements and furnishings, scale means how one element or item relates to or ‘sizes up’ next to another. Say for instance you have a 94 inch sofa (that’s a fairly large sofa) and you put an 18 inch pillow on it (that’s considered a small pillow), that scale will look fairly silly. The sofa is relatively large, while the pillow is relatively small. But take the same 18 inch pillow and place it on a 34 inch wide chair and the scale is pleasing. 

So when I say a room is missing scale, I refer to the size of the room, the furniture and accessories within the room, and how they relate to one another. What I’m suggesting is that you put one large scale piece of furniture in each room, large in proportion to the size of the room. Sound counterintuitive? Consider this. When you drive through an old, established neighborhood, ever notice how wonderful the large trees look? They are mature trees and much larger than newer neighborhood trees with young landscaping. The latter neighborhoods lack the feeling of permanence and stability. This scale concept works well in most every room in the home, from an expansive living or dining room to a tiny entry/foyer to a small bathroom or guest room. 

Scale gives a room, or a whole home an anchor and evokes feelings of stability and permanence. This is why I so often recommend to women with arthritis and chronic pain that they add large scaled pieces to their rooms.

Scale also makes a room feel lofty; and look finished. It gives the room a more robust feeling – – more significance. It’s a great anchor from which to build a room’s design scheme, making the rest of the job of furnishing your home easier.

You don’t have to run out and buy a massive $10,000 hutch. There are several ways you can give a room scale without a big price tag. One of my favorite ways to do this is by using sideboards in my design projects with an extra-large, framed mirror above it in the same finish. I also love taking a large dresser and placing a large shelf piece above it. You can extend the over scale feel with large lamps. These little tricks I’ve used for years, work equally well in small entries, bedrooms, dining rooms, dens and living rooms of all sizes. 

If you’re working in spaces that are especially small, you can still use large scale pieces, but keep the wood finishes relatively light and choose lamps with shiny or metallic finishes. I love mirrored or mercury finishes on my lamps. 


Texture is achieved mostly with wall finishes, wallpaper, wicker furniture, beautiful area rugs or carpet, baskets and textiles such as mohair, velvet and linen, and wooly throws or lap blankets. Sisal rugs have enjoyed a huge amount of popularity in recent years. They have the look of wool Berber carpet. If it were up to me, they’d never go out of style! And they make any interior style (trad, modern, mixed styles) look amazing by adding character and, you guessed it… texture. 

Wicker furniture is ideal for covered outdoor patios but also indoors in small amounts, such as a cocktail table or a pair of accent chairs with high quality fabric cushions. Wicker adds a beautiful, light hearted touch to traditional or transitional settings. It keeps a room from being too serious and adds a comforting feel, particularly for those of us with chronic pain. Baskets have a similar effect and they’re one of my favorite home accessories. They are both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

Heavily textured walls are no longer in style (think of the American version of Tuscan or as I refer to it Tuscany on Steroids!) But grass cloth and other textured wallpapers are always classic.  Texture adds warmth that is otherwise lacking in your home. It’s my go to design element after scale, as I prefer not to rely on color to make a style statement. Color is very easy to use in the home and if you’re going to hire a professional, they need to be versed in the other, harder to use elements of design.


I love plants in my design projects and in my own home. A home without plants and flowers is not finished, not lived in, not warm or inviting. There I said it. You need plants. 

Maybe they are passé, or maybe they aren’t – – but topiary are still my favorite objet in my home. Unfortunately fresh topiary don’t generally like living indoors all year. If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse you can rotate your topiary every three to six months but if not, let me introduce you to one of the best-selling items in my design stores: faux floral and greenery. I know, I know. You’re afraid to buy them. They are expensive. True. They are tacky. Not true, if you buy the expensive ones and arrange them in a single flower type. They fade. Not always.

Blending faux floral and greenery in with your fresh plants is a great way to have a classy, natural look. When company comes, or there are special occasions or the nursery has some of your favorite blooms, the faux arrangement can easily go into the hall or laundry room closet and the fresh arrangement takes its place. Super easy, right? But in the meanwhile, while blooms are scarce, enjoy a single flower faux arrangement like my chartreuse hydrangeas that I absolutely love, twelve years later. 

Hose your faux off annually. Keep out of direct sunlight. Dust every few months with a feather duster. And fluff or lift the branches and/or blossoms a bit when they start to look misshapen. 


These little tricks I share in my blog posts are a very small part of what I do for my design clients and clients with arthritis and chronic pain. A functional, soothing home environment are so important to your sense of well-being and your motivation level. To stay on top of your health issues you need your home to work well for you. Get my free download “Shiree’s Design and Lifestyle Tips” here or join me on a Micro Design Session via Zoom or Skype where we tackle your three most pressing design challenges! You deserve a home that supports your active lifestyle!

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully,