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Decorating tips for creating a cohesive home design

Have you ever walked into your living room, your dining room, your master bedroom, heck...your front door...and thought 'something in my room looks a bit off?' I see you over there raising your hand! If you're like most people, you may have that fleeting thought but lack the ability to identify WHAT is making it look that way or what to do to FIX IT.

Today, I'm spilling the beans and telling you not only WHAT it is, but WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

The ONE thing that is making your home feel a bit 'off' isn't necessarily the hand me down sofa you got from Grandma, nor is it the broken bookshelf being propped up with (approriately) a stack of books. Nope...none of that is the main culprit, though each of those pieces could be contributing to the overall look of 'something feels a bit off.' So, what is it? It's likely that your room, your open concept area, your home - doesn't look COHESIVE.

What does cohesive even mean?

In home design, a cohesive home is one where each room seamlessly blends and flows together nicely to create one unified look throughout the rest of the house. Now, don't be mistaken here. Unified does not mean beige, boring, all one brand, or even all one era. Unified, simply put, means that there are enough repeating design elements in furniture, colors, textures, etc. in order to make the pieces, regardless of whether they are a matching set, go together room to room.

Great, now what? How do you create a home that looks cohesive when you have the aforementioned furniture, you love color and you have a smattering of new pieces mixed with old? Here's how:

5 tips for creating a cohesive look throughout your home:

Before I reveal the top five tips for creating a cohesive home, you should be aware of this one guideline that I share with all of my clients. Creating a cohesive home can happen in every room in your home, but generally speaking, the cohesiveness is critical in open concept areas, including hallways and any room that flows seamlessly into another without the ability to close a door. Once you have a room where a door can be closed to the open concept area, that room (i.e. the office, bathroom or bedroom) can create its own micro-climate of cohesiveness.

1. Create a color palette:

Choosing an intentional color palette or color scheme is an important beginning step. This color palette will help you stay on track every time you decide it's time to stop in at Home Goods and purchase something new to spruce up your space. But how do you create a color palette that works?

Start by using a color formula equaling 100%. The foundation color (typically the wall color) will make up the largest part of our formula, about 60%. From there, choose a primary accent color that appears more often than secondary or tertiary accent colors (about 30%). Finally, choose a secondary accent color that will appear the remaining percentage of time - about 10%. How does this turn into a color formula?

60% (foundation color) + 30% (primary accent color) + 10% (secondary accent color) = 100%.

Using this formula will help you navigate the color flow of an open concept space, but play around with the ratios of your accent colors. Do you want three? Great - your formula could be 70 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 100.

The easiest way to apply this color formula for a cohesive look is to paint all wall colors in the open concept area the foundation color. However, as your confidence grows in following this simple formula, as you head into nooks (i.e. dining room) that still flow into an open concept area, you can trade colors throughout the formula. For example: if our color formula is 60% white (foundation) + 30% navy blue (primary accent color) + 10% fuchsia (secondary accent color), it would be fairly simple to have all white walls with accents of blues and fuchsias brought in with textiles, rugs, pillows, lamps, etc. BUT...if you head into the dining room - the foundation, instead of being white, could be navy, thereby changing that formula for the dining room alone (but not the color palette in general) to 60% navy + 30% white + 10% fuchsia.

Photo Source: unknown (if you know the source of the photo, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!)

2. Use those colors from your palette as accents in decorating: pillows, rugs, frames, books, artwork...the colors you chose for your color palette should be represented and repeated throughout your room's design.

3. Look for the outlier (a.k.a. BULLY): standing in one vantage point - look around to all areas and rooms. Do you spot something that doesn't quite fit in with the color palette? Something that sticks out like a sore thumb? That's your BULLY and the only thing a bully does is bring down the room's design. Leaving it there automatically negates the cohesiveness that you've worked so hard to create. This concept doesn't just apply to elements within the same color palette, however. Design elements like metals, wood tones, vintage pieces, mid-century style, etc. can all follow this same principal. If it (i.e. one mid-century modern piece of furniture) is the ONLY design element of it's kind that you can locate from one vantage is an outlier.

This information now begs us to go back to the beginning and address the idea of your room feeling OFF. That hand-me-down sofa from Grandma that I mentioned earlier? This could be the bully if it is the ONLY orange-ish yellow floral velvet design element in the space.

There's GOOD NEWS, however. Bullies can be remediated in order to make your room feel cohesive.

4. Remediate the bully: you can remediate the bully by REMOVING it and letting it live somewhere else where it will play nicely with other design elements within the space or REPEAT the bully's design elements somewhere else within the room so that bully is no longer an outlier. Repeating design elements at least three times ensures that the bully in question is an intentional design decision rather than an after thought. And, if removing the item from your home is the only option, remember that your donation will likely bless someone else big time!

5. Repeat generalized design elements & specific design elements: repeating design elements like color, metals and woods is just scratching the surface of creating a cohesive looking home. Try taking it a level deeper and repeat design elements that might be a bit more subtle. For example: the succulent artwork you have in the corner of your room. You're not only repeating the colors, but maybe you're repeating the plant itself with a live succulent sitting on the coffee table or the same geometric shape of the plant pot in the art as the candle holder sitting on the mantel.

Most importantly, have fun and'll be surprised at how quickly your eyes will start recognizing elements within your room that are either helping or hurting its overall cohesiveness.

If you'd like more information or would like to listen to this topic explained further, you can listen to this podcast:

Happy styling!



Interested in learning more? Listen to the fig & farm (at home) podcast here.


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