Design is in the Details

Interior designer Nadia Watts, principal of Denver-based Nadia Watts Interior Design, shares ideas on how to decorate your space to make it feel good to you.

We’ve all had this experience: We walk into a room and suddenly feel happy, at ease, and fabulous. The sofa beckons, the light is perfect, and the details are gorgeous. We notice a small collection of art, a few beautiful books that beg to be read, a throw and pillows that feel good to the touch. There’s something about the space that feels magical.

Photo by Gibeon Photography, via Mountain Living

The truth is that there’s very little magic involved in creating feel-good rooms. Designers spend a lot of time figuring out how to make a room inspire happy feelings in homeowners and guests—and while I believe that scale and texture and fabrics and lighting all play important roles in the ways our minds and bodies respond to a room, it’s often the decorative details that make a room really fantastic. Today, I’m sharing a few of my secrets with you.

Declutter: You knew I was going to say that, right? I know it’s not the most exciting part of creating a pretty space, but trust me: A few beautiful things can lose their visual power in a room full of stuff. So walk into every room in your house and look carefully at the things you have on display. What do you love? What do you need to toss or donate? Be brutally honest with yourself.

Photo via Houzz

Find your favorites: Now that you’ve paired down your collection of pretty things, pick out the things you love the most. Put them together on the dining table or other space where you can see them all together.

Tend to your favorites: Many of my clients have art they love in frames they hate. They have photos they love sitting unframed on desks or bookshelves. They have lamps that need repair or candlesticks without pretty candles. Are you in the same boat? We all forget to tend to the beautiful things in our lives, but I promise that it’s worth the time and money to take care of these things now. (My favorite tip for finding high-quality framing shops is to ask owners of local art galleries for recommendations.) So go for it!

Photo via Houzz

Sort: I’m betting that some of your things are very personal: a framed loved note, wedding pictures or silly photos of your kids, a misshapen-but-charming ceramic penguin your child made in second-grade art class. (You get the picture.) Put the most personal things in your bedroom: You get to wake up to them every morning, and they speak to you in a way they won’t speak to guests.

Now you have a few choices to make about how to sort the remaining objects. Some things benefit from being grouped with similar items: A collection of artwork hung together on a wall can be beautiful. (The trick is to make sure they’re framed in similar colors or styles to make sure they don’t look too random.) Similarly, a collection of three beautiful coffee table books can make a lovely little pyramid on a console, bookshelf or entry table.

Photo via DesignSponge

Other objects might work better amid a more eclectic grouping: I’ve long loved classic objects—ceramic busts, vintage vases and antique urns, for example. It’s best to display such distinctive pieces as part of a diverse group. Place one atop the book pyramid you create on a console or entry table, or let it stand alone—if it’s large enough—in a bookshelf “cubby.” (You’ll notice a lot of magazines show living rooms or offices with bookshelves that do double-duty as display cases. I love filling bookshelves with a combination of books and decorative objects.)

Display: If you want to display a few things on a coffee table or console, remember the rule of three: Three different items (or three groups of items) in three different heights often look best. It’s fun to group them in a tray, so you can easily scoop them up and away if you have guests who actually want to set their coffee down on the table. (Imagine that!)

Photo by Gibeon Photography, via Mountain Living

And remember that you don’t have to display every beautiful object you own. It’s okay to put a few things away for now and get them out in six months or a year when you put other things away. That’s more appealing to your eye anyway, and some research suggests that changing small details in your home actually makes your eye more trained on beauty because it’s not seeing the same antique mercury glass vases in the same place every day for 15 years.

Photo via

Add the finishing touches: Here’s the really fun part. Now that you know how you’d like to display your pretty things, pick a few colors from these pieces and add pillows, throws, frames or other accessories in these colors. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the room feels complete and pulled together.

Photo via Houzz

Where to find these things? A few of my favorite sources are West Elm, The Lark (if you’re lucky enough to live in Denver), Bloom by Anuschka (also a Denver favorite, but with an online shop), and Serena & Lily. If you have a favorite, please leave it in the comments, so we can all benefit!

Photo courtesy Nadia Watts Interior Design

Categories: Interior Designers