7 Insider Decorating Tips a Pottery Barn Expert Knows (and You Don't )
Season after season, we urge ourselves to give our homes a refresh. It's only natural—in the summertime, we want to see our spaces filled with breezy linens, cheerful stripes, and low-maintenance grass cloth. But come fall, we often crave deep, moody tones, low lighting, and richer fabrics. In essence, we want our homes to reflect how the outside world makes us feel.
Few people understand this better than Monica Bhargava, Pottery Barn’s executive vice president of product development and design. In her own home, she focused on creating the right layers to be able to easily switch the mood seasonally and update as her heart desires—and that's without spending a ton! Her secret? Finding the right basics that are both functional and timeless to be able to layer other elements according to the seasons.
Her approach is certainly far from the minimalist trends we've witnessed recently, but it could very well speak to the pendulum swing toward to a more maximalist approach to design—and it's in sync with the brand's new fall collection. Is Bhargava making the case for a new wave of traditionalism? Find out her top tips for achieving ultimate comfort at home.
Learn to Layer
"Fall is a season all about layering," says Bhargava. "When I think about layering, I think certain words like tonality, color, and texture—and I think about building a lifestyle in a room in terms of layers. And it's not just about color—for instance, I can think of six different ways to layer a white bed, whether it's white to ivory tones, or whites to grays, or grays to ivories. In our fall collection, we've taken the blush trend and mixed it with a slightly more saturated yet muted deep plum—and you can see how those colors really layer, especially when they're on a neutral flaxseed linen foundation or a neutral leather foundation." In other words, choose a minimal color palette and adorn your home with lots of textures for ultimate comfort.
Create a Drop-Down Zone
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"Your entryway is your first point of contact when people come in and when you come into your home," Bhargava notes. "I love coming home to one moment that connects me to my home. Some homes are very lucky to have mudrooms, but other homes have small entryways like mine. In that case, I always think it's important to have one small piece—whether it is a small cabinet or a cart—that can hold your keys or your mail, a place to drop off. You need like a row of hooks to hang your coats. I also love having either a small chair or a leather cube to sit down and put your shoes on. When you have the luxury of a bigger entryway, it's nice to have a round table or a table layered with a stool with a stack of books or fresh flowers. I think an entryway has to be beautiful, but it also has to be functional."
Think Comfort Above All
"In my home, comfort is my star mantra because I think the biggest luxury in life is comfort," adds the Pottery Barn expert. "My home has to be a space where I can put my feet up or I can cuddle with my daughter. So I've got throws everywhere and ottomans to put my feet up—whether it's an occasional chair with an ottoman to go with it."
Find Multipurpose Pieces
"When you're starting out, pick pieces that have a little bit of emotion and soul but that can also serve multiple purposes," says Bhargava. For instance, she suggests that a bar cart can be used as storage, as a serving piece, or as a nightstand. "Think of pieces in that way. Think about how versatile the pieces are, how they can be multipurpose. For smaller-scale spaces, we have our foldout tables that can work as a workspace or a dining table. It's those pieces that have a lot of emotion but can work in multiple ways in your home."
Don't Follow Trends
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"Don't follow trends; follow your heart," advises Bhargava. "Don't worry about what people think about your home. Let your home be a reflection of who you are or how you use your room and how you use your house. Be passionate; be authentic; do it your way. That authenticity will always give you the most amount of pleasure. Your home is such an emotional space—in my house, I have beautiful pieces that I've collected from all over my travels, but I also have art from India where I grew up because it's important to me to feel a sense of history and space. Surround yourself with things that you love. Don't worry too much about trends—just follow your heart."
Invest in Hardworking Furniture
When decorating for seasonality, the trick is to have the right timeless pieces to complement your smaller accents: "Invest in something that's hardworking, like your sofa or your dining table, your master-bedroom bed—because these pieces will stand the test of time," says Bhargava. "Or splurge on a leather sofa because leather ages beautifully and carries the patina beautifully, and it takes the wear and comfort and the life pressed on it really well."
Play With Proportions
"My friends and family always ask for decorating help—which I'm always happy to do because I love what I do—but they tend to buy complete matching suites, and I think they don't understand that it's okay to mix the traditional with the industrial," says Bhargava. "Have fun; make it your own expression. Getting all of your furniture and all your pieces in varying scales is really critical. Different proportions add character and interest. You may have a giant table or a table that folds to entertain a lot of people, but then do smaller occasional chairs in the family-room space. I think it creates more interest. I think levels create more comfort because you can be much more creative, and it also gives you the space to bring in emotional pieces."
And now, the penny-pincher's guide to decorating with fall 2017's biggest trends.