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5 Small Décor Details That Make an Amazing First Impression

Inviting entryway with large mirror and ottoman.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photo

As a design writer and busy city dweller, I’ve stepped foot into countless spaces in both professional and social capacities, and I welcome the opportunity to learn more about where and how someone lives. I'll always remember the spaces that captivated me from the moment I stepped foot inside, whether that was due to a scent, a particular piece of décor, or just the general vibes a home gave off within those first few minutes. 

So how can you make your space feel a bit more welcoming to visitors? Here are five easy steps—and all of which you can implement in a snap, no matter whether your space is small or large, boho or traditional, or located in the city or in a rural town. We can’t wait to hear which techniques you plan to adopt first. 

Add Ambiance With Flickering Candles

I love to light a couple of candles before guests arrive, as I’ve always appreciated being greeted with a delicious scent. I try to opt for seasonal smells whenever possible for extra festivity—apple cider candles are a must in the fall, and anything balsam-scented is perfect for the winter. And bonus points if you purchase something from a small business in the process.

That said, if you or your guests are sensitive to smell, unscented candles can still make a major impact. Their flickering flames add an elegant touch no matter the time of day and can make for a pleasant alternative to the harsh overhead lighting often seen in rental units. One of my friends always had candles burning when I came over, and her city rental felt like a chic European lounge as a result.

Hang a Stunning Mirror

I love walking into a home or apartment and immediately spotting a beautiful mirror—the more ornate and sizable, the better. Whether you choose to order directly from a retailer or shop around at your local flea markets and vintage stores, you won’t want to skimp on this addition. Mirrors will automatically make your space feel larger, brighter, and fancier, so what’s not to love?

If you need some inspo, scrolling through tours of Parisian homes where mirrors are plentiful is an excellent way to get started. You will notice that mirrors are often positioned to reach up to the ceiling, so don’t be shy about purchasing an oversized piece.

In addition to being glam, mirrors provide much-needed functionality, too. I always appreciate being able to quickly check my reflection before dashing off after a dinner party. If you’re looking to save some money, check out listings on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, where you may be able to score a one-of-a-kind piece on the cheap. 

Display a Conversation Piece

Whether you choose to showcase one of your favorite finds from your travels, a photograph you took yourself and framed, or a beloved painting of a pet, it never hurts to place a personal piece front and center in your home.

Guests will enjoy getting this extra glimpse into your psyche when they walk through the door—and not to mention, such a piece will make for great chatter as you wait for other friends to arrive. I always enjoy admiring the artwork that my friends have chosen to display in their homes, as it oftentimes leads to a fascinating story that may have not come up otherwise. 

Install Hooks or a Coat Rack

Sometimes, even the most utilitarian items can make a lasting impression. When visiting a close friend, I’m more than comfortable setting my jacket down on a bench or living room chair, but not everyone appreciates guests draping their belongings all over their fancy furniture. A coat rack is an excellent way to corral both your own and your visitors’ outerwear and sends the message that you’re an organized, practical person (even on days when that couldn’t feel further from the truth). You could even try some strategically placed hooks if you don't have the space for a standing rack.

Showcase Flowers or Greenery

Fresh flowers or live plants always add cheer to a space and will certainly not go unnoticed. Bonus points if you change up your arrangement each season, but even something versatile like a beautiful snake plant or dangling pothos will add a welcoming, homey touch. 

On a tight budget? Grocery stores are a great place to snag gorgeous stems on the cheap—at my personal go-to, Trader Joe’s, they start at just $3—and you can always group a few types of florals together to create a larger bouquet.

If you don't have a green thumb, there are plenty of realistic-looking faux plants on the market, so if you travel frequently or can never remember to water your plant baby (hey, we’ve all been there), you should still be able to find something that speaks to you.