An Interior Stylist Shares the Secret to Decorating With What You Have

Updated 05/06/19

Nothing is more gratifying than making something look and feel brand new without actually buying anything. This may sound too good to be true, but the solution is fairly simple: It's all about how you style it. If that still doesn't sound straightforward, don't stress. We called in the professionals to show us how and to help us pin down that elusive concept of style so we can get it at home for ourselves.

To find out how the experts breathe new life into older pieces, we spoke with Kirsten Grove, interior designer and author of Simply Styling. She shared a few insider tips on how to rearrange and style the common household items we already own. You may want to put your decluttering projects on hold because those knickknacks you've been meaning to toss are about to pull through in a major way.  Ahead, Grove shares four tips to style any room with what you already have.

Layer Plants, Objects, and Artwork

decorate with what you have
Paige French for Simply Styling

Layering is key to creating dimension and intrigue, but the goal is to accomplish a personalized look rather than a cluttered one. Candlestick holders, ceramics, and pottery are all great options for stacking with books (which make the perfect fillers). So next time you're doing a deep clean, don't be so quick to get rid of books and magazines, especially if they feature cool cover art. Kirsten's tip is to pile them up and then place one of the aforementioned decorative objects on top. 

Thanks to fireplaces, you can put the power tools down. They function as backdrops for framed artwork. Plus, they don't require you to drill holes in the wall. Instead, prop your art up atop the mantle, or flank the fireplace for a chic, undone look. And when in doubt, put a plant on it! They add color and are full of other atmospheric perks.

Urban Outfitters Printed Boucherouite Rug $49

Rugs are also a great way to bring in some texture and color for that finishing touch.

Use Color Sparingly

Paige French for Simply Styling

Styling with color can be tricky, especially in the kitchen. Kirsten notes the more color you have in a room, the more overwhelmed the eye. So opt for the minimalist aesthetic where possible, especially in the kitchen. Not only are bare counters sleeker, they give you more space for all that cooking and family gathering. 

On the other hand, if you're a die-hard maximalist, there are many decorative objects that epitomize the form-meets-function design rule. Repurpose those old cutting boards as makeshift trays for your stylish soap bottles, then turn your jars into storage or a makeshift vase. A single stem rose in a former olive oil bottle is the epitome of chic (just make sure you've removed the label).

Arteriors Reeves Small Pendant $540

You can't go wrong with glass orb pendants. They're modern, chic, and, best of all, effortless.

Lighting is everything

Paige French for Simply Styling

Let's talk lighting. If your space looks like it needs a little love, a light fixture will do the trick. In the bedroom, Kirsten recommends sconces on both sides of the bed, hanging pendants in the bathroom or kitchen, and floor lamps in the living room. If you don't have a floor lamp, try stacking books to elevate an old table light to the right height. Once you've found a floor lamp for your living room, consider a gallery wall.

The image above is visual proof that gallery walls instantly transform a lackluster hallway or sitting area. Create your own over a sofa or in the foyer above a console table. If you're worried you don't have enough art to create a gallery wall, we've got some ideas for you below.

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman $4195

Once you have your living room staple, the rest should be easy. 

Get Scrappy with Wall Art

Paige French for Simply Styling

The first rule of a gallery wall is there is no rules. Anything goes. So consider it the perfect opportunity to get scrappy, with style of course. Look through any old storage spaces or drawers for your favorite posters, record covers, photographs, and Polaroids. You can even frame your favorite pages of a book or funny old postcards, notes, and letters you've saved over the years. 

You can also use a buffet or sideboard to display family heirlooms. Mixing the old with the new is always a good move. Kirsten suggests pairing a sentimental art piece with a new one to achieve a quirky (and meaningful) juxtaposition. 

Mingardo Round Brass Tray $523

You can put pretty much anything in your collection for the gallery wall. If it isn't too heavy to be hung on the wall, put a decorative tray on the wall to display rather than using it as a catch-all.

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