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5 Things Every Room Needs

Today, we’re breaking down the simple list of 5 things that we think every well-balanced room design needs. We’re also including links to 25 + examples to inspire!

Catfish lounges on the sofa in our Chicago living room.
coffee table | candle | chair | pouf | floor lamp

Where do you start when designing a room?’

This is a question we’re asked on an almost daily basis! While it’s admittedly open-ended and several follow up questions we’d typically ask, there is a simple formula that we like to apply when we’re starting on a new space or refreshing an existing one. The five ‘required’ elements below can help to form the basis of a mood board or to steer the ship once a design is underway. When all 5 elements are utilized, rooms should end up feeling balanced, grounded and and not overly matchy-matchy. Remember, items in a room should work together, but they shouldn’t necessarily match. Let’s break it down!

Pro tip: These rules can also be applied to transitional spaces like foyers and mudrooms as well as outdoor areas!

1| Something Black

In home design, the use of furniture and decor pieces finished in black (or other very dark shades) is often misunderstood. Sure, we see why they could be perceived as moody or dark feeling, but we look at black as providing contrast. For the most part, we design our spaces to feel calm, comfortable and peaceful, which finds us using lots of lighter-toned materials. But without contrast, too many lighter tones can easily get lost in the mix. Black furniture grounds a space and makes a statement. Plus it’s pretty badass.

See also: painting doors and windows black | unit 1 kitchen | refinishing a vintage cane chair in black | black dining chairs | black planter boxes

Kim and Scott work from the custom oak table in our Chicago dining room.
chairs | rug | table | bowl | light

2| Something Vintage

Vintage items bring character and charm to a space. They make a space feel collected over time as opposed to simply assembled. They tell a story, too! Where did you find the item? Was it a great deal or a splurge you couldn’t stop thinking about? Who owned it previously? Adding a vintage item is arguably the easiest box to check since nearly anything can be sourced secondhand. Furniture, rugs, art, textiles and knickknacks can all be found easily and affordably online or at any number of vintage shops or antique malls. Buying vintage can also help keep budgets in check as secondhand items are often less costly than buying new. Double win!

See also: vintage rug buying | vintage bathroom | vintage egg chair | pink bathroom | restoring a vintage brass light fixture

3| Something Metal

We’ve written entire blog posts about our theory on mixing metals in home design. Like using black, metal has physical and visual weight to, but it also has a reflective quality. We love chrome fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms (it’s blue jeans, amirite?), but we often prefer black metal or warmer, brassy tones in living spaces and bedrooms. Much like the vintage items in rule #2, metal items come in all shapes and forms. As I write this, I can see a tiny decorative brass dog, a heavy brass penguin doorstop, and an ashtray shaped like a delicate brass crab. I also happen to be sitting on a black powder-coated steel chair. See what we mean? Metal home decor comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Just be sure to use it somewhere!

See also: aging brass hardware | Tree House bath mood board | two flat lighting | tree house custom railing | metal shelf brackets

4| Something Wood

This might be the most straightforward and simply executed of all of the rules. Between flooring, furniture and decor, most rooms likely already possess a wood element or two. That said, mixing wood tones can be tricky and we’ve also written entire posts on it. Wood adds warmth, variety and an opportunity to play with texture, color and shape. We’ll encourage you to look beyond flooring and millwork though, and integrate wood decor and furniture pieces. Maybe even consider going custom if it’s in the budget! The grain, knots and textural variety found even within the same wood species is absolutely mind-boggling.

See also: refinishing wood floors | salvaged lumber mirror | salvaged wood shelving | Lucy’s wood desk makeover | custom wood dining table

The hacked IKEA bookshelf that holds our record collection, books and art.
bookcase | speaker | marble box

5| Something Green

We’re not necessarily talking about the color green here, but greenery as in a plant or three. Like a lot of folks, our plant collection grew significantly over the last two years. We found joy in finding a rare (and potentially mislabeled) plant or two at our local big box store. We learned to care for our existing plants to help them thrive and grow. We also had a bit of extra time indoors on our hands to re-pot, curate and generally fuss with our plants. That said, if keeping plants alive isn’t your strong suit, there are dozens of faux options that look great! Modern replica greenery even tricks us with how realistic it can be sometimes!

See also: houseplants we can’t kill | faux plant roundup | easy houseplants | our favorite hanging planters | caring for our ficus audrey (seen below!)

Lucy's play kitchen is font and center in the second floor family room in our Chicago home.
tree | art + frame | playroom reveal

There you have it! 5 simple rules to integrate into any design. What would you add? What are your favorite ways to integrate these materials into your home?

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  • Angela11.5.21 - 11:08 AM

    BONUS: A Catfish! ;)ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.5.21 - 1:28 PM

      Right, it’s so obvious, I forgot to include it!ReplyCancel

  • Isabel11.5.21 - 12:38 PM

    And a globe light fixture! 😍ReplyCancel

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