Accessorizing: Knowing When To Stop

By Corey Damen Jenkins for

As the old adage goes, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. For example, you could have too much seasoning on an otherwise perfectly grilled steak. Perhaps we have way too much cologne on and our friends want to silently kill us. Or maybe we’re catching every single red light on our way to work—and we arrive safely but very, very late.


In like manner, when it comes to decorating, it’s pretty easy to either overdo things or—worse yet—not do enough. This is especially the case when it comes to accessorizing. You can have the most beautifully furnished space ever, but the level of accessorizing can either make it or break it. Accessorizing a space properly is an art. Like a layered cooking recipe, it involves many key ingredients working in concert together:  scale, light, texture, color value and of course, placement. An appropriately accessorized space doesn’t look staged per se, but rather, it looks natural, inconsequential and perfectly imperfect. So how do you know when you’ve accessorized too much or not enough? Here are five pointers to keep in mind:

1.)    Editing Power:  When it comes to decorating with artwork, knick knacks or other items you are essentially telling a visual story. And like every good book or newspaper article, your accessorizing story will benefit from some judicious editing. So after laying out all of your pieces in your original desired format, take a step back and see what fits and what offends. A natural process of elimination should take place: it may be that only once piece has got to go. Or perhaps a few need to take their leave. But if you take nothing away at all, that could be a sign that you have done too much or not enough. Editing an accessorized surface is an earmark of tailored couture design.

2.)    It’s Okay To Pile It On:  Some design enthusiasts believe that any surface should only have 3 items or less on it. To an extent, that general rule is fine to abide by. However, there are exceptions to consider. For example, one of my favorite clients has a staggering collection of clocks. There were literally dozens of them—in every shape, size and finish you can think of. We decided to litter a center hall table with a portion of his collection and it was a great visual introduction for his guests; it gave them insight to his personal affinity and taste. So don’t be afraid to use more than three items—just make sure that whatever you use has visual harmony, even if the objects are disparate. Which brings us to point No. 3…



3.)    Embrace Variety: The most interesting accessory displays often feature items that are completely different from each other. Mixing layered artwork on stands, a clay bust, a stack of books and perhaps some sort of floral or green life can be quite stunning when combined together on a sofa end table.  In contrast, grouping the same type of object in varying heights and sizes can tell a handsome story as well. For instance, a collection of apothecary jars of assorted sizes filled with seashells can make quite an impact.

4.)    Less Can Be More: Sometimes sparse accessorizing is the best way to furnish a space. This is especially the case in modern rooms where the greatest appeal of the design is found in the sheer absence of fussiness.  Just one over-sized piece of sculpture on a center hall table may pack more visual “Pow! Factor” than a bunch of smaller pieces. By the way, pay particular attention to how you light these items: the right ambiance can make them sing.


5.)    Know When To Stop:  In traditional design, layers of accessories are celebrated. We call it “pretty clutter”. But it’s crucial to realize that sometimes enough is enough. To illustrate: let’s say you’ve collected 7 dozen pieces of blue and white china. Naturally you want to show them off. However, it may be impossible to cram all of them into one desired area without compromising the entire look. So perhaps some of those china pieces need to stay behind in storage; they can be rotated out in the future. Remember, good accessorizing looks effortless, so if it looks like you’re trying too hard, chances are you may be.


Accessorizing a space can seem daunting, but it should be fun! It can give you an opportunity to play around with objects that mean something to you or your loved ones. It’s sort of like a jig-saw puzzle—but with myriads of different outcomes and possibilities. So take your time with exploring them and enjoy! Continue reading

Corbett Lighting and Troy Lighting Star in HGTV’s Candice Tells All

Candice-Olson-Divine-DesignSuperstar designer Candice Olson has wowed us with her awe-inspiring interior transformations for years.  In her HGTV series Candice Tells All, she pulls back the curtain, gets down to the basics of design, and reveals the true potential for a home to shine.  To do so in one recent episode entitled “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen”, she turned to industry-leading manufacturers Corbett Lighting and Troy Lighting to help her bring outstanding light to her exceptional designer environment.

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In the episode, Candice revamped new dad Brixton’s heritage townhouse kitchen and living room while satisfying the differing personal tastes of his family, especially his domineering mother.  With the help of Corbett Lighting, Candice transformed the kitchen into a space that is contemporary, functional, livable and absolutely gorgeous.  Candice implemented Corbett Lighting’s Viceroy ten-light chandelier as a focal point within the room for a visually stunning effect.  Viceroy features delicate crystal accents and a hand-crafted iron frame that comes in numerous finishes.  Candice selected an outstanding antique silver finish to add a regal touch to the room.  She made excellent use of Corbett Lighting’s Argento one-light pendant, which she smartly hung in multiples over the bar counter.  Argento, inspired in shape and design by a medieval chalice, is made of antique silver glass and aluminum in a polished nickel finish.  Argento is available in varying shapes and stem lengths for ultimate versatility.  Last but not least, Candice added her signature touch to the home’s living room, choosing Troy Lighting’s Mercury pendant to provide an abundance of warm, radiant light to the traditional/contemporary environment.  Mercury harkens back to a bygone era with half-cylinder antique silver glassware and hand-worked wrought iron metalwork in an old iron finish.  Mercury is also available in varying sizes.

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Candice’s expertise, and her choice of the highest quality products from Corbett Lighting and Troy Lighting, resulted in rooms that boast a high degree of polish and contemporary allure.  At the same time, the elegance is very much understated and as always, Candice chose products that ensure ease of use and livability.

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When Designers Behave Badly

Closeup Living Room Shot

By Corey Damen Jenkins for

Recently over lunch, one of my clients told me that she had interviewed several interior designers prior to hiring my firm. Of course, each candidate brought something different to the table, but she commented that many possessed a condescending attitude during the vetting process. She got the impression from some that they felt they were doing her a favor by granting the interview. In fact, one designer didn’t even bother bringing a portfolio to the consultation: she claimed that her name and work spoke for themselves. Wow. Really?

I sipped my tea quietly as my client related these experiences. I readily agreed with her that considering the economy, service providers should be a bit more humble in their approach to getting new work. And I winced as she recited these stories because they reminded me of why some homeowners shy away from hiring designers: they think we’re all a bunch of divas!

Well, “rumors” notwithstanding, good interior designers are actually the lifeblood for successful projects, and wise homeowners realize that value. But while clients can be demanding at times, it is fair to say that designers also have a responsibility to “behave”, especially when being interviewed for a new project. As the old adage goes, a first impression is a lasting one. It’s vital that the client and designer get along! So what should you look for when interviewing an interior designer?

1.)    “Seeing Is Believing”: Having a portfolio is essential for designers since they claim to have the skills to create interiors. It doesn’t matter if the portfolio is electronic (swiping through a gallery on an Ipad, etc.,) or hardcover—the important thing is to have one! While perusing the body of work, use questions to draw the designer out. For example, thoughtful inquiries like “What do you think is the most unique thing in your portfolio?” and “What shows your technical proficiency best in your portfolio?” or even, “Where did you find the inspiration for that light or piece of furniture?” make for insightful conversation and gives the designer a chance to express him or herself.

2.)    “Be Web-Worthy”: In our sophisticated tech age, it’s amazing how many service providers still do not have a website! Websites are basically on-line resumes and they are the No. 1 place homeowners research before calling a designer for an interview. A designer’s website needn’t be fancy. An online portfolio, summary of experience, testimonials and before-and-afters are sufficient. But what if a designer doesn’t have a website or blog? Well, that might be a warning sign. But keep in mind that some seasoned designers are “old school” and rely solely on word-of-mouth business. So call them up anyway. Most likely they’ll have some sort of portfolio in-person. Unless of course their “name/work speaks for itself”…and that’s your cue to run for the hills.

3.)    “Bedside Manner”: Interior designers are like physicians who operate on ailing homes. That means their bedside manner (ergo their attitude) towards you is key. Personally, I’d rather have a kindhearted doctor performing surgery on me than reckless Edward Scissorhands. Similarly, technical ability is great. But if the professional is a condescending snob job with cutting words or actions the project’s morale will suffer. Working in someone’s home is an honor and privilege—not a right of passage.


So it really boils down to that initial consultation. Observe the designer’s body language. Do they “get you”? Do they make you feel optimistic about your project? Can you sense their excitement? Most importantly, do you like them? That last question is king because this person will be in your personal space for a long time. Listen to your gut instincts: human nature doesn’t lie and you need to click with this person. Designers are human beings: some are gabby and bubbly, others are more reserved and serious. But everyone can—and should—be polite especially during an interview. The best foundation for a healthy client/designer relationship starts with cordial friendliness and professionalism.

By the way, don’t forget to offer your guest a cup of coffee or refreshments at that first meeting. Since interior designers are service providers, hospitable actions from homeowners set a good first impression. Remember, you’re being interviewed too!  With the right behavior, and the right chemistry between the designer and the client, you will get stunning results!

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The Design Doctor

By Corey Damen Jenkins for

In my humble opinion, Interior Designers are a lot like doctors: people come to them with ailing homes that need to be operated on. Some people get designers involved early, such as during the construction of a new home. But sadly, there are a lot of people out there who would rather wait until their home is in cardiac arrest before calling up a designer.

While DIY continues to be “all the rage” the truth is many folks make pretty expensive mistakes when they try their hand at decorating and design. In the end, what should be an enjoyable experience becomes a source of frustration. So what are five tell-tale “symptoms” that a person should accept a house call from The Design Doctor?

Photo Credit: Corey Damen Jenkins

Photo Credit & Interior Design by: Corey Damen Jenkins

Symptom #1: The “Play-Doh” Complex: You have good ideas but you are indecisive, unsure of yourself and become like putty in the hands of a hungry, diabolical salesperson. Folks like this end up with rooms full of hodge-podged messes.

Antidote: Like doctors making house calls, Interior Designers work with you IN YOUR HOME, not from a department store’s sales floor, so they can integrate your personal style with any space or house dilemma you may have. In other words, they care about the outcome and will work with you diligently to give you confidence as you make purchases.

Symptom #2: The “Ostrich” Complex: You are overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the process. You admit the house needs a facelift but you have no idea where to get started! Colors, patterns, scale…just thinking about these things gives you vertigo!  So you’d rather just bury your head in the sand and procrastinate.10

Antidote: A design professional will rescue you from the quick sand, and help you face the music! They have been skillfully trained to tackle all of those overwhelming challenges and can take a lot of stress off your shoulders in the process. They are also aware of cost-effective ways that can even make previous mistakes look like they were planned!

Symptom #3: The “Bottom Line” Complex: Okay, so maybe a lot of us suffer from this complex. You know the house needs to be updated–perhaps in stages over a period of months or even years–but you are naturally concerned about how much it will cost. “Budget” is your middle name…and maybe your last name too.

Antidote: An interior designer can prioritize things that need to be done, create a cost-study for you and generate a time-line. They are also well-versed in what the market has to offer in terms of cost savings–but without compromising style or beauty.

11Symptom #4: The “Doubting Debby” Complex: You are leery of making any changes because you’re afraid that they will turn out looking ugly. And then your friends will laugh at you.

Antidote: An interior designer has many specialties, not the least of which is the art of creating great looking spaces. Besides, no interior designer worth their salt will allow their work to be equated with the word “ugly”! Nothing can be possibly worse for a designer than a poor referral–it can be the kiss of death in business–so you can best believe that he or she is going to take pride in their work. They will be dedicated to making you look good as a client.

Symptom #5: The “Running Hampster” Complex: You. Are. Too. Busy. Your home desperately needs a makeover, but you are entirely too swamped with life/work/kids or lack the energy and interest to do it right now.

Antidote: Many Designers have great project management skills. They are well-equipped to negotiate and coordinate the efforts of vendors and contractors. This means you can delegate as much or as little to them to manage in your behalf and they will keep you updated on the progress.


Photo Credit: Delight By Design

Let’s admit it and be honest with ourselves. You suffer from at least one of these maladies, right? If so, why not hire a professional that you can delegate this “problem child” to raise? I say use your energy and time for things that you really enjoy. Or if you do happen to love the art of decorating, imagine how much more enjoyable it would be to have a design coach collaborating with you, helping you to avoid making costly mistakes!

So if your house is on life-support, an interior designer may be just the “cure” needed to resuscitate it back to life. Why not call one up for an interview today?

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