Make Your Home a Haven

A collection of easy ways to give your interior rooms both character and style by adding special from-the-heart features.

Personal touches and accents give a house its spirit. Is it because they delight the eye or serve a utilitarian purpose? Do they evoke memories of cherished places and people? Perhaps they simply bring a smile. While each of us has a notion of what these small, special pleasures should be, they have one thing in common: They make us want to stop and savor a home filled with comfort and style.

Often the best decorative details are uncontrived, the result of working with simple but treasured objects at hand. Basic decorating principles are guidelines, allowing us to draw upon our own tastes for those distinctive touches that make a house a home.

In the Entryway

A home reveals its personality right at the front door. The entryway creates the first impression, setting the tone for the entire decor. It should be comfortable, visually balanced, and impart a welcoming atmosphere. A colorful rug instantly conveys that feeling, as does a favorite painting, quilt or tapestry, illuminated and emphasized with a picture light.

If there’s space, a console table or bench is both decorative and practical. A table can hold an antique basket or unusual wood box for mail, or display a generous bouquet fresh from the garden. Hang a small curio cabinet or shelf above to show off a collection of miniatures. A chest or bench with interior storage holds boots, scarves and gloves. Drape a throw or quilt over it to soften hard lines and add rich warmth and welcoming color.

In the Living Spaces

The living room and family room reveal the character and rhythm of daily life in the home and provide larger spaces for expanding your decorating options. Employ both structure and balance when arranging collectibles to avoid a scattered look. For instance, group classic pottery and china in a hutch for a striking effect. Echo an oversized display in miniature in another part of the room for continuity.

Rather than hanging artwork permanently, prop framed prints on the mantel or arrange them against the wall between the legs of a side table. Display a small painting on a tabletop easel; cover the back of the painting with velvet or felt for a finished look.

When positioning a mirror, remember that much of its beauty comes from what it reflects. A dramatic print on an opposite wall creates immediate interest and demonstrates how two arrangements can work together.

Five Quick and Easy Interior Design Tips

Put a large basket beneath a coffee table and fill it with vintage volumes. This is a great way to establish a family tradition for wintry evenings. Pick a favorite, settle into a comfy couch, and entertain your children with a classic tale from another time.

For a luxurious touch, cluster beeswax candles together, mixing thin and thick, tall and squat. Natural beeswax burns slowly, cleanly, and without dripping to produce a soft glow.

Bring fragrance into your room naturally with scented kindling. Make your own from dried herbs tied in bunches with raffia or twine and toss them on the embers to release their pleasant perfume. Pinecones dipped in scented candle wax produce the same effect.

In the Bedroom

Part of the private space of the house, a bedroom is a natural setting for personal details. Fill a small table or dresser top with memories: family pictures in antique frames, baby cups from many generations, and other mementos of loved ones. For an unexpected addition, hang a framed portrait of someone special, suspended on a colorful ribbon from a shelf, wall clock or door. A tiny touch: Loop a silky tassel through a brass shade-pull to accent a color in the room.

Put your collections on display. Place an arrangement of antique garden hats on the wall above your bed in lieu of artwork. Stacked patterned hatboxes or wicker suitcases make a distinctive accent or night table.

In the Bathroom

The bathroom is a space that could benefit from soft, appealing accents to minimize the often hard, utilitarian lines. If you have an older sink that hangs from the wall or is supported by metal legs, attach a fabric skirt to it with adhesive-backed fasteners to conceal unattractive plumbing and allow for much-needed storage below the basin. For a finished look, trim the top edge of the fabric with tassels.

With other display space relatively scarce, a bathroom windowsill affords great decorative potential. Set out brightly colored glass bottles to catch the sun like the panes in a stained-glass window. Or place small earthenware pots filled with your favorite potpourri on the sill.

In the Kitchen

Since the kitchen is the heart of the home, it should be a warm, informal environment with its own unique style. Natural materials with lots of texture work well here. Group wicker and straw baskets above the cabinets. Copper pots hung on racks, below cabinets, or on the wall, impart a warm gleam. Line a wire basket with a country-style cloth, and fill it with a variety of vintage rolling pins or antique gadgets. Complete the arrangement with an assortment of old tins and a stack of lacy napkins, or if space permits, some colorful folded quilts.

If you have a sunny windowsill, create a year-round mini-garden of aromatic herbs. Their piquant scents make the kitchen even more inviting, and freshly picked basil, parsley or chives transform everyday foods into guiltless culinary treats. A group of small terracotta pots filled with herbs makes a fragrant, eye-catching center piece for informal dining. For a touch of whimsy, tie wire-edged ribbon around the pots.