When adding accent color to a room, most designers suggest that you remember the “rule of three.” This means choosing three accessories in colors that contrast with the main colors of the room. For instance, if the primary colors of your walls, floors, and large furniture pieces are creamy and sandy tones, try adding three spots of a brighter color ¾ say, Chinese red ¾ in strategic places around the room. Place a cluster of brightly patterned red silk throw pillows on the sofa, a table lamp with a red enamel base on an end table, and a painting or print with strong reds or a red mat or frame on another wall. These simple touches will brighten the room while accentuating the softness of the main color scheme. As your eye travels around the room, you feel the lift of the bright color and at the same time the tranquility of the softer tones.
If you want a stronger color emphasis, paint one entire wall in a contrasting color to the other three. If your main color scheme is golden yellow, for example, paint your accent wall in a soft blue-violet. Violet is opposite to yellow on the color wheel and so automatically provides a vibrant contrast.
The same rule applies to height. When you look around a room, does everything seem to be at the same level? If so, the overall effect might feel slightly boring. Fix this by placing three pieces around the room that are taller than everything else. For instance, next to an arm chair, instead of the expected table lamp on an end table, place a decorative standing lamp to cast warm light over the left shoulder of the chair. Add an antique bookcase or armoire in a corner. (An armoire can do double duty by hiding a TV or audio equipment!) Finally, find a place for a tall decorative object, such as a small tree or a statue on a pedestal. If the space doesn’t have enough light for a live plant, many good-quality silk versions are available that are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
Water features make pleasing accessories. A tabletop fountain is an inexpensive way to add the soothing sound of bubbling water to any room. Water is an essential element in the principle of feng shui, an ancient Chinese philosophy that promotes happiness and success by teaching you how to rearrange your surroundings to facilitate the flow of energy. For the feeling of a koi pond in your home, try a small aquarium stocked with a few pretty goldfish. It might even inspire you to start digging a pond in your backyard!
Living things are an essential part of any decorating scheme. Everyone appreciates fresh flowers and greenery. Make the room comfortable and inviting by adding a few flowering plants such as African violets, orchids, or potted roses. Depending on the species, they may also add welcome fragrance to the room, and most are easy to take care of; all they need is good light and occasional watering.
What's on the floor? A beautiful hardwood floor needs no decoration other than a few strategically placed area rugs. If your wood floor is not pristine and you don't wish to go to the trouble of refinishing it, consider painting it in a striking pattern such as a checkerboard ¾ especially dramatic in a foyer ¾ or just stencil a border around the edges in a color that harmonizes with your walls.
Don't feel you need to do all of this at once. Let your accessorizing evolve as you live in and enjoy your home, and eventually the best solutions will naturally occur to you.