Q. Irwin and Nicola, my budget doesn't allow me to spend a fortune on art and accessories. What are my options (Jim in Chicago, IL)
A. Most people are in your boat, Jim. The fact is, art and accessories often get short-changed in the overall decorating process. People spend much time, energy, and money to fix up the basic space architecturally. We call that "getting the bones" of the space just right. They pay to have their rooms professionally painted, or spend loads of DIY time with the freshening up. They spend time and money to buy the big, must-have pieces of furniture like a bed, desk, sofa, side chairs, and dining room set. But people tend to run out of gas before they cross the finish line!
Everyone should accessorize to finish their decorating. Don't quit and blame it on a tight budget. Be aware that art and accessories are an important final ingredient in the Great Look that you're going for. Now that you know it's an essential part of the design process, perhaps you can come up with a reasonable budget for these elements. It may not add up to a fortune, but give this design category some of your time and greenback energy.
Here's a sunroom in a designer showhouse that we decorated recently. We used many of the accessories and artwork that we had in storage to pull together a fresh mix. Many folks don't realize that they have great accessories already. You might have books, family heirlooms, attic treasures, and personal collection to add to your new decor. Edit what you have carefully so you go for uncluttered, whimsical, and visually interesting arrangements for tabletops, shelves, and other display areas.
Go to www.1stdibs.com to find mirrors, artwork, accessories, and occasional pieces to complete your look. This is an excellent resource that many professional designers love to use. Make it your powerful accessorizing secret!
Of course you can go onto www.eBay.com and participate in auctions for accessories. This is a great site for putting in specific types of items you're on the hunt for, like "dresser tray" or "Murano glass vase." You'll be able to use the powerful eBay resource to hunt down anything for your accessorizing.
Also explore offline resources like antique and used furniture stores, craft fairs, auctions, estate sales, and framing shops and art galleries. You're in no hurry when it comes to accessorizing, so your plan might be to do a little at a time and bring home some treasures over a number of scouting trips.
Jim, when it comes to art and accessories, be flexible. Don't get too hung up about what you have and where you place each item. Feel free to switch around the things you hang on the wall, for instance. Move items to other rooms, group them differently, give them a facelift with a fresh frame, or retire them and hang up something else more suited to your Taste of the Moment. Styles and tastes change all the time. Your decorating with art and accessories will evolve, too, so give in to it. It's easier to move these smaller items around, constantly editing and refreshing them, than it is to move around or get rid of large furnishings. Don't treat small decorative items like they're cemented in place for eternity!