The Best Finishing Touches to Complete a Room
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Your home is more than where you eat, sleep, and work. It’s a form of self-expression—a way for you to show the world (well, just social media for now) who you are and what brings you joy. While you might’ve already put a lot of time and energy into choosing furniture pieces, light fixtures, and paint shades that speak to your personality, there’s a good chance you’ve placed all those finishing touches on the back burner.
Sure, a meticulous stack of art books or a strategically-placed plant might seem inconsequential, but these tiny details have the power to tie a room together and make your space truly feel special. Want to give your home a little pick-me-up? I asked some of my favorite interior designers for the room finishing touches they swear by. From piling on all the plants to turning up the volume on a vignette, these teeny, tiny details are all big on style and will pay off big-time.
Art is great for filling blank walls. If you’re looking for atmosphere with a capital “a” though, then a fancy candle display might be the best way for you to work your vertical space. “My favorite finishing touch is the artisanal wall-mount from Pottery Barn with their flameless candles,” says designer Shalena Smith. “Chances are, if I’m designing a space, these will be in it. [They] add a touch of elegance and make a statement, yet they have a clean simple look.” You can see a pair of these flanking the window in the space Smith designed above.
2. Top it off with a tray
“Everyone loves a good tray,” says Erin West, senior designer at Havenly. “It’s the perfect blend of form and function. Not only can they add color and texture to a surface, but when you put one on your coffee table or dresser to corral your remotes, candles, or pocket change, it also looks much more intentional than having everything strewn about.”
3. Dress up your dining room table
Even if you aren’t entertaining guests right now, your kitchen counter or dinner table could still benefit from a few key tabletop accessories. “When we sit down to share a meal or a drink, it’s an opportunity to connect, be present, and simply enjoy,” says Kira Faiman, founder of Von Gern Home, a table decor retailer. “I always dress up the table with beautiful placemats, cheerful coasters, and colorful napkin rings to take these everyday moments from the routine to something much brighter, more memorable, and a lot more fun.”
“I love a scented room,” says designer Tina Ramchandani, founder of Tina Ramchandani Creative. “Scents add that last finishing touch to a space and invites the homeowner to walk into their completed space.” Her pick? Bunny William’s signature candle, Timeless, but any scent that speaks to you will do.
Designers Danielle Greene and Jowanna Jenkins, co-founders of Blue Jane Interiors, agree. “It may come as no surprise, but the last pieces we add to a space are candles and fresh flowers,” says the design duo. “Candles add warmth to your home and create a homely ambience. Fresh flowers provide a welcoming feeling and have the ability to bring life and luxury to any space.” Greene actually makes her own line of hand-poured candles, Passport 7.
If you want all of your lighting to feel intentional, polished, and customizable, the solution is as simple as spending a few bucks on dimmers at a home center or on Amazon. “Add inexpensive lamp dimmers to table and floor lamps, so [you] can control the ambience of the room beyond just dimming recessed and installed lighting,” says designer Jean Liu.
You can also take this finishing touch a step further with dimmable, app-controlled LED bulbs instead. They cost a little more than a dimmer switch, but they’ll last for years and will let you adjust your lights from your screen (and oftentimes, even add in color effects). If you have fancy fixtures with tons of bulbs, you might pass on these for cost and practicality reasons. They’re great for making a floor or desk lamp with a single bulb feel more special, though.
For the easiest-ever design finishing touch, designer Breegan Jane says nothing beats greenery. “I utilize a mix of artificial and live plants to trick the eye into thinking they’re all real but with half the work,” she says. “Invest in well-made, life-like looking artificial plants because they look real and never fade.”
7. Experiment with texture
Want a finishing touch that will shake things up in a room? According to designer John McClain, it’s all about adding in at least one thing that’s very tactile. Think a shag pillow or rug, handmade pottery, a chunky knit throw, or even a woven basket to slip a plant into—basically anything that looks like it’d have an interesting texture or hand-feel. “The important things we always strive for when finishing a room is to keep it interesting—mix different textures together and make it personal,” says McClain. “The end goal is for each area of your home to look as though it has been collected from far and wide and purchased from your heart.”
8. Give your trim special treatment
“The best finishing touches are the ones you never knew you were missing until you try them,” says Christiana Coop, co-founder of Hygge & West, the wallpaper and home decor company. “For us, that’s painted trim. We’ve seen some of the most gorgeous interiors take things to the next level with just a can of paint and some elbow grease.”
As Coop points out, there are so many different options for trim, which is why this area is ripe for the picking, so to speak. “You could match a color pulled from wallpaper, a piece of art, or upholstery,” she says. “You could use a contrasting color for a graphic, ‘wow!’ moment, or you could select a color that’s just a few shades darker or lighter than your walls for more subtle, tone-on-tone contrast.” Go even just a bit little outside of your comfort zone with your trim, and it’ll turn into the perfect finishing touch feature for a room.
9. Bring in good vibes with crystals
“Crystals are one of my favorite finishing touches for a nightstand or coffee table,” says Alessandra Wood of Modsy, an e-interior design service. “While I realize crystals have ventured into ‘basic’ territory, I still love them. They’re really beautiful, natural objects that play with light and reflections in special ways.”
10. Put your personality on display
Sometimes finishing touches aren’t all about aesthetics. If something really speaks to you, whether it’s an object, souvenir, favorite photo, or even a weird, wonky memento, it’s finishing touch-worthy, because, chances are, it’ll also speak to others when they walk into your space.
“Two nicely-framed family photos on a side table is necessary to make you feel like you are at home and not in a showroom,” says designer Genevieve Trousdale of Circa Genevieve. “There should also be a few pieces that are interactive or conversation starters like a chess game or a book on yachting. Some objects will allow you to reminisce on wonderful travels or family members. Even though these elements are considered the ‘finishing touches,’ I explore those conversations and questions with clients at the beginning of the project so that they understand where the vision is coming from and how it relates to each piece.”
Jessica Shaw, director of design at The Turett Collaborative, agrees with Trousdale. “Adding finishing touches can mean adding personal touches,” says Shaw, who, specifically, is fond of coffee table books that hone in on a homeowner’s interests. “Two or three relevant coffee table books added to a room gets it photo-ready and often strikes a chord with its owners.” She suggests shopping local for said books and including a title that speaks to the architecture or geography of your home’s region.
You may have started a vignette on your tabletop, windowsill, or shelf. To truly take it to the level of a finishing touch though, odd numbers are the way to go. “One trick we swear by is the integration of styled elements in groupings of three,” says designers Janelle Hughes and Kim R. Williams, co-owners of KJ Design & Mortar Styling. “For added visual interest, we aim to pick three items in varying heights. Those height differences and groupings can make accessories feel less like randomly-placed objects and more like a styled vignette.”
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