Art of Accessorizing
How to Sell Your Home
for a faster, more profitable home sale

The art of accessorizing was established years ago by the ancient Greeks, who were experts in design, scale, and proportion. These age-old design rules have endured for so long because they really work!

Accessorizing your home is the final (and fun!) step in the home staging process. 

Typically, when you decorate your home, you design according to your personal style and taste. When you have a house for sale, you need to consider what kind of home decorating will appeal to the greatest number of buyers.

Sell your home fast by highlighting architectural features and creating focal points and vignettes with artwork and accessories. Accessories should enhance the style and architecture of your home design, tie a room together, and enliven the space.

These rules apply to a wide range of design aspects, from reorienting furniture and appliances to placing plants for your bedroom and other areas. Taking them into account can enhance any room's appeal and comfort.

The art of accessorizing by the Ancient Greeks

Unify multiple art pieces with features in common; color, frames, theme, etc.

Successful accessorizing not only begins with some basic rules, it often involves a bit of instinct on your part. Instinct regarding which objects to select and where to place them. If something looks off to you, it probably is.

Before you begin staging your house for sale, learn some of the accessorizing tips that interior decorating professionals use.

The following mathematical guidelines should help those who are timid about making decorating choices. 

Now, let's look to the ancient Greeks for advice on design, scale, and proportion.

The Greeks discovered long ago that using the following ratios and proportions in design were most pleasing to the eye.

These rules still apply today in the art of accessorizing.

"The golden section" rule in home design

Fireplace and mirror interior design picturesThe Golden Section ratio of 3:5

The Golden Section rule is a mathematical ratio that's often found in nature. It can be used to create well balanced compositions in your home design when you create vignettes or place artwork.

The golden section rule applies to the ratios often used in architecture when designing window proportions and room sizes. This rule applies to accessorizing your home as well.

  • Common ratios: 2:3, 3:5, 4:7 and 5:8. What does this mean?
  • Let's use the 3:5 ratio as an example;
  • If you have a 5 foot wide fireplace, (as pictured on the right) and want to hang artwork over it, the best ratio for that size would be a 3 foot wide picture, a 3 wide foot grouping of pictures, or a 3 wide foot mirror above it. This isn't a rigid rule, but a general guide.
  • If you were to hang a 6 foot wide mirror, it would look top-heavy and appear to be looming over the fireplace.

"The golden mean" rule in home design

Floating Shelf ArrangementPlacing these shelf accessories off-center looks less studied.

Artists and photographers are all familiar with the "golden mean" rule.

They know that they should always avoid placing the subject of a picture in the middle of a frame.

The golden mean principle recognizes that the most pleasing arrangements require dividing the length of an area between 1/2 and 1/3. 

For example, when creating a vignette or placing an object, avoid placing it directly in the center of a shelf or other flat surface.

Placing accessories off-center is ultimately more pleasing to the eye.

Arrange accessories in odd numbers of different sizes

Arrangement of three accessoriesOdd numbers and varying heights are just more pleasing to the eye.

The Greeks also discovered that grouping objects in odd numbers was more pleasing to the eye than even, as the result appears less studied.

For instance, placing candlesticks in groups of 3 or 5 will look more interesting than in pairs. In design, the number three is most preferable. Too many objects in a grouping or vignette, can look cluttered and busy.

Three pillows on a sofa will look better than two. When you buy pre-packaged bedding, you'll often find accent pillows in groups of three and in different sizes and shapes. Pillows in varied sizes is infinitely more interesting than 3 square pillows all the same size.

I had a composition teacher who referred to the different sizes as the daddy, mommy and baby-- easy to remember.

Watch this video by John Mangano of for home design tips on arranging furniture and accessorizing a living room, using the principles of the golden section, odd numbers, scale and balance.

Harmony in home design

What is the unifying feature here? Repetition of color unites the wall, pictures, and accessories.

Harmony is another important aspect in the art of accessorizing. The objects you place together should have something in common;

  • color 
  • shape
  • theme 
  • texture
  • vintage, or some other unifying element 

Try to avoid being too matchy, which is safe, but boring.

For instance, a grouping of green vases in the same shape and height would be blah. But a grouping of green vases in different shapes and heights would be interesting. The color green would unify the group, whereas, the varied shapes and heights would make the group more interesting.

Arrange accessories in triangles

The triangle, or pyramid, is a basic art form for many compositions in the art of accessorizing. The triangle is a basic shape to follow for creating vignettes, unless you're making a horizontal style vignette.

Imagine a triangle in the spot where you want to put your arrangement. Place an object at each point of the triangle. Each object should vary in height and width. Place the tallest and most substantial piece at the back, and slightly off center. Set the middle sized object in front, but off to the side. Lastly, place the smallest in the front. Be sure to overlap objects so that each can be seen. See how to make a vignette.

The same principle applies when using more than three objects.

Always stand back and eyeball your arrangement. If it looks too cluttered, try new combinations, use larger objects, or remove something. 

Balance, scale, and proportion  in home design

Living room design interior picturesThe color orange is evenly distributed throughout this living room.

Maintaining balance, scale, and proportion is also important in the art of accessorizing. 

Balance your art and accessories throughout a room. Don't place everything on one side. This is especially important when using color; scatter your accent colors in at least three places around a room to create balance and visual movement.

For help finding the perfect accent color for you home decor, go to

Scale usually refers to the size of an object in relation to the human body or to the room itself. Proportion refers to the size of an object relative to other objects in a room.

To demonstrate how scale and proportion work together, think about how a lamp shade should be in proportion to the lamp base, and the lamp should be in scale with the table it's placed on.

Small accessories clustered together or scattered throughout a room will look like clutter from a distance. 

Plan on using medium to large-sized accessories for your home staging instead. Larger accessories will be noticed and seem more important as you enter a room. Follow the advice of HGTV's Sabrina Soto in the art of accessorizing; Don't use anything smaller than the size of a grapefruit!

Accessorizing shelves

Open shelving in the kitchenAn all white collection looks uncluttered when placed against a white background

Creating arrangements on shelves, countertops, tabletops or dressers can be tricky. You want to show off your accessories, but you don’t want the end result to be cluttered and unorganized.

  • Don’t clump too many objects together. Simple is always better in the art of accessorizing.
  • Too many small objects will look cluttered and insignificant from across the room.
  • Remember to group objects in odd numbers rather than even.
  • If you want symmetry, start by putting two items of equal visual weight on each end. Then add various pieces of different color and height for interest. Step back to see if both sides of the shelf are balanced. You will know if its unbalanced-- one side will seem visually heavier than the other.

For instructions on hanging floating shelves, like the ones in the photo, go to hanging artwork and mirrors.

Visual weight in the art of accessorizing

Each item that you place in a room has a “visual weight.” Visual weight refers to how much an object APPEARS to weigh, not how much it actually weighs.

"Visual Weight"

  • dark colors have more visual weight than light
  • busy patterns appear heavier than solids
  • heavy textures carry more weight than smooth surfaces

Visual weight can refer to color, patterns, textures, design and the shape or structure of an object. This concept is important to know, whether you are arranging furniture or accessorizing a room.

For instance, a black leather sofa will visually outweigh the exact same sofa in white.

Find a focal point before accessorizing

Begin your accessorizing by locating the focal point in a room. For a living room, this could be a fireplace, a beautiful window, or an interesting architectural feature.

If you don't have a natural focal point, create your own. Arrange a favorite collection to be a focal point, or a large piece of art, an enormous clock, hanging quilt, even a grouping of artwork.


Vignette from Pottery BarnBathroom vignette by Pottery Barn

The art of accessorizing would not be complete without discussing vignettes. A vignette is a grouping of accessories designed to complement a room's function or decorative details.

Vignettes are "scenes" created by combining decorative objects into delightful arrangements.

Vignettes can be displayed on tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantles, kitchen counters, bathroom countertops, the upright piano, and so on.

For more details on making vignettes, go to how to make a vignette.

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How to make a vignette