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How To Decorate In Layers

How to decorate in layers – Tips for the beginner

I have always loved to decorate!  I would rearrange my bedroom constantly growing up!  I found it very therapeutic!  With no formal training other than a couple design courses for my Family and Consumer Sciences degree, I have always felt confident in decorating. One of my favorite things to do with my vintage finds is to layer them!  In today’s post I’m going to share with you how to decorate in layers!

After thinking a lot about the process of layering I broke it down into THREE basic tips.

  • Start large & get smaller
  • Vary shapes
  • Alternate colors & textures

These basic tips on layering, should help you select your pieces.  Layering can be two items or ten or more! Although we often think about layering with small items on top of a table or dresser, layering happens on a large scale too!

Layers – Basket on my coffee table filled with furs, antlers, feathers on 2/3rd’s of basket.
A wooden bowl has a white McCoy planter filled with greenery stacked on the other end of the basket.
Layers – Bibles are stacked with brass goblets filled with nests.
Some bible stacks have old money boxes underneath them.

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Layering Large Items

If you are in the decor world, reading Flea Market Style Magazine, watching HGTV, or scrolling decor accounts on Instagram, then I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of an area rug. Why does everyone suggest an area rug to anchor a space? Because it’s adding layers to your room.

You start with a large rug. Then, you add furniture.  Next, you “dress” your furniture with blankets and pillows.  Or add books and trinkets to the coffee or side table. All of this makes up the layers of the room.

If you’ve seen my home, you might say, well Brooke, YOU don’t have an area rug!  That is a true statement. Although I want one and I think it would add a lot to my space, I have a dog who prevents that from happening.  

Bella cannot distinguish between carpet and grass.  So while I do have floor mats in the bathrooms, we either put the rugs up after use OR keep the bathroom doors shut.  Bella is one of the reasons we opted to replace our living room and master carpet with hardwood floors.

Checkout Our New Hardwood Floors

Start large & get smaller

Today we are going to focus on smaller scale layering.  What you choose to decorate: built-ins, side tables, buffets, or your kitchen counters, will influence your decor pieces.

Where you are decorating has a big influence on the types of items you decorate with. For example a clear glass cookie jar filled with old biscuit cutters, might go nicely on your kitchen counter, but maybe wouldn’t fit in so well in your laundry room. Or a bowl of cotton balls would belong on a bathroom counter, but maybe not on your fireplace mantel.

Layers - A wreath, cake stand, greenery, candles, covered by a cloche.
Layers – A wreath, cake stand, greenery, candles, covered by a cloche.
Layers - A mirror, wreath, pumpkin.
Layers – A mirror, wreath, pumpkin.

Not only does where you are decorating impact the types of items, but also their size. So, if you are decorating a shelf on a bookcase, the height and width of your first piece cannot exceed the height and width of the shelf.  Basically the shelf is your first layer and now you want to pick something smaller to set on it.

It is a good rule of thumb to think about placing things on top of other things leaving a picture frame border. That means if I am putting a box on a shelf, I want an equal perimeter around the entire box where I can see the shelf. From a birds eye view it looks like a picture frame.

See the border or "picture frame" around the box where the table is showing?
See the border or “picture frame” around the box where the table is showing?

Maybe you choose to start with a large book. On top of that you want to go smaller.  This could be another book, a platter, a box, a drawer, a bowl.  At this point the sky is the limit on what you set on top of the large book.  You just want to make sure that the second layer is smaller than the first.

Once you have settled on the second layer, you will select a third piece.

Watch Me Stack Vintage Pieces to Create Layers

Vary Shapes

As I listed some ideas for a second piece to put on your book, you may have noticed that some of those things were rectangular like the book we started with, while others were oval (platter) or round (bowl). A key to decorating in layers is to vary the shapes of your items.

Maybe you have a stack of books that you top with a curvy pitcher, vase, bowl or bust.

Maybe you alternate book, platter, book, bowl.

Even a stack of all round items has different shapes.  Sometimes thinking about pieces as a shadow can help you pick what to layer.

Layers – Spool cabinet topped with stool, faux nest, brass bowl and covered with a cloche.
Also on top of the spool cabinet a plant stand with a brass bowl and crock layered on top.
Layers - Wood nut bowl, silver plate trophy cup, feathers|antlers|greenery.
Layers – Wood nut bowl, silver plate trophy cup, feathers|antlers|greenery.

Alternate colors & textures

I am a neutral lover. My house is a lot of creams, browns, and greens.  Even then I can vary my colors with the light and dark tones of brown!

Alternating textures is another way to create layers in your decor.  Smooth finishes like glass, mirrors, metals, and high gloss pottery will mix well with books, baskets, and textiles.

Anyone Can Decorate in Layers

When learning how to decorate in layers, following these simple tips to create a gorgeous vignette! Start large and get smaller with your pieces.  Vary your shapes to add extra interest. And alternate colors and textures in your layers.

Are you interested in learning more about decorating? Check out THIS post about shelf styling! Or, here are tips for decorating with vintage.

Layers - Pedestal mirror with urchin, antlers, and a brass champagne bucket filled with a plant.
Layers – Pedestal mirror with urchin, antlers, and a brass champagne bucket filled with a plant.

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