Home décor encompasses many different elements of design, from what kind of flooring you use to how the furniture is arranged in each room. No matter what your tastes are, you can use different combinations of color, structure and furnishings to make your home comfortable, practical and welcoming.
So how do you create a home design that you'll love? Start by deciding what kind of look and mood you'd like to have, then choose the elements that help reflect that concept. Light colored furniture like wicker or light woods can create an atmosphere of serenity, while dark and heavy wood gives the home a regal and staid quality. Hardwood flooring can add warmth, while lighting can be arranged to create a mood, or to make the home cheery and bright. Color schemes can complement any atmosphere you would like to emulate.
Furniture and design can only take you so far, though. A beautiful house, no matter how well it's designed, is simply that: a house. To make this house into a home, we turn to home accessories.
From art collections to teapots and everything in between, home accessories are what give your home personality and character. Whether you proudly display your grandmother's china in your dining room or you hang your favorite family photo over the fireplace, these accessories are necessary to reflect who you are and what's really important to your family. It's the accessories you choose that distinguish your house from your neighbor's and make you feel like you're really home.
In so many homes the teapot is the first object reached for when either celebration or comfort are needed. At the first signs of heartbreak, illness, or a special occasion, the teapot is set onto the stovetop, and families bond over the rich aroma and taste that's both comforting and familiar.
Though tea has been enjoyed for thousands of years, the first teapots weren't introduced until the 1500s. The earliest incarnations, called Yixing teapots, originated in the Jiangsu province of China. They were made from a purple clay called zisha that is found only in this region. The zisha was unique in that it absorbed the flavor and scent of the tea it was used to brew. During this time, many Chinese citizens owned their own teapots and would drink directly from the spout [source: Everage].
The teapot design quickly spread across Asia to Europe, where afternoon tea has been a tradition for centuries.
Today's teapots come in many different varieties, from traditional porcelain to newer insulated models. They can be admired for their beauty and design, or used as a centerpiece. Many teapots are passed down through generations, bringing a touch of family history to the home's décor.
If you have a vase in your home, you're in very good company. Of all the accessories used in the home, vases have one of the longest histories. The earliest known vases date back to ancient Greece, where they were made mainly for practical uses like the storage of food, medicine, oils and water. Vases have been found dating from around 5000 B.C., and the pictures and carvings they depict present some of the best information we have about ancient Greek life.
The ancient Chinese also produced many vases that have survived to this day, including the exquisitely crafted Ming vase. Produced during the Ming Dynasty (around 14th to 16th centuries A.D.), these vases were made of porcelain and elaborately painted, making them a highly coveted collector's item today [source: McIntosh].
Today, vases made from ceramic, crystal and glass are used to complement our home décor. They're popular as a vessel for displaying fresh or synthetic flowers but are also valued for their beauty and decorative aspects. Crystal vases also make great wedding or anniversary gifts.
Does anyone ever have enough storage space in their homes? As people accumulate more and more belongings, they're forever looking for ways to store them. The need for storage has helped develop the concept of storage as design element, where the systems not only keep our belongings organized, but do so in an attractive way. This is done through furniture and containers cleverly designed to maximize both form and function.
Closet organizers are one of the most widely used systems, with countless setups available including shelving, drawers and units designed to hold everything from scarves to snow boots. These storage systems are typically expanded and modified easily so that homeowners can update them as their needs change, or to accommodate that 25th pair of shoes.
Modular garage units are popular as well and allow total flexibility for those who want to organize their tools once and for all. These units consist of wall-hung panels with a selection of hooks and shelving that can be arranged to meet the homeowner's needs.
Some people feel that the best home accessories are none at all. This concept is popular for those with minimalist décor. Minimalism emphasizes the use of color and structure over clutter and complicated decorating themes. A home styled after these concepts would focus on the basics, with the only furniture being required for day-to-day living, and everything else stored away neatly and out of sight. Floors and other surfaces are clear and free of clutter. Solid colors are used in lieu of complex, visually cluttered patterns.
This doesn't mean your home should be completely accessory-free. It simply means that you choose quality over quantity when it comes to décor. A single piece of artwork, a family photograph or a vase of fresh flowers would all complement this look.
Why is this style so appealing? First, it's easy to keep neat. There are no trinkets to dust and not much to shuffle around when you're cleaning. Second, a clutter-free home is calming and helps keep our stress levels low. Without so many things distracting the eye and the mind, we are better able to focus and decompress.
This style takes its roots from Japanese architecture, which in turn is heavily influenced by Buddhism and Zen principles. These principles are based on mindfulness, concentration and self-awareness, all of which are more easily achieved when we're not distracted by the mountain of stuff in our homes.
From paintings to sculptures to kids' crayon drawings, art is one of the most common and most versatile home accessories. No matter what your tastes or decorating scheme are, you can find or create a piece of art that fits your home's look.
Going for a modern décor? Consider a metal wall-hung sculpture or a bold colorful painting. If your home is more traditional, consider porcelain or ceramic sculpture or a classic landscape. Reprints of classical works are always popular, as are religious pieces like the Christian cross, the Star of David, or Buddha figurines made of jade or rosewood.
One of the best things about art is that it's possible to find items that are truly one of a kind, and will make your home décor unique.
The use of art in home décor dates back to prehistoric times, when ancient man created cave paintings that served as both decoration and communication. Hundreds of these cave paintings still exist today, and serve as popular tourist destinations, especially in France and Spain.
It can be argued that home décor at its most basic form is a type of art. The careful selection of colors, paints, fabrics, flooring and furniture is artful in itself. It takes a skilled eye to match these materials and decorate a home successfully.
Nothing feels quite so good as a rug beneath your feet. They offer a layer of warmth and comfort that is unmatched by any other floor covering. Available in infinite patterns, colors and styles, rugs have been used to accessorize homes for thousands of years. Antique rugs are often treated as family heirlooms and passed down through the generations.
The oldest known rug in existence dates back to the 5th century B.C. and is called the "Pazyryk rug." Named for the ancient people who likely produced this rug, it was found in a burial mound in Siberian Russia near the Mongolian border. The rug's design is similar to the art of the people of this region, leading historians to believe that the rug was made locally.
Though the Pazyryk people are credited with creating modern day rug making, it was the Persians who perfected the techniques. Persia, an ancient empire located near modern day Iran, has been renowned since the 1st century B.C. for its exquisite rugs. Throughout history, Persian rugs have been sought after by wealthy collectors all over the world [source: Cole].
Today, these rugs are still one of Iran's main exports. Though much of the rug making process has been mechanized, hand-woven models are the most highly coveted because of their unique craftsmanship. To satisfy this demand, Iran produces over $500 million worth of handcrafted rugs each year for export [source: Sobhe].
Almost everyone has one of these. That quirky object or collection that people just don't quite understand, but which makes your home feel like it belongs to you. Whether it's that kitty-cat clock on the wall with the wagging tail, or your collection of superhero figurines, your home just wouldn't feel like home without these items.
One popular collection found in many homes is music, either in the form of CDs or classic vinyl records. Equally popular are movie collections. Visitors are often drawn to these collections and can't help but browse to see how your taste in music or movies reflects the you that they know, or are getting to know better, as well as how it compares to their own.
These collections can complement your home décor in other ways too. People who collect art, rugs or other decorative items often showcase them in plain site in their homes. Just as we hang posters of celebrities on our walls as teens, we continue to decorate our homes with our current favorites.
Houseplants are a great home accessory because they not only look good; they're designed to make you feel good, too. Studies have shown that not only do plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to oxygen, they also neutralize harmful chemicals like polyethylenes and formaldehydes. These chemicals are naturally occurring in many kinds of furniture, flooring and paints used in the home, and have been linked to respiratory and other illnesses. Some of the best plants for improving air quality include English ivy, bamboo, snake plants and spider plants.
Other studies have shown that plants can decrease stress, improve mood and help us to feel more creative. In a recent study, people with a plant in their office had an average blood pressure four points lower than those without plants. Another study suggested that people could generate more original ideas when they work in areas decorated with plants [source: Relf].
In a decorating sense, plants are appealing both visually and for their scents. Why waste money searching for the right artificial air freshener when plants can do the job for you naturally?
When you're choosing your plants, try to find ones that complement your décor. Ferns and vines work well with Victorian and classic themes, bold colored flowers look great with modern décor, and cactuses fit in well with Southwest or earthy designs.
If you think you're too busy to keep houseplants, think again. Try jade, rubber plants or spider plants, all of which don't require much light, frequent repotting or a great memory when it comes to watering them [source: HGTV].
Candles have been used throughout history to provide light, warmth and ambiance in the home. They're often associated with romance and are a great way to create a mood of relaxation or calm. Almost every home has a selection of candles handy in case of power outages.
The earliest candles were created by the ancient Romans, who rolled sheets of papyrus and dipped them in melted tallow. It is believed that the Chinese created candles in the same way, using rice paper in lieu of papyrus. Since this time, the wax used to create candles has changed dramatically. The early tallow that was used created a bad smell when burned and was messy due to soot and debris. It was eventually replaced by beeswax, whale oil and then paraffin. Today, candles made with soybean wax are popular, as the wax is soft, slow burning and odor-free.
Throughout history, candles have played a major part in many religions. Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, is known for its use of candles, which have played a role in this holiday since its inception around 165 B.C. The emperor Constantine was said to have used candles in an Easter celebration in the 4th century A.D., and there are also references to candles in the bible. Many Buddhists light candles at their shrines, where the candle's light represents the enlightenment they seek. In Wiccan religions, candles represent gods and goddesses and are common during religious ceremonies [source: National Candle Association].
Candles can be incorporated into your home in many forms, from collections of small candles to large pillars in their own decorative holders. Even if they're never lit, today's candles are created to complement your home's décor simply based on their color and design.
For the ultimate in accessories, try adding mirrors to your home décor. Though we look into our mirrors many times throughout the day, rarely do we see the magic that is contained in these devices. Mirrors can serve many purposes, from helping us to fix our appearance to delighting a young child who catches a glimpse of his reflection. Mirrors also are an affordable, effective way to make your home look more spacious. How? Floor-to-ceiling mirrors, like those found on many closet doors, can instantly make a room look twice as big. A mirror placed across from a window will bring more natural light into your home, making it appear more spacious. Small mirrors placed in dark or small corners can draw light to the area and brighten it up.
Beyond these practical uses, mirrors are simply beautiful decorating items and come in many shapes and sizes. A large framed mirror can be hung like a painting, making it a centerpiece in a room. Even small hand mirrors, typically silver, can act as complementary accessories to your décor.
The earliest incarnations date back to the 1st century A.D. and were made of pieces of silver or bronze that were highly polished. Hand mirrors, and later full-body mirrors became popular in the Middle Ages, though it wasn't until the time of the Renaissance that anyone thought to add glass to improve the reflective images. This improvement was added by the Venetians, who were renowned for their glasswork. Their mirrors became popular throughout Europe because of the superior reflective quality they offered [source: Blackburn].
As mirror-making techniques improved, they became cheaper to produce. By the 19th century, they were found in most households throughout the western world. Today you'd be hard-pressed to find a home without some kind of mirror.
Milk paint is the super inexpensive and easy to both make and use. HowStuffWorks looks at this trendy paint alternative.
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More Great Links
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- Cole, Tom. "Myth and Design - Textile Art of Ancient Inner Asia." Date Unknown. (10/14/2008)http://www.tcoletribalrugs.com/article39SingaporePowerPt.html
- Everage, Laura. "Teapots Through the Ages." Fresh Cup. December 2006. (10/15/2008)http://www.freshcup.com/back-issues/2006/2006-12/teapots.htm
- HGTV. "Low-Maintenance House Plants." Date Unknown. (10/10/2008)http://www.hgtv.com/gl-flowers-plants/low-maintenance-houseplants/index.html
- National Candle Association. "History of Candles." 2008. (10/16/2008)http://www.candles.org/about_history.html
- McIntosh, Jane. "Ancient Mesopotamia." 2005. (10/12/2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=9veK7E2JwkUC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=vase+mesopotamia&source=web&ots=B6wMXoLZnS&sig=jLcbSGuKc99usmH4qwSotkqnCZM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPP1,M1
- Relf, Diane. "Plants Actually Clean the Air." August 1996. (10/14/2008)http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/envirohort/articles/misc/plntclar.html
- Sobhe, Dr. Khosrow. "Persian Carpets/Rugs." Date Unknown. (10/17/2008)http://www.rugidea.com/persian_rugs_carpets.html