I think what this last year or so has highlighted is the need for us to love the space we live in. Getting furniture that’s comfortable and that you like looking at is important, but it’s the home accessories that will complete your interior decorating and make it feel special. Here, home stylist Caroline Chin Geyler, Founder and Principal Stylist of Arete Culture, tells us the five essential home décor pieces that will make all the difference – plus some tips on how to choose and place them. And there’s a special offer for our readers, too!
Caroline says, “People often focus on furniture then overlook the décor and home accessories. Think of your furniture as a classic black dress in your wardrobe — no dress is an outfit on its own, just as furniture cannot stand on its own! You need the right shoes, bag and accessories to complete the look. Home accessories are key to making a home feel finished and finessed.”
Arete Culture is a four-time Gold Winner in the Best Interior Designer/Home Stylist category in Expat Living’s Readers’ Choice Awards. In addition to styling, it offers all kinds of home accessories for you to browse in its showrooms in the Tan Boon Liat Building and at Depot Road, which makes it all so much easier. Since starting in 2010, the team have styled over a thousand homes in the region; they’ve even remotely styled several holiday homes in Europe and Asia.
#1 Home Accessories – Rugs
At Arete Culture, rugs are also fondly termed “floor art” for their impact to enliven a space while adding texture and luxurious softness underfoot. Without a rug, furniture in a room can often feel like it’s “floating”. In an open concept space, rugs are necessary to zone sections in a visually cohesive manner. You often hear interior stylists talk about rugs “warming up” a space; essentially, what this means is that rugs have the ability to make a space feel hospitable, welcoming and cosy. A warm space should make you feel comfortable and want to settle in; rugs are a single piece that have a huge impact on creating that welcoming feel. Beyond aesthetics, rugs also help to absorb sound and dampen echoes. Again, this helps to make a space feel more lived in and less cold.
Some tips to choosing the right rugs for your home:
- People tend to choose rugs that run too small for their space; this can make things look cramped and uncomfortable. A well-placed rug will help your room look open and spacious. To determine the right size, make sure an area rug can sit underneath all your furniture — it should extend to at least one-third the width or depth of each furniture piece.
- If your furniture sits on top of your rug entirely, like in the bedroom, make sure to leave a minimum breathing space of at least 15 centimetres around the border.
- Solid rugs are good to start with, but we love rugs in abstract designs for added texture and movement in a space. This helps to make a space feel richer and fuller instead of like a showroom. Abstract designs also have the added bonus of tying in different colours of a space in a single piece, which helps to elevate your design vision through a cohesive colour palette.
- You can add rugs to your dining room! I like rugs that are easy to clean for these high traffic areas (with high potential for messes and spills). My go-to is a rug made for outdoors like jute or polypropylene.
- Rugs made with natural materials will shed more. If you want something lower maintenance, opt for synthetic material. Our rugs at Atelier by Arete are a polypropylene blend; they feel luxe but are hypoallergenic and easy to clean – the material repels water, making cleaning spills much easier!
#2 Interior Decorating Touches – Cushions
More than 10 years ago, we began our retail selection at Arete Culture on two big offerings: cushions and lighting. I love cushions because they’re a low-cost way to update your space. They also have the potential to pull in lots of textures (leather, velvet, linen, tassels, wool, sequins) so your space looks more dynamic and interesting. Remember: the trick to a well-styled space is to keep the eye roving! The big mistake with cushions is that most people tend to buy too few or too many cushions for their sofa. Have too many and you run the risk of guests having nowhere to sit, plus it can make your living room feel cluttered and smaller. Have too few and you end up with a flat and stale space.
Some tips on choosing your cushions:
- When choosing cushions for your sofa, always have the cushion closest to the sofa in a contrasting colour. For example, if you have a dark-coloured sofa, opt for a light-coloured cushion. This cushion should also be the largest piece on the sofa. I like a 22-inch or 24-inch cushion to start with.
- When in doubt, go for an odd number of cushions on a sofa; for example, three or five works well, depending on the length of your sofa. My go-to sizes are a 22- or 24-inch at the back, followed by a 20/22-inch and a 16-inch. Lumbars are also great to mix up the scale.
- You want your selection to combine different sizes, patterns in different scales, and different textures.
- Make sure your cushions are well-filled and aren’t too flat by using an insert that’s one size larger than the cover. For example, a 20-inch cover should use a 22-inch insert.
- Your cushion colour palette should pull in colours from the surroundings, or they can feel haphazard and stick out at a glance.
#3 Home Accessories – Lighting
Having a variety of lights in your home is important for setting different moods. Be familiar with colour temperatures; incandescent, warm lighting can range from 2,000K to 3,000K, while white lights can be around 4,500K to 6,000K. Stick to the warmer light for more intimate or cosier settings, like your living room, and white light for tasks like studying and reading. A more versatile solution is to install dimmer switches, as that means you control the amount of light you want – perfect for switching up the mood of your home.
In any space, there should be three to four points of lighting balanced around the room. Incorporate task lighting (lights above the kitchen countertop, for instance, or a desk lamp in the office) and ambient lighting (table lamps on the console).
Tips on choosing your lights:
- Use pendant lights or chandeliers if you’re trying to increase visual height in your space.
- Arranging a table lamp in front of a mirror can help to brighten a dark corner with only one light source. This works well in hallways and entryways. We carry an extensive selection of lamps in our showrooms and use them in every project. Our clients agree they are such a power piece! Speak to our stylists in-store if you need help choosing a lamp that will suit your space.
- I like to add electric candles around the home. The soft, flickering light adds to the warm glow of a home, and is especially beautiful for outdoor spaces!
- Avoid fluorescent bulbs that give off blue light in the bedroom, as blue light inhibits melatonin and decreases the quality of sleep. Opt instead for 40-60W incandescent bulbs.
#4 Home Accessories – Mirrors
My favourite type of mirrors are oversized pieces that double as art pieces, or bold geometric displays on the wall. A well-styled home takes into account all areas of the home, and wall décor is crucial to pulling together a finessed space! Mirrors can make a space look bigger, but they can also make it brighter (and therefore seem more spacious). Simply place the mirror across a window, if you have one, or look for where the light enters the room. An interior decorating trick I like to employ is also to figure out what the mirror is catching in the reflection — you want to make sure you’re bringing the outdoors in in a beautiful way, and not by reflecting a potential drab view that you might not be enthusiastic about.
Tips on choosing a mirror:
- A circular shape, or a frame with rounded edges, often feels more modern. Round shapes are perfect for balancing a room that might have many angular shapes which feel “boxy” — most living rooms tend to feel this way! Offsetting those angular chair lines with a round mirror or coffee table can help to soften a room and make it feel less harsh and cold.
- I also like oversized mirrored panels with teak woodwork — these last forever and can be used in so many different types of spaces if you decide to move house. Hang one horizontally over your bed for an instant “headboard” or in a vertical orientation next to a doorway for extra pizzazz. This option is especially suitable for those who are averse to colour or artwork since mirrors are often more “neutral” pieces. We make these pieces for Arete Culture and have used them in so many of our home makeovers. The wood can be finished to suit the colour palette and style of the home, whether you’re going for a more rustic look or a luxe hotel feel.
#5 Home Décor Must-Have – Art
Art is key to uplifting a space. In fact, the colour palettes of some of our interior decorating projects have even been exclusively determined by artwork collections! Artwork, like rugs, has the ability to tie together different colours in a single piece, adding visual depth to otherwise monotonous walls. There’s a general fear of hanging art — most people are afraid of the commitment. However, I think a room with bare walls is a room half-finished. Get a mirror on your walls, find some oversized art, or start a gallery wall of smaller pieces! Having a black-and-white photograph collection is an inexpensive way to start populating your walls so your house feels more like a well-styled home.
Tips on choosing and hanging artwork:
- Work with the area you are decorating, not against it. This means assessing the space for what would accentuate your home — what piece would make this area feel larger and more spacious? If you have a narrow wall, opt for art panels. If you have a large blank wall, like in a dining or living area, a diptych or triptych might be a more cost-effective solution. Otherwise, a single, oversized art piece can really make a luxurious statement. Look for something that fills at least two-thirds, if not three-quarters of the visible wall.
- Large-scale artwork can help to keep your walls visually clean, giving the illusion of a larger, airier space. When going large, I suggest you look for abstract pieces that add colour and visual interest to the room. I especially love using more modern styles in formal homes as they provide visual contrast and interest. Let your artwork make a statement and don’t be afraid to choose pieces that clash with your furniture or architectural style.
- Hanging art above a sideboard or credenza? Position the piece between 15 and 30cm above your furniture so the two pieces come together as a cohesive vignette and not disparate, unanchored items.
- Art is more than just paintings and photographs. Consider adding statues and sculptures for a more organic feel.
Throughout March, all Expat Living readers can enjoy 10% off all collections at Arete Culture with a minimum spend of $300! Quote “Expat Living” at the counter to enjoy this exclusive discount.
- Styling enquiries: enquiries@
- Website: areteculture
- Atelier by Arete: 20 Depot Lane, #01-01/02 (art, rugs, lighting)
- Arete Culture at Tan Boon Liat: 315 Outram Road, #06-01
(home accessories, soft furnishings, lighting)