5 Set Decorating Tips to Use at Home (make your home reflect your character)


Not every technique in Set Decorating can, or should be, utilized in interior decorating. There are many times we have to create grossly outdated or less-than-desirable spaces, but there are some decorating tools that just seem to “work” in almost any situation and can help you and your family to become the stars of your own show.

1. Wall Art

I think most people have a pretty good handle on your average framed artwork. They see something they like, they hang it up, and that’s that. There’s no doubt that artwork gives a home personality. And, if you don’t have wall art, your home will probably look bare and incomplete.

I’ve found that no matter how great the drawing / painting/ print is; a large number of only framed pieces throughout a house can have the effect of making them ALL completely uninteresting.   Not to say that multiples of framed art can’t be pure awesomeness. I love a well-done salon style gallery or strategically placed art in a modern minimalist style. But, wall art is a place where personality can really shine and uniqueness can thrive. Let’s start thinking outside of the framed-art-box.  Mix up your wall art with empty antique frames, architectural salvage finds, textural hangings, thrifted objects, and wall hanging planters.

Potted Store City Planter

Urban Outfitters Trigg Planter

Etsy MillieFern Wall Hanging

Etsy St Gabriels Garden Candle Sconce

2. Plants

It is well-known and agreed upon in interior decorating, that plants and flowers breath an extra bit of life into a room. Often times, a set decorators goal is to make a set feel “lived in” so that it feels truer to everyday life. We will strategically leave clues of “life” ; a used cereal bowl on the kitchen counter, a shirt carelessly strewn over the back of the chair, or a magazine face-down and open on a coffee table. All these things suggest that the character is human, and just like in your house and mine, some items (more often then not) don’t make it back to the place they really belong.

Now, I’m not suggesting you purposely leave your dirty laundry lying around, but a great option for the feeling of a cosy and lived in (but sanitary) space, is to have something actually alive in it. Imagine a club chair or sofa… now imagine a puppy curled up and sound asleep on a it. The puppy adds warmth and a welcoming feeling that the seating alone might not have had. And if a furry lovable pet is a little TOO lively for you, a fur-less but beautiful house plant will do the trick wonderfully. (Given the right circumstance, in set decorating, even a dead plant can make the space feel more alive.)

Table top plants and flower arrangements are common and effective go to’s , but, as mentioned above, plants make great wall art too!  And, today, there are any number of excellent wall hanging containers to choose from.

A floor plant in a stylish pot, can also be the perfect remedy to visually “break up” a stark white wall or give purpose to an odd corner.  I recommend pots that have stands or, when dealing with much larger plants, invest in some plant wheels for maneuverability and easy access to cleaning.

And for those of us not blessed with a green thumb, flower arranging skills, or just plain short on time ….  NEVER underestimate the power of a simple bud vase or grouping of bud vases; they have delicate look with a but leave a powerful impression.

To this day, I am still awed by how much a small plant or flower can transform a space. And when, despite all my attention to detail, a film set is still somehow feeling lackluster, 9 out of 10 times, “greens” (industry term for plants and flowers) is the icing on the cake that it needs.

Plants and arrangements can also make a statement about you as an individual.   Do you prefer modern arrangements that are tidy, structured, and minimal? Or do you enjoy the more natural feeling of loosely arranged centerpieces?  Check out Wild Flora Design on instagram for some truly inspiring whimsical arrangements.

Being an animal lover, I feel it’d be irresponsible of me not to mention that many flowers and plants are HIGHLY toxic and potentially deadly to pets… so please keep plants out of reach of pets and educate yourself .   The ASPCA has a vastly informative list available online Poisonous Plants / ASPCA

Here are great plant containers and such;

West Elm Mid-Century Leg Planters

Modernica Case Study Cylinder Planter

Ikea plant Stand on Wheels

Home Ideas Table Top Terrarium

 3.  Small tables, lone chairs, & random items for odd spaces

When I’m out shopping for show- I always have an eye-out for reasonably priced, small tables & cabinets, accent chairs, or what I call “random nook filler” (including the aforementioned floor plant).  Regardless of how much preparation I’ve done on a preliminary floor plan, there are ALWAYS those odd small spaces and nooks that are in dire need of personality. On a set, small nooks are often a great place to reveal something about the character(s) that is not necessarily addressed in the story line. At home, you might have a soft spot for late-modernism, but aren’t quite ready to commit to that Warren Platner Space Pod Sofa. So, use a small nook to interject your own unique tastes and provide a conversation piece for your guests in an intriguing, yet subtle way.

Sometimes, I’ll second guess my inclination to get that really awesome, vintage wooden yarn winder, cause I have no idea where it might fit into my already (seemingly) full furniture floor plan. And, it’s worth mentioning, that a LARGE part of my job is to always mind the budget and shop smart.

Over the years, I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to buy something (for the right price, of course) I should do it. With a little imagination, it’ll inevitably end up in a space that seemed to be made for it. It is money well spent if it saves me from the stress and labor costs, of having to go out on a last minute scramble.

A small table or cabinet can add storage or provide another surface for displaying your favorite objects. Vintage chairs, that were once part of a set or in slight need of refurbishing, can be found at bargain prices. Similarly, an odd chair displayed in a corner, or pushed back against the wall, can be pulled out to provide extra seating when needed.

Look for pieces that have any or all of these characteristics… thin legs, light in “visual weight”, shallow in depth, and of course, have visual interest (could be shape, texture, color, a good back-story, or unique design).

Click on links for some suggested products:

Room and Board slim console

Ikea Lovebacken

Leslie Dame Card Catalog Media Cabinet

Tini Baumritter mid century chairs

Atlas Antiques Vintage Wool Winder

4. Throw Pillows & Blankets

Things you CAN leave looking somewhat effortlessly strewn about, are throws. Throw pillows and throw blankets are very inviting.  They add a sort of serenity to a space. When I see a sofa with a comfy throw blanket on it, it acts as a gentle reminder to enjoy  a moment of peace, in my otherwise hectic life.

Color:  Throws can be a huge help in bringing color coordination to the room.  Use a pillow on a sofa that has some touch of your carpet color and some touch of your accent chair color to tie the room together.  Or, you can stay neutral in your larger pieces of furniture and walls, and use throws to bring in pops of color throughout.  The bonus to this method is that, if one month you’re really feeling emerald green because it reminds you of his/her eyes, but the next month you wish they never existed at all, you can easily change the colors of your throws without breaking the bank along with your heart. But really, colors go in and out of fashion and people’s favorite colors change, so why tie yourself down?

Texture:  One of my favorite things about throws is how they can add visual dimension via a variety of textures.  The thickness of a paint, and the brushstrokes a painter chooses to use, can emphasize the mood of a painting (Van Gogh immediately comes to my mind). Textures in a room do the same.  Look to add contrasting textures. If you have a velvet couch, try a silk pillow. If you have a small weave fabric on your sofa – try a chunky wool throw blanket.  Also, think about the other elements in your space….  if you have a concrete floor, bringing in a material that is plush or chunky can help add warmth and balance to the coolness and smoothness of the concrete.

Pattern:  Mixing prints in pillows and furniture can be scary. But, as a general rule of thumb, make sure your prints are different in size and scale. If you have drapery with a palm-sized floral print go for  throw pillows with leaves the size of a nickel. Keeping the size and scale of your prints different will keep the mixed patterns from feeling jarringly busy or overwhelming.

Express yourself: If you love pugs, add a throw pillow with embroidered portrait of a pug.

5. Lighting

Another trick of film & photography that can be translated to everyday living, is the use of good lighting. We often use lighting effects to subconsciously affect the mood of a scene. In the age of selfies, most of us have experienced the difference that good lighting can make, and it works the same way in your home.  Numerous studies have shown that lighting can dramatically effect a persons mood and the overall feeling of a space.

For renters, changing ceiling light fixtures and running new electrical lines through walls can be an expensive task not worth doing. But you are not completely out of options.  Instead of using the generally cheap over head and ceiling mounted light fixtures already existing in rental units, be sure to add plenty of, what we in film call “practicals i.e. table and floor lamps.

I highly recommend to home owners and renters alike, the Phillips Hue Line.  Specifically great for renters, is the Phillips specialty light bulbs. They can be placed into any standard light fixture, including table lamps and floor lamps. You can change color, brighten, dim, or  preset “moods”  with an app on your smart phone.

For home owners, I highly recommend inputting puck, strip, or rope lights under kitchen cabinets and in shelving. They make an immeasurable difference to the appearance and comfort of your home. Also, they highlight your favorite objects and add much needed visibility to work surfaces like a kitchen counter.

And whatever you do.. Stay far, far away from fluorescent fixtures!

Do you already use some of these techniques in your home? What item did you find that’s become a conversation piece?

Thanks for reading and remember to follow!


** I have no affiliation with any products or brands mentioned in this article.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s