The Art of Accessorizing
Designer Jay Jeffers offers insider tips on stylishly displaying objects, art, and more.
“Accessories make every room a little more cozy,” says San Francisco-based interior designer Jay Jeffers, who founded the Jeffers Design Group in 1999 and has brought his sophisticated style to residences from New York to Lake Tahoe. The proprietor of the chic home-goods store Cavalier is known for his custom pieces and masterful use of accessories and recently penned a book on the subject, Collected Cool, (published by Rizzoli in March 2014). Here, Jeffers shares how to deftly integrate objects, collections, and books into a home.
What do accessories add to a room?
Jay Jeffers: Without modern accessories, a room risks looking like a furniture showroom or shop, where everything is new and placed as if for a buyer. Whether it’s framed family photos or a beautiful tray topped with a sculpture purchased on your travels, give a space personality and make it feel like home — your home.
What rooms benefit most from modern accessories?
JJ: Every space needs accessories, but especially a living room, which is sometimes treated like the odd man out: the room that’s never really lived in, or is only for special occasions. Adding personal collections will make it feel much more inviting. An entryway or foyer is also a great place for accessories, so it doesn’t feel completely stark when you walk in. We often put a console table against a wall, with a mirror above it, so you can check yourself as you walk out the door. On top of that table you might put a pair of lamps, and a stack of books with a bowl sitting on top, where you can throw your keys. It’s about mixing functionality and personality. I like the Diamond Mirror for a small space — it’s almost like a piece of art, the way it reflects all parts of the room and creates more dimension on the wall.
What’s most important when accessorizing a modern room?
JJ: Edit! A table so full of accessories that you can’t see the table isn’t necessarily successful. Place things with purpose. A table doesn’t need 12 things on it — maybe just four or five great pieces that, combined together, create a little moment.
Also, mix new and vintage, and remember to make them different heights and textures and shapes. I love glass or metal pieces for sparkle. You can put them in a dark corner to lighten things up, or on a table that gets sunlight. They’re very versatile.
Tom Dixon’s Tall Copper Vase is a warm, reflective surface that can stand alone, or you can put flowers in it and make it functional. I’d use it in a bedroom, or in a master bath between the two sinks. Colorful, patterned pillows and throws are a great way to change up a room fairly inexpensively. The Missoni Erode Gray Throw has a nice stripe to it and breaks up the monotony of a long sofa.
What are some of your favorite modern accessories to work with, and how do you like to incorporate them into a space?
JJ: Books and trays add dimension to a room. I’ll set a tray on a coffee table and put things on it that look nice together. I use a lot of glass pieces because I love the reflection and sparkle they add. I also love bringing in boxes — a vintage carved wooden box, for example, is the perfect place to hide your remote control.
How can someone display a collection without making things look cluttered or messy?
JJ: A lamp is a great accessory to mix with books and other objects. Put a smaller lamp on a stack of books, or a larger lamp next to stack of books, topped with vase. Keep it simple. You just have to try a few scenarios and see which one you like best. But it’s always a good idea to keep a collection together, whether rare books or ceramics. Put them on a single bookshelf or tray – don’t spread them around the room.
Do you accessorize to match a room’s color scheme, or to contrast it?
JJ: I think of accessories like art — they don’t need to match your room. Better to contrast or blend. If your room is red, don’t choose red accessories. Instead, pick something that contrasts all that red — maybe white.
How can someone incorporate modern accessories into a more traditional room?
JJ: Sparingly! It’s always best to have a mix of custom, modern, vintage, and antique pieces. Beautiful leather trays are a good bet. I’d avoid shiny chrome or wire pieces in a traditional space, as well as Lucite or acrylic.
What mistake do you see people make most frequently when accessorizing a modern room, and what’s a better approach?
JJ: Going too far. Use the Coco Chanel approach: Once you’ve added all of your accessories, take a few things away and see how it looks. Sometimes it’s good to set everything up, walk away for a bit, and then come back to edit with fresh eyes.
How about bookshelves?
JJ: Bookshelves are a great place to display all kinds of wonderful things. I love adding small paintings and objects with sparkle, like these Tom Dixon bowls. I also like to integrate small lamps or an interesting fixture to add ambient light, like the glowing ball-shaped Dioscuri Table Lamp. Another object that would look great on a bookshelf is this faceted Diamond Box. Who doesn’t love a big diamond?