As the architect Mies van der Rohe once said, ‘God is in the details.’ This insight reflects one of the pillars of cheap chic interior style: make the most of accessories. On one hand, they are a home’s personal signature – a visual diary of who you are and what you love. On the other, they are the practical objects that you couldn’t live without.
Interior accessories usually fall into two camps: functional items such as crockery, utensils, cutlery/flatware, teapots and vases, and objects that are purely for decoration such as a child’s finger-painting, a pristine shell found on a beach or a dried posy of red roses from a former lover. Functional doesn’t have to mean boring. The trick is to combine chic looks with usefulness. If you are buying brand-new cutlery/flatware, for example, chain stores often have solid stainless-steel sets at reasonable prices.
Find a set that the store intends to keep in stock and spread the cost by buying a few pieces every week. Most shops stock cheap-‘n’-cheerful plastic sets, which are perfect accessories for Pop-style interiors. For the real thing – silverware – you can snap up a bargain by ferreting for heirloom sets or buying individual pieces, such as bone-handled knives, from second-hand markets, antique sales and junk shops/yards.
When looking for functional objects as an interior accessories at bargain prices, think about which culture has a penchant for a particular pastime – the Far East’s passion for tea-drinking, for example. A trip to your local Chinatown will reveal hand-painted teapots, glazed bowls and dainty cups. For delicate tea glasses, elegant silver teapots and low-priced earthenware with colourful glazes in cumin yellow, aqua blue and russet red, try Middle Eastern stores. Funky functional objects can easily be made to double as decoration – all they need is a showcase.
For example, when it comes to crockery and teapots, you don’t always have to choose plates that match. Instead, pick a colour, an era (1950s), or a pattern (geometrics), then track appropriate pieces down, creating a covetable collection to display on kitchen wall-racks or shelves. Interior accessories are also about pure decoration. Objects express not only your tastes but also your wit, passions and past. Sometimes they are simple mementos: a seashell from a midwinter trip to the beach. Or they may be funny – a collection of kitsch fridge magnets from around the globe.
And, sometimes pieces come with their own personal history – heirloom vases, for example. All sorts of things with great intrinsic worth cost next to nothing. Items such as sculptural vases, former perfume bottles and French milk jugs can be real showstoppers. All they need is a pedestal or a shelf canvas.
As interiors author Julie Iovine recommends, ‘The secret of good display is to go to the extreme. Miscellaneous objects placed on a table or shelves tend to disappear. Try grouping together objects that are all of one colour or material or set one piece with an interesting shape in splendid isolation.’
Lastly, don’t forget nature, which comes free in the form of driftwood, pebbles, dried grasses, and so on, can be perfect interior accessories. Hand-picked, these can revitalize a space in an instant. Instead of conventional displays, go for big seed pods, single-stem exotic flowers or one huge vase of tulips. Plants take a small investment. Buy them young and nurture – all it takes is water, light and a bit of love.