A: In a word, yes. But this time buy with an eye to coordination and display.Presentation makes all the difference between knicknacks and personality - your personality - expressed through inanimate objects.
In the photo we show here, designer Michelle Slovak ( www.michelleslovak.com) piles on pillows and gathers color-coordinated collectibles to pack warmth and charm into a New York apartment living room. Never mind that the blue-and-white porcelains are not all expensive antiques. Her display mixes heirlooms and found objects from discount stores and garage sales - not to bring up a sore subject but to prove how effective the right presentation can be.
The various shapes of the porcelains look beautiful on the open shelves of the tall cabinet, which has become an added architectural feature in the apartment. The blue-and-white combo also plays cool counterpoint to the room's warm gold-and-red color scheme. So much so, the designer reports, that the man of the house says he often calms down after a frantic business day by sitting and just staring into the porcelain.
One other thought: why keep your all-white walls? Nothing conjures genuine warmth and personality more quickly than color. Rethink and repaint.
Q: Where to steal the best decorating tips?
A: Designer show houses. They are filled with great ideas - that's the whole point - and they're all yours to take home and interpret under your own roof.
One of the richest resources is also the oldest and largest: the Pasadena Showcase House of Design has been generating ideas for 43 years, during which the participants have also ginned up a whopping $16 million for California music and arts.
In turn, we ginned up a number of steal-able ideas during a recent visit to the 2008 House, a 1928 Spanish castle with Moorish overtones. Do try these at home:
- Overhead investment: have a local artist paint trompe l'oeil coffers on canvas, then mount the canvas on your ceiling (Jennifer Bevan Interiors).
- Replace the fabric cover of old lampshades with strings of bright glass beads (Interior Devine Inc.).
- Frame a guest room bed with a zebra-print canopy mounted on the ceiling with narrow panels down each side of the headboard (Aubrey James Design).
- Prop a tall mirror behind a narrow table in a small foyer and up-light it - and the whole room - with an unseen plant light (Suziscot Design).
- Paint a darker "wainscot" more than half-way up a light-painted wall and edge it with a painted-on "moulding" - narrow stripes of three different colors topped with a stroke of liquid copper foil, available at MK and Company craft stores.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.