How to Finish a Room by Adding Layers, Not Clutter

After putting tons of work into painting a room and finding the right furniture, finishing the space so that it feels warm, welcoming and personal can be a daunting task. The trick is to layer in texture (for warmth and interest) and meaning (for inspiration and joy). 

But adding layers doesn't equal adding clutter back into a room. Minimalist and essentialist spaces can successfully be layered and feel comfortable and "finished" without a lot of "stuff." Make sure that what you add into your space fits the tried and true design quote from William Morris, " Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be functional or believe to be beautiful."

This could translate to adding a fuzzy rug to keep your feet warm in the living room, a painting that mesmerizes you, a side table built by your grandfather, or books that motivate you. The layers you add will be personal to you and different from anyone else's home décor (ie. they won't come from a big box home store). Your layers will be meaningful and a reflection of your values and the life you live (or want to). 

 How to finish a room by adding layers, not clutter

Layering texture and meaning into a room can be accomplished by choosing items from some or all of the categories below. Not all have to be introduced into your home to make it feel finished, but choosing a few will help.

Elements for layering texture and meaning into a space

1. A rug (or two). 

Rugs are a wonderful way to add texture to a space, as well as visually define and finish a room. They're comfortable underfoot and add a literal layer of warmth. Choose natural and neutral like a sisal rug or a colourful and classic like a Persian rug. You can even layer an area rug over wall-to-wall carpet or one over the other for added texture and personality. 

 How to layer a room without adding clutter

2. Window treatments.

Window treatments add softness and privacy - two things every room needs. A comfortable, warm and welcoming room is one that feels safe and secure, so make sure to have curtains, shades or simple blinds on your windows so you can close them at night. Many windows with beautiful trim can look lovely on their own, but curtains do add a softness to hard edges that's soothing to the eye and can actually induce a feeling of stillness. Opt for neutral curtains most often - they'll feel less 'noisy' than a colourful pattern. 

How to layer a room without it feeling cluttered

3. Small furniture. 

Once you have your main pieces in place, such as a sofa, chairs or a bed, consider adding just a few smaller pieces of furniture that will be functional and add texture to the room. A coffee table or large ottoman is a great place to put your feet up. A wood stump stool beside a chair makes for a naturally beautiful place to set your cup of coffee. A small bench in the entry is a good perch while putting on your boots. A chest of drawers in a work space provides closed storage to keep clutter at bay. Mix up textures by pairing antiques with modern, smooth surfaces. 

4. Comfort. 

Even in an uncluttered, simple home comfort is key to living happily. For me, that includes pillows, cushions, throws and duvets. These comforts keep me warm, allow me to sit with better posture, and help me rest more easily. They're good for my wellbeing. If you feel the same way, toss a few cushions on the couch and stacks some beautiful throws on an open shelf or in a basket to add soft texture and function to your space. 

How to finish a room by adding layers but not clutter

5. Lighting.

Lighting is an important layer to add into any space to make it functional as well as warm and multidimensional. In every room, you should make sure you have ample ambient lighting (general overhead lights or daylight) and task lighting (floor and table lamps, pendant lamps, under-cabinet lights) and perhaps an accent light (picture lights, puck lights in a cabinet) or two. Try to balance light in the room through either well-spaced overhead lighting or by adding lamps in all corners. 

 

How to add layers to finish a room without clutter

6. Wall art. 

Whether it's artwork, photos, a quilt, or antique relics hanging on your wall, layering in something of interest to you makes a room feel complete and helps tell your story. You might display some of your own abstract art, your kids' creations, or a piece of junk you found on a favourite trip. Make it meaningful and it will bring you joy on a daily basis. Just don't add too much. Keep some white space on your walls and in your life. 

7. Accessories.

Use accessories sparingly, but with purpose. Use them to add a layer of personality, colour and/or dimension. Think of ways they could be practical as well. You might use a colourful basket to hold magazines or knitting supplies, or a handmade ceramic tray to house remote controls. You could display a collection of unique mugs in a glass cabinet or mix your favourite books and family photos on an open bookshelf. Wood cutting boards picked up from local markets are interesting and handy when leaned together against a backsplash. Pretty hats can be beautifully hung on hooks and ready when you need them. 

 

8. Nature.

Plants, flowers, branches, driftwood, shells, rocks and wood used inside your home brings the ultimate layer of beauty that will complete the space. I love plants to add life and texture to a room and also to clean the air of toxins. If you enjoy collections of shells or rocks or other bits of nature, collect them together in beautiful jars, vases, trays or bowls so that they make more of an impact and feel less cluttery than if they were spread around the room. 

 How to finish a room by adding layers, not clutter

After you've added in texture and meaning to your room, stand back and look at it with a critical eye. You may even want to take a photo to look at it so you can see the space more objectively. See if there's anything that needs edited out - make sure that too much 'stuff' hasn't crept back in. I always need to edit some things out even after I think I'm done. Check to make sure there isn't anything that seems off balance or out of place. The final look at the overall room should give you that "ahh" feeling like you want to curl up and stay there forever.

Now you've finished your room! Enjoy.