Layer, Layer, Layer
Layering is the secret to Southern style all year long, and the same can be said of interior decorating. The art of layering color and pattern is key. First, look at your space and pick out a base (say, the wall color); then, add in two pieces of solid or small-scale prints (ticking stripes, tiny paisley, solid velvet), one larger-scale traditional print (plaid, herringbone, neutral animal), and one splashy, bold print. This trick adds visual interest and keeps the eye moving around the room, while also lending much-needed cohesiveness to your space.
Who doesn’t love the cozy, elegant look of a silk top beneath a chunky sweater? Take this same tactile approach to your home décor: Layer in fabrics of varying weights and textures (think smooth chintz and lustrous velvet beside cool leather and nubby throw blankets). Don’t forget to look beyond just fabrics—you can also bring in texture with wallpaper (grasscloth is a favorite among designers), different materials (like a marble lamp or chubby woven basket), accessories (brass pineapple paperweight, anyone?), and rugs (think vintage dhurries atop traditional natural-fiber rugs).
Mix Casual Pieces in Formal Spaces (or Vice Versa)
If you’re one to pair tough boots with a flowy floral dress, or a leather jacket with a sleek work-appropriate shift, you can already image how this applies to home décor. Think modern Lucite chairs beneath stately wallpaper a formal dining room, or a faded oriental rug underfoot in the kitchen. Perhaps you’re partial to crystal chandeliers—why not hang one in your farmhouse bathroom? These unexpected additions often offer an element of surprise and interest to ho-hum spaces.
Take it Easy
Remember the old makeup adage your mother repeated every time you left the house: If you use a lot of eye makeup, go easy on your lipstick; if you go with bright lips, leave your eyes subtle (all said as she dabbed at your face with a wadded Kleenex from the bottom of her purse). The lesson: Leave it to the pros to cover every inch of a room in endless bold statement patterns. Making careful choices with your design picks will go a long way.
Buy for Looks, but Don’t Ignore Comfort and Function
Any good Southerner who grew up with a “formal” living room (or “parlor,” as many of our grandmothers dubbed them) knows the stress of a look-but-don’t-touch approach. In modern Southern homes, however, there’s a new mantra: Your home is not a museum. Just as you shouldn’t buy a pair of uncomfortable heels to just stand in (let’s be clear: nobody has ever made it through a party without taking a step), you shouldn’t buy a couch that isn’t fit to sit on—especially if you have kids or pets.
Invest in Quality Pieces
In both fashion and home décor, there are places to spend, and places to save. Be cheap about accessories—things you might drop and break, hand towels, picture frames, etc. Don’t be cheap, however, about larger pieces of furniture that you’d like to have for a long time, like couches, tables, or anything meant to hold a valuable electronic (trust us on this one). You will not get your money’s worth, and you’ll have to replace them sooner than you’d think.
Add a Touch of Glamour
Every Southern woman knows that a hint of bling or a swipe of red lipstick is a tried-and-true finishing touch for any outfit. The same works for home décor: The perfect metallic bauble on a side table can add just a hint of shine and finish to any space. If you’re not into accessories, an art deco-inspired mirrored table can dress up a space, too, as can a layer of gold leaf on a tiny powder room ceiling.