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Are My Accessories Dated?

By 09/13/2013December 14th, 202059 Comments

Wondering if your accessories are dated? Do you feel like you have too many accessories already? Here are my favorite tips for styling your accessories if it’s feeling a bit dated. And, sometimes that means editing what you have and purchasing new accessories. 

A client once told me she had so many accessories, she couldn’t possibly use them all. She wanted help with styling her home.

But what she really owned were some accessories purchased 15 years ago and some accessories that were an accumulation of one-off candle holders and random gifts from family and friends. Not an ideal combination for fresh styling.

She was surprised when I told her this…

It was time for a shopping trip. In order to refresh her look, she needed to update some of her accessories. It was time to edit.

Styling Accessories is not the same as Displaying Clutter

Styling is not about arranging whatever you happen to have. It’s about getting the pieces you need to create beautiful vignettes that have substance and presence. 

Special pieces that actually have meaning are fine to hold on to and incorporate. But make sure they are truly special and beautiful. And display them with a supporting cast of really well-considered objects that have some scale. 

Read more: 6 Ways to Style a Bookshelf

Too many random things just look junky and cluttered, especially if they are too small in scale.

This single large vase and basket in my front entrance is much more effective than a grouping of bitty candle holders and knick knacks. It takes some practice to get right, but a good rule of thumb is to buy larger objects than you think.

My front entrance

If you can’t bear to let your things go, simply store them away. If you don’t have the space, or don’t go looking for them to display within 6 months or a year, simply donate that box of stuff.

Decorating for the Season

One thing I love about Americans, y’all DECORATE for each season – I really think much more than Canadians do in general.

Creating mantel displays and table scapes for the season is a fun way to practice styling and a great way to refresh your rooms. It allows you to create something new to look at and enjoy.

My seasonal decorating tips?

  • Create a theme
  • Choose key objects with scale
  • Choose a colour palette
  • Repeat!
  • Don’t forget flowers, plants and greenery to add colour and life to your displays

Here is one of my holiday mantel arrangements. I change it up every year and try something new.

My Holiday Mantle 2018

When it comes to decorating your holiday table, repeat colours you already have in your styling and decor for connection. This lovely table below could have coordinated with my pink and green mantel above. 

Here are even more festive Christmas colour combinations to explore.

Dimples & Tangles

Unify Accessories with Colour

When you are trying to work with random stuff that you happen to have, you will struggle with the second most important rule of good styling (getting scale right is the first): a unified colour palette.

When creating vignettes, either for the holidays or simply to liven up your surfaces at any time of year, use accessories that repeat your colour scheme. That will create the harmony you’re looking for. 

You can see all these principles at work in the farmhouse rustic styling of this fall holiday table below.

Wedding Chicks

Pumpkins and classic brass candlesticks with fresh greens is a great way to create a glow-y festive feel. 

And in this simple modern farmhouse fall mantel arrangement below. Notice the repetition of the neutral colour palette, and all the space around objects that make them look special, not like clutter. 

Jessica Sara Morris

Add Art to Your Styling

And don’t forget to incorporate some art to add height and interest to your vignettes. I added a grouping of botanicals above my credenza in my recent dining room refresh for an added layer of interest.

My Dining Room

Are my accessories dated?

The key to styling well is to try new things. Change it up often. Start by taking all your objects out of the room and adding back in only the ones you’re really interested in.

Then go look for the right pieces in the RIGHT SCALE and COLOUR to give your arrangement presence. 

Investing energy, careful editing and thought into your vignettes is what makes them look fresh and current. 

So, if your accessories are feeling dated, it’s probably more an issue of editing things out that aren’t serving the look, theme or colour palette.

Styling is not about figuring out where to display every candle holder you’ve ever received, but a skill to develop for creating engaging-looking combinations to enliven your surfaces while avoiding a cluttered look.

And, take it from me, that takes a few guiding principles and LOTS of practice.

I hope I’ve inspired you to refresh your styling!

Have a great weekend everyone! xo Maria

Related posts:

A Friday Tablescape for a Special Friend

What Do you Think? Is not Advice that Helps

5 Designer Secrets that will Make or Break your Paint Colours

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, become a client. On-line or In-person.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 


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  • Momlady says:

    Love the duvet cover. I’m guessing the north facing room issue is why the mat on the night stand looks pink too.

  • Connie Nikiforoff Designs says:

    Table runners are easily sewn by even the most novice seamstress. All straight seams 🙂 It take very little fabric too so it’s a good ‘first project’ if you’re just starting out. And you have so many options because you’re not limited to what a store sells—you can get really creative with all the fabrics available as well as create any size you’d like. 🙂

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks Connie, I have had many custom runners made for clients and I should have mentioned that it can be done but it’s still not as inexpensive as off-the shelf if the colours work.

  • Kathy says:

    Love the candle lanterns! Great idea for sea shells….

    • Betty says:

      YES! EXACTLY WHAT I THOUGHT! Did these come from Pottery Barn, too?

    • Mary Ellen says:

      Still looking for those candle lanterns as well. Pottery Barn didn’t have them. I did order the dice though. Very cool idea. Anyone found those candle lanterns???

  • Angela Taylor says:

    Hi Maria,
    Love your colours in your bedroom, they are very similar to mine. What colour did you paint your walls?

  • Pamela says:

    I have been eyeing that duvet as well (in the catalog) but we do not have a PB store in my town. I wasn’t sure from the pictures what shade of blue was in the pattern. Do you think it would work in a room painted BM Quiet Moments with BM China White trim?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes my walls are Palladian Blue and I think Quiet Moments is close. . . There were a couple different shades of grayed blue in the duvet.

      • Mary says:

        My bedroom is also painted Quiet Moments. I’ll have to check out the duvet the next time I’m at Pottery Barn.

  • vicki magee says:

    I love freshening up my accessories but I like to do it with “OLD” things. I am not fond of new items unless they look old because that look can sometimes feel contrived.
    Any hints for me?

  • Can you give us some examples of dated accessories? Love your bedding.

    • bfish says:

      Ditto to Linda’s question on dated accessories. I read this post thinking there would be more discussion of what’s in and out and how often it changes; how what’s out can be transformed/reused, etc. Going shopping to change out accessories is kind of a no-brainer — but how does one know this is necessary? It’s interesting to learn that seasonal decorating is more popular in the US than in Canada, and to see what’s in store at Pottery Barn; otherwise this didn’t enlighten me.

      • Maria Killam says:

        Great question, I didn’t think to say which accessories would be dated. . . a good future post. Maria

        • Amanda Stevens says:

          Please make this your next post! We need lots of pictures of what is outdated in our homes. We know things are off, but we don’t know what needs fixing! Maria, I Love You.

  • InfoDiva says:

    Yup, I have to agree that I still don’t know if my accessories are dated–so they probably are!

    I don’t know how others feel, but the last thing I would want is to have my house look like it came out of the latest catalog. I guess that makes me a dinosaur, too.

    • Kay says:

      I feel the same way. I understand the need to freshen up accessories–one thing I always buy at Marshall’s is pillows and change them out and move them around. The assembled-over-time look is what I like, and a lot of my accessories never were and never will be in fashion. Think the duck decoys I inherited from my father that my husband loves!

      • Jill says:

        Gosh!! I have accessories in my home from over 40 years ago, and I still love them. I guess that’s why I still have them. I did get rid of my old brass candle sticks years ago, that a start.

        • June says:

          Jill–Oh gosh, I love my tall, fat brass candle sticks! (OK, they are oldI!) But I have been thinking lately of spray painting them a glossy black….

    • Lorena says:

      Nope. I don’rt care for the catalog look. I rather have a curated look that feels it came to be in an organic way and tailored to my own decor style and personality.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I LOVE the candle lanterns with the dice and pool balls. Perfect for our family room. I have a few great game boards my grandfather made around 1910. This will be perfect to accessorize with. Where can I find those glass candle lanterns?

  • SandyCGC says:

    Agree with the others who’d like a bit more discussion on this topic and examples. I have things that I’ve had forever that are very meaningful to me – they are part of me and speak “me” and make me smile every time I walk into the room. Why would I want to change them? Pillows, maybe, but not a special pillow; accessory artwork maybe, but not a favorite piece; not my small black & white striped flat-top wooden cat with upright tail made in Mexico that was a gift placed in the entry to an empty apartment when I moved back to Houston (my “guard’ cat) who still welcomes guests to my home today. I love Pottery Barn too as well as Pier 1 and World Market, but I don’t want anyone to feel they’ve walked into the store when they walk into my house. Definitely a more detailed post on accessories, but maybe more on freshening up while keeping treaures that make us happy – your great tagline, Maria – and lots of examples.

  • JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    Hmmm… Like others, I want more information about what is dated. And, like others, I have a 42 year old collection of accessories that have traveled all over the country with me. It turns out that I’ve always loved glass candlesticks of every kind. Now, I can afford beautiful crystal. Most of the glass ones are quite unusual by today’s standards, and I’ve found that they work well with my newer candle holders when I use the same color candles in all of them. Also, one of the best ways of using them on my dining table is clustering them and interspersing them with many votive candles in crystal. I’m also supremely happy I never got rid of the ‘dated’ brass candle holders and decorative boxes that are now 30 years old. Seems that everything cycles around and suddenly look new again! Some things I agree may be out of date in my home are the pictures and lamps. I’m working on replacing those. I heavily decorate for each season, but pillows only change from velvet for winter to silk for summer. Please do a post for us as I love your perspective and more modern decorating style. Even my very traditional home can use a shot of ‘new’!!

  • Jeri says:

    Maria, your guest room looks lovely. Where might I find night tables like yours? I have been searching for something exactly like that!

    • Kathi says:

      Jeri, I saw Marias side table at our Home Goods store, Marshalls and Tj maxx carry them sometimes,too-all 3 stores are owned by the same corporation-good luck shopping!

  • I like the Pottery Barn bedding (currently have a duvet from there) but I have a hard time with the fact that their entire store is muted and doesn’t mix well with white/grey. So now that I am replacing my (inherited, very bossy) olive green carpet, I am going to be finally changing my entire bedroom from ivory creams/muted reds, yellows, and greens to clean whites and cleaner blues and greens. But that means I can’t shop at PB for the bedding! I am interested in a closer picture of how you made yours work.

    • BillP says:

      You might like West Elm as an alternative to Pottery Barn. I have two duvet covers and a few pillows from West Elm and generally I find it fresher and not as “country” as Pottery Barn tends to be.

      PS They are both the same company, Williams Sonoma, and each has a paint line through Sherwin Williams.

  • Barbara says:

    Well, I can’t really agree. For me, accessories must be personal and have meaning for you and/or be an item you especially love.

    Otherwise, your home would just feel like a higher end hotel. The exception for me would be the bathroom, where I will buy soap dishes, dispensers and art just to match it all up. One of my bathrooms does have an item on display that I had as a little girl and it matches perfectly.

    I’ve seen people shopping with a decorator at Homesense, it seemed so strange to me to be filling a shopping cart with items that someone else picked out for you, all at one time.

    As I sit here in my open plan living, dining, hallway and kitchen rooms I can look around and see all the lovely things I have collected from many different countries. I have original art from Dominican Republic and Mexico and Guatemala, and the list goes on…..I am filled with happiness as I look at these things, some bought from the person who crafted them.

    Sometimes items will no longer work with your decor, I understand that and then these items will have to be put away for another time/place. But I would absolutely hate to have to go out shopping for accessories in a local store.

    PS recently my husband has been bringing home decorative items from Asia, which I dislike, so I’ve told him he cannot put them in our living space and he has to take them to his office.

  • Deborah McKenzie says:

    Love the duvet. I eyed it myself for some time. But I need to comment on something completely off this topic. Because you have made several comments on the Hot Pink I had to try it. I made the Hot Pink Smoothie today for the first time. OMG! Whole food nutrition that is soooo wonderful.
    Thank you for mentioning this enough to me to research it! It will be a regular at my house.

  • Barb says:

    I believe that the accessories in a home should reflect the interests and life experiences of the people who live there. This is best accomplished over time – fine art, poster art, handcrafted items, beautiful things found in nature, inherited items, and thrift store bits & bobs should be gathered along life’s journey not during a one-time visit to a store.

    There is nothing worse than going into a home where all the accessories were bought at chain stores (this year the stores are filled with XYZ motif/color, next year it will all be ABC motif/color…) or were all bought in the same year. In my opinion this is THE recipe for having a home with dated accessories and it is also the recipe for having a home that is lifeless and dull. Avoid the cheap, nasty, mass produced stuff as much as possible if you want to love your home from season to season, year after year.

    It is perhaps better to have a mix of old and new, expensive and inexpensive, handmade and manufactured all bound together by your individual aesthetic sense and delight in the items (trust your gut …you know deep down inside what makes your heart “sing” and what does not …don’t buy (or keep) the “does not” just because it is on trend). This is a more difficult approach that shopping for “current” and “fashionable” items but ultimately more emotionally satisfying and more visually interesting. Instead of shopping for more stuff ….perhaps move what you have around the house… play with creating vignettes from what you already have ..repaint things (even glass and plastic can be painted) … go for a walk in nature to see what you can find …put a few things in storage so everything left on display has room to breathe. If you LOVE something deeply hang onto it (even if it sometimes needs to spend a wee bit of time in storage).

    Of course, there will always be a few things that will need to be swapped out because they no longer work (or a worn looking) but for the most part “updating” can be done by introducing the current colors and “trends” through transient things like flowers, plants, and candles and by mixing up how you display the pieces you already own if your foundation pieces are things you truly love.

    • Sara says:

      Well said!!

    • Renee says:

      Barb, I could not agree with you more. I purchase items when I’m travelling, not because I think they’ll enhance my decor but because I know they will bring back happy memories. My mementos are very eclectic, from a very elegant wood carving from South Africa to a good size elephant from India made with the same marble and semi-precious stones as the Taj Mahal. None of what I have brought back home has been mass produced and are very specific of a certain area.
      I don’t feel those things have to work together but they must mean something special to me.

      I personally do not like clutter and find that most of the contrived decorations are exactly that: meaningless clutter, i.e. the table above with pumpkins and the huge garland of what looks like sage leaves. I can’t imagine being able to have a pleasurable and relaxing meal at that table. The style I find most pleasing (except it lacks colour for me) is the one with the cognac chairs; it’s not cluttered and makes each piece stand out.

    • Sandy says:

      Yes! And one other thing: when continuously shopping for the new trend, we are harming the environment. Even if we donate our “old” things, we are still feeding the market for continuous production of trendy new ones, and especially when we include the huge cost of shipping these things that are most often manufactured far away. Let’s promote curating our collections carefully and over time, so we only have the things we love.

  • Ronald says:

    Interesting post. Accessories are important, but less is more in most cases. I have observed that if the architecture of the space is sufficient, usually meaning a pre-war structure where architects and builders understood proportion and harmony, the need to “over accessorize” is not needed. Often it is when the built space is lacking so in “structure decoration” we feel the need to improve it by over accessorizing. True, some things have sentimental value and clients want to use them. I am usually successful with working some items into the scheme and often, they realize that perhaps what they thought they wanted to use is not quite suitable for the new scheme. But, I must say a house full of some pottery barn (and stores like them) accessories will become “dated” in time. Am I knocking it? Certainly not, they have some great accessories, and for events, it works well. In the long-term chosen wisely, some can also work, but they will never be an investment in your overall scheme. The question to ask is, “what is the quality level of my overall space?”

  • Debbiecz says:

    I love changing out my dust catchers, oops, I mean my nicely chosen accessories! I tend towards glass or wood items that I can intermingle with a few seasonal items. Then every year I purge a few at our church rummage sale, do you have those in Canada? Today I found a huge hurricane on a wooden base, probably from PB originally. It’s timeless and I paid $4. A chunky candle and my island has a new look for fall. Love rummage sales.

  • BillP says:

    I think that a key to “freshening up” lies with editing. Collections are nice but sometimes fewer is better. It is also fun to shuffle things around periodically. And it’s always good to have a few really nice pieces in the mix.

  • Carmen says:

    I like the room and really love the night stand. Where did you find it?

  • Maria Killam says:

    Accessories that I think date really fast are trendy picture frames, lamps, candleholders, votives, and vases. Am I saying get rid of all your collected accessories? NO.

    It’s great if you don’t need a designer to have a wonderful collection of accessories but most of the clients I work with have no idea how to buy accessories even if one jumped up and said “pick me, pick me” because their talents lay elsewhere. They are thrilled if I show up with a collection of accessories and lamps that I have chosen to suddenly give their home a look and a feel.

    Just like I had no idea which plants and shrubs to buy for my house, is my experience of my garden any less diminished because every single one was chosen by my landscape architect? NO.

    Could everyone here buy a faux mercury pumpkin, a new curvy vase or some chunky candleholders and inject some new life onto their dining table without throwing out all your collected accessories.

    I think we could.
    Thanks for your comments everyone.

  • Joyce says:

    Hi Maria!
    Enjoying your discussions; I learn so much! You are right about Americans accessorizing. I have four large boxes of just Halloween & fall decorations. I did take an old orange pumpkin, spray painted it gold, then hot glued rows & rows of pearl Christmas garland covering the whole pumpkin-
    so pretty with the 2 white pumpkins my daughter bought me last year on my foyer table. In the meantime I will be reducing the 4 boxes to 2, needless to say- luv accessories. I do try to purchase what I love & will blend with what I have.
    Your guest room is lovely by the way!

  • Betsy OShea says:

    I think home accessories are somewhat like jewelry: good quality expensive pieces like a strand of pearls or diamond studs never go out of style..where as costume trendy pieces will become dated over time. Lovely antique ironstone or silver frames or pewter candlesticks or framed silouettes or whatever it is one loves and collects never looks dated. Trends right now that may look silly in ten years: hurricanes everywhere, potted white silk orchids, frames hanging on wall w no image inside, lucite or chrome tables, ottoman/coffee tables, moroccan tile motif rugs, peacocks and owls!! But the trendy is fun so long as u dont pay too much!

  • Connie says:

    Maria, I would love more about accessories and “styling” shelves and surfaces. This is a great discussion. Thanks everyone. Fads don’t appeal to me…i.e. white animal heads, flag banners, or empty frames….just sayin’.

  • Karen says:

    Great post Maria. Thanks for the tips as always.
    Joyce, love the white pumpkins. I’ve been using white pumpkins for a number of years now, couldn’t buy them in my town but had to go elsewhere to get them, but I see they are now quite common. Great fall decorating. I have them in my garden at the moment. and they make great spooky pumpkins.

  • Janetta says:

    Did anyone ever find the large candle vases. Thanks

  • AnnMarie says:

    I like your idea to put the pool balls in a vase with a candle on top. I have the pool balls and candles I would like to know where did you find the double vase like that?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It was originally from the Pottery barn but that was many years ago not sure if they still sell it. Maria

  • Di says:

    My home is full of “dated items”..I’ve collected them over the years and still enjoy them.
    Having a trendy home is not important to me at all…

    • Joanne says:

      Lots to think about in this post. I gravitate towards simplified vignettes, staying away from the cluttered look. I like my surfaces dust-free, so having too many small pieces takes too much time!! When I moved, I looked at many of my treasured, but certainly not trendy, pieces and decided to keep most of them. Many came from my mom and other older friends so I couldn’t just get rid if them. I use one or two in my bedroom, office, and hallway table, switching out when the spirit moves me. I think, for me, finding a balance is what matters.

  • Joanna says:

    I’m Canadian and I change up my vignettes with the seasons, as I’m sure many do. Just saying….
    I believe in Bigger is Better and Less is More. Having a lot of itty bitty decor pieces is clutter to my eye.
    We do need to refresh every few years as styles change, colours change, we change. There will always be some pieces that we own and love that can be incorporated in with the new.

  • Kristen Pecoraro says:

    I just love your emailed newsletters and website blog posts! Thanks so much for your design and decorating advice. As a long time subscriber I have seen your home in pics so many times and I’ve been wanting to ask a specific question: Are your floors red oak with no stain and a water based finish? They look beautiful!

  • Susan Medlin says:

    Here’s one tip to know if it’s dated: if it’s iron or oiled bronze, it’s dated!
    Dried flower arrangements
    Your child made it in school or summer camp, and she’s married now!

  • Barb says:

    Love to see a BEFORE and AFTER of accessories.

  • ML Schnapp says:

    what paint color is on your walls, trim and ceiling please in the dining room and around the fireplace?

  • Edith says:

    SCALE. Period.

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