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10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

By 05/26/2013October 16th, 201833 Comments

When I first started blogging in October 2008, I had no idea what a tablescape was even though I considered myself to be a pretty good stylist back then.

Since then, I’ve come a looooong way that’s for sure!

When I opened up June’s Elle Decor and arrived at this living room, I immediately recognized it as a room decorated by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Here are my favourite styling tips from following his work:

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

June 2013 Elle Decor

1. You cannot own too many lamps.

As I’ve said in the past, when we moved last year, Terreeia informed me that we owned 26 lamps.

“And it’s not enough yet”, I declared.

I’ve recently become obsessed with wall sconces. If I had woken up last year to how beautiful they are practically ANYWHERE in your home, I would have incorporated more than just the two I have in my kitchen breakfast area when we renovated last Spring.

I would have installed them in the hallways, master closet, master bedroom, dining room. Have I missed a room? Oh, and one more tip, they have to be a sconce with a lamp shade.

If you start looking at the decor in ANY movie or TV show you watch, you’ll notice them in almost all the sets, and they are always the same style: A candlestick with a fabric shade.

I use the same argument for subway tile, by the way. Classic. Which is why they are also in most kitchens and bathrooms in movie sets.

So if you’re like me and can’t hardwire in wall sconce lighting anymore, then a swing arm lamp is the second best plan! I found some for you right here on my Pinterest boards.

I love how he didn’t even try to hide the red wires (above) which I’m guessing are custom along with the green lampshades that coordinate with the room.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

While the babysitter was talking on the phone to her boyfriend decor with a little pillow fight thrown in

When I found this image from Pinterest, this was the caption underneath (above) which takes me to lesson number two.

2. Every sofa should have a minimum of 4-6 pillows that look like you just gathered them up from another room in the house and somehow they magically worked together.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

Notice the swing arm lamps (again), and then the table lamp on the right located approximately 3 inches apart? Just sayin’ you can’t have enough lamps, especially in your living room. If you are depressed sitting in there, go lamp shopping and truly, if all else fails and you don’t know what to get? A gourd lamp always looks good in a colour to coordinate with your living room. I have a bunch of colourful ones here.

Anyway back to the pillows. Jeffrey is a master at coordinating fabrics. Just study his rooms closely to come up with a combination for your sofa.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

3. Paint that old table or whatever you have sitting around that doesn’t inspire you anymore a fresh new colour!

Love how he just painted the table the same colour as the walls, so awesome!

10 Styling Lessons From Jeffrey Bilhuber

4. Choose an unexpected colour for the back of a chair.

I love how the orange is barely even repeated in the room. It’s just like a fun surprise.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

5. If you don’t have enough height to create a pedestal with coffee table books, use a miniature stool for the flowers to create some real drama!

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber


6. If you have a narrow wall install a row of frames that are similar in a straight vertical line.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

7. African Violets in a simple terra cotta pot looks like you’ve just brought them in from the garden.


10 Styling Lessons From Jeffrey Bilhuber

8. Have a space at the end of a hallway? Get a pretty chair and place vertical art above it.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bihuber

9. Pick your favourite colour and get a comfortable chair upholstered in it.

10 Styling Lessons from Jeffrey Bilhuber

10. A coral in a vase or urn makes an interesting replacement for flowers.

Which is your favourite styling lesson?

Related posts:

The Best Reason to Paint Old Furniture

Rule for Chairs

How Important is Pretty?

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  • Victoria says:

    I am so with you on the lamps, Maria! I have given a few lamps away recently and want to replace them…even though they were in the attic! Ha! I have a lamp in the kitchen and in the bath. My hubby has come to terms with my lamp issue. I need light! He could pretty much live in darkness. Interestingly, he ordered and installed some great sconces in this office on the library wall behind his sofa. And I’m looking for sconces for the bedroom now.

    And by the way, I never got my red lamp that I swore I was going to have. Instead, I fell in love with a blue and white porcelain lamp instead of a red one. And I had to get a mercury glass lamp to go on my rustic chest for the entry area. Lamps are like jewelry and accessories to me. And the more the better!

  • Lamps are great and yes, we need them. But there might just be too many ….if your room starts looking like a lighting show room 😉 However, that’s usually the thing I see most people need more of too! And they wonder why they don’t want to be in that room!!!??!?! It’s just too dang dark! 😉 And yet the people often say “I’ve got a lamp in here!” as if that one outta be enough. Ah well….. Ya can’t win ’em all 😉

    Thanks for mentioning African violets. They’re my academic sorority flower and I haven’t had any for a long time since our former home just didn’t have the right light. I may have to try them again in our current home. 🙂

    Great styling tips! Thank you Maria.

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Connie,
      Haha, personally I have never seen a room with too many lamps. I don’t think such a room exists. It’s not like you would have them all on at the same time ever anyway. Maria

  • mimi says:

    Hi Maria,
    Lots of great ideas here! I may have to incorporate some swing arm lamps somewhere in my home as they look great and I think add so much intimacy to a space. I am a lamp girl and have to rein myself in when I see a great one (I have several now in storage waiting their turn)!

  • Kelly says:

    I love his work too Maria! So creative and gorgeous!

  • These are some great tips, Maria. My favorite of the above is, “You can’t own too many lamps/(sconces).”

    After that one, my own is: “A good electrician is not enough. Find a great electrician!”

    A great electrician can usually find a way to fish wire from your walls and hardwire most anything, anywhere. Sometimes he comes up with an even better plan than you are thinking. He is always willing to try to find a way.

    • Lauren Tyson says:

      You’re right about electricians, Ellen. And find one who is experienced with residential work. This is according to my brother, who is a retired electrician and who’s worked both residential and commercial. He is helping my girlfriend, who owns an old home that has severe electrical problems. Two other “handymen” have already botched her electrical system and she has burned out plugs everywhere, a real fire hazard. LT

  • Cherie says:

    A great idea for today’s blog. I’d like to suggest similar blogs in the future. I saw this article in Elle Decor but didn’t zero in on some of the great details that you have pointed out. I would love it if you would do the same with other articles in shelter magazines. As always, thanks for your thought-provoking blog.

  • david says:

    Along with all those lamps remember to grab an armload of low watt bulbs in peach or pink tone. You will look marvelous. Dimmer switches on everything of course.

    • GeoC says:

      I’m with ya’ll on the lamp thing. I also really like the look of amber light at night. I’ve been scouring the internet for candelabra light bulbs to emit a soft golden glow. And yes, dimmers are a must!

  • Laurel says:

    Thank you for sharing such an informative blog. there were many interesting points. I agree that lamps are vital to the life of a room, and making them varied in height, design, color and placement detracts from quantity by focusing on quality.
    I also loved the statement about throw pillows working magically together. To get my creative juices flowing I often start with a small project by painting a cover for a throw pillow and will keep this timely tip in mind! Thank you again, looking forward to more of your posts!

  • Lauren Tyson says:

    My favorite of these styling lessons is #6. It surprises me how good a narrow wall can look with multiple pictures stacked vertically. My instinct would be that it’s overcrowded, but I like it!

  • Cyndia Montgomery says:

    I am what my husband calls a “lamp whore”. I cannot pass up a pretty one, and I love pretty vintage ones. I have a room in my basement that I use for storage and there are at least 30 in there. I try to put at least 4 in a room. The corners need illuminating, every chair needs a lamp to read by. In most instances, just placing lamps around the room will make it feel so much better. As for sconces, I only have one and that’s in my hallway. I would love more but in my old house, wall space is very limited. I keep searching for spaces that I can squeeze a couple in. And good thing hubby is a great electrical guy!

  • Angela says:

    I took on board what you said in past blogs about lighting and now have two gorgeous nautical style lamps from LL Bean either side of my sofa.
    As I have a very small living room, two lamps are enough. Finally love my living space!
    Thanks Maria, couldn’t have done it without your input:)

  • BillP says:

    The tips are great but it is a slippery slope towards making a room look too “granny”. I look at the fourth picture and I smell my grandmother’s house. A bit of editing can go a long way. Maria’s house, on the other hand, is fresh and bright.

  • Eileen says:

    Am I the only one who has a problem with pillows? I love them and all the great colors and fabrics but while I don’t disagree with your dictum
    “Every sofa should have a minimum of 4-6 pillows that look like you just gathered them up from another room in the house and somehow they magically worked together.”
    All very well when the room is empty but said pillows take up a lot of seating space and I hate seeing guests trying to work around them, especially the large male of the species. After a couple of glasses of wine the pillows usually end up tossed on the floor. It’s like dressed beds. You have to destroy all that structural pillow integrity before you can actually put the bed to it’s purpose. I have struggled with this in many a guest bedroom. As a visitor, I always feel I have to tenderly carry all those pillows to a safe place and memorize the layout to return it to perfection on the morrow lest my hostess feel I disrespected her decor.
    Is it just me?

  • Jon Anne Winstead says:

    Love, love today’s information!! So useful!!

  • Sue says:

    Hmmm. I liked Bilhuber’s style in his first design book which was creative but spare. But his second on defining luxury threw me everything as everything was over the top. That’s how the pics above feel for the most part. In the third one, I love the velvet maroon print sofa and the rust ottoman together, but the pillows dont look like they work. Maybe one or two of the choices would have with some others, but it looks like a “hot mess” that was thrown together. Guess I prefer his early style. This looks too much like a great aunt with too much money and not enough taste.

  • I’m a lamp junkie too!!! I was once a house guest for several days in a home that had NO LAMPS, only overhead lighting. I was so uncomfortable it made me crazy. It was in a beautiful setting in Wyoming. But the vibes of the house were so weird, I felt disoriented. I couldn’t read or knit since I couldn’t really see anything. Awful experience!

  • Joanne G W says:

    Very enjoyable post!

  • Kim G says:

    I love the light from lamps. My former home had the top plug for each recepticle in the living and master bedroom wired to a wall switch. It was wonderful to come in and switch on only the lamps. Unfortunately the builder of our current home refused to do so during the electrical walk-through even though we were supposed to be able to make changes to the electricals, said he’d never heard of such a thing and couldn’t do it. Oh well.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    So, here’s the thing—with furniture moving away from the walls, it becomes a real challenge to find a plug that is right where you need it. I’ve had to do some real hiding tricks to get the cord hidden without creating a tripping hazard!

  • StagerLinda says:

    Great post! Wonderful ideas! Every home I’ve ever consulted on was lacking enough lamps. The ones most folks do have are dated with dreadful shades. Wonder why people are so reluctant to update lighting?

  • Cindy says:

    Interesting posts about lighting as I was just re-evaluating my bedroom lamps this weekend. I decided that although they went well with my bedding it was time for a change after 27 years. Pottery Barn had their Marley cylindrical mercury lamps on sale for 40% off and today was a free ship day! I ordered two and also picked up in their store, two bleached burlap shades. The rustic quality of the burlap with the silvery finish of the lamp base is a killer combo. Can’t wait to get them!

  • Marla says:

    Maria, thank you for this timely (for me) post! I want to add wall sconces on either side of the bed – the one in example 10 looks too far from the pillow for actually reading in bed, and I’d appreciate your opinion. I want to actually read, so a lamp on the bedside table doesn’t cast enough light. Thanks so much for your educational posts!

  • KT says:

    Here’s a styling tip. Edit! 🙂

  • Connie says:

    I must get some wall swing arm lamps in our new townhome! But I don’t care for Jeffrey’s style at all. I am a clean, spare and symetrical gal! and I find too many sofa and decorative bed pillows have become a nuisance most of the time….but I can’t let go of them just yet! I love your blog and comments.

  • BillP says:

    Maria, how is the landscaping coming along??

  • kayla says:

    So, my thing with fabric lampshades for sconces or chandeliers is the dust thing. Lamp shades just get dusty and it is hard keeping them fresh looking (and lord knows I don’t need more work). I’ll have tolook at your Pinterest for alternatives.

  • teresa says:

    I must be a “granny” with no taste, but not quite enough money because I really like these examples and don’t find most of them to be neartly as cluttered as the comments would suggest. I have swing arm lamps or sconces in all my bedrooms save the Master, and there only because I can’t find a round base chrome swing. They’re all rectangular or square. I’m always worried about knocking over lamps as I keep too much reading material next to my bed.

    I LOVE the coloured cord. Without direct wiring it’s always a dilemma how to hide the wire and this solves that problem. I recently rewired some antique lamps with vintage-looking wiring and it made a world of difference. I ordered it from as they are the only manufacturers of it. They have some really cute modern ones as well that work great with pendants, but this idea rocks!

  • diana says:

    I like taking period vases, etc. which have been wired or having them wired and putting contemporary lamp shades on them. They look wonderful. I have a period crystal glass font oil lamp which is wired with a wonderful contemporary shade. FYI, they didn’t drill thru the font to wire it. It smiles when I look at it. I realize some people like “less is best” and I try it, and then go back to “more is a mess and I love it”
    No matching, blending, but letting it flow. The term is “Bohemian”.
    Not for everyone and I appreciate order with some chaos thrown in.

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