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The Styling Tricks I’m Still Doing 9 Years Later (Because They’re That Good)

I’m apparently a 6 trick pony. And while I, of course, add new tricks every year (to varying degrees of success) I still really love these when done right. The thing with these isn’t that you need new stuff, it’s that you arrange the stuff that’s already in your house in a cooler way. It’s like how fashion stylists show you how to peek the edge of your sleeve under your rolled-up blazer or wear a belt haphazardly to look disheveled in a cool way. These tricks I use are all impermanent, easy to do, and just make your house look more stylish and interesting. If nothing else it’s worth a shot, no?

Huge Statement Branches From Your Yard

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: 14 rules for how we style the perfect bedroom (+ 3 new reveals)

I’ve been styling with backyard branches for over a decade – flowers are often just too expensive for our shoot’s prop budget. I remember when Brady clipped that branch, in the photo above, for a bedroom in the Portland Project and even I was like, “Woah, she’s aggressive.” I didn’t say anything because I honestly loved how he went for it, using his creative expression, and didn’t want to dampen it. Then a year later, Real Simple asked if they could use that image on the cover of the magazine. While it might be too extreme for every day it certainly was editorial enough to be cover-worthy.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: our light-filled neutral & textural living room

The whole mountain house is covered in backyard branches – and some can last WEEKS and then dry out, lasting months! No seriously, some of the manzanita (the branches above) dried to look real and are still there 2 years later (which as I’m writing this sounds gross but it’s not I promise).

photos by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: our soft yet secretly sultry downstairs guest bed + bath

Don’t forget about the sweet little “sprig”. Of course, we put one on the ledge of the bath (and most wouldn’t need to) for our shot, but the vanity is a great place to add something organic.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: 1 bedroom 4 ways with the citizenry

Another huge one to dress up is that tiny nightstand – which might not be advisable on a day-to-day basis, but think of the places where you can put a big statement branch that makes sense for your life – for me, it’s the dining table, mantle and entry table.

Hang Art In Unexpected Places

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: my friend’s carpeted basement bathroom gets a budget makeover (with a lot of readymade products and the transformation is insane)

We recently styled this painting on the tiled wall which I loved in theory but was terrified to do myself. But Priscilla used a tile drill bit and it was so easy (for her). Mostly for hanging tile on art I use Command strips but only if they are smaller pieces and no glass in them.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: working with what you’ve got – an $8k budget kitchen makeover with a lot of vintage charm

When we shot Allison Pierce’s home, Velinda and Erik hung some art on her kitchen backsplash tile, which I think can look really sweet and unexpected. They used the Velcro kind of Command strips and Erik swears by them.

If this scares you or feels impractical think about just leaning it or even putting it in the back of your cabinetry (a fun unexpected hack). That is typically what I do in a kitchen.

photo by david tsay | from: a spanish living room

Now the “art under a window” move can be really polarizing people because it’s breaking so many rules, but I still like the brazen rebelliousness of it. The point is – think about unexpected places to hang art. It’s super noncommittal (command strips!) and shows a lot of personality.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily bowser | from: sara’s galley kitchen “update” turned into a full renovation (and the result is well worth the wait)

Sara and Emily B. joined this rebellious gang and hung that art under her window, like a real baller.

Dress Up The Back Of A Sofa

photo by zeke ruelas | from: l.a. bungalow makeover

A move that is far less rebellious but has super high impact is the colorful or patterned throw on the back of a sofa – especially when the sofa is floating and you see the back. To make this work long-term you don’t throw it over the back cushions but instead, tuck it behind the cushions and drape over the back, thus covering likely some seams in the sofa (if it’s a sectional).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house dining nook reveal

If the back of your sofa is prominent don’t let it be naked. This is especially a good move if you like pattern but don’t want to commit to a full upholstered sofa – you can switch it out so easily, obviously.

The Easiest Way To Style A Bed…The Lumbar Pillow

I may never go back to 5 throw pillows on a bed after the invention/discovery of the long lumbar. They can be more expensive, but the one-pillow party is a simplified, practical, and really stylish look.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: moto reveal: emily bowser’s bedroom “after” is unrecognizable from the “before”

Bowser’s kitty cat, Daffy, approves (also how dope is that headboard she made? SO DOPE).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house primary bedroom

Remember when I shot that leather lumbar from Target and then it sold out so fast and you were all enraged? Good news! It’s back!!

The Layered Art Lean

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a modern and organic entry: shelf styling tips + shop the look

I guess I like to play a lot with art placement – but “the lean” is one that those non-committal types out there can really embrace. All you do is literally lean the art instead of hanging it. It’s a strong yet casual move.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: a budget and rental-friendly living and dining room (with 80% thrifted finds)

If you want to do something riskier like we did here, you can lean it against a window (WHAT??) thus giving this side of the room some love.

HOT TIP: Just make sure you vary the sizes (and types) of art! If you look at the credenza above, we leaned three different pieces of art – all different sizes, two framed but different colored frames, and one unframed with a totally different texture (because it was a painted piece of wood).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: makeover takeover: jess’ long awaited (small space) living room reveal

Jess leaned her art on the floor with a graphic sculpture in front of it (good move, J). That gallery wall is pretty darn epic, but that unexpected piece on the floor is pretty awesome.

I MISS STYLING – ugh, I can’t wait to style out the farmhouse. I’m desperate to come up with and show you some new “moves” (although next week’s basement reveal is pretty wonderful if I do say so myself). Have a fantastic weekend and if you want more design and style hacks feel free to pick up my new book 🙂

Oh, and if you’re in the New York City area next week, I’m doing an intimate book signing at Rejuvenation and would love to meet you! Get your ticket HERE. There will be food AND an open bar too!

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Portland Project: The Living Room Reveal

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Amanda Newsome
2 years ago

Okay, so when you bring in branches, do you put them in water or treat them somehow? I feel like leafy branches wilt as soon as I cut them.

2 years ago
Reply to  Amanda Newsome

What usually helps is banging on the the last 1-3cms of the branch with a hammer or whatever else you happen to have on hand, so that the branch splinters a little bit. At least in my experience that helps them have more surface to absorb water with, making them last longer – though it also totally depends on the branch of course, some just last longer than others. Good luck!!

2 years ago

We just bought a new (old) house, and it is… um, funky. I think that your new book is EXACTLY what I need as I update but hopefully honor the home’s intrinsic funk! I wish you could just pick all my doors and windows and window treatments for me, but this seems like the next best thing. Just pre-ordered. 🙂

2 years ago

Your posts have been fabulous! The mudroom ideas and Yardzen posts were so helpful. We are making a move from sunny Colorado to the Seattle area (work move, and frankly I’m dreading it- gray skies, rain, volcanoes and earthquakes are not my cup of tea, but I’m working HARD on trying to focus on the good things) and we’re currently remodeling a home we purchased in the fall. Thank you for the great ideas and wonderful content. Thank you for the inspiration.

2 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Hey hey! I’m a Seattle human and can confirm we rarely get earthquakes, volcanoes are not a thing, and the rain usually vanished from April-September. You’re going to love it here 🙂

2 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

I really wish that were true. There are 5 active volcanoes in WA listed as “high or very high threat potential.”
Volcanoes are very much a thing.

🥰 Rusty
2 years ago

Yup, yup, yup….Emily’s “Let’s get weird”… I love ’em all!
Nuthin’ wrong with any of those tricks!
I put a big branch in a vessel on my dininb tsble a while back and a friend thought it was weird. I embraced it, totally!🤗

🥰 Rusty
2 years ago

In case you missed it, Emily’s over on Cup of Jo…

2 years ago

Huge congrats on your new book, Emily!! And so fun finding your guest post on Cup of Jo yesterday! I’ve headed here every afternoon and there every evening for years…and it was lovely getting the crossover!

2 years ago

To get the branches to stay up, are you filling the vase with rocks or something? The last time I tried this my leaves wilted after 8 hours, they did not look pretty. I need to find some manzanita in my neighborhood. My husband also thinks it’s weird, but I love a big dramatic branch.

2 years ago

Love the look of the branches/sprigs. I’m going to try that the next time the wind gifts me with some

2 years ago

That dang lumbar pillow is STILL out of stock!

2 years ago
Reply to  Paula

For shipping, that is. Still available in some stores.

Karyn Meadows
2 years ago

Just one comment about leaning art against a window. Just make sure that direct sun doesn’t come in through that window or it will likely fade and ruin the art!

2 years ago

I have used natural objects and LOTS of plucked unusual and oddly scaled greens my whole life-CT-> OR-> WI-> NM-> GA->OR, the best.
I am not sure the branch you called Manzanita is that-looks suspiciously oak-like to me.
MY copy of YOUR book was paid for MONTHS ago, but so far no delivery:(

2 years ago
Reply to  jan

Jan, your purchase was a preorder. “PREORDER MY NEW BOOK NOW AND GET IT ON MAY 10”

🥰 Rusty
2 years ago
Reply to  Kj

Kj…I reckon Emily should give you a job! You’re so on top of things in the best way. 😊

2 years ago

I’m inspired to move some things around in my house after reading this article! I love all your tips and tricks.

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

All great! I didn’t think of the “dress up the back of the sofa”, but I think I should try taht one!

2 years ago

I am LOVING that tall branch idea! Just makes such an awesome, natural statement! Let’s have more of these please! My family hates my artificial branches although some look pretty realistic! Now I’m gonna just go prune some sh.t and make everyone happy!

2 years ago

I’ve had a tall bunch of pussy willows in a glass vase, without water, standing on my fireplace hearth for years. They were alive when I first put them there, but they just dried out, and still look really good after years.

2 years ago

Just put a giant branch in a vase on our dresser – way bigger than I would have done normally, but I was inspired! And I love it! I also put a lovely throw blanket over the back of our couch, which we recently moved so that the back is exposed. My house is more polished already!