EVALUATE THE LOOK
Be brutally honest. Do your rooms feel restful and simple, or are they overflowing with furniture and accents?
Ask yourself whether your tabletop displays intrigue by their simple beauty or overwhelm by the sheer number of pieces packed into one space?
Clear everything out of the room, leaving only the largest pieces of furniture. Then think about how you really use this room. Is the current layout working, or could you rearrange it to make the space more effective and harmonious?
Consider each piece to decide what stays and what goes. Donate to charity pieces you've fallen out of love with or never use. Fewer furnishings equals more "breathing space."
Choose pieces that work more efficiently. For instance, if you're short on seating in your family room, replace your coffee table with an upholstered ottoman that can serve as an extra chair when necessary.
Show no mercy. Your goal is to create displays that have just a few simple layers but aren't junky or overwhelming. To do this, you will need to pick your accents carefully.
Display only pieces you love. If something in your regular lineup is out of style, worn or uninteresting, let it go.
Build tablescapes using just three or five objects, max. Select items that reflect a variety of sizes, textures and tones. For instance, prop a piece of artwork or a tray on a shelf in a bookcase. Place a pottery vase or urn in front of it. Then stack a few antique books in the foreground. Resist the temptation to fill in the empty space with a dozen tiny picture frames or your miniature-box collection.
Build your display on a tray. This grounds your grouping and limits your space, so you can showcase only a few accents.
Use just one or two large-scale accessories in a display. Place a tall olive vessel on your entry table filled with a few spring boughs. For a dining-room-table centerpiece, fill a huge china serving bowl with several potted faux ferns or an assortment of wicker balls. Large accessories are powerful.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service. Mary Carol Garrity owns home-furnishing stores in Kansas and has written several books on home decor.