Having a theme in mind when decorating your home can be extremely helpful. Knowing what you want your room to look like and the feeling you want it to evoke will guide you through the design process and keep you moving in the right direction. However, it is all too often that “theme” decorating goes wrong. It can be over done, kitchy and just plain tacky if its not handled with subtlety and tact. Here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind if you want to incorporate a theme in your next design project:

  1. Think subtle: your theme, whether its beach style, Tuscan, Moroccan or tropical, should be in the background. It should be the white noise that comes through subtly as your eyes take in the room. I know this sounds abstract but you really have to find abstract ways in which to share your theme within the space. For example, for a beach themed room, think a sandy paint color for your walls, rattans and rope for texture in your accessories, a grasscloth wall for accent, linen upholstery with pops of coral and turquoise for your accent pillows. Nothing in the room should scream beach, instead, let the textures, colors and patterns take you to the shore.

This “princess room” is elegant and sophisticated without being in your face. The theme is very subtle yet you feel you are in the presence of royalty when you enter this room. Decor and photo by Rockabye Mommy, LLC, http://www.houzz.com/photos/9330087/Coto-de-Caza-Twin-Girls-Nursery-traditional-nursery-orange-county

The beach theme is very popular, however, it is often over done. In this room, you feel like you are in a gorgeous beach cottage yet the overall theme is very subtle. Photo and design courtesy of BCBE Custom Homes, http://www.houzz.com/photos/13765001/Bedrooms-beach-style-bedroom-miami

This room is clearly Mediterranean yet it done in a mild, subtle and sophisticated way. There is nothing kitchy or overdone about the space. The details, the Moroccan lantern pattern on the settees, the gold fireplace insert, the shape of the coffee table and gorgeous chandelier evoke a Mediterranean feeling in a calm, sublet, sophisticated way. Photo and design by Gordon Stein Design, http://www.houzz.com/photos/5210860/Mediterranean-Living-Room-mediterranean-living-room-other-metro

Our clients wanted a home that felt like they stepped into a quaint bed and breakfast in wine country, or Tuscany every time they entered their home. Subtle texture, worn metals, elegant yet rustic patterns in the fabrics and rustic, found objects evoke the feeling in a subdued way, www.olamarinteriors.com/project/unique-chic/

  1. Think Less is More: It is easy to over do a theme with too much theme related “stuff.” Avoid large, obvious, in your face statements like too many walls stickers or poorly done murals. A few theme related touches add class without overdoing it.

A few colorful accent pillows and an ottoman in the right pattern and a perfectly placed drapery panel evoke a Mediterranean feel in this space without over-commitment. If the homeowner changes their mind about color and style, simply changing out a few pieces will easily allow them to do so. Photo and Design by Stone Interiors, http://www.houzz.com/photos/1606615/California-Country-Residence-eclectic-bedroom-san-francisco

The shape of the accent bench and console table and the plumb and green colors are enough to evoke the Asian fell we were after in this space. Nothing is overdone or too obvious. Its all in the simple details. www.olamarinteriors.com/project/asian-inspired/

  1. Get Creative: A surfboard as a wall shelf, rustic bronze door knockers as part of a photo collage, a Moroccan lantern over a rust wood dining table, a found peeling salvaged mantle turned into a headboard, its these simple, creative touches that give life, personality and personal style to the theme in a space.

Theme decorating offers so many opportunities for creativity. In this room, the architects designed a floating playhouse that looks like a ship. What child wouldn’t love this fun space in their beach inspired room. Notice that the bedding and the white and navy colors used in this space are the only other details hinting at the beach theme, yet they are plenty enough to make this theme come to life. Photo and design by Polhemus, Savery, DaSilva Architects and Building Designers, http://www.houzz.com/photos/1799756/Champlainss-Bluff-beach-style-kids-boston

  1. Don’t over commit: Consider adding theme related touches that are easy to change out when you’ve changed your mind. Accent pillows, accessories and artwork are easier to change out then murals and large, expensive pieces of furniture. If you choose subtle theme related touches, like fabrics, wood tones and paint colors that evoke your theme without being in your face, it will be easier to change direction later on, when you decide to go in another direction. Keeping your theme subtle will allow you enjoy it longer then if it’s too over the top and in your face.

Our client’s daughter loves owls. However, she is only 2 years old. In a few months she may completely change her mind. A removable tree wall sticker with couple of owls, a couple of owl art pieces, a tree accent table and owl lamp along with other colorful details in a purple, blue and green color story create the theme without committing to years of owl decor. When she and her parents tire of the theme, it will be easy to change without having to redo the entire room.