The Only 5 Things You Need to Style Almost Every Surface In Your Home

A reader asked me last week,

“What’s your most versatile accessory? I love styling, but do not want to collect a lot of little things to change out. So, how can I have variety without a lot of different pieces?”

Great question, but I couldn’t just name one thing.  In the pursuit of making decorating practical and relatable, I narrowed it down to 5 essential accessories for styling almost any surface in your home. And I bet you already have all of them, maybe just not all together yet.

5 Styling Basics to Decorate Almost Any Surface | Jackie Hernandez for

With these 5 things in different combinations, you can style a nightstand, a dresser, an end table, a coffee table, a decorative shelf…almost any surface in your home.

 1.  Something Vertical

This will usually be the tallest thing in your arrangement.  Every surface you decorate needs height relative to the other objects in the grouping. It could be a lamp or a pair of candlesticks, vases, or tall objects that are two different heights.

5 Styling Basics | Jackie Hernandez for

2.  Something Horizontal

This will be the spread of your arrangement that takes up the largest footprint on your surface area.  It could be a tray, a stack of books or decorative boxes, or a table runner.  Like a rug helps ground a furniture arrangement, your horizontal item helps ground your decor and make a connection to the surface.  Here are 10 more ideas for grounding an arrangement.

5 Styling Basics | Jackie Hernandez for

3. An Object

You need one thing that can’t easily be classified as vertical or horizontal. This is the thing that will break up the monotony of the upright and flat objects.  The best objects are organic or abstract. You want an organic shape, like a sphere, a plant, or a sculpture. Or something abstract with a geometric shape like a star or a wild shape like an urchin.  The best objects are a personal or meaningful artifact or that quirky thing you just couldn’t resist bringing home.  Here are some of my favorite objects.

5 Styling Basics | Jackie Hernandez for

4. Life

Every room and arrangement benefits from a living element.  The two most common are plants and candles (the dancing flame is alive).  If you have a black thumb, try succulents or cacti which are visually interesting and more forgiving than most plants.

5 Styling Basics | Jackie Hernandez for

5. A Layer or A Leaner

To take any arrangement up a notch, layer your decor.  You can go vertical by leaning or hanging art or a framed picture behind your decor.  Or go horizontal by putting your entire arrangement on top of a throw blanket, faux fur, or large tray.

5 Styling Basics | Jackie Hernandez for


7 More Interior Styling Tips…

Now that you know 5 basics for decorating most surfaces, I bet your dying to know exactly how to use them.  I am hosting a FREE webinar this week to reveal 7 Simple Styling Secrets to Decorate Better With What You Already Have.  Sign up here. 7 Simple Styling Secrets Webinar by Jackie Hernandez You’ll learn…

  • 7 interior styling secrets to pull off designer looks in your own home
  • Exactly why the good-looking inspiration pictures look so good (there is a science to it)
  • How to rearrange the things you already have in fresh new ways

Register now!

Filed Under: Decorate Your Home

About Jackie Hernandez

Jackie Hernandez is the self-taught decorator behind Teal & Lime and the founder of School of Decorating. Jackie turned traditional decorating advice on it's head with her first course Define Your Style, which empowers everyday women (like you) to uncover their individual style so decorating becomes a breeze. You can find Jackie teaching her signature simple approach to creating a dream home in any home at School of Decorating (coming this fall).


  1. Great tips! Everything you suggesting are amazing. But I am more attracted to putting life like plants inside the house :)
    Thanks for sharing :) You’ve got a good taste;)

  2. Awesome! I love how you make every “design concept” so relatable and doable. :)

  3. Amazing tips! All of these vignettes look beautiful!


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