Elsie de Wolfe’s Advice: Arrange Small Pictures on a Dresser
What she said: "Keep the framed photographs on the writing table, the dressing table, the mantel…but do not hang them on your walls," said Elsie de Wolfe (1865-1950), in The House in Good Taste (1913). De Wolfe's self-proclaimed mission was to lighten up early-20th-century homes burdened with Victorian excess. She swapped superfluous bric-a-brac for simple, well-proportioned pieces.
Why it works: "Small pictures look like visual noise on a wall," says Andrew Flesher, an interior designer in Minneapolis. But they can pump up the personality of an otherwise ho-hum table. To unify a collection of photographs, use frames of the same material and make sure all the pictures are approximately the same size, so that none will stand out over the others.
More of Her Advice:
- On scale: "A technical knowledge of architecture is not necessary to know that a huge stuffed leather chair in a tiny gold and cream room is unsuitable, is hideously complicated, and is as much out of proportion as the proverbial bull in the china shop."
- On simplicity: "It is such a relief to return to the tranquil, simple forms of furniture, and to decorate our rooms by a process of elimination. How many rooms have I not cleared of junk―this heterogenous mass of ornamental 'period' furniture and bric-a-brac bought to make a room 'look cozy.' Once cleared of these, the…architectural spaces are freed and now stand in their proper relation to the furniture."