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    Less Is More | Spring 2007 Out Here Magazine

    In theme decorating, choose simplicity over the kitschy

    By Andrea Estrada

    Decorating with a theme is easy to do in a child's room where an abundance of butterflies, Harry Potter, Barbie, sailboats, or Disney characters add a certain charm.

    Elsewhere in the house, however, incorporating a theme is a little tricky because it's a delicate balance that separates beautiful from beastly and the scales tip easily toward the latter.

    Themes can be worked into any décor and help you customize your home so it reflects your particular design sensibilities and style.

    In choosing a theme, go with something that reflects you, and that you really like, rather than whatever is popular at the moment, designers suggest.

    Most importantly, adopt the philosophy that less is more.

    Say you want to create an Asian theme in your living room, for example. You'll likely include natural elements such as bamboo, stones, and maybe a fountain. But the overall look should be one of simplicity.

    "Don't add every little fan, ceramic figure, or other Asian detail you can find," advises Magi Myggen, owner of Intuit Design, in Santa Barbara, CA. "If you do, the result will look gaudy rather than pleasant."

    Myggen offers a few other tips for incorporating themes into interior décor:

    • Choose your theme carefully because it can become dated. Make sure it's something you can live with. What catches your eye in a magazine might not seem so attractive when you have to look at it every day.
    • Consider the architecture and style of your home and select a theme that will complement them. A contemporary minimalist style, for example, generally doesn't fit well in an old Victorian.
    • Build your theme around a few important pieces rather than bringing in a lot of clutter. Create a focal point or two and let the rest of the decor support them. If you collect antiques, for example, integrate them into the room but don't let the space resemble a museum. Similarly, if you want a high contemporary style, include some traditional elements to keep the space from looking stark or severe.
    • Use accessories to develop your theme. Opt for a plain sofa and add thematic throw pillows, a blanket, pictures, or trinkets.

      With a nautical motif, for example, choose plain colors for the walls and furniture and let accessories bring the theme to life. Opt against the anchor-patterned wallpaper in favor of a solid color and include throw pillows, pictures, and other details that illustrate the deep blue sea.

    • When incorporating more expensive items such as sofas, chairs, draperies, or comforters, choose fabrics and styles that can work with different themes so you can make design changes without starting from scratch.
    • Explore basements, attics, and other rooms in your home to find accessories that suit your theme. Use furnishings differently than they originally were intended. A vanity can serve as an attractive writing desk, and a chest of drawers can make an excellent sideboard.
    • Choose a theme that makes you smile when you see it. Rather than copying a picture, be true to your own intuition about what will feel good to you.

    Andrea Estrada is a Santa Barbara, CA, writer.