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12 steps to sleeker style

November 08, 2008|Barbara Thornburg

Holiday guests headed your way? Here are a dozen of Trey Russell's strategies for imparting a pared-down, decidedly unfussy sense of sophistication:

1. Mini-gallery

To showcase his collection of black-and-white photographs in the apartment's hallway, Russell not only added four 3-foot-long picture rails from Pottery Barn but also stood photographs on the floor, leaned against the wall. "It's like a mini-gallery," he says. "I can move pictures around easily without wrecking the walls."

2. Art books, sans jackets

To create a focal point for the living room, Russell placed three bays of espresso-hued West Elm bookcases together to appear as one large piece. He decorated the shelves with low stacks of color-coordinated art and lifestyle books -- without jackets -- and a few beautiful objects. "Book jackets just get torn, anyway, you might as well get rid of them," he says. "It creates a more monochromatic, less chaotic look."

3. Less is more

"First rule: You have to establish what's important to you," Russell says. "Adorn your home with items you cherish rather than gifts from someone that you don't really like. As far as closets go, arrange your clothes seasonally: Hang by color and stack like-things together for easy access. Pack away clothes and other items you don't use. It will make your life so much simpler."

4. Quality paint color

"Paint is one of the cheapest ways to change the look of your apartment or home -- and one of the hardest things to get right. Go for the highest quality paint -- Donald Kaufman or Farrow & Ball. They create complex pigments the light will play off of all day long. Pros recommend that you add 50% white to create a tint of your wall color for the ceiling. It will make the room feel bigger and keep you from feeling claustrophobic."

5. Closet drapes instead of doors

"If you have a small room, consider taking out the closet's doors and replacing them with a handsome drapery on rings that slide along a track. I used a light-gray Belgian linen and the drapery panels made the room look so much softer. It also gave me more room. Let friends think you have a drop-dead ocean view behind them. Nobody will know it's a closet unless you tell them."

6. Repurposing

"When it comes to utilitarian objects, think creatively about how to use them in another way. I recently bought a pair of small, glass decanters for holding balsamic vinegar and olive oil for the shop. At home, I fill them with Jo Malone body oil."

7. Simple floral art

"I like to cut stems off flowers and just float the heads. Dahlias are particularly spectacular that way. I don't particularly like long stems, except in French tulips. Succulents in concrete and ceramic planters are also a favorite. They require the lowest maintenance of any flower, and if you forget to water them for two weeks, they are still alive and beautiful. They thrive on neglect."

8. In the box

"When you are living in a small space, you have to come up with creative ways to store things in an attractive way. I like to hide my clutter in a series of different-sized wood boxes. They're great for holding my DVDs, playing cards, remote controls -- anything small."

9. The great coverup

"I often select a chair shape I like from a moderately priced store, then reupholster it in a better fabric. The two chairs in the living room are from Crate & Barrel. I reupholstered them in a luxurious, chocolate mohair. The end result: I get what I want, and in most cases, it's a faster route to immediate gratification."

10. Mirror, mirror on the wall

"It's an old designer's trick but I use mirrors to make my store and apartment look bigger. I have a pair of custom-made, alder, 9 1/2 -foot-tall mirrors leaning against walls in my store. I have a square mirror over a console by the door in my apartment that reflects the ocean."

11. Tea for two

"I always keep a tray set up for tea in both my apartment and gift shop. I set out a small teapot and a couple cups and saucers, La Perruche sugar cubes and some Donseumor lemon cookies. Then all I have to do is to bring the water to a boil and steep the tea. The tea tray is a simple gesture that says, 'Welcome.' "

12. Coordinated canine

Russell jokes that his Chinese pug, Edde, fits his subtle, earthy color scheme with his creamy-blond coat and black mask. "It wasn't done on purpose -- to select a dog that goes with my shop and home -- but it doesn't hurt to have a pet that matches your decor. He's a showstopper for sure."

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