Home & Garden

Show Off Your Personality with Finishing Touches

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Tying a room together with home accents requires just the right combination of “pop” and spunk — both of which speak to your own personal flair, of course. Learn how those finishing touches can make all the difference in your home.

When deciding where to add your personality into a room, consider what sort of focal point you want to create, say kitchen designers Jennifer Boznos and Sheryl Wardlow, of Insignia by Inspired Design, in Barrington. When designing this space, they considered touches like countertops and cabinet hardware.

When you walk into a well-designed room, you probably notice certain elements that tie the room together.

Those “finishing touches” can be something small, like the bouquet of flowers on the kitchen island that match the hand towels next to the sink, or something a bit bigger, like the furniture, flooring, cabinets, countertops and other home decor items that all seem to add color and purpose to the room.

The right finishing touches for your home should reflect upon your distinct character, says Jennifer Boznos, co-owner with Ethan Axelson of Insignia by Inspired Design, in Barrington.

“I think a finishing touch is something that will speak to a client’s personality,” says Boznos. “You can have a nice, polished room, but does it make it your home? Does it make it your space? A finishing touch is adding a client’s personality to a well-designed space.”

Everyone has a preference for the focal point of a kitchen, she says. For some, it’s the counter. For others, it’s the backsplash.

“If my mom could throw Swarovski crystals on everything, she would,” Boznos says. “When we were designing her kitchen, we kept that in mind and found a unique piece of tile from an Italian manufacturer that had embedded 1-inch Swarovski crystals. Then, we found hardware with Swarovski crystals. And we had granite that had mica in there that created a little bit of sparkle. It was well done; not too much bling in your face, but just enough to really make it her own, make it feel like her kitchen.

“My best friend, on the other hand, is a Plain Jane kind of girl,” Boznos continues. “Sparkle in the kitchen isn’t really her thing. She’s all about patterns – stripes, patterns and polka dots. So, it’s almost like pulling in your client’s personality and finding that personal touch for them so it feels like ‘my space.’”

Start Small

One of the easiest ways to add your own personality to a space is to upgrade your hardware, says Sheryl Wardlow, senior designer at Insignia.

“Hardware for the cabinet is like jewelry,” she says. “If a client wanted to go very simple on the cabinet, a way to give a real ‘wow factor’ to the room is hardware.”

Knobs and pulls are an inexpensive way to modernize a kitchen and give it an entirely different feel, she adds.
Another “wow factor” can be a unique lighting fixture.

“I designed a really industrial-style kitchen with a really industrial-style pendant light over the island,” Wardlow says. “The fixture itself was black metal, which was outlined in glass. You could still see through it, so you could see through to the beautiful stainless-steel hood range. That helped tie everything together to give it the industrial look.”

Accent lighting or ambient lighting can be placed strategically so there aren’t any dark corners, says Kathy Fincham, manager of the furniture department at Mayfair Furniture and Carpet in Crystal Lake.

“You’re going to want task lighting if you want to read next to a chair or sofa,” she says. “Ambient lighting just adds a little glow, like up-lighting behind a plant, which can be accomplished with floor lamps.”

If you happen to have neutral taste, that’s OK. Your finishing touch doesn’t have to be anything big, expensive or gaudy.

“Some people like to have a neutral bathroom, but since the bathroom is so neutral, add a pop of color with towels or artwork to the wall to give life to the space,” Wardlow says. “Same thing in the kitchen: hand towels can add pops of color. Even bar stools in the kitchen add a bit of flair or texture.”

A little bit of greenery can go a long way, and it brings the outdoors in, Fincham adds.

These simple elements can have a powerful effect in a room. In fact, sometimes less is more.

“You don’t have to have a lot chachkies lying around,” Fincham says. “The decluttering trend is very big; people like the more minimal look. You don’t have to fill every space. Just find the one nice, sentimental piece that will help tie everything in.”

A single, well-placed piece of furniture may be all it takes to make a room pop, says Bob Wozniak, of Strode’s Furniture, in Huntley. Recent examples at the store include a kitchen island with living edge walnut top, sideboards and accents.

Furniture and Accessories

A statement piece might be the only finishing touch a room really needs – if it’s the right piece, says Bob Wozniak, owner of Strode’s Furniture in Huntley.

Two-toned wood pieces are popular right now. A 4-foot-by-5-foot coffee table with a country white base and almond stain on the top is a great example of how paint and stain can come together on one piece to create a focal point.

Wozniak recently showcased a kitchen island featuring a gray stain base and a top made of solid walnut with live edge.
“It’s really beautiful,” he says.

Mike Owney, of Grace Farm Studios in Woodstock, uses locally harvested hardwoods to create one-of-a-kind, rustic furniture pieces.

He recently completed a 10-foot-long table for a client whose home was situated near a lake, says his wife, Ann Chaney.
“When he designed the table, he created details in the table that sort of added the finishing touch that made the space look complete,” she says. “It’s not just a 10-foot table; it’s a 10-foot table that emphasizes the character of the room, the character of the people in the room, the character of the living space – and the details in the piece are what bring about that emphasis.”

That particular piece wasn’t terribly complicated, but it was large, she says. The way Owney arranged the grain in the oak wood and highlighted the grain by making bow ties in opposite directions was a real finesse job.

Sometimes a group of furniture pieces can make a statement together – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a matching set.

“If you’re doing upholstery in a room, you can do different styles of pieces,” says Wozniak. “You don’t have to stay strictly with a country, farm-type look. You can add other pieces – Oriental pieces, even some traditional pieces – into the room to bring it all together.”

Even changing the species of wood from room to room – or within a room – can create contrast and interest.

If you’re pleased with your existing furniture but still want to give new life to a room, one new accessory or small piece of furniture may be all you need. A decorative bench in the hallway, for instance, can provide storage and a spot to add an ornamental piece, Wozniak says.

Similarly, a TV console with space for a DVD player, cable box and sound bar can finish off a family room.

“A lot of times, even putting a sofa table behind a sofa or love seat gives you a place to put family pictures or extra lighting, or even a flower arrangement,” Wozniak says.

In your dining room, accessories could be key to pulling the room together. A table topper can dress up any table, and a small accessory – a mug tree, a multi-tiered cake plate, a flower arrangement – can give it one more pop of life.

“Do you go to a party and not wear your diamonds? The accessories make the outfit; accessorizing makes the room,” Wozniak says.

As you work with accessories, try to coordinate the colors around the room so everything flows, says Fincham.
“Once your furniture is in place, the finishing touches will be spreading the color around the room and different textures around the room, like metal elements or artwork,” she says.

There are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind.

First, use an accent color in three places “so your eye looks around the room,” Fincham says.

Your choice accent color could come from the pillows you place on your main sofa, which could then be replicated in the drapes and rugs, Fincham says.

“You don’t have to have the same accent color in every room, but you can use a secondary color in another room to make it flow,” she adds.

Mike Owney and Ann Chaney, owners of Grace Farm Studios, in Woodstock, create handcrafted wooden furniture and decorative fiber accents – such as wallhangings and pillows – that infuse a client’s personality into the room.

Look Down

What’s under your feet can make a big statement. Hard surfaces are popular right now, especially engineered hardwood and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or luxury vinyl plank (LVP), says Amy Finn, flooring sales consultant for Mayfair.

Those surfaces alone can be considered a finishing touch. But there are additional ways to provide a little extra something.

“Since that flooring is so popular, it’s a good idea to add a nice area rug to tie in the colors and patterns in a room, and to add warmth – not only for comfort, but also visual warmth, softening the hard surface of the room,” Finn says. “People want something soft as the finishing touch.”

Ann Chaney, a fiber artist at Grace Farm Studios, agrees.

“Rugs in various sizes do add something to a room, and the type of rugs that I do are made from Icelandic wool, with a lot of variety of colors,” she says.

Her freeform crocheted rugs use locks of Icelandic fleece joined together in random patterns.

“It’s not something you could go buy at a department store where everything falls into a mold,” Chaney says. “I did one that was 12 feet long by 32 inches. My client wanted something that would add warmth and texture to the hallway. My rugs, when they’re crocheted like that from wool, can be an inch thick. They’re completely unexpected. And because we’re using wool to make them, they’re heirloom-quality pieces, really, because they last forever.”

Stair runners are regaining popularity, Finn says. They can add interest to a room with a pattern or provide stability with a solid color if a room already has patterned drapes or furniture.

“A lot of people want a hardwood staircase, but to soften it, they like to put a stair runner on it,” Finn says. “So, you’ve got a hardwood edge, and the runner adds softness.”

You can think outside the box and use flooring in different ways. A feature wall, for example, can be created by arranging vinyl tile in a shiplap style that mimics a farmhouse look.

“We want the look, but we don’t really have access to shiplap in Chicago,” says Finn. “So, many manufacturers are making laminate and vinyl tiles that look like barnwood and shiplap. We have them in lots of different colors. It can be very affordable to do it in that way.”

Handcrafted Originals

Sometimes a finishing touch is a piece you simply can’t find anywhere else. Often, Chaney is asked to create Icelandic wool fiber art rugs, pillows, wall hangings and home decor baskets with a particular theme to match a homeowner’s personality and style.

“People want motifs that represent things that are important to them in their lives, and they want to be surrounded by it,” she says. “They don’t want a whole room of that, but they want a touch so that when they see something, it reminds them and finishes the room for them.”

Chaney has made tapestries to hang on barren walls and bring a room to life with size, texture and subject matter – often wildlife such as sandhill cranes, barn owls, red-winged black birds or a rearing stallion.

Some tapestries have been as large as 4 feet by 5 feet, though not in a conventional rectangle – which is exactly what makes them interesting and personal.

“Framed pictures don’t always do what you want them to do in a house because they have sharp edges and borders,” she says. “Some people want a room to look more open, warmer. These wall hangings are freeform and float against the surface of the wall.”

As with Chaney’s fiber art, the handcrafted furniture and art pieces created by her husband, Mike Owney, can’t be found anywhere else because they’re made specifically for – and in collaboration with – each client.

“My work is interesting; it’s one-of-a-kind, and people like it because they can’t find it anywhere else. No one else does Icelandic wool wall hangings,” Chaney says. “And Mike works with customers to create a piece that is genuinely one-of-a-kind in ways that the customer has contributed.”

Ultimately, that’s what a finishing touch is – something that reflects on your personality, says Boznos.

“Be true to what you like, and just make sure it’s well designed,” Boznos says. “Regardless if it’s to their taste or not, people are going to appreciate that someone took the time to design that space.”

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