The Unexpected Element In Design

Dark green feature wall

At 33 years old (about 10 of those living in my own apartment or home), I’ve had quite a bit of time to hone my personal style. Luckily, John shares almost the exact same aesthetic as I do, so our combined spaces are the perfect reflection of our personalities.

That said, one of the biggest struggles I’ve had throughout my journey as a homemaker is finding balance between the trends and what I actually love to my core. For a while there I dabbled in minimalism when that got popular, and before that, during the advent of the “Pinterest” era, I was very much a maximalist.

Suffice to say my style has evolved a lot, and because of my job and the fact that our home is something like a living mood board for the Internet to comment on (and tear apart, haha!) on the daily, I’ve had the unique chance to see what works and what doesn’t work from a popular opinion standpoint.

Today, I’m going to talk about the one thing I’ve picked up on in the last year that seems to work nine times out of 10, from both my perspective and that of anyone who cares to comment about our home: that is, the unexpected element.

Dark teal feature wall

What do I mean by the “unexpected element”? Well, it’s that one extra special thing about a room that feels bold and just a little bit out there. If you scroll through the photos in today’s post, you might be able to spot what I mean.

In our dining room, for example, the one unexpected décor choice I made was to add a dark green/blue feature wall. That was a last-minute idea that, when I introduced it on social media, wasn’t all that well-received! But then I unveiled the finished product, and our dining room has since become a tiny Instagram sensation—I say that with complete disbelief, by the way. That wasn’t planned, and still blows my mind when I see my photos of it crop up unexpectedly on some of my favorite home décor Instagram accounts and websites!

The point is that I threw a major curve ball into our all-white dining room when I painted that wall a dark color, but it just works. It gave the room a big hit of personality, and when I paired it with that rich red oriental-style rug, the room finally felt complete.

The other unexpected thing I did in this example is that I didn’t hang any artwork on the wall. I get lots of comments asking what I plan to hang there, and the simple answer is nothing! I want the color itself to be the focal point, and I think adding anything on top of it would be distracting. Is it weird to have a bold focal wall with nothing hanging on it? Maybe! But it’s that type of unexpected finish that, I think, makes it special.

Mid-century kitchen with wood cabinetsRetro teal wallpaper

Focal walls are a really easy way to add this type of spontaneous pizazz to a room, so if you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the concept, start with a focal wall. Another place I tried this out is in our kitchen with the wallpaper I put up. Before I did that, the room felt like it was missing something. The moment I stepped outside my comfort zone, though, and added a big hit of pattern and color, the room felt complete and so much more like “us.”

That said, don’t feel limited by a focal wall treatment, either. I love adding an unexpected dose of color to a room through things like textiles and art. Late last year, for example, I tried playing around with things in the living room by incorporating a totally unrelated color to the majority of our house: pink! I managed to do it using just one blush-colored pillow cover, and the effect was kinda magical. The pop of soft pink draws the eye and makes our largely earth-toned living room feel punchy and just a little bit off balance—in the very best of ways.

Sven Article sectional couchSerena & Lily Pillow Covers

Speaking of textiles, I couldn’t recommend a bold rug more if you’re trying to inject a bit of spontaneity into your home’s design. I kept feeling like our master bedroom looked unfinished, and I blame it all in retrospect on the fact that we had an extra neutral rug in there. The moment I laid down that red and blue Loloi rug (right over top of the boring old rug, I might add!), the room felt completely transformed. I never, in a million years, could have predicted the impact that single, relatively small rug would have on the room, but I love our bedroom 10 times more now that it’s there.

I saved this tip for last since a new rug is much more of an investment than my other tips (i.e. a painted or wallpapered feature wall, a new throw pillow or two), but as you can see in the photo below, sometimes all you need to freshen a space is one colorful small rug laid on top of a neutral one. If the bottom layer is simple enough, you can usually get by with laying a small, unexpectedly bold rug right over top. That way you’re not spending your entire home décor budget all at once. This one that you see here in our bedroom cost less than $200!

Patterned Loloi area rug in modern bedroom

Since “discovering” the unexpected element, I’ve been more intentional about adding it strategically to each and every room in our house, and I swear it’s made me more excited and happy whenever I’m home. Those pops of personality in each space don’t have to take much money to create, and you don’t have to waste much energy overthinking it, either.

Here’s a thought. Keep an eye out for home photos that speak to you on social media or other websites this week, and see if you can spot one extra special thing about the space that makes you feel excited. Then, try those décor ideas out in your own home! It’s amazing the difference one or two small changes can make.

Dark green painted feature wall

*I earn a small percentage from purchases made using the affiliate links above. Affiliate links are not sponsored. Rest assured that I never recommend products we wouldn’t use or don’t already love ourselves.

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