Lighting & Decorating Tips

That Will Make a Room Sparkle


 The fabrics you pick for your upholstery pieces and the lighting fixtures you place overhead and at tabletop height can make a room sparkle or fall flat.

According to Candice Olson, celebrated interior designer and TV host, bringing the necessary ‘bling’ to a space demands two important decorating concepts — dramatically detailed or styled upholstery wrapped in a luminescent fiber and layered lighting featuring fixtures constructed of materials that play up the sparkle.  Olson often resorts to hi-sheen fabrics like chenille or silk, jewel-like materials and lots and lots of lighting to bring a space to life. 


She also adds special touches such as classic nail heads to accentuate upholstery profiles and several of her light fixtures employ mother of pearl and glass beads for sheer iridescence. With each room makeover, the designer asks herself, “Where is the sparkle?”Here, she begins with fabrics and focal points.

Fabric — drawing attention to the focal piece
Olson starts every renovation project from the focal point — whether it is re-designing a two-way fireplace or adding display wall shelving. Approaching décor in the same fashion, she determines which upholstery silhouette to accentuate. She recommends choosing a design detail on one or two pieces that you want to draw attention to, such as a dramatic rolled arm or multi-button tufts, and select fabrics with some sheen.
“You want to let the details sing in a luxuriously shiny fabric,” she says. Take the designer’s Pyper chair from her licensed upholstery collection for Norwalk Furniture. “The tufts are extremely sculptural,” she says, “a detail to enhance with a gold metallic paisley print or bronzy colored microfiber.” Adding to the appeal of Pyper are dressmaker details such as nail heads in antique brass or chrome.To give the room added interest, Olson suggests incorporating contrasting elements throughout, like textured rather than shiny fabrics on the accompanying upholstery or a rugged coffee table or wall cabinet. “Contrast brings depth and balance to the décor,” she says. So, work off of the focal piece by adding glittery fabric and offset the ultra glamorous look with contrasting pieces of a matte or textured finish.Olson does caution restraint, however. “You do not want every piece in the room to have some sort of shine to it,” she says. “It’s too much.” Pick and choose which upholstered piece to wrap in a luminescent fabric and let the lighting do the rest.”Lighting — the most important element
The most important part of any renovation is lighting. According to Olson, without it, décor falls short of the sparkle factor, and the project budget is wasted. To determine the layout, Olson looks at the space from a theatrical standpoint — like a stage with a good lighting plan.
“Position recessed lighting to hit the folds of a drapery panel or the pin-cushioned seat back of a sofa,” says Olson. For tabletop lamps and wall sconces that add to the room’s glistening glamour, she favors fixtures that incorporate materials like Mother of Pearl and what could be beach glass.Fixtures — that play up to the lighting
In her own licensed collection by AF Lighting, Olson takes traditional fixtures and incorporates reflective materials for signature sparkle.
Chandeliers, for example, feature a streamlined, simple design embellished with glass beads, polished silver or mirrored glass accents and chic silky shades. The designer’s Damask table lamp features an etched beach-glass like base with chrome accents, while a dramatic wall sconce is framed by a beveled mirror.“Don’t be afraid to bring fixtures into your décor of contrasting materials,” says Olson. Equally brilliant and bright are fixtures constructed of unlikely combinations of sleek and not-so-sleek materials like Mother of Pearl, which has an iridescent color quality to it, with dark wood or leather. “It’s about playing up to the surrounding décor.”Bulbs — which ones truly flatter
Halogen bulbs are the designer’s number one choice in overhead, or recessed, lighting. She places them at the perimeter of the wall to light up “things” rather than thin air. Also, Olson prefers “can” lights, but those on a “track” get the job done too.
“Halogen bulbs are my choice for the remainder of the light landscape,” she says. “They produce true colors and tend to be more flattering, giving off a natural white light.” The designer shies away from iridescent and incandescent light bulbs, believing they produce a yellow tint and often times make the décor look dull.

For more decorating tips that simply sparkle, or to find upholstery pieces and lighting fixtures by Candice Olson, visit and

Courtesy of ARA

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