Looking for a lake theme? Can’t get enough American Southwest memorabilia? Or maybe you prefer beach themes, Batman-everything or a style you invented called Martian Postmodernist Funk. Whatever your interest, designing by theme can make for a unique and beautiful aspect to your home.

animal print decor

A theme is a great way to tie together individual design elements. But our tastes are as varied as our personalities. Below is your guide to applying some of the basic principles of designing around a theme within any home and interest.

Choosing Your Theme

The first step is, of course, to choose a theme. You may already have a solid theme in mind based on a fanatical interest or specific lifestyle pattern. For instance, a beach theme is a logical choice for a beach home you recently purchased.

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Or you may know you want a theme, but have no idea where to begin. With the amount of décor themes out there, it’s hard to know where to start. In these cases, it helps to create a few lists:

  • Create a list of your favorite interests, and list them by rank.
  • Look at themed rooms on Houzz.com and list out some of the themes you see that appeal to you.
  • Peruse décor items and make a list of which jump out at you.
  • List what places you like to visit most, or want to visit.

You may see patterns once you complete these lists. For instance, your number one interest might be country music; you may like country home styles. Paintings of horses might stick out to you and you really like going to Wyoming. Or, if there is no consistent pattern, pick a theme from any of the lists that sticks out to you the most. And there’s no shame in not being able to decide between several themes.

ethnic pillows

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Design by Room

Now that you have a theme (or several) nailed down, you’ll want to decide how pervasive you want the theme to be. Do you want the theme throughout your whole house, or just located in one room? If you’re the eclectic type with a number of interests that pop out to you, you’ll want to strongly consider taking a separate themed room approach.

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

A good rule of thumb to remember is to not overload your home with themes. Have neutral rooms to give the themes a rest, or intersperse your themed elements with some basic elements.

Placing Themed Décor Elements

Now for the specifics on how to place your décor elements. The first thing you’ll want to do is get a few décor elements displaying that theme, of course. You don’t have to run out and restock your house; just find a few visual focal points, like wall art and decorative items.

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

On the other hand, if you’re basing your theme off of strong, established interests, you’ll probably have plenty of themed items around. Now’s the time to gather them all together, whether you’re removing them from where you haphazardly placed them on a wall or where you stowed them in a closet.

bicycle decor

Image via Pixabay under license CC0

Intersperse your items throughout the room in a balanced way to round out the room. For instance, place a themed painting across the room from a themed throw.  Matching themed lamps look great on either side of a sofa. Think symmetry.

What to do With Collections

Don’t discount the power of collections. If you managed to amass a large quantity of bird statues, for instance, a classy way to display them is to create a themed shelf or table full of the statues. That collection will act as its own cohesive design element, and you can place a similar painting on the opposite end of the room from it to create balance.

babushka dolls

But don’t be afraid to combine items, like placing some bird statues on a hearth under a bird painting. Those items could create a cohesive display element across from pillows of the same theme, as an example.

Getting Subtle With Themed Décor Elements

If you’re not big on overt collections and large art pieces, there are other ways to incorporate a theme in a subtle, classy way. Below are just a few ideas for being subtle with a theme:

  • Get customized prints detailing a specific theme. Put them on smaller pillows as accents. National flags work well for regional themes.
  • Bring in a few small, natural elements to place on tables that play to a theme, if it fits. For instance, a bit of sandstone works great in American Southwest themes.
  • Remember that your lighting fixtures are a good way to give a subtle accent to your theme, like colonial fixtures or even pothole sconces.
  • Think textured accents. A rope accent on a coffee table could add to a nautical theme.
  • Camouflage your décor by repurposing items. Getting back to the nautical theme, buoy markers could make interesting candleholders.
  • Remember your upholstery and window treatments. You may be able to find a pattern with a small themed accent, or the color scheme could match other themed elements in the room. American Southwest styles could work well with a dusty orange fabric color. That would add a slight accent without being too overt.

With all these tips, your home will pay homage to your interests and what inspires you, without looking overwhelming or tacky. Your home will have balance, and you can be as overt or covert in your interests as you want to be. Have fun decorating!