5 Fashion Rules & Principles That Work at Home, According to a Wardrobe Stylist


Are you familiar with the golden fashion ratio? It has to do with proportionality, and it’s why pairing a long coat with cropped pants looks stylish. Which, when you think about it, has everything to do with the underlying design principle of contrast; one that applies with equal effect to your outfit and your living room, Yin wants Yang—on your body and in your house.

Styling your person and styling your home really aren’t so different in essence. Both are deeply personal, have creative and visual qualities, and yet require functionality. Comfort and individual taste matter, as much as practicality…oh, hello there budget! Both are opportunities for individual expression, and endless creativity, even when resources are limited…especially so.

Where else then, can we take design cues from fashion and apply them to our homes? For insight, I turned to wardrobe stylist Scarlet Chamberlin, to get her take on the concept. Turns out, she recently found herself engaged in conversation with a prominent realtor and talented interior designer over the very topic, at one of her StyleSocials, an event she hosts regularly in her Portland work studio.

Scarlet has a refreshing take on fashion, and on cultivating a wardrobe that is attainable, personal, responsible and ultimately reflective of her clients “signature style, baby!” And let me tell you, the parallels between closet and interiors abound. There are really just so many worthy fashion tips that are transferrable to home styling—tips that are key to saving money in the long run by reducing consumption of new pieces, spending smarter—not more—on carefully chosen items, and minimizing the reliance on trends. Trends should inspire, but a home full of them carries a lot of weight. Ultimately, there’s a place in our wardrobes and our homes for pieces that are beautiful, functional, timeless and personal.

We asked Scarlet for her top guiding wardrobe styling principles that you can borrow for your own home. Here’s what she had to say:

If I had to break it down, these are five of my top fashion styling tips to keep in mind that are transferrable to home styling:

  • Color Palette. Thoughtfully selecting three to five colors to use in your wardrobe and your home decor helps to focus your time shopping, saving you the trouble of things not pairing well. We all know “matchy matchy” is out, but coordination is SO in! If you are feeling adventurous, make sure one of your colors is a bold pop. Switch out this color every season or once a year, with your accessories.
  • Composition is key. On a body or in a room, the shapes, details and size of things matter. For example, a petite person may feel like she can’t pull off a floor length duster confidently because she feels like she’s drowning in it. Similarly, a canopy bed in a tiny room just doesn’t make sense.
  • Draw attention to the good. I encourage women to dress in a way that accentuates their favorite features. Perhaps her delicate wrists, a gorgeous clavicle, vivid eyes, or a tiny waist. It’s so much more fun to think about what we want to draw attention to, versus what we want to hide. The same thing is true for a space. We should draw attention to our favorite keepsakes, pieces of furniture or architectural elements through the use of color, shape and light. I was once told to focus attention away from my height (which is one of my favorite features!) by downplaying it with flats, neutral colors, and low volume hairstyles. I refused. I play my size up because it helps me to stand out and be memorable. We tall women should walk confidently in heels with heads held high!
  • Opt for texture vs. more pattern. I love pattern, but choosing ones I won’t tire of can be hard. Shopping within a color palette allows you to identify the patterns that will work quickly. Often people wonder how to wear a bold pattern more than a few times without it being obvious, though. When I hear this, I encourage people to experiment with texture in their color palette instead. Try a luxurious piece in a raw silk, cashmere, a fuzzy angora, or leather and you might just satisfy your craving.
  • It has to feel like you. Eclectic is in; genre mixing keeps things fresh. Instead of trying to fit yourself into a style box like bohemian, minimalist, retro, or classic, notice what you are drawn to. If you gravitate to a piece that is in your color palette and accentuates your favorite features (whether it’s on your body or in your home), chances are there is a way to style it that will feel like your own. Listening to what you are drawn to and investing in that, will give you confidence, which is more important than having the latest trend. Signature style, baby!

(Image credit: Hado Photo)

And what about Scarlet’s own home?

I’ve learned where to invest, where to skimp and what heirloom pieces to keep. I think about this all of the time whether I’m working with a client in their closet, refreshing my own wardrobe, or decorating our home. My partner and I believe in quality over quantity and have donated so many things we brought to our marriage and home that just weren’t working.

Slowly over the last three years (and we’ve been in our house for seven), we’ve invested in some signature pieces like a teal tufted sofa from Perch and our oval dining table with brass tulip base and a gorgeous credenza that coordinates from Organic Modernism. I needed those statement pieces to ground our space before even painting! I think I might be going at it backwards, but I’m fine with it. We are painting our 1,000-square-foot ranch white so I can switch out colorful art, textiles, flowers and accessories to keep things vibrant! And I just made a tough decision to pass on a giant wardrobe that just doesn’t work in our space (thankfully I have a smaller one that does also an heirloom piece).

Thanks Scarlet!

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