From fragrance to framing: Here's some simple styling tips for your home

Get a mix of metal and wooden frames of varying sizes on the wall to help create a focal point and conversation piece (from €24 at

With the start of another year some simple styling tips can vamp up home interior décor without too much effort, from fragrance to framing and introducing house plants, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

THE decorations came down, were packed away, pine needles vacuumed up, the duster flicked around, and I found myself left with a tinge of nostalgia but an unexpected feeling of space and order.

That’s until I remembered advice from a tribal elder about the necessity of always wearing your spectacles while doing housework: Leave it ’til afterwards and the house isn’t quite the perfection my myopic eyesight had suggested.

Just zooming in, alone, on where the Christmas tree had stood was a blank spot in need of attention, something I’m being reminded of all week by the omnipresent, cheery refrain which gets us over the new year hump, usually canted between the hours of 4pm and 5pm from mid-January. ‘Isn’t there a lovely stretch in the evenings?’ said everyone. ‘You’d notice it now wouldn’t you?’

Yes, you certainly would, as the stretch also illuminates this blank spot and others around the house which had been conveniently dimmed by soft lamplight during November and December, but now threaten to dull the optimism and mood-sublimating effects extra daylight has on my wellbeing.

I’m fond of change in January, though — Santa brought a bike, and Duolingo is lately my travelling companion, enunciating out of the car radio at me en español via Bluetooth. But being the domestic creature I am, nesting is a high priority, though I can’t say it’s likely to stretch to brushing on a few litres of emulsion. I’d rather resolve to play house, and therein lies my resolutions and the solution to blank spots.

1. Make my house more fragrant

Christmas is subtly about scents — the woodland smell of the tree, aromas of cooking (spiced beef if you’re from Cork), and the glut of scented candles offered up in stockings and now needing purpose. My effort with the latter is tempered, however, by the morbid recollection of a particularly incendiary candle I once owned. Since then I’m more into diffusers or discreet scent cards.

For a steer on which scents work best, Google threw up a book entitled The Scent of Desire by Rachel Hertz and the happy reminder that lavender makes us more relaxed. But did you know that vanilla, as well as purporting to be an aphrodisiac, makes us happier? I can smell it now, a celebration sponge cake, vanilla laced, in the oven, rising to the occasion.

2. Get framing

Danish design house Lene Bjerre’s Aura frames can be grouped together with a mix of photography and art prints for an on-trend look (large €55.79 from

What a shame our photos live on devices. I even have snaps of old sepia captures featuring prior generations now entombed on my phone, so a resolve to get mine into frames is a project in progress. Already it’s impacting positively on the aesthetic of the hall console as smiley faces of friends and family greet me when I walk through the front door.

3. Greenery

Vases stuffed with greenery, and a mixture of potted green and flowering plants, all help to soften the hard lines of walls, floors and fireplaces (vases from €12.50 at M&S).

No sooner had the Christmas tree been ousted and the vacuum cleaner taxed into exhaustion, when the idea of bringing more greenery indoors appealed to me. As it happens, this urge coincided with a trend begun in 2018 for house plants, although they need attention with irrigation and shearing of dead leaves, and, in some cases, dusting and shining of the larger leafed varieties. My preference is for herbs on the kitchen window sill, which not only surrender their leaves to my culinary efforts but have a softening effect on the straight lines on which they’re perched.

Bare branches and simple twigs do it for me also, propped in a clear glass vase. This has had me purloining delicate versions with last year’s dried blossoms still attached from an obliging woodland floor, to bring elegance and shape to a table or mantelpiece, and they don’t require watering or maintenance.

4. Making an entrance

It’s only January but the grass needed an urgent haircut this week, prompting a general survey of the outdoors and a reminder of how much I enjoyed, not just a wreath on the front door for Christmas, but having lanterns on the step with winter scenes.

It’s a rather forlorn spot now but too soon for summer pots, so returning a lantern filled with a new theme has revived the entrance’s drooping spirit. So too has the simple and effective task of wiping down the front door and sweeping around it thoroughly. Cleaning is transformative, with spectacles applied firmly to face beforehand, of course.

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