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Finishing A Space? Here Are The No B.S. Tips From Home Designer, Mimi Brown

By Mimi Brown

You’re on the home stretch… All the furniture is in. The lighting is installed and the rugs are down. Window treatments–check! It’s time to finish the space which is one of my favorite things to do. This is the moment where a space becomes your own and showcases your aesthetic.

It can seem intimidating at first, but fear not, I made the process simple. With the tips and tricks I have learned of years of being a interior designer, I pretty much have it down to a science, even to the teeny tiny details.

And here’s how…


Pay Attention to Detail

Starting with “bigger” tiny details … plants, and books. I have a total art book obsession. It’s a real problem.

When I moved to LA from NYC, I sold all of my furniture at an estate sale in Connecticut and paid the movers to drive my boxes of art books across the country. Then bought 100 more books or so at galleries across the city and on Amazon based on color and new artists I was interested in.

If you’re wondering if my friends make fun of me for this, yes, they definitely do. Did I mention myy door attendants also think I am crazy. At this point they are convinced I have a libray at my apartment. But they add so much warmth and life to a space, and truthfully I use them for my work – the ultimate design inspo – and to style projects.

So, when finishing a space, great coffee table books are the first place I turn. How to style these beautiful books you will learn further down the page.


Greenery & Foliage

The second place is Elizabeth Bailey or Inner Gardens (if you’re an LA local) for the most remarkableplants. I like to call Elizabeth is the plant whisperer. Case in point: I went home for Christmas last year and returned to a dead olive tree three days later. But Elizabeth turned it around, and it went from solid brown to flourishing on my balcony.

At any rate, a cool plant or tree can add to your environment – everybody needs some foliage inside. Try to find something with an exciting shape, not just the typical fig tree in a white ceramic cylinder.

On the flip side, there is nothing wrong with typical if that’s what’s available to you and what works in your space. I am a sucker for deconstructed-looking concrete pots and Willy Guhl saucers.


Always Accessorize

I love an accessory or “object” as placement for vignettes throughout the space. Bookends can be great just sitting on a stack of books, a large wooden chain or strand of smokey glass prayer beads, handmade pottery. There is so much to play with. Adding a few to a coffee table, shelf or sideboard creates the layers that make a space feel finished.

See the end of this for a list of my favorite stores and haunts.


Textures and Tones

I had so much fun recently styling Molly’s office and finding the perfect shades of note paper, pens, and paper clips … I went to 4 different stores to get multiple shades of the muted mauve colors she likes and mixed them all.

Even the most minor details, like pens and breath mints, can match your color palette and make it feel even more cohesive and thought through. I can spend hours arranging trays of office supplies and candy and be happy as a lark.

One thing that people tend to be hesitate on is mixing textures. I am here to tell you to embrace it! Molly’s office has a lot of white oak, clear glass, and white marble. I bought brass, travertine, leather, and resin for the accessories – all in the muted, warm earthy tones and muddy pinks she likes. It worked well and warmed up the space.


Get Creative

An important aspect I feel like a lot of people overlook when finishing their space is to have fun with it!

Molly saw a brass “Xanax” covered candy dish she thought was funny, so we filled that with mints to offer guests in meetings. It also becomes a great conversation piece.

I brought in the usual simple white serving ware, too, but adding some quirk and personality is also great.

Have fun with the linens, too. Molly’s are vintage from Amber Interiors and a bunch of different shades of earth tones to compliment the rest of the accessories.


Here are eight space-specific tips!

1. Styling Bookshelves:

Shelves EAT stuff! Bring more than you think you need. If you think you need ten books, you need 40. Look into it – even the best stylists do. Big tip: Do not make every shelf different. Trust me, it will look too chaotic.

Try and create a pattern without making it look obvious. For example if you have three shelves across: the bottom middle shelf can have one big object and the two outer shelves book stacks, move up a row and the two exterior shelves can have one big thing and the middle shelf book stack and so on … that would be somewhat obvious, but you get the drift.

If you keep that pattern up the shelves, it will look like a checkerboard, so you would need to shift it at some point.

Collections work great on shelves – you don’t need different objects for every shelf. All white pottery by the same artist or a collection of leather medicine balls … anything Carl Aubock I love.

Another thing to note, the shelves do not need to be filled to the brim. Two great books stacked in the center is just fine.

Leaving the top shelves emptier is another trick I use often.

2. Styling a Coffee Table:

You’ll need a couple of great books (obviously), some plants (an orchid or fresh flowers, although not opposed to certain dried in natural tones), a tray or dish or two, a candle, and some coasters.

My coffee table is huge – 5’x5’. I spent hours styling it and had so much fun. It has a grid of art book stacks, some agate coasters (Malibu Design Center), a brass candle, a hot pink lucite AVF ashtray (I do not smoke), a concave marble dish the remote sits in, a wooden chain, a vintage mother of pearl magnifying glass I bought in Paris, and a pair of brass and rattan Carl Aubock bookends from 1st Dibs.

Some books are large enough to sit on their own – Tom Fords, the Missoni, and Helmut Lang. Others I’ve stacked in groups of 2 or 3. Sometimes I like to add a smaller book turned the opposite way since you sit at all angles around the table.

Fun fact: I usually take the covers off books unless the jacket is exceptional. Lastly, to create different heights, I place the non-book objects directly on the table, a thick book, or a stack of books.

3. Styling a Sideboard or Entry Table:

Something that smells good – diffuser sticks – and also Antiqua Pharmica.

Byredo, Amber, Le Labo, and Jenni Kayne for candles. Le Labo makes their grey matte candles in mini-sets of 3 – fantastic to sprinkle around or cluster together.

I have a black lava dish with two sitting in it on a stack of black art books on a bench in my entry. An excellent dish for keys and a tray for mail. It can also be a low tray or something chunkier like a small lucite ice bucket. Mine at home is a travertine bowl.

Then style in some live plants to finish it off. You can leave it at this or throw in an art book, obviously.

4. Styling a Bedside Table:

Keep this as simple as possible with only the neccessities present. A little tray for jewelry or a water glass. Maybe a few books, a charger station (preferably concealed as much as possible) and of course, a candle.

5. Styling a Kitchen:

It’s all about depth and layers. I have a tray under my salt and pepper shakers and little covered jars of special salts. I like to “repot” salts, pepper, and spices. Sempre glass is a favorite.

I also have a tray, sink soaps, and a candle under my hand. Leaning vintage cutting boards up against the backsplash with produce-filled pottery and stacks of vintage hand-looking towels make the space feel warm.

I have a collection of wooden spoons (some new, some vintage) that are in vintage canisters sitting out. I leave the countertops otherwise clean and only have out what I am constantly using.

If you love to cook, like me, then you’ll want everything at your fingertips.

6. A Kitchen Island:

I love to group things on one end of the island and leave the other end empty. However, if it’s a more oversized island then placing one thing like a tray or single bowl down at the other side will do.

For the group, I suggest placing something alive (fresh cut flowers, an orchid, or succulents) and a few produce bowls. Tip: Work in odd numbers – three should do it, but if the items are more minor, five is ok. For example, do an orchid, two produce bowls and two candles.

I highly recommend not doing five produce bowls. It will begin to look like a market stand. Try and change up what’s in the bowl at the other end. Maybe a stack of cocktail napkins or your favorite baked goods from the week.

7. Styling your Fridge:

I like everything to look appealing, even inside the refrigerator. Yes, I am crazy. I will stand there and line up bottles of Topo Chico or move jars of Erewhon soup around based on color. If this is not for you, then skip this step and move to #8.

I always have the produce drawers filled with greens, salami, and cheese. Bright colored cut-up fruit comes out of plastic and goes into clear Sempre bowls. Chocolate-covered goji berries and hemp seeds are in covered Sempre jars lined up by condiments (which are also constantly being rearranged).

I always have an array of champagne, sake, Japanese beer, delicious red wine for the unexpected guest, and tequila and vodka in the freezer, which (yes you guessed it) is also styled. Please feel free to “pop” by and see.

One thign my friends always say about me which I find a true compliment, you will never catch me unprepared or “unstyled.”

8. Styling a Desk/Workstation:

I cannot deal with a messy space and can’t work in one. I like a giant clean white table or desk. Shocker. A catchall – leather or resin is amazing for miscellanious papers. Tina Frey is a favorite for polish and Jenni Kayne for leather. Lucite is excellent too, and CB2 usually carries those.

I don’t like the idea of a bunch of office supplies lying around. Keep minimal needs in a drawer close by, but if you’re styling a desk, you can have small vessels sitting out with gold paper clips, binder clips, cup holder for pens.

I wouldn’t say I like seeing chords, but everyone has gotten so clever with charging stations as well – CB2 has a great nude-colored one out right now.

If you push a lot of paper, come up with a system. For example, I have a lucite tray for “to do” or “to deal with,” one for “receipts,” and also one “to file.” Rolling file cabinets are also great for workstations because the top can double for a shelf concealed under your desk.


Our Favorite Local Stores

Los Angeles:

1. Hudson Grace

2. Jenni Kayne

3. Malibu Design Center

4. Malibu Colony Shop

5. Beautiful Mess

6. Arcana

7. Hauser and Wirth

8. CB2

9. Lawson Fennings 

10. Nickey Kehoe

11. 1stDibs

12. Kier Home

13. Little Market

14. Bonjour Fete

15. Paper Source

16. Erewhon

17. Inner Gardens

18. Amber Interiors


1. Clic 

2. Monc 13

3. Wyeth

4. French Presse

5. Love Adorned

6. Bloom

7. Tina

8. Elizabeth Dow

9. Michael del Piero


Want more tips, event advice or help with interior design? Reach out to Mimi Brown at

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