In this post: Tired of buying decor, only to return it the next day? Get my decor staples checklist so you can stop wasting time and money!

Oh my heart. I so desperately want to make decorating easy for you. To give you all the decorating secrets you need, broken down into easy steps that make sense. So that YOU can totally make your house what you most want it to be. A cozy and beautiful home. One of those key decorating secrets that will make decorating your home so much easier for you, is to collect some basic decor staples that can be used in any room in your house.

decor staples checklist

Let me share 2 all-too-common stories.

In the first story, my friend, Jenny (name changed to protect the innocent of course!), heads out to the shops. She knows she needs some decorating pieces because she’s been staring at blank walls, shelves and table tops for months on end in her new house. She heads into the first store and starts to wander. She sees a few things that catch her eye, puts them into her cart and continues to browse. Before long though Jenny second guesses herself, realizes she has no idea what she really needs and puts every single thing back on the shelf. Jenny leaves the store with nothing.

In the second story, another friend of mine named Tina (name also changed), decides to go shopping as well. She too has been looking at all the empty spaces in her new house for awhile and just wants to fill them up already. As she’s wandering the stores she finds some things she thinks may work because they look like popular decor items she’s seen in magazines and on HGTV. She buys a cart full and takes everything home. Only once she’s gotten her haul home, she’s not happy with any of it. She can’t figure out where to put it and if she does find a place she’s not in love with it. So she schleps it all back to the store for a refund and also finds herself back to square one, no further ahead than before.

In both cases my friends were shopping with the goal of filling their house instead of having a plan for what they actually needed.

Does that sound familiar? Can you identify with the somewhat fictional Jenny or Tina?

So how do you go shopping for decor items knowing for sure what you need?

Well that’s actually easier than you think. You simply do it with a checklist of decor staples in mind. And the good news is that no matter what your style, the checklist is the same!

Decor Staples

So just what are the decor staples that EVERY home needs? 

Below are the items that I’ve used again and again in each and every home I’ve decorated. Scroll to the bottom of the post to download the printable checklist.


If ever there was a single most perfect decor item trays would be it! They can be used literally in every room in your house to corral messes or otherwise unrelated but necessary items. Use them at the front door to collect keys and pocket change. Or in the kitchen to keep daily-used items handy next to the stove, or to organize a coffee station. Use them in living rooms and dining rooms to hold vases of flowers, photos and other display items. Choose square ones, round ones, rectangular ones. Having just a few trays on hand is a ninja decorating secret!

sectional couch neutral living room


There’s no doubt that fresh flowers bring so much life to a room. Especially in the dead of winter, even grocery store blooms are much appreciated. Having a simple vase or two on hand is always a good idea for your own bouquet purchases – or for when a lovely friend surprises you with a hostess gift! Even faux branches can bring cheer to a room in a pretty vase. Fortunately vases are often inexpensive and easy to find.

Throw Pillow Inserts and Covers

I once saw a funny Facebook meme (forgive me, I can’t remember the author) that said throw pillows are a grown woman’s stuffed animals. I think it must be true – I have about as many throw pillows as my youngest daughter has “stuffies”! In order to keep this obsession from becoming entirely too costly, I buy only cushion covers that fit on the same set of feather inserts to rotate through the seasons (and quite frankly moods). Typically I buy my inserts from Ikea, but they can be found for less than half what boutique stores charge on Amazon as well.

Throw Blankets

Throw blankets are another inexpensive way to add color and texture that can be switched out with the changing seasons. They’re a perfect example of buying the big things as neutrals and going with the trends for smaller accents!

Plants & Flowers

When I talked about vases, I mentioned faux branches. For those of us with black thumbs, fake greenery in the form of plants and flowers can be a total decorating life saver. Every room looks better with something “organic and living”. Thankfully these days, dried and fake plants look far better than they did when I was a kid. I pick up floral stems and branches from Michaels when I have a coupon usually. I’ve even bought potted “plants” from warehouse versions of decor stores for less than $5 each. The best part is they can be used again and again.

Turned Candlesticks
Download the Decor Staples Checklist!

Candlesticks & Candles

Candles can add a lovely romantic layer of lighting to any space. They’re soft and beautiful and timeless. And if you invest in a great set of candle stands you can even use very inexpensive candles from Ikea or *gasp* the dollar store to bring a subtle and elegant mood to your decorating.

Decorative Objects

Depending on your decor style this can be anything from industrial inspired gears to DIY orbs and everything in between. There is a lot of leeway here to just buy a couple of decorative objets that you love. You don’t need many, so really just go with what catches your eye – just keep them within your color scheme.

Artwork and Wall Decor

Oh artwork. I find artwork to be perplexing. It’s such a personal thing. I prefer neutral colors, words and sayings. Maybe you like bright splashes of color. Because it’s so personal, choose carefully. Choose what you adore and nothing else.

bathroom vanity and oval mirror


Mirrors are right up there with trays in the decorating world. And they can make a great replacement for art if you can’t seem to find artwork that you like. Mirrors can be propped or hung just about anywhere. Choose rustic or luxe frames and you can fit a mirror into any style. The bonus with mirrors? They reflect light and can help brighten an otherwise dark room!

Table Lamps & Floor Lamps

Obviously you need lighting! Having various levels of lighting, such as task lamps for reading or floor lamps to soften the space is key to creating a designer looking space. And no you don’t have to buy a matching set of table and floor lamps! In fact, beyond the symmetry of matching table lamps on either end of a couch, please don’t. Just choose coordinating styles and finishes. And don’t rely only on overhead lighting, even if you have a dimmer switch. 🙂


Baskets can corral all manner of clutter and untidiness! From blankets to shoes, to DVDs and every possible thing in between. Having a few large baskets tucked under side tables or in corners can be a very stylish way to stay organized…and to stash things in a hurry when unexpected company shows up at your door!

Area Rugs

Did you know that you can use area rugs over any type of flooring? It’s true. You can place area rugs even over wall-to-wall broadloom to anchor a space – or hide an ugly or worn floor! That’s what makes area rugs one of the decor staples. They tend to warm up a room and create an inviting atmosphere.

Ikea Ektorp Sectional Grey Cover

Curtains & Drapery

While it’s true that you can get away without curtains or drapery – and may want to in some rare cases – most rooms feel rather unfinished without them. In fact one of my big suggestions is that you do not hang any artwork in a room until AFTER you’ve chosen and hung curtains.

Table Settings

There is something so inviting about a beautifully set table. Why do you think that when staging a house for sale the table is often set? Because it’s so pretty and welcoming. If you buy open stock white dishware, you can mix and match all manner of table accessories. Napkins, place mats, napkin rings can all be bought out of season for very little money. One can build quite a beautiful collection. And then just imagine all the fun you can have!

chalkboard place mat, wooden utensils, pink tulips, stag head napkin

To make it super easy for you, I’ve created a checklist. Just leave your email below to download your free decor staples checklist!

decor staples checklist
Download the Decor Staples Checklist!

Now you know the decor staples you need for your whole house! Here are 5 elements that every room needs to be complete!

Once you have an item, check it off. Then you don’t have to shop for it again. Or be confused by all the pretty things that will call your name at your favorite store! Now that’s being more deliberate with your decorating and shopping. 🙂

shannon photo and sig oct 2022