Brady Tolbert Reveals The Styling Tricks That Instantly Make A Room Look Polished

You truly can get a brighter, airier space without tearing down walls.

Brady Tolbert Living Room Makeover
Amy Bartlam Photography

As a stylist, you rarely sit still. And neither does your furniture. "It is musical chairs—literally—almost every weekend," admitted Brady Tolbert. The stylist and Emily Henderson Design creative director is always trying new things, often using his own home as a testing ground for new floor plans, color combinations, and ideas. Recently, though, he attempted a bigger overhaul, freshening up his living room—and the end result is loaded with ideas you'll want to borrow.

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1 Figure Out Your Vision.
Amy Bartlam Photography

If you talk to most designers, they can describe their look in just two to three words, which serves as their north star when figuring out what to bring into a room—and what needs to GTFO, ASAP. Brady's no different: He considers his style as "casual, collected, and curated."

Knowing your style, as well as your purpose for the room, creates the perfect road map to move forward. "It had to be a place that I wanted to hang out in," he explained.

Then, it's time for musical chairs, rearranging your existing furniture so you can find the configuration that works best for your place, identifying anything that just doesn't work for the way you live.

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2 Take In Your Natural Light.
Amy Bartlam Photography

Brady wanted plenty of seating for when people come over, but his previous chairs blocked half of his windows. Natural light goes a long way in making a space feel bright, open, and airy, so he decided to swap them out for Lulu & Georgia's Desie chairs.

"The shape has a barrel back, which allows the eye to still visually move around it," he said. "The simple lines and caning means that the light can still pour through it." With that one change, the whole room opened up.

(Oh, and in case you're curious, that rattan pouf's from VivaTerra, the task lamp's from Rejuvenation and the throw pillow's also Lulu & Georgia.)

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3 Find Colors That Soothe You.
Amy Bartlam Photography

"Working as a stylist, I constantly am using color and pattern for shoots or spaces every single day, so I love coming home to something that feels neutral and monochromatic," Brady said. (Conversely, if you work in a job that's less creative, you might prefer a palette that's bolder in color and energizes you.)

There's a trick, though, to keep it from feeling bland and boring: "You have to punch it up with something to give it some edge," he added. "The black accents in the room, as well as some of the accessories, help the room from reading too tone-on-tone." The end result is graphic and modern, not oatmeal.

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4 Embrace The Bones Of The Space.
Amy Bartlam Photography

It's easy to get so caught up in paint colors and furniture that you overlook—or block—some of the most interesting details of the space. "The apartment was built in the 20’s and the beams, fireplace and huge windows are something that you can’t find very often these days," Brady said.

In addition to choosing chairs that didn't block out the natural light, the exposed brick fireplace makes it more of a focal point, and the black wooden beams draw your eye up (making the ceilings seem higher), and make the other black accents feel more deliberate.

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5 Choose A Rug That Connects Everything Together.
Amy Bartlam Photography

You've heard a million times how a rug can help anchor a room, giving it a more finished look, but another thing to consider is its texture, and how that can add to the room's overall vibe.

Knowing he wanted to create a space where people lingered, Brady focused on creating a cozy feel with an ultra-soft rug (this one's the Leila Moroccan Shag Rug, from Lulu & Georgia). "I love how simple but timeless it feels," he said.

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6 Include Your "You" Moment.
Amy Bartlam Photography

Brady's final takeaway (one he's picked up working for Emily Henderson over the past five years) just might be his most important: "Always include something unexpected," he says."If there is one thing that every space needs, it is something that is unexpected, irreverent, and out of place. ... Whether that be a unique piece of art that makes people tilt their head sideways, a found object that you place on your bookshelf that starts a conversation, or a bowl full of Polaroids on the coffee table for people to shuffle through, create a space that tells a story—your story—through what it is filled with."

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