Some things in life, such as modeling a room after your wardrobe, never seem to go out of fashion I can’t tell you how many times stylish women have come up to me and said, “Cathy, I wish I could decorate like you! I just can’t put my house together!”

I look at the way they dress and accessorize themselves, and reply, “Of course you can! Just decorate your home the way you decorate yourself!”

Recently, KITV came to my showroom to shoot a morning news segment. In a corner of our business we had added a consignment boutique with clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories, so right away the idea came to me: I’d do a segment showing how to use a woman’s wardrobe as a starting point for decorating her space.

It really is as easy as taking cues from what we as women have been doing all our lives in putting our outfits together. It’s just a matter of applying those principles to our rooms.


Let’s start with a piece of furniture you know you’ll keep. Pictured on this page (item No. 4) I have a white dresser with clean lines, wrought-iron drawer pulls and a wrought-iron stand. The face of the drawers is washed with faint brushstrokes that range from pale green to beige and light brown.

Now I’ll show how you can take a room with this dresser, and by using two different pieces of clothing as inspiration, create two totally different spaces.

My first inspiration from our boutique is this breezy maxi dress (No. 5). It’s casual, with whites and greens that enhance a free-flowing, beachy feel. How can this dress help me accessorize the room?

First, let’s pull some green from the dress and make it our accent color. We’ll chose shades that pick up the faint greens in the dresser. And we can introduce a beachy theme and repeat that as well. So whether it’s on the chest or somewhere else in the room, we’ll display these sea urchin candlesticks. And here (No. 1) is a fish made of driftwood, which goes well with the beachy feel of the room and is perfect to hang on a wall.

These elements give you an idea of how, just by drawing inspiration from the dress, you can achieve a cool, casual, free-flowing room.


But let’s say you want your decorating style to be a bit more sophisticated. Also from our boutique is this Armani jacket (No. 3). It’s a sophisticated piece, with just a little bling and sparkle, and showcases black, dark brown and even a little bit of metallic silver threading (which I know is hard to see here).

How would that work with this casual, beachy dresser? What casual dresser?! It doesn’t have to feel beachy and casual if you accessorize the right way.

Instead of green, I’ll put a chocolate brown on the walls, picking up on the drawer pulls and stand. And instead of casual accessories, how about these silver candlesticks (No. 2) with a horn inlay for style and sophistication? And these crystal decanters to up the sparkle and bling from the jacket.

As you can see, by drawing inspiration from your wardrobe, you can go in completely different directions from the same starting point. It’s all a matter of how you accessorize. We can wear blue jeans with a black leather jacket, high heels and diamond earrings, or we can wear them with our Tori Birch flip-flops and a Gap T-shirt.

So open your closet, assess your room and have fun “dressing” it up!


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops that teach homeowners the basics of style. To find out more, go to