In the same way you might dress an outfit up or down, some strategic accessorizing at home can give any piece of furniture a formal or casual look

I do love home style, but I’m also a clothes hound who loves fashion, which is why we opened The Boutique at Cathy’s Marketplace. And judging from how well you’ve responded to my columns about using tricks from your wardrobe to inspire your rooms, I can tell that a lot of you love dressing up as well!

This week I’ll show you how to use classic furniture pieces as anchors to transition a space from a more casual to a more formal look, just as you would with clothes from your wardrobe.


To illustrate this, I’ve picked out this black halter jumpsuit, a classic staple in many women’s wardrobes. This look never completely goes out of style, but there are times when it’s super hot, and fortunately now is one of those times.

On our mannequin, this knit St. John jumpsuit is ready for a night on the town with black and gold accessories and a chunky pearl necklace. You might think the only other accompaniment might be sky-high heels, but not true!

How about toning down the glam for some casual chic? Simply swap out the accessories with this black-and-white Coach bag, a black-and-white bracelet and kitten heels, and you’ve got an outfit that’s sassy and stylish!

You’re already doing this, right? Well, the same principles apply to classic pieces in your home. Although I know some women would argue with me, most of us spend more money on our furnishings than our outfits. And large staple pieces aren’t as easy to change out as a blouse. But what you can have fun with are the accents that go with these pieces. So I’m not saying throw out that old sofa or coffee table, just change out some things around them.

Here I’ve picked out another classic: a white, down-filled, slip-covered chair. Its luxurious, subtly striped fabric has a slight sheen. This chair can go from natural and earthy to glam and vavoom with just a few easy switches.


For a casual look, I went organic. I chose a pillow whose pattern of birds and branches ties in to the lamp and other accessories on the side table for a scenario that’s natural, cool, comfortable. If you want to take it a step further, imagine a sea-grass area rug beneath the arrangement. Other things you could add to an organic vignette would be bamboo sticks in a vase or wooden picture frames. Bringing in white accents would tie in with the chair and add a fresh, beachy feel.

Now, how about going sophisticated? I’ve kept the chair but changed out the side table for a white ceramic high-gloss one with a gray faux-fur throw, and liquid-like silver candlesticks that add just the right shimmer. And can you imagine a very blingy art deco mirror behind the chair against an accent wall painted a dark charcoal to bring out the throw? Other elements that would enhance the luxe would be reflective accessories with glass or mirror, luxurious fabrics, tone-on-tone colors like whites and creams or high-contrast wall accents like deep purple or sealskin.

Quick transformations, same chair: All you need to do is change out the accessories — just like you do in front of your own closet every day.

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repur-posing services, in Kakaako. Lee’s work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops. Visit