As a place to start with clients who may be having difficulty focusing on where they want to go with a design, I often ask them to show me several things in the space that they value/love/ couldn't part with. In talking about why they like the particular piece I get insight into what is important to them and many times the objects also provide inspiration for the design.
Art work of varying kinds can serve as an impetus for a room design. The tones of the sculptures and ceramic vases are picked up in the dark woods of the stacked tables. The beige sofa allows the art work to stand out.
In my home art usually influences my room designs. I certainly don't purchase art work to match my decor, but I like to give my art work the option of influencing the room in which it lives! One of my favourite pieces (artist Will Gill) begged me to paint this favourite chair a lovely green.
Antique rugs are a wonderful starting point for original colour schemes. This blue and aqua scheme is fresh and exciting, and without a wonderful starting point this room probably would not have come together in this way. Mixing old and new can be easy if you are a little adventurous.
Pet peeve: Please, can I have a larger coffee table so I can reach it to put my coffee cup down when I come for a visit? It's the armless chair that I would sit in. I hate floating coffee tables that don't connect with the furniture. Sorry, that just popped out.
Sometimes something as small as a pillow or a set of lamps can be the beginning of a sophisticated design. Certainly if you owned these lamps they would be difficult to ignore. Perhaps there is an interesting history behind them.
Not everthing you value is pretty. Some objects have histories told by the marks of the passage of time. They evoke family memories and offer opportunities for pairing with objects that have a similar history. I love this old box with its related sea themed objects.
This humble trunk my father made when I was a child is an important part of the decor in my summer house. It isn't in pristine shape with a latch missing and and a crack around the hinge on the back. To me it is invaluable. Not only does it hold memories, I have a coffee table and a storage chest. I can change the colour anytime I want, and it gives my room that lived in look you want in a summer place. It is also a perfect foot stool!
For a room to truly reflect its owners it has to have objects that have some emotional value. Otherwise you have a "model home", pretty but soulless!