I’ve spent the past week unpacking, repurposing, and putting our new home together. I’ve also headed back to work right smack in the middle of doing so. Today, right now, is the first time in more than a week that I’ve sat down at my computer to take a moment. To think. To read. To write. To breathe.
Our home is coming along. The rooms are livable and taking shape. I was blessed with a friend who helped me put my kitchen together. She loves doing so and I so enjoyed her laughter as well as her style and wisdom. As many of you know, I also adore Erin Gates and her “Elements of Style” blog and book. I’m catching up on her writings and loved a recent one titled “A House Full of Personality.” In it, Erin writes:
“I love that this space looks lived in, loved, and decorated over time. Nothing too perfect or precious, just a gorgeous celebration of this family’s particular brand of cool. I’m so over perfection. In a world ripe with Pinterest-worthy everything and Instagram-filtered reality, I crave more realness from people.”
Bingo. She nailed it. That’s my goal for our new home. I want it to be our home, not a decorator’s home, not a Pinterest or Instagram home, not even a popular brand or trend home. A pretty home, but simply the Smith home.
Where I live will never be picture perfect. I will always have that one side table or piece of art that just doesn’t go or is perhaps dated, but if it brings me joy, it stays. Yes, I use that deciding factor and I use it often. Trust me, it works!
So, with Erin’s words in my head I tackled the move in. Truth be told, moving is sooooo overwhelming and I’m already soooo over it. But, unpack I must so I’ll do it with a grateful heart and a curious mind.
“To me, style is about years of collecting, figuring out what you like, and weaving it all together. The important thing is owning your look and not minding what others think. It can be tricky to find style confidence, but once you find it, you’re free.”
First things first. I love the openness of our house and the fact that, with so many windows, I rarely have to turn lights on during the day. But, with so much openness and tall ceilings and doors, I’ve come to discover that some of my smaller scale furniture is getting lost in the bigger space. Our previous home had smaller rooms that lent themselves to a cozier feel. This new house screams “give me space!”
Our new house also has fewer rooms. I’ve gone from three living areas to one and from two eating areas to one. Fewer rooms mean less space in which to put all the things I love and need. Even considering how much we got rid of before we moved, we find ourselves still eliminating many items. I feel it’s shameful we paid to have the stuff moved, but there really was no way of knowing exactly what would fit and what would work. Note to self: this is what happens when you build a home, which I’d never done. And probably will never do again. Placing pieces in the right spots is perhaps my biggest challenge right now but I’m working it.
Fortunately I’m devotee of the decorating tip of choosing items that can work in more than just one room and sticking to one palette and style. This way, you can easily swap items from one room to another. Maybe that small server no longer has a home (hello house with no formal dining room!) but works great as an end table or nightstand. Always consider scale and function, but before going out and buying something new, shop your house first. You’ll be amazed at what you might find! Shop season-less too. Yes, it’s fine to add seasonal décor here and there, but keep your basics, well, basic.
“Be fearless and love how you live. You’re unique and your home should reflect that.”
I am by no means a decorator or designer by trade and rely on my personal preferences and expert advice from friends and shelter publications. I like many design forms and qualities, but recreating those looks in my home will just never happen and most of what you do see in my house will be of my choosing. I know what I like and what works for our lifestyle. I don’t want a head-to-toe professionally designed home and I don’t want my home to feel like a furniture showroom or the home of someone other than me. I prefer a lot of personal flair and a bit of imperfection. Formal and playful both appeal to me, but too much formality can be stuffy and dated and too much playfulness can feel silly and unstructured. My goal is the perfect combination of timeless tradition and casual coziness.
“I want my house to be like a diary. Your home should reflect your travels and history.”
A home, in my opinion, should fit the people who live in it. Consider your lifestyle, your family’s heritage, and the area where you live. By all means, consider the style of home. Nothing burns me more than a classic colonial on the outside only to walk in and discover mid-century modern décor. No, no, no and no. I’ve had to deal with that a bit in our new home. I love crown molding and lots of trim work, but our house does not lend itself to that look. I’m also having a heck of time saying “yay” or “nay” to exterior shutters. I’m obsessed with shutters, but thankfully I’m working with an honest and professional shutter maker who is making me think twice about them.
In addition to history, a home also needs order. Maybe not to the extent that I require in my OCD world, but order is a must. All your design hard work will go unnoticed in a room full of mess. Make it pretty too. Fluff the pillows, clear the clutter, and make the beds.
“Be true to what you love. Buy things you like and don’t worry about whether or not they match. Matching is overrated. If they are all things you love, they will just naturally come together.”
Matching, it seems, is no bueno. Your goal is interest and texture, not sameness. As Nick Olsen says, “There can’t be too much matching going on. There has to be something a little off in a room or it will look over-decorated.”
I’m big on accessories, especially art, but I’m having to edit what I display in a major way and I haven’t even started. Accessorizing will be the last thing I do. I like to live in a home for a bit before putting any art up or any decorations out.
Think of accessories as jewelry for your home and go bigger than you think. Done right, they can take your decor palette to the next level without breaking the bank. One large object has a lot more impact than several little ones. (I have trouble with this one!) At the same time, don’t make the mistake of not layering enough. You want to incorporate enough accoutrements to make a room look finished and the best way to do so is to display them in such a way that guests get a sense of who lives there and what the homeowners find interesting. Present items so that no two shelves, tables, or countertops are the same. Rows are dull and it’s better to display personal items you’ve acquired through the years than items you just recently purchased at the nearest home store. I would say predictability is as overrated as matching.
Stick to what Designer Stan Topol describes as “the unassuming over the conspicuous and the tried-and-true over the latest flash in the pan. It’s far better to have one exquisite item in a room than a half dozen of lesser quality.”
Another tried and true rule of thumb is to group similar objects. Old paintings scattered around the house will look dated, but a grouping of them could be interesting. Same with anything you collect. Keep it all tasteful though and think odd numbers. Display three similar articles, not two or four.
In our new home I chose two lantern-style fixtures for over our kitchen island rather than the customary and suggested three small pendant lights. The lanterns weren’t even intended for this use but I LOVE them and am so happy with them! What I’m not a big fan of is overhead lighting. Give me lamps and give me lots of them.
I also like lots of books. In my dream home I’d have a mahogany library with rolling ladders and I encourage you to have books and have them everywhere. Coffee table books, cookbooks, shelves of books. I don’t care that most people read books on their tablets now and print recipes off the internet, books are actually one of my favorite accessories. Nothing says a life well lived like real books.
Other tips include hanging mirrors everywhere and incorporating real plants and fresh flowers in several rooms. I particularly love a real plant in the master bedroom, which can give it a sort of spa appeal and nothing brings cheer to a room more than a vase of fresh flowers. Treat yourself to them often!
Photos are also inviting, but don’t go overboard. Frame them elegantly, display them tastefully, and then let your home showcase your family’s journey through artful photos that tell your story.
Lastly, spend money on things you will have for years like sofas and beds. When it comes to things like lamps and coffee tables, which you may change out more frequently, less expensive is perfectly fine.
Perhaps the most important thing every home needs is personality. Yours! I’m a fan of Edie Wadsworth who encourages the finding of peace, purpose, and passion. She also encourages finding them your way and says:
“I don’t follow decorating rules. If I love something, then I’ll find a place for it in my house. Life is too short to follow the rules.”
Sounds like good advice. I’ll try my hardest to follow certain décor standards all the while following my heart at the same time.