With all the decorating and DIY blogs out there, with all the beautiful, pristine photos of perfect rooms, with all the concentration on trends, with all the stainless steel and chevrons and faux animal heads (yuck) and things made from pallets, it would be very easy to fall into that trap. To see your decorating style as ‘less than.’ To think you can never keep up because you can’t afford new appliances or a white slipcovered sofa or a big house with high ceilings.
I love looking at pretty pictures with the best of ’em. They are inspiring. I’ve poured over decorating magazines since I was 12 years old. I love seeing how others decorate, what choices they make, how color can change a space, how texture can change the feel of a room. It’s eye candy, whether on the pages of a magazine or on a computer screen.
But with the coming of the internet and, even more, the emergence of decorating and DIY blogs, there is an overabundance of eye candy. Much of what I see is a variation on a theme. It’s basically the same on-trend look with a tweak here and there. That’s okay. There will always be trends in decorating, just as there are trends in clothing design.
These are from Anthropologie, so I suppose they’re trendy. But I bought them because I fell in love with them, not because they are ‘in.’
Here’s the thing I always keep in mind: I am not competing with anyone. I know my style. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for me.
Decorating is not a competitive sport.
This post came about because of your comments on my recent Cottage Tour. Some of you lamented that you don’t seem to have a decorating style. Some of you asked for advice, while others commented on my eye for decorating and pulling a room together.
Yes, I have a good eye. I say this in all modesty. I’ve always had an eye for pulling a room together. I’m very visual.
But more importantly, I know what I like. And what I like isn’t necessarily what’s on trend or what I see on decorating blogs. Far from it. And, I might add, what I like at this stage of my life is not what I liked when I was younger. My tastes have evolved. That happens to all of us.
I subscribe to very few decorating rules. As you might have noticed if you read this blog with any regularity, I tend to break rules. By that I mean rules that some expert tells me I must follow. Excuse me? Why? Who made you an authority as to how I should decorate my personal space?
No, thank you.
I’m absolutely sure that my decorating choices are not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, some professional decorators might throw up their hands in horror when they see pictures of my home.
I don’t care.
Decorate with the things you love
My home is full of things I love that tell a story. That story cannot be told by a professional decorator. It can only be told by Don and me. If you love something, you’ll find a way to make it work in your home. If your eye can light on something that has meaning to you, I guarantee it will make a difference in the way you see your space. And in the way others will see your space.
Use what you love.
Use colors that make you smile.
What colors do you tend to gravitate to? At one time, my colors would have been in the brown family. I loved taupe and deep chestnut brown and rust. There are remnants of that in my den, but for the most part, my color palette has changed due, in great part, to the colors of the McCoy pottery that I collect. Those colors spoke to me. They made me happy. And so it goes.
Your preferred color palette may be very different from mine. Good for you. Go for it. Go for what makes you happy. Who cares whether gray or orange or lime green seem to be in? Your home is for you.
Take your time
If you’ve read any of the Cottage Tour posts, you know that I have gathered the furniture and accessories in my home over time. This is partly out of necessity, since my funds for this sort of thing are modest and sometimes non-existent. I can’t afford to run out and buy the newest thing. I’ve come to view that as a blessing. It keeps me from falling into that trap I spoke of earlier, the trap of keeping up with the latest thing. I get exhausted just thinking about it.
I gather, I tweak, I take something I’ve had for a long time and renew it, perhaps with paint or a slipcover. I make what I have work in this space.
Be realistic about what works in your space
I live in a tiny cottage. Except for in the kitchen, the ceilings are low. There are a lot of windows that break up available wall space. I have to take all that into account when I make decorating decisions. What looks good out there in decorating blogland or in a magazine might not work in this cottage.
We have lots of windows and lots of light. I chose not to overwhelm the windows with heavy draperies. I like light. I need it. So the windows have become one of the key features of our space.
Your living space will be different from mine. Maybe you have high ceilings. Maybe your home has some quirky things you have to work around. Or, better yet, enhance. Take all this into account and let those things that make your space different be positives. Use them. Celebrate them.
This, to me, is key. I have a lot of stuff. I don’t have an attic. I don’t have a basement. Lots of it is packed away in boxes in the shed. When we first moved out East and rented an even tinier cottage than this one, we put a lot of our stuff in storage. There was no way we could use everything. It would have overwhelmed our living space.
Everything you own does not have to be on display. Take, for instance, our walls. I carefully edit what I hang on those walls. Too much is too much. If you could peek under our bed and the bed in the guest room, you would see lots of framed artwork that has been covered and stored away.
We simply cannot hang everything we own and love in this space. Why? Because the eye needs someplace to rest. If there is too much visual stimulation, whether it is with tchotchkes or things on walls or furniture, your eye has no place to land. You cannot take in everything because everything is too much.
Since I don’t have a spare room or an attic or a basement where I can stash things in order to rotate them in and out of rooms, I edit. I take that into account and think long and hard about what I buy. And I sell things. We sold several pieces on Craig’s List about a year ago that we knew we had outgrown and that were taking up valuable real estate in the cottage.
If you want to try using an old cart as a coffee table, go for it. If you want to hang a lamp made out of an old frame and cover that frame with vintage crochet pieces, do it. If you want to hang a canoe paddle from the ceiling because you love the look of it or because you love to canoe, go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? You might end up not liking it. That’s okay. Now you know.
Eclectic is good & have fun
Everything does not have to look like you bought it at the same store. You can have a mix of modern and vintage. You can mix wood pieces with painted pieces. You can have a hutch made in the thirties in the same room as a contemporary sofa. If you love it, you will make it work. Too much of one style, whether it is country or mid-century modern, tends to look less than personal.
Most everything in my home is vintage, but not everything. And the vintage pieces are from different eras.
Avoid matchy-matchy. My favorite spaces are those that aren’t perfect but are eclectic and fun. Have fun. Be whimsical.
Your home is a reflection of you.
Remember that your home is your space. It should reflect you, your family, your interests, your taste. Everything in it should speak of you.
I feel the same way about my home as I do about my blog. I want this blog and what I write and share here to be such a pure reflection of me that if you were to meet me face-to-face, you would say “She’s exactly how I thought she would be.” Nothing less.
Same with my home. Nothing makes me happier than when someone walks in the door and says “This is so you.” That’s the way it should be. My home tells a story – about me and Don and Scout and Riley and our past and present. Your home needs to tell your story.
I’m not an expert, that’s for sure. I just know what works for me.