We recently put together an entire (small) room from scratch. As in, we had no furniture or large pieces of art or decor that we used previously to put in the guest room. And as I was shopping for the room, I realized that I was following a set of rules that I had created for myself. Those rules come in part from having strong opinions, taking advice from bloggers that I admire, and acting as a hopefully decent compromiser to Daniel, who also has his own opinions.
When Daniel and I met, I was subletting a room in a friend’s apartment and he was living in his own one-bedroom apartment like a grown ass man. If you were to look at our two different styles, you may wonder why we even liked each other. My bedroom, which was almost entirely from Ikea, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and The Container Store, was all white. It was essentially a coke den minus the coke and mirrored table. His entire apartment was a dark brown – ugh, espresso brown, ugh – Ikea heaven. There was some green in his brown comforter and brown shower curtain. In fact, you can get an understanding of what his apartment looked like when we met because all of his old brown furniture is currently being used in the office. And note the green – that was his idea!
So now that we have been living together for a number of years and are getting to create a new style that matches us as a couple (but, let’s face it, is mostly what I push for because I care more), I realize I have a few decor rules. Well, not really rules. More like decor feels.
The two biggest compliments I’ve received anywhere I’ve lived are 1. This place really looks like you, and 2. This house looks really done. What that means to me is that, even though there are some decor elements and style tips other people may see in my home that they’ve seen elsewhere, put all together it looks like it has true personality. My personality. It also means that I’ve taken the time to work on it and it shows.
If anyone is interested in following any rules, the most important one to follow is to do anything you are able to and want to do to make you happy in your home. So basically ignore everyone else (including me) and do whatever makes you happy.
So what makes us (me) happy in our home? Here’s a breakdown of those decor feels:
1. I like every room to really fit the purpose of what it will be used for and look good while fitting that purpose. A living room has got to be comfortable. I want to be able to lay on a comfy rug, smoosh myself down into my sofa and fall asleep watching TV, or eat at my coffee table and not feel bad about it. But just because it’s comfortable or even affordable doesn’t mean it has to be ugly.
2. I need a balance of neutral and color and texture and pattern. This is no disrespect to anyone who does one color palette well because I have been in or seen homes that do white well or do color and pattern saturation well. I want to live in the Tiny Canal Cottage and The Jungalow equally. But in the end it’s just not me.
3. There ain’t no shame in the game of buying mass market. Hell, we will never be rich and I’d much rather spend $3,000 on a week stay in the Maldives than on a sofa. But I hate it when I walk into a room and I can tell where just about everything was purchased. Our main furniture sources have been Ikea, Target, Overstock, West Elm and other mass market stores because we can’t afford to nor do we want to spend a lot of money on furniture when we could be spending money on living our fantastic lives. But no room of mine can be entirely bought from big box stores. That’s a long-term goal that we’ll achieve by slowly phasing out stuff we don’t love for more unique or maybe even DIY pieces. My favorite way to do this is by buying vintage.
4. Buy vintage. This isn’t for everyone but I have been a thrift shopper since college. What used to be a love for shopping for clothes has turned into a love for antiquing for the home. The first apartment I had on my own that needed to be furnished was a mixture of Ikea, hand-me-downs from family and furniture from the Salvation Army. I would love to have at least one vintage piece in every room. Wherever we go, whether it’s to a new neighborhood or a new city, we visit antique, salvage and thrift stores. If I’m walking down the street and there’s a vintage shop, I’m going in it. Stools from the 1950s/60s from Maine, 1920s glass and gold martini glasses from New Orleans, a Mid-Century Modern nightstand/end table from a thrift shop in the East Village all have come from just stopping into stores on our way somewhere else. The truth is buying unique vintage pieces is the one element of home that Daniel and I agree on every time, especially when it comes to Mid-Century Modern. My guess is because we both like the sleek lines, he loves that that design era uses mainly wood and in what appears to be a natural color, and I love that there is nothing bulky about it.
5. Natural elements, like wood and flowers and plants, are key elements to decor. I mean, how will you even know you’re existing on this planet if not for things that are alive or were once alive (thanks, trees!)?! Bonus: plants add color.
6. Spaces should reflect where you’ve been, whether it’s places you’ve visited, lived or have a strong connection to, and things that have meaning to you. It helps in collecting unique pieces for the home, but also speaks to your personality and helps a space reflect who you are.