Some decorating advice, from a novice.

I’ve had a few people ask me recently to share with them some decorating wisdom. I thought at first that I didn’t have much to share but after about five people this week asked me for help, I realized I must be doing something right, so what is it that I do? Why do I choose the things I do and how do I even know where to place everything? I spent some time reflecting on this and I’ll share with you all what I’ve shared with some people in my life.

First things first, use what you’ve got. And if you hate it, get rid of it. I’m not about stock piling cool things just to own them. That distracts from any meaning you could otherwise find in the things you own. And secondly, recognize that the things you do own are a blessing. You’ve already acquired more things in the past year than some people do in a lifetime, so acknowledge that and you’ll be in a good space to think about decorating a room without tinkering on the edge of materialism and vanity. Remember that decorating doesn’t always mean more stuff. It could be as simple as moving things around, changing what you’ve got, or repurposing something old.

I’m sure, if you like decorating your home at all, that you’ve got a space that you hate. There is one corner or room or shelf somewhere that you hate the feel of. You’ve wanted to change it forever but you don’t know how. I’m also sure that you have a picture in your mind of what you like. You’ve got some magazine image burned into your brain and that’s what you wish you could create.

Well throw the damn magazine picture away. It’s never going to look like that. Unless you’re made of money and you are willing to hunt down every single item in the picture. Which, unless the room is either really boring or from IKEA (I do love IKEA), you can’t do. People gather all sorts of random items to create specific looks, so hunting down look-a-likes might take awhile. This is what I’ve told people to do. Go online, through your magazines, whatever, and gather up all the images of spaces that you like. Create a folder on your desktop or a collection of magazine clips and collect all the pictures that inspire you. After you’ve got several, go back through the images and take note of all the common elements. Pay attention to specific details. Color, shape, texture, etc. You’ll notice things you didn’t notice before. You may realize that every picture has antiques or bottles or baskets or books or plants. You may notice every space you see is bright or cozy or rich. Note specific colors or details that are common amongst all your inspirations. It’s finding pieces that create that feel that will make your space feel good!

You must also be willing to do the work it takes to turn something that’s almost perfect into something perfect. So many pieces in our home have been changed to be what we wanted it to be. This means sanding, painting, recovering, whatever it takes to make it right. Otherwise you will search for so long waiting to find the perfect item and end up paying too much or never being satisfied. You need to be flexible. Our coffee table and dining room table have both been sanded and repainted to be what we wanted them to be. We’ve spray painted everything from old picture frames to the bed frame I bought when I was 16. We’ve changed out knobs, textured and recovered. I’ve recovered my livingroom pillows twice and even made our dining room ceiling light from scrap parts because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted in the stores.

I decorate on a shoe string. Almost all things I own I’ve purchased 2nd hand, especially accessories. It works out for me because I love using older items around my house. Old chicken salt and pepper shakers take center stage on our mantel. It fits. But I realize that wont fit for everyone. The point is to use items that are pleasing to your eye. You can find great things 2nd hand that don’t look old. I struggled to buy items for a while because I felt like everything I bought needed some nostalgic feeling. I kept thinking that every item on my shelf had to reflect some deeper meaning and have a rich story to accompany it. No way. There are so many items I’ve gotten from yard sales and thrift stores just because I like the look of them! Who cares if I don’t have a story to go with the weird ceramic dutch shoe or the little bird house thingy. Eventually all the pieces come together to reflect something a lot more obtuse than what each individual item means to you.

However, that being said, I like to display the items that do mean a lot to me with the items that don’t. I mix them all in there. The new and the old. The meaningful things and the “this is just cute”. In our house, you wouldn’t be able to guess which items mean what. I’ve got an old kitchen scale sitting next to an old cake stand. The scale has been in Matt’s family for years…the cake stand was $3.00 at Goodwill. The little tin teacup next to the white milk glass candle holder. The candle holder was $1.00 at a thrift store…the tin teacup I pulled out of a trash heap at a camp in Russia when I was 15. I remember thinking it would make an awesome candle holder. 11 years later…that’s what I’m using it for. I’m sure when Matt’s Great-Great-Grandmother purchased the red scale, she didn’t think it was that important. Maybe someday I’ll have a Granddaughter saying, “This weird ceramic dutch shoe belonged to my Great-Great-Grandmother”. Probably not but you get my point.

Repurpose items. I use old shoe horns as bookends and frames as earing holders. I am constantly changing the layout of my space, recreating a different and new look with the things I already own. Moving things around, recovering table lamps, repurposing old items. I’m also usually getting rid of things. I’ll discover that something never quite fits the way I want it to. So I give it away. Have fun with decorating! Discover your style and create your home to be a reflection of you in some odd way.

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