Decorating the Home

One of the skills I wish I had was the ability to pull a room together with a minimal number of second-guesses! My mother was a successful interior designer with her own firm and my grandmother was an accomplished decorator who also owned a renowned antique store in our town. It’s special to have that legacy… but it would be more special if some of their talent and decision-making ability had rubbed off on me!

Something I’ve found very interesting over the years as my husband and I combine our possessions is just that—combining our possessions. What means the most to us? How do we meld two different aesthetic preferences together? How do we make a room livable for us, practical for a preschooler, and, above all, comfortable? It’s been a process, and one that takes time. But it’s taken time in the best possible way.

I watch people online hire decorators and designers and, in record-breaking time, watch them debut their new homes. And then I watch them do it all over again a few years later. Either they’re choosing to decorate their homes to trend, or they’re not understanding how they live and utilize their space, or they’re not thinking about what they really want instead of what’s popular, or so on. It’s interesting to watch, and certainly it’s “content,” but it is frankly off-putting. I am very much of the belief that you should do a major decoration once, and simply update smaller things as your lifestyle changes. You can always cycle in new/old furniture, have furniture reupholstered, repaint, and so on. But big purchases—window treatments, rugs, and furniture itself—are things I plan on investing in once.

Because I have a serious inability to make up my mind when it comes to interiors, I’ve been trying to take things one room at a time, beginning with the living room. The fact that we didn’t have guests during the pandemic made it more difficult to see how we’d use the room for playdates, coffees, or entertaining friends. We did take care of a few major things in 2021—refinishing the floors, replastering the ceiling, and repainting the walls.

We also had a rug made for us towards the middle of 2022 and, while it took about three months, the wait was worth it! We were able to get in-progress photos of the process, watching the rug come together. We were able to order the colorways and size that we wanted, and we could support artisans in this fascinating and demanding craft. Even if we eventually decide to change the color of the living room in the future, we’ll be able to use the rug in different rooms of the house, something we considered when we ordered the rug.

Another tough decision to make was artwork. My husband had a large collection of artwork, some of which we hung and some of which is in storage. But we really struggled with choosing something for above the fireplace. As both the rug and the walls are pale and neutral colors, we wanted to go with something a little bolder. My husband spent a great deal of time researching up-and-coming artists, finding a number of options that we both liked before we decided on the right painting. I don’t want to say that we chose the painting based on our room, because I don’t think art should be chosen simply to fit a room. (Besides, with a room with a neutral palette, there were no real guidelines we had other than size.) We both loved the painting we chose and felt it spoke to us, so we bought it!

For furniture, we added a second side table to the room, one I’d bought my husband for a birthday several years earlier. (You can see the table here.) We also shifted our room to make space for our current lifestyle by altering the china cabinet. We removed the hutch on top of the cabinet to prevent our preschooler from scaling the cabinet like Mount Everest (all too likely in that treacherous I-must-climb-everything phase!) and changed it into a games and arts-and-crafts cabinet. We use the living room the most out of any room in the house, and it was important to us to both allow for a child-friendly space as well as storage to keep things out of view when we have visitors.

While this is still a work in progress, it has been a fun but humbling experience to undertake! I found it much easier to decorate our city apartment, primarily because that did not have the additional challenge of ensuring child-friendly spaces in the house, and also because that was always a more temporary arrangement as we decided where we would live. That being said, I’m having much more fun with this—I just hope that I’m up for the challenge!

How do you decorate your home? Do you decorate on your own or with professional advice? Which room did you work on first? Let me know in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “Decorating the Home

  1. This is a great post! We’ve been approaching our home in a similar way. It feels like our updates move so slowly, but like you, I would much rather do something the right way once. When we come up with a project idea, we often take some time (even a few months) to ponder if the upgrade would really fit in with the house and our lifestyle. This has ended up saving us from some ‘upgrades’ that probably only work well in Instagram showhouses.
    We do all the work/designing ourselves! The rooms we did first were the public spaces in our home that guests see.

    1. Thanks Sara! It’s been fun to approach this slowly and with intent. I have enjoyed seeing what I actually feel I can’t live without instead of thinking I can’t live without something and realizing that it’s actually not remotely what I want! Good on you for doing all the work yourself–we definitely outsourced a lot of things!

    2. Good for you for doing all the work yourself! I could not–when I lived in DC I painted my bedroom and swore “never again” lol. I am planning to paint our guest bathroom by myself but it’s a more manageable space. I just need to decide on the color! I love seeing how your house has come together!

      1. Thanks! We enjoy the DIY aspect, but it also slows us down as we wear ourselves out haha. I look forward to seeing your future house updates – that picture is beautiful!!

  2. Hooray for taking your time! I am an interior designer and I learned early on in school that asking about other designer’s homes is a quick conversation killer! But designing for “what’s trendy” really gets my goat. As we’ve previously chatted about I live in the PNW and still gray is popular here. Don’t ask me why, I’m still trying to figure it out. When it’s cloudy how many months out of the year???

    I think so many of us are gradually molding and shaping our homes to what we’d like them to be but well, that takes time. I just received a pair of vintage twin beds that have a classical design to them and I’m so excited to use them: one for our 2-year-old and one for our future child. Will I always have them? Who knows! But I love them, they’re solid wood, and by golly I paid (ugh gauche hrplo) for two beds that would have cost me an arm and a leg for a brand-new bed from a store that doesn’t utilize solid wood that I didn’t love. Am I pushing my preferences on my kids? Well yes, yes I am but at this point the eldest just told me which color story she prefers for her big girl room: blue or pink. All she cares about are if her blankets are in their proper places at night.

    For me the hunt is part of the fun. Pouring over books, finding the right fabric to address some classically design vintage dining chairs that will hold up to young kids, antiquing, sleuthing online, debating whether to keep an old sofa set and reupholster or purchase a new one that I have been salivating over for awhile. Thankfully I know the answers will come with time. As our first became older we knew the glass topped coffee table needed to make an exit. So, for now, we purchased a rectangular storage ottoman that doubles as our game storage! If only I could convince her not to stand and dance on it to Mickey Mouse or Bluey that’d be a win…

    1. Oh I love that!! It is really hard to work on your own house. I know my mother preferred designing hotels instead of residential projects, though she did design my uncle’s converted loft in Brooklyn in the 80s and then later my aunt and uncle’s house in D.C. (both of which were insane!) She only ever considered taking on one other residential client, Mark Knopfler, and that’s only because she loved Dire Straits 🙂

      It does take time! I love that you found some beautiful vintage beds. We had the bed I had in my childhood (from my dad) but then my brother decided to take it. Same with the furniture my grandmother had made for my childhood bedroom. Oh well! We found a good solution for our little one. I think that as long as you’re open to taking direction from your children that’s great! And it’s fun to have beautiful pieces for them to appreciate later, even if not now 😉

      The hunt is DEFINITELY part of the fun for me as well!!

  3. We have been in our beach house for 3 years
    I’m finally deciding to do colors in the living room and master. I feel
    You have to get the vibe of the room and let it marinate before jumping into it! I normally start with bathrooms …. I was a textile design major so I really try to bring things together with different textures and dimensions. I just finished the living room and study and I love it!! I chose just to paint accent walls! Super fun….

    1. That’s so cool, Valerie! My aunt designed textiles throughout the 80s and 90s and I’ve always been very intrigued by that process. Good on you for painting–I am NOT a painter by any means; after painting my bedroom in DC, I swore “never again”!

  4. Great article, as per usual. 🙂
    Our house is ever a work in progress. After seven years of living here, I’ve finally figured out how to arrange my office and studio in a way that makes sense. But I still need to rip up the gray wall to wall carpet that the previous owners put in. The entire house was covered in it when we got here. We’ve done all the rooms but my studio is the holdout — it’s a lot of furniture and cables and gear to move, but I can’t wait to have the original wood floors exposed with a couple of Turkish rugs in place of the increasingly scruffy carpeting.
    And re: hrplo, the previous owner had painted all the walls gray. And we’re also in the PNW. It’s not unattractive, but there’s already more than enough gray here to go around. I likewise can’t understand it. The first thing we did was paint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *