How to Decorate So You Feel at Home

Today I am taking part in the How to Decorate series hosted by Beth at Home Stories A to Z.  If you are new here and coming from Sand and Sisal – Welcome to In My Own Style.

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There are 25 talented bloggers joining the series sharing all week, so be sure to follow along and see what each has to contribute.  Links to the blogs are at the end of this post.

How to Decorate Button

When I first started blogging, I kept one of my favorite quotes about decorating and lifestyle in my blog’s sidebar.  If you have been a reader since the beginning, you may remember it.

diana Vreeland QuoteDiana Vreeland the legendary fashion editor’s insight so elegantly reveals the impressions we feel when we are in others homes. We may visit a friend’s home and love the way she arranged and accessorized her family room. When we enter our own family room we frown and think it lacks style and we need to go buy something new because it doesn’t look the same as your friends…

…or does it?

 

When I did residential design, clients would show me room clippings from magazines with the look they wanted to achieve in their space, but I found what they really wanted was the lifestyle and feeling the room evoked.

I ended up not decorating for them, but helping them to “style their lives” and help boost their confidence in the choices they made.  It rarely involved spending money. It was more of a matter of making better use of what they already owned.

When you think about how to decorate your home  - walls, furniture, paint, fabric, and accessories usually come to mind, but the list often omits the most important factor – YOU and your families unique traits, passions, and personalities, and of course the”stuff” you love.

These traits and things we all personally do to our homes with individual flair add up to enlighten others without us even knowing it. We don’t see our own decorating style from their perspective.

It is when we think we need to copy or follow the dictates of some arbitrary decorating source to create a beautiful home, that it backfires on us because it is not authentic.

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When I look at magazines, I get more excited when I see a glimpse into the homeowner’s personal life –   a telltale sign that shows a life in progress.  It could be the books in the bookcase or they way the have their mudroom set up with the names of their children over each hook. These elements add human interest and tell the lifestyle story of the occupants.

Instead of thinking “designer” or good, better, best as the only element when choosing furnishings – think comfort, function, and personal style.  Instead of wanting to copy a look you see in a magazine – first figure out what it is about the space that caught your eye – then proceed to add that element to your home.  It may not have to be purchased or it may just require you to move items out or in from another room.

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Stop thinking about how you want your home to look, instead think…How do I want to FEEL in my home?

Ask yourself:

  • Does your home truly reflect who you are?  If the answer is no, or only a little,  then ask yourself – Why not?  Then figure out what is needed so that it does reflect you.
  • Are all your needs being met physically and emotionally?  What do you do upon waking, eating, working? Is everything you need at arm’s length or easy to get? Do you have the right wattage of light bulb to read by? Is the sink at the right height, the cabinet for your dishes right above the dishwasher so you can empty it with ease. Do your rugs feel good under your feet?  These little things make the way you live “the best” – not designer plates or an expensive appliance.
  • How do I really want to live?  Is it casual, formal, cozy, spacious, dark, light.
  • If you were the only person you had to impress, how would you decorate your home?  This is the hardest to figure out but once you do, you will be on your way to knowing what change is needed so you feel good in your home.

How one feels in their home is as individual as each one of us – our tastes, personality, and past. Your home should feel customized just for you and your family.

How to Begin to Feel at Home:

So how do you get your home to start feeling the way you want?  Simply start with a list.

Start small… tackle a kitchen cabinet first.  Take everything out and ask, “What do I hate, what do I love?”  Only put back in what you love. From this point forward only add back in what you truly love or need to that cabinet and then move to the next. Keep going around your kitchen. Once you’re done, start in another room until you have edited every room in the house.  It may take you weeks or longer, but know that you are on the right path to creating a home that feels like you are getting a big hug every time you walk through the door.

How to decorate worksheet

Here is my Feeling at Home love list:

I have expanded on each item to show you how I try to make it happen in my home.

  • Comfy seating - I have an oversized sofa and chair and two movable ottomans in my family room – they are worn, but super comfortable.  To make them look more cohesive with each other, I covered them with white slipcovers.
  • Lots of natural light – I don’t have window treatments that block any light so throughout the day the house always feels bright and cheery.
  • Smells good - This one is a constant struggle, but I do feel much better in my home when it is clean and smells fresh. I use home fragrance to entice my sense of smell. It also helps when I don’t have a chance to get the Spic N’ Span out every week.
  • Expansive views - (a recurring theme that goes with the natural light above – makes it extra important that I make sure I have this in my home). I have regular sized windows, but do not cover them up with heavy window treatments that block the light or views.  I use roller shades at every window so that if I do need privacy or to block the sun, I can simply roll them down.  On windows were I have curtain panels, I made sure that the rods were cut wide enough so when the panels were hung they didn’t cover the window, only overlap the window trim.
  • Clutter-free - I only keep what we love on tables and mantels and bookshelves.    Trendy or stuff bought on a whim always seems to end up in the pile for Goodwill.
  • Fresh air  - Window and door screens are a must in my house for the summer.  I want to catch every breeze that blows by. I could not even imagine living in a house without open windows and doors to allow in the fresh air.
  • Color - I like white walls and seating with pops of color scattered throughout each room.   If your spouse dislikes a color you love, don’t let this stop you from enjoying the color in your home.  Paint the inside of your drawers with it. Think how happy it will make you feel when you open one of them to grab a t-shirt.
  • Low maintenance - Enough said  ;-)  Even as a DIYer I have my limits on what I want to take care of around my house.
  • Natural elements - In the Spring and Summer I bring in whatever is blooming outside and place it in a vase. I usually place it on the kitchen table or island.  In the Fall, I bring in branches with colorful leaves still hanging on.  In the Winter –  greenery that I buy at the local nursery and at Christmas, the clippings from the bottom of the tree when we buy it.  In the Summer, I display my shell collection, in the Fall – pine cones and acorns, although with Trax the cat, the acorns usually become his play toys.
  • Candle light - Candlelight is magical.  I like to use it as much as I can, at dinner, taking a bath, along the mantel, outside in the summer. It elevates the mood to one that says sit and stay awhile.
  • Photos of family - I used to have a lot more photos of friends and family around, but as the photos faded or the frames outdated, I have only put back a few – mostly of my daughters since they no longer live at home I like to see their photos and blow them a kiss as I walk by.
  • Mirrors - Across from windows and doors to expand the light. I also place one by my front door so that I can take a quick glance at myself to make sure I look presentable when I answer the door. If you work from home in yoga pants all day, having this is a necessity.
  • Simple yet highly functional -  I like simple appliances with no bells and whistles that take a 100 page manual to learn how to use. On/Off is good enough for me.
  • Texture  - I don’t like anything that feels scratchy against my skin.  I once made pillows with burlap.  Not only were they scratchy but they smelled of burlap when you sat or laid on the sofa. Not a good feeling.  Out they went.
  • Soft White Lightbulbs – I am not a fan of the new LED and CFL lightbulbs.  Even the newer ones that are said to have nicer light still give off an odd cast of light. As long as they keep making soft white light bulbs,  I will be using them.

When a space starts to feel off, I take out my list and edit the space until it feels just right again. Many times all that is needed is the removal of a few items and the addition of an item taken from another room.

How to decorate

In the journey to feeling at home you will take some missteps, but decorating a home is a journey that as it evolves over time, will get better and better.

What would be on your list? Nobody’s list will be exactly like yours, but if you follow it and edit the rooms in your house you will begin to feel truly at home.

Home Decorating Workshop sheet

Free printable to start making your own love list:   Feeling at Home Love List

 

As you build your “love list”, remember to keep these points in mind:

Enliven Every Day – Surround yourself with beauty.  Don’t save items that you love for special occasions only- use and enjoy everything you own every day. Drink your daily intake of water out of a crystal goblet.  Use the good china every night. Buy the fluffiest towels so when you step out of the shower you feel pampered.  Place a lit candle on the table at dinner every night.  Keep a vase of flowers on your desk.

Fulfill All Your Senses -All through the house, play your favorite tunes and spray or diffuse room fragrance. Buy the softest bedding you can find so after a tough day your body melts into the sheets.

Edit…Edit…Edit…  Learn to be choosy – most of us are so programmed to live the way marketers want us to live. They rely on the fact that people no longer have the creative energy after a busy day to think for themselves.  Edit out the noise and only choose what truly makes you smile.

Follow Your Instincts – That little voice in your head is usually right.

Break the Rules – How boring would homes look if we all followed the rules?  Decorating rules were made to be broken. There is no such thing as the decorating police – you are the only one stopping yourself from doing what feels right when it comes to picking out what you like and don’t like. Instead of thinking you have to have a sofa in your living room because that is what is expected, ask if your family would prefer to each have their own chair to watch TV.  Four oversized club chairs arranged in the room may be a better option.

Let it Evolve – Take your time; decorating a home to feel good does not have to be done in a day, a week, or a year.  I let my decorating evolve – it will never be done since I am still living.  It will be done when I am no longer alive.  When you take the time to let the rooms evolve over time is when you create rooms that fit perfectly into your life.

The next time you find yourself doubting the way you decorate your home, turn the tables.  Cherish the way you decorate. Realize that others are inspired by you, just as much as you are inspired by them. Take pride in the fact that you organize your kitchen cabinets in a way that is ultra efficient.  You think it is nothing, that anyone can do it, but your neighbor thinks it is terrific, since no matter how hard she tries she can never get her organization to the same level.

The more you edit, follow your gut, and break the rules, the more you will feel at home.

_______________________

The next blog in the series is Melissa from 320 Sycamore. She just moved into a new house and it is a beauty!

Visit all 25 bloggers below… links will become active once posts are live.

Day 1:
1. Beth, Home Stories A to Z: How to Find Your Decorating Style
2. Courtney, A Thoughtful Place: 5 Gallery Wall Styles
3. Stacy, Not Just A Housewife: How to Decorate with Plants
4. Myquillyn, Nesting Place: Turning a House into a Home on a Thrift Store Budget
5. Donna, Funky Junk Interiors: How to Turn Worthless Junk into Home Decorating Must Haves

Day 2:
1. Melissa, The Inspired Room: The Secret Ingredient Every Room Needs
2. Jessica, Four Generations One Roof: How to Decorate with Container Plants
3. Traci, Beneath my Heart: How to Style a Coffee Table
4. Cyndy, The Creativity Exchange: Tricks for How to Zone in on the Perfect Paint Color
5. Laura, Finding Home: 5 Ways to Personalize Your Home

Comments

  1. Kim says

    You wrote such a great post. It made me feel so good to just think about what works for me and my family in our home. I also like the idea of editing things and moving things from one room to another. Thanks so much.

  2. Sheryll & Critters. says

    You definitely hit the nail square on the head for me. While reading this post of yours, I have already (in my head) rearranged my kitchen cabinets….. well at least two of them…. both upper and lower. They were okay for the winter, but for this summer with the kitchen door open for the screen door, it is a pain. I have my plates and saucers and cups in it….. ugh, have to move the door stop and shut the door at least 3 times a day.

    I still desperately want to copy your 3 D Mirror wall in your guest room though… still no mirrors yet, but I will do it some day. I have been saving scrap wood to do it too.

    And I just primed my front door with white primer….. to decide if I want to paint it the pale yellow of the house or white or the Deepest Woodland Green. I was never keen on the very dark green (which is the trim color, ya know, the shutters and post that hold up the carport roof). I also had considered the dark bronze of my windows….. but ugh again. I think I am going to go with white, I might paint just the casing of the glass oval a pale yellow…… not sure though, cause the leading in the glass is gold. No one is painting their doors white any longer…… but it is the only thing I like so far. And leave it to me to be different. I was the very first to put a metal roof on my tiny house here in this neighborhood. My closest neighbors were quite vocal about no one else in the neighborhood had a metal roof. I said it was my roof and I wanted metal…….. then others followed. Here in Florida, they try to tell you it is a 30 year or a 15 year roof and guess what? Try to find that roofer that guaranteed your shingle roof….. even after 10 years!!!! Been there, done that one and didn’t like it. lol

  3. Sheryll & Critters. says

    Also, it has been almost 11 years for my metal roof and it still looks shiny clean & brand new…… I just love my metal roof. It does not hold the heat like the shingles. It does not have steam coming up from it when it rains like the other houses with shingles.

    And it looks so neat, clean and gorgeous!

  4. Monika says

    Excellent post! Perceptive, well-written and, obviously, thought out. I loved reading it, so read it twice, smiling and nodding at times. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Lisa says

    Great post Diane! I will earmark this one to read later too- super content. So glad I found your blog.
    I also just watched Diana Vreeland’s autobiography last night on Netflix. Outrageous visionary!

  6. says

    Your “love list” is so similar to mine we may have copied each other’s thoughts ;-) Wonderfully written article. I just told a client yesterday “Don’t be surprised if we do something that ‘breaks the decorating rules’. That’s what’s going to make your house a home.” Thank you Diane for your lovely and practical insight.

  7. says

    Great post! I can see why your home is so bright and cheery and creative. I am going to save this one to refer to from time to time to remind me of what is important. Thanks Diane!

  8. Kristin says

    This is why I love reading your blog so much! You are creative, wise and talented.
    Oh, how I wish you could surprise me in my home and help me tackle one room.
    Your blog is my all time favorite, comfy blog I come back to again and again. Thanks
    for a great post and the inspiration to create.

  9. Sally Norbury says

    You know what, you are absolutely 100% right about all you write in this article. I was planning to hire a professional designer but how could a complete stranger make ME feel at home. This person is not familiar with what I like and definitely know anything about who I am, right? So, I will download your Feeling at home love list and will fill it as soon as possible. Then I will take things into my own hands and will renovate and decorate my own house to make it feel at home. Well, I have to admit that I might make a lot of mistakes because I don’t know anything about decoration but at least this will be my own mistakes and I could fix them after all. Thank you so much for this article. It inspired me to make a change :) Now cross your fingers because renovation will be in process :)

  10. Michelle says

    I loved your ideas. This will be helpful to me as I do some major reorganizing, which I hope will lead to some low budget redecorating. Thanks for a great post.

  11. Amy says

    Wow, Diane, what an awesome post! You hit on so many things I’ve been struggling with. My husband and I have only been married 5 years and I’ve moved into his family home, so decorating is a touchy subject at times. Thanks so much for the great advice! I’m going to share it with him and see if we can lose some of the extended family feeling and decorate the house to make us happy.

  12. says

    This is a terrific post and I especially liked the love list and the points to keep in mind. I’m not a decorator and often feel very incompetent in this area. Your thoughts confirmed that I might be on the right track and made me feel a lot better about my own insights.

  13. Holly@homestyletips.com says

    This is an amazing post. I personally think there are two main ideas that make a comfortable home. One is comfortable furniture and two is a lot of natural light. Both you have mentioned. I love how you expand more on the ideas though.

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