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How to Decorate So You Feel at Home

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How to decorate your home in the best way possible, so you feel at home.

4 room images of rooms decorated to feel good.

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 Quote

Diana 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?

Decorating versus Lifestyle

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 actually 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.

How to style a table tray for fall decorating raffia tassels

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 the way they 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.

How Do You Want to Feel in Your Home?

Wall of windows

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

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • 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

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.

Free Printable Feeling at Home Love List

Home Decorating Workshop sheet

Remember When Decorating Your Home to Keep These Points in Mind

Colorful bedroom

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.

4 photos of home decorating with a text overlay that says, How To Decorate do you feel at home.  #decorating

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60 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.