Are you hesitant to make a big purchase, afraid you’ll hate it in a year?
Are you fearful of investing in something that won’t stand the test of time?
Perhaps you are trend-adverse but unsure about what’s classic vs. trendy?
I feel ya! I’ve experienced ALL of these. Whether you’re an apartment dweller, first time home owner, or seasoned homeowner, big purchases are scary. I have found that confidence stems from knowing your style and what works for you. The emotions around cost, durability, and if you’ll still like it 10 years down the road, are a giant hairball. BUT the way to gain confidence in the midst of this anxiety, is to learn YOUR style. This isn’t about vision boards or understanding designer style lingo. It’s about you and what you love. I believe everyone has a unique style, but sometimes you just have to uncover it.
Having a space to call home is a privilege for most of us. Deciding how to make it comfortable and reflect YOU is a crucial step, no matter your budget. I find that if you can’t identify with your design style, you’ll never be fully comfortable at home. So I’m here to help you get comfortable. Let’s dive in!
All creative pursuits start with inspiration. Today’s social media platforms supply an overload of visual stimuli. Everyone is telling you what your house should look like or what to buy on Amazon, and they change their minds daily! The eye candy is dizzying. For some, it’s inspiring, but for lots of others it just generates anxiety. Research shows that the younger GenZ, who have survived high school/college through the pandemic, are at an all time high when it comes to anxiety. Regardless of where you are in life, I want to help you navigate these decisions. My goal is to help you avoid the decision fatigue that sets in when confronted with big, scary, expensive choices, or a big empty house. Decision fatigue is real, I’ve been there and this is the roadmap I’ve used.
Of course I start here! Family heirlooms have soul! Items that are from your own family instantly create warmth, just by their presence. If you haven’t been gifted something from your elders yet, maybe ask them or at least share your interest in the pieces that matter most to you. You may not get them now, but perhaps someday. A parent or grandparent feels so validated when a younger generation wants that piece that was chosen so many years back. This isn’t about leapfrogging over your siblings' wishes to get in front of the line, but just expressing genuine heartfelt emotion about the piece and your memories associated with it. Just putting it out there is a good energy.
I know this option isn’t available to everyone, so I recommend hunting for pieces that remind you of a special someone or event in your life. Heck, it could even be furniture from a movie that makes you feel good. Find the thing that connects with your heart and soul and gives you joy. These can be both small artifacts or larger case goods, the options in vintage shopping are endless. The goal is to surround yourself with a few things that spark positive feelings. Those pieces become a living physical memory, triggering a little dose of dopamine every time you see or interact with them.
ART as VISION BOARD
Photography and art are also great ways to personalize your home. I consider the visual artifacts I place on the walls as a representation of my past, present, and future. Items that help us remember a specific time, like a trip or funny experience, are fantastic opportunities to create that homey glow. Also, don’t just assume it has to be photos. I know many people who hate having their photo taken and don’t want to plaster photos of themselves everywhere. The best option is to search for art, yes art!
Do a quick Etsy or Instagram hashtag search, you'll find artists that specialize in anything! From farm landscapes and beach sunset paintings, to line drawings of bicycles, old tennis shoes or yoga poses, the options are plentiful and they include vintage art. Price points vary considerably, depending upon the artist’s experience, but there are many artists that are just looking to be found. For the more established artists, don’t rule out purchasing a high quality giclee print. They are a great option if you fall in love with something that is over your budget. The hunt is about exploring your interests! When it comes to art, just start somewhere. I promise that once you start the process, it gets so much easier from there.
I find the most impactful part of this search is identifying items that represent your future dreams and desires. I personally did this when I was considering a home on the Oregon coast. I lined my entire hallway with landscape paintings that were either of the ocean or scenes that reminded me of the drive to the coast. Sure enough, about 2 years later I ended up with that house. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was priming myself for the decisions and sacrifices required to make that dream happen. It focused my actions in a very specific, yet subtle way.
THE ANXIETY OF BROKEN THINGS
We’ve already established that artifacts in your home trigger memory. If that memory is negative in any way I highly recommend removing or refreshing the item. There are big anxieties associated with broken objects but giving them new life can also be cathartic. So prioritize what you really want or need to repair or refresh and continue full steam ahead. This is about finding your individual style informed by things that make you feel good. No guilt is allowed. Only keep the stuff that generates goodness.
If you’re unsure about chucking an item, maybe it needs work and is sitting in the garage or a storage unit. Let me reframe this challenge for you….consider the Japanese technique of Kintsugi. They believe cracks in pottery are just part of life. Rather than throwing away a broken/cracked piece, the Japanese reassemble them back together with gold. They believe the new joints and seams make the piece even stronger than it was before. Broken pieces can have better, stronger futures. So if you can’t or don’t want to repair it still, offer it up for someone else to rescue, refresh and reclaim.
One last sure fire experiment that works for me even today, is house hunting. Even if you’re just kicking the tires on Zillow, see if you find yourself only looking for spaces that will accommodate your grandmother’s heirloom buffet, that set of botanical prints you had framed, or that dining set - you get my point. If you start narrowing your options because “xyz” has to fit, then you know it’s something you will cherish for years to come and is worth the investment.
COLOR & TEXTURE
If you have a favorite color, embrace it! This, my friend, will most likely change with age and life stage, but that’s ok. If you find a throw blanket or wallpaper pattern that makes you smile, go for it. Do not hold back in any way, embrace what you love! There are many low cost ways to embrace those obsessions. Consider peel and stick wallpaper, a simple can of paint for one wall or pillows out of that crazy green you love.
If you have a partner to negotiate with, agree on a space that is just for you to design as a test. This could be a dark and stormy powder room or a bright and light craft space. Just go for it. Acknowledging the color and pattern that makes you swoon today will help you move through to new levels of taste over time. Just get it out of your system now because in 5, 10 or 20 years you’ll evolve to something much more rich, engaging, and for sure, more YOU. Developing your own style does take time, so take the tiny risks now for the sake of your future stylish self.
I feel torn regarding the fast-fashion & home world, such as Zara Home, Ikea, or World Market, probably even West Elm. I believe they have a place when it comes to testing ways to define your style. They do a pretty good job at following the latest trends and trailing some top designers. I bought an entire set of dining chairs from Target and kept them for about 5 years. I did my own DIY upholstery job that turned out ok. But I couldn’t afford Barbara Berry chairs at $1000/each so I went with what worked in my budget. I was so thrilled with what that room looked like and the chairs helped solidify the look. The sense of completion was way more gratifying than spending $8k on high end chairs.
However, we are all aware that a higher price point can often equate to better construction and durability (not always), but like I said, those Ikea chairs lasted me only about 5 years. Today I still love Barbara Berry and look for pre-loved sets on Chairish regularly and the old Ikea chairs were sold as a set on Craigslist, so hopefully someone is still using them today. This is the conundrum of fast-home furnishings. They do have a place and can be on trend, but honestly if I’d purchased the Barbara Berry chairs 15 years ago, I’m sure today I’d still have them. In fact, I’ve since gone through 2 other dining sets which doesn’t feel great in the light of diminishing global resources. Investing in quality construction is a more sustainable option in the long run. The convenience/affordability of fast home fashion can be used as tests before you commit. It’s important to test your taste when you’re early in your style journey. Over time you’ll figure out if any of those early cravings will stand the test of time.
Even today, I experiment with what makes me feel good in my space. If you are now working from home, it’s even more critical to pause and reflect on what spaces or items provide you comfort, motivation and inspiration. For me, time and time again, the three things that impact my human experience in my home are vintage, art, and color. I hope this article provides you some guidance. If you’re really stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m always happy to consult on vintage furnishings, art curation and color!