This time last year, I was sitting on the floor nursing a fussy newborn, hot gluing strips of drop cloth to the bottom of Ikea dishtowels to make my own cafe curtains for the kitchen. I was on empty in every sense of the word; no time, no sleep, no money yet when I looked around at our house, I realized it was depleting my energy more than anything else.
I think one of the things that gets left out of the conversation on DIY and home decor is the mental health element. Our environment has a huge impact on our mood, creativity and productivity. If you work from home or stay home with kids all day, it’s even more important that your space is soothing. I sat there on the floor last year, looking around and realized that it was about more than decorating; it was about finding a place I could be my best self.
The first big change was moving the furniture around in the living room (a free change). Once I did that, it opened up the entire space. I had this big empty wall, which led me to create a gallery wall. When I’d feel lost in other rooms, I’d walk back to the living room, look at the gallery wall and feel anchored. Little by little, I created more anchors throughout the house until it started looking the way I wanted. I think the big thing I need to stress here is that finding your own personal style is a slow, experimental process. It is also a fluid process. If you allow your house to grow and change, you’ll by extension allow yourself to grow and change.
Here’s a few things I found helpful as I’ve worked towards discovering my own style:
Study the bones of your house.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when we first moved into this house was trying to plan out every room before we even had the keys. If you are impatient like me, this could be a challenge, but I think it’s best to live in a space to learn its function and quirks. We discovered that the loft area we designated as a playroom rarely was used so I’ve decided to rethink that space as my kid-friendly but mom-approved art studio and office.
Take an inspiration walk through your space.
It’s tempting to linger on Pinterest when you’re trying to design a space but sometimes it’s best to take a break. In fact, maybe just close your laptop and ditch technology for a weekend. Walk through your house and pay attention to the things that speak to you. Gather items on your bed or dining room table so you can see it all together. It can be anything! Clothing, jewelry, photos, textures…anything that inspires you. I find doing this reminds me that the answer isn’t “out there.” I’ve always know what I love but sometimes, I need to reconnect with my own sense of style.
Invest in classic furniture.
One of the best purchases we’ve made is our Ikea Ektorp sofa and armchair. From a design standpoint, I’ve loved the versatility slipcovered furniture has offered as I’ve tried to establish my own style. I can change the slipcovers easily and without breaking the bank, though I tend to stick with white, because it is the easiest to clean with small kids. I also love the white because I can change the look of the room almost instantly by swapping out throw pillows. I think when you invest in classic pieces like a versatile sofa, a timeless dining room table or bed with simple lines, you have a solid foundation to build your style upon.
Study colors that inspire you.
I have tried it all when it comes to color, from earth tones to cheeky, bright hues. Though I liked those colors, I found that I couldn’t live with them because they didn’t make me feel at peace. My mind is a messy, creative and always-buzzing place so I need my environment to be soothing. When I slowed down and thought of a place that would be a retreat, I thought of light and water and smooth pebbles. I’m a mermaid-at-heart so that’s where I got the color palette for our home; soft seaside hues. Once I planned out a color palette, I felt less overwhelmed with decorating. It gave me gentle boundaries to work within and a much-needed sense of harmony from room-to-room. I’ve also found that I can shop thrift stores, estate sales or yard sales for accessories and then spray paint them to work within our decor. My go-to spray paint colors right now are white, gold and Krylon’s Chalky Finish Paint in Mink.
Look for ways to add texture.
If you are working within a tight budget, texture is going to be a great ally in creating a richly detailed space. Sure, you can do this with throw pillows, blankets and baskets but get creative. I love how Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper uses texture on walls with found items like shutters, old gates and rusty farm elements. Drop by your local Restore and check out the building supplies; maybe you’ll find a great window for a few bucks.
Get creative with wall art.
I find that people are most often intimidated about choosing wall art, which is why at one point or another, we’ve all had a framed Monet or Van Gogh print. Leave the art to the artists, right? No. Your life is art. It can be so simple, friend! Dig through your family photo album and have a vintage photo enlarged or printed on canvas. Use salvaged architectural pieces. Buy a wood board for less than $10 at your hardware store, paint it white then write your wedding vows (yes, in YOUR handwriting) or the lyrics to your favorite song. If you really don’t want to make your own wall art, I find that Etsy is the best place to find original and budget-friendly art that I love, from $5 printables to custom family portraits.
Make a shopping cart board.
I like to keep one board on Pinterest (my Things I’m Dreaming Of board) where I give myself free reign to gather art and decorative items that inspire me, regardless of price. I love this board for a few reasons:
- It anchors me. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with a space or project, I go to this board and typically have an “Ah, here I am” moment.
- When I’ve pinned something way out of my price range, it reminds me to look for alternatives or figure out a way to make it on my own.
- Travis has an entire, at-a-glance list of no-fail Christmas gift options ;)
Relax and experiment.
Over the past ten years, I’ve had a Tuscan-inspired kitchen, toile drapes, a gumball machine in the kitchen and rainbow sherbert-colored chairs. Play. Have fun. Use your space to explore every facet of your personality until you feel at home, both in your house and in your skin.
What one item in your home is the most you?