Everyone wants a home that reflects his or her lifestyle, tastes and personality. It's natural to draw inspiration from the beautiful homes we love. However, applying style from our fantasy house to our actual residence with the limitations presented by our budget, practical needs and the structure of the house itself can be a source of frustration.
For the homeowner tuned in to interior design, there are abundant sources of inspiration. Thousands of home design books, magazines, catalogs and websites exhibit eye-catching imagery of gorgeous interiors and detail where to purchase the featured items. Multiple television programs and blogs claim to explain how to "get the look" for your own home. And services like the online pin board Pinterest parade an endless collection of photos in front of us.
The sticking point for many would-be decorators comes when they attempt to apply the looks they love in their own home. For one reason or another, they run into trouble identifying the specific characteristics they like about their sources of inspiration and get stuck holding a pile of magazine clippings. Here are the concerns raised most frequently by my design clients:
"I don't know where to start."
It isn't easy to stare at a photo of your "dream" living room, then turn your attention to your actual living room and immediately map out a path from dream to reality. When we look at a beautifully designed interior, we aren't responding logically to the specific objects depicted. Instead, we have an emotional response to the combination of elements shown and what is inferred by the design.
Here's an example: One client presented me with a pile of magazine clippings, each one showing living rooms in beach houses. Though his house and furnishings were incompatible with the beachy accessories, I suspected that he was actually reacting to the sunlight, crisp white walls, pale-colored furniture and relaxed vacation house vibe of these homes. Rather than attempting to re-create Martha's Vineyard in Austin, we focused on the "feel" of his dream homes and brought that to life in his house through wall color, furniture arrangement, a natural rug and a new slipcover for the sofa.
"I love the room in this magazine, but I can't afford to replace all of my furniture to re-create the look."
Home design would be much easier if we all had unlimited budgets. Because we don't, we need to approach the redesign process with the intent of maximizing our dollar's impact. Before attempting to transfer the style of your sources of inspiration to your own home, take stock of your furniture, accessories and artwork. Which items are closest in style to those featured in your clippings? Group those together with the items you cannot replace - a relatively new sofa in good shape, the heirloom dining table - to establish your list of "keepers." Next, assess what remains. Are there smaller pieces that could be used in another area of your home? Any pieces of furniture ready to be sold or donated? Focus on looking for replacements for those pieces that are in keeping with the feel of your inspiration clippings. Then mix in color, soft goods and accessories to freshen your existing pieces and bring you closer to the look you love.
"I really want a living room like that, but my (kids/pets/kids and pets) will tear it apart."
Practicality is essential for good home design. When looking at a beautiful magazine photo, remember that a small army of designers, stylists and photographers went to work on the space. Furniture was cleaned, Photoshopped or even brought in specifically for the shoot. Every pillow was tweaked, every light adjusted and every accessory set just so. Houses do not look "magazine perfect" on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean you can't make design decisions that enable you to live gracefully despite the activity in your home.
A client was enamored with a linen sofa she saw in a showroom. Though it looked great in the store, it wouldn't have survived long around her toddler. The Belgian linen upholstery was undeniably beautiful, but I suspected that she was primarily responding to the graceful shape of the sofa. With a little searching, we quickly found a similar sofa profile in a more resilient fabric. It gave her the look she wanted without sacrificing the durability she needed. By combining practicality with style, it is easier to keep your home looking great every day.
"I don't want to make the wrong decision."
This is one of the most common issues I hear from clients, and the most toxic. This is interior design, not internal medicine. Most design decisions are easily reversible at minimal cost, and sometimes the best way to decide what you really want is to experiment a bit.
Many of the clients I speak with know precisely which colors and styles they love, but they're terrified to take the first step in applying their tastes to their environment. They worry that the colors they like are "wrong" or that they will cause irreparable damage to their house and its resale value if they try their hand at design.
This is silly. Paint is inexpensive. Experiment with color and, if you hate the result, repaint. If you love a color or a style, it can't be the "wrong" decision. Unless you are preparing your home for resale, decorate your home to your personal tastes. Remember that there are no rules in interior design; only guidelines.
As a veteran of hundreds of photo and video shoots, I can assure you that every beautiful interior you see in a magazine has undergone dozens of tweaks and modifications through the design process. And, though a magazine photo depicts a room that is "finished," real design doesn't stop. The house in the magazine wasn't perfect on the first try, and your home doesn't need to be either. Muster up your courage, have fun and enjoy the process of creating an environment that works for you.