Decorating Freedom

Don’t worry, be happy.”

BOBBY MCFERRIN

Knowing What You Want

We customized the outside of our vintage bungalow style home starting with a ready-made “historic” color to which my husband added ground pigments to create this dusty effect. I use all manner of “seafoam” and “celadon” greens as accents around the home.

No longer are most of us confined to geography and ethnic culture in our choices of decorating, and that is a great deal of the matter in choosing one outcome over another. When I did the Lifestyle Mapping exercise, it helped me on so many aesthetic levels. I’ve already detailed how it helped me find personal style freedom, but it also helped me make decisions about home decor in a way that streamlines the process of decision making.

Lifestyle mapping helped me to come up with two words that defined an 80/20% split of what makes me consistently happy: Sea + Treasure. The 80% word represents what I love most, while the 20% word represents a secondary element that keeps the 80% from becoming boring.

If I lived alone, that might have been the end of it, but after I married my fine artist husband it soon became apparent that his love of rich fabrics and colors was closest to my 20% word — not my 80%. We love many of the same things, but his taste, undiluted, would suffocate me. It’s to be expected, for I am not him and he is not me. Many people have to factor in things that make their abstract preferences fairly impracticable: pets, sprawling hobbies, or someone who loves to tinker with car parts in the house.

That is the real reason you don’t live in an Architectural Digest home and probably never will. Real people breathe, move, and shift things around. (Or would you rather pets and people were taxidermied and permanently mounted in position?) If you are to live well but not in a bubble, you must learn to appreciate spatial and geographical limitations, the influence of other persons upon your space, and the changing circumstances of life. So, don’t worry, be happy.

Negotiations and Compromises

One of our custom colored hotel carpets, from a Stacy Garcia design (Brintons Axminster USA).
This huge, playful design went into a modern hotel with several adjoining ballrooms, plus a skyline ballroom atop a tower.

I learned a lot of things from my artist husband about design and also from reading up on the topic. We have actually worked on several hotel carpet projects together as well as a few other odd jobs. (See my husband’s website if you know of anyone needing assistance with the aesthetics of public spaces, historic buildings, or smaller residential dwellings.) So I guess you could say that my biggest contribution has been learning to negotiate competing aesthetics — not only between ourselves but also between members of other groups we’ve worked with.

Our Space

My influence in a corner of our living room. Heavy, hard items are offset by the filigree effects I love. The light filters through the curtains and also through the screen, which has elephants all over it (I love elephants).

My love of the gentle and airy has softened my husband’s native stateliness and love of rich colors and fabrics. (He was born to the manor but I was born barefoot!) One of the first things I did was replace the stark white living room walls with a gentle, perfect grey — the better to show off the paintings that rotate in and out. Gone, too is the visual clutter of conflicting fabric prints and too many rugs. The extra spaciousness makes cleaning easier and better highlights the focal points of the room. Because clients come and go, that area needed to be primarily his.

For our bedroom, things took a different turn. That room was my baby. As with most of our paints, we customized. (We often add natural pigments to a paint base.) That particular room looks cold to the eye in winter (which is very jarring to my South Texas sensibilities), so we changed the white walls to a barely warmed shell pink. I love off-white draperies — so adding those brought in the “air” I crave. I would have been content to leave it at that because I need places for my mind to unwind.

However, remember what I said about negotiating competing aesthetics? No sooner was the paint dried than art works began appearing on the walls. I didn’t want anything on the walls! Now who could have done that? Negotiating time. We finally agreed that only art depicting natural open spaces or clean design would go on those walls (whew!), and that the one heavy, dramatic piece would go on a side wall that I don’t have to look at when I’m trying to relax. Good. I could breathe again. And that’s kind of how you do it when you share spaces.

I have to say that the result is not simply a dilution of both our preferences. In retrospect, I rather think it improved both of our original inclinations. There is something about another person’s input that takes you out of what I call the “dog run of the mind” and carries you into refreshing possibilities. That’s the part I have been dying to get to — the possibilities part.

When you understand the components you have to work with, what makes you tick, and what the genuine limitations are, you will be armed with the knowledge that your decision is right. In fact, you may be truly happy that you do not live in a House Beautiful or Veranda home. And yet there is plenty to learn from magazines that will enhance the home you do live in.

Header photo credit: Miru in SL on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND