With thoughtful discussions popping up all over the internet over topics on fashion, entrepreneurship, and modern relationships, there’s a lot of exciting content to take in. We’re understanding our contemporary culture better than ever before; but one topic remains out of the discussion: home decorating.
To bring some important questions about design to the forefront, our editors are beginning a new style of article called “Round-Table Discussions”. For our first topic we talked about whether it’s best to decorate all at once or slowly over time. Find out below where our editors stand.
Victoria de la Camara, Style Editor: In the past, with your own homes, how have you reacted to the challenge a of new space to decorate? Did you feel like you needed to get it done right away, or did you take your time?
Kelli Lamb, Managing Editor: With my apartment in San Francisco, my husband and I were combining our belongings. We were much more comfortable taking our time to find the right everything: layout, paint colors,rugs. I think this is because we were still navigating the process of merging 2 aesthetics into one home, and finding a look that made us both happy. When we moved to our house in Los Angeles, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted the space to look like. We wanted it to feel like “home” as quickly as possible, so the need to get it done felt totally immediate.
Crystal Palecek, Editor-in-Chief: For me, that was when my now husband and I had just gotten married and living together for the first time. It was overwhelming to sift through both of our things and keep only that which sparked joy for both of us. I would have loved to do that all at once…like ripping off a band-aid, but my husband gets a little more attached to things, so I had to slowly go about that over the course of a year. For our next home together, not having that step of combining belongings means we’ll be able to create a space a lot quicker.
Kat McEachern, Contributing Editor: Personally, I’ve taken my time, which has often been as much related to budget as anything else. But that has also given me the opportunity to make changes as I live in a space. We’re planning on staying in this place for a while so are still slowly tweaking. Every few months or so we get very ambitious about a certain room or project and are just moving from my office to the kitchen.
Victoria: It seems like you are all saying that the first time round was a much slower process – almost a way of getting to know each other better as a couple…
Crystal: Exactly, finding our style resting point together as a couple!
Kat: Yes! I probably was a lot quicker and willing to just try out ideas when my husband didn’t have to live with it too.
Victoria: I think that’s true for anyone trying to find how they want to live – whether it’s together as a couple or by themselves.
Crystal: That’s a good point. And it’s always an evolving thing as new things inspire you, as you grow, and as you become interested in new things.
Kelli: Yes! For example, I’ve always been drawn to really colorful interiors. But when I really thought about it, and dug into what “home” means for me, a very quiet, neutral space is where I’m happiest. This could evolve as my life does, but for now… I’m all about lots of white and gray!
Victoria: I think that’s a great point – what you admire in a photo may not be how you want to live. I have always been really sensitive about what’s in my home. So whether it was living in a new type of apartment (I now live in a loft) or in a new relationship, it was really just about making sure I was making the right choice with what I brought in. I understand that desire to just have it complete, but the consequences of making a hasty decision can sometimes keep me up at night.
Kat: Ha, I understand that feeling.
Crystal: Victoria, I know the feeling! And I find that my gut knows all along if a purchase is right. The key has been learning to listen to that…even when it’s just a soft whisper.
Victoria: Does that mean that you prefer to decorate slowly, Kat?
Kat: Definitely. And I spend as many nights trying to fall asleep but instead planning out new ideas for my home. Last night it was laying in bed trying to visualize my kitchen with a big hutch because I desperately need more storage and want to hide my refrigerator better! Because I decorate slowly, I don’t have many regrets but it also means I spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming in advance before I’m sure it is right.
Victoria: What did you end up deciding?
Kat: I love the idea but right as I fell asleep I realized the placement I want may not be earthquake secure. So I have to investigate that.
Victoria: Wow! That’s really smart, and also a problem I have never had to deal with!
Crystal: This might sound strange at first, but I always feel like the walls of a home tell me what they want. For example, I let time pass to ponder the possibilities of what to put where and then it always becomes crystal clear at some point. Like “that wall wants a mirror!” or “this side of the room is where the sofa has to be!” I wait until they speak to me. I think you have to live in a space for a bit until that can happen.
Kelli: I really relate to that Crystal. While I definitely fall on the side of wanting it to be done sooner rather than later, I also think of it as a base. So, we get the bigger pieces in place and then it’s endless adjustments. Especially living with an artist — the walls and tabletops are a canvas of constant change!
Victoria: I was so interested to visit you in your home Kelli for that reason! I so admired your way of having a home that wasn’t static, where things were constantly moving.
Kelli: Thanks, Victoria! I also like to get ‘placeholders’ to figure out how I like living with that. For example, we had a rug in the kitchen that I loved. Cue Christmas, a full house, and a stray blackberry… and the rug is toast. But, having it there let me know “ok… I LOVE that look. I need to find a rug with a similar look but will be easier to clean and maintain.”
Victoria: I remember you said that a rug in one room might go in another because you found one that you liked better for that space! I think I am much more static with my decor.
Kelli: Yep… rugs are always on the move here. I also am totally comfortable buying cheap things as a “placeholder.” Our jute rug (in the living room) was inexpensive, but it will serve us well until we find a similarly sized rug that we love enough to invest in.
Crystal: I love that story, Kelli. Our homes are truly living breathing entities. As a design lover, that’s one of the things that lights my fire each morning – I don’t think a day goes by in my life where I’m not tweaking my home like an artist with a canvas. It energizes me to make new moments in my home ever day, even if it’s just moving around a few items on the bookshelves.
Kat: I think a lot of people get ‘placeholders’ then end up living with them from far too long. Other than blackberries, how do you convince yourself it is time for them to go?
Kelli: Ha! Kat — we’ve discussed this with clothing. “Would you be embarrassed if you met (insert your design icon here) and were wearing it?” I think of the same thing with my home. If someone dropped by, unexpectedly, would I feel the need to hide something away?? If so, it probably doesn’t have any business as a permanent fixture in your space. Of course, I’m not the best follower of that practice… as I’m currently wrapped up in the world’s ugliest — yet softest — blanket.
Crystal: Love that analogy though!
Kat: There is always an exception for soft! Victoria, Kelli and Crystal move things around frequently but you are more static. Is that because of the care you put into selecting in the first place? Or some other reason?
Victoria: It definitely has to do with the care that I put into it. I am kind of obsessive about my home. I am a minimalist so not a lot comes through the doors. I take quite a bit of time to think about not just what type of item I want but also which exact item. I don’t know how many times I have had things in my shopping cart and then last minute just decided not to buy it. That also means that I don’t think any of my apartments have truly been even close to “complete”.
Crystal: And that is something I so admire in you, Victoria. Your thoughtfulness and restraint. You’ve become sort of a design style icon of mine. Before purchasing decorative pieces, I often imagine asking you first if you’d like it. Ha! Your style eye is impeccable because of how much thought you put into it and the bar you set. I’m very inspired by that.
Victoria: Wow, thanks! Your home made such a great impression on me when I came to visit you! It felt so thought out as well but more complete than my own. I think it’s easier to appreciate something that someone else does because you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes.
Kat: I think is very true. And not only do you not see the work, I think we are all much harder on ourselves. That is something I’m trying to avoid- looking around my space and seeing the things I want to change instead of the things I love about it. When I get home from a trip, I *love* my home. It’s only after working from home from days am I really wanting to change everything!
Victoria: So, the last thing I want to discuss is high and low – we all have budgets. To decorate you home, how have you made concessions about splurge items? Do you rely a lot on things like Ikea or would you rather have an empty space until you could afford something else?
Kelli: For me, budget rules all. I’m not comfortable spending large amounts of money one on thing (call it my frugal upbringing), so I have to really love something for a LONG time — even then, the anxiety is high. (I almost threw up when we bought our sofa, and it was actually pretty affordable.) However, with that being hardwired in who I am as a person, I can be just as happy with Ikea and other budget finds. It’s all about 2 things: proportion (making sure the piece fits your space and isn’t an obvious concession to the overall design) and styling. You can make anything look luxe. I guess it helps that I’m an obsessive cleaner, so I work really hard at making sure those lower-quality pieces last a long time.
Victoria: I heard that Ikea’s quality is really about how you put it together! But I also have to mention that I have always had good experiences with Ikea items.
Crystal: For me, I prefer to buy only what I absolutely love…so if that means a more high end piece, than I’m up for saving and waiting. Have you ever heard the quote, “Too poor to buy cheap”? In my experience, if I buy low end simply to save money, I just find myself dreaming of the high end version and usually end up buying it in the end. But that being said, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better or more stylish. Whatever sparks joy, regardless of the price point, is what I set out to own.
Kat: When I moved with my husband he was in grad school and so IKEA was our budget. And we needed the house to work. So bookcases, a bed, dining table, etc were all required and were a mix of IKEA/craigslist/family hand-me-downs. Even now that we are updating rooms, I’ve chosen IKEA several times because it can look very nice for the price.
Victoria: I would say that I feel that same way as you do Crystal! It’s really about finding those pieces that you truly love and being patient to get them. But I also see Kat’s point – I can totally relate to having different approaches depending on where you are in your life. I feel like unless you are sure that you won’t be making any transatlantic moves, it’s better to buy furniture that you aren’t too upset to part with. And, I agree, IKEA has great options!
Kelli: A big part for me is I hate moving in general — I’m not one for change! (I’ve only lived in… maybe 4 or 5 homes total in my entire life?) So when I move to a new place, I want all-new-everything to represent the new start. My budget-focused ways work well in that case, because it’s easier to part with something that wasn’t a monumental purchase. Maybe when we OWN a house, I’ll feel more comfortable dropping more money on singular items.
Kat: It’s been a challenge also to get my husband to want to invest in more expensive pieces because he feels very much like you do, Kelli. And while I want a home I love now, I do agree that I don’t want to spend a lot on big pieces that won’t work for us later.
Kelli: Design is in a really cool place right now — there are endless price points, and with outlets like Instagram, people are encouraged to share their own homes. (#HomeWithRue, anyone??) It’s been really great to see people who may normally just hang any old photo on the wall now put more effort in based on their discoveries. I think it’s just become really accessible. I’ve even seen it in my friends who haven’t cared much about their homes — aside from maybe buying cute candles or throw pillows — really discover an interest in making their home a beautiful place to live.
Crystal: And with the endless options online these days, we are pretty lucky to live in a time when it’s possible to decorate our homes beautifully at any price.
Victoria: Yes, I agree! Style is not just a niched conversation. But going back to what you guys said earlier: I think it doesn’t matter what your budget is or whether you have that philosophy of, “Later we’ll invest in big ticket items”, the most important thing is to have a somewhat cohesive vision of what you want. It’s not enough to just buy random items that you love. They have to be telling the same story.
Crystal: Yes! Having a point of view for your home and sticking to it!
Kat: I agree! And the best part is that the smaller items that allow you to do that- the art on the walls, throw pillows, vases- really are available at all price points.
Victoria: And I think that’s true whether you want to decorate all at once or over time.