Decorating your living room — when you’re (supposed to be) a full-blown adult — can be intimidating, to say the least. By now, you’re probably past the stage of simply “making do” with whatever is around (like leftovers from your boyfriend’s bachelor days, a couch you found on the street, and a table someone gave you). Perhaps now you’re really ready to fully commit to decorating: not just furnishing.
But it’s scary. Furniture is expensive, and much more difficult to return than, say, a dress that doesn’t fit. How do you know if it’s all going to go together once it arrives in your house? Trust me, I’ve been there!
Recently, I received this email from my friend. She asked,
“We want to put colour in the living room, but we’re both a little scared of it. What will go together, and how do we get that fine line between having a fun, eclectic colourful space without it looking like a clashing, crazy messy shit-show? We want to do what you did: buy everything together so it all fits the same theme, and works as a complete room, but we dont really know where to start. Curtains, coffee table, accessories, ARGH! We now have a very clean, white room but it needs some damn pop. HELP REQUIRED!”
Last summer, I started to beautify Darling HQ with the help of my genius decorator (and glitter guru) Tiffany Pratt. Here are some of the things I learned from watching her work her magic!
START SIMPLE, AND LAYER IN A COUPLE OF COLOURS
The foundational pieces in my living room are white, grey, or glass. That makes it really easy to add colour on top.
Having said this, while it can be tempting to pick one colour and just go for it, this makes things look a bit stiff, a bit one-dimensional. Let’s take my living room as an example. It was painted white — including the doors — with wood floors. The only colour I knew I wanted in my room was pink, but I didn’t want to go nuts because I do, after all, share my home with my husband!
The second colour, turquoise, came through very organically. At the flea market, we picked up a handful of whitewashed pieces, including an armoire which had a turquoise base coat. Then, at IKEA, I fell in love with a turquoise over-dyed patchwork rug. I love pink and turquoise together, so I was thrilled!
Think about the colours you really, really love. What combinations make you smile? I strongly believe that the colours in your home should make you feel instantly happy when you look at them!
VARY YOUR SOURCES
As great as IKEA is, you don’t want your home to look like an IKEA catalogue. The easiest way to make sure this doesn’t happen? Don’t make IKEA your first stop! Otherwise, the temptation to furnish your whole home with particle-board is overwhelming!
Plan your time and do as much research online as you can. It will save you so much grief! Tiffany and I were able to knock all our shopping out in three days because we were informed, yo!
Here’s how we broke it down.
We started at a flea market, where we picked up three tables, an awesome mirror with plenty of patina, and a huge whitewashed armoire. (It’s magical.) I was really surprised by how easy the whole experience was, and even had 90% of the stuff delivered that same day. Incredible!
Next, we visited ABC Home, which is basically interior pornography. This is where I pulled the trigger on my first “big girl” chair: a lipstick pink BEAUTY of epic proportions, and a fabulous cushion printed with a neon pink eye. I could not resist.
The next day, we went to IKEA to plug those essential gaps (“Oh, we don’t have a fill-in-the-blank yet — we’ll just get it at IKEA”). At IKEA, we scored my desk, the rug, and our coffee tables. (They’re temporary, but they do the trick for now. I’m still on the hunt for something I love!) We have a lot of IKEA in our home: bookcases, the kitchen table, our bed, dressers, etc. It works just fine.
Homegoods was our last stop, for — as Tiffany calls it — “frosting”. I got lots of wonderful little things there that made our house feel like a home, and it was the most fun place to visit (in my opinion). Once the big, kind of scary stuff was out of the way, it was time to play! We picked up lamps, tsotchkes, trays, big Buddha heads, palmistry statues, mirrors… You get the idea. Stores like Homegoods or TJ Maxx are the best for great, inexpensive things. In fact, just before Christmas, I went to TJ Maxx’s homewares department and scored big: Kate Spade placemats, Cynthia Rowley drawer pulls, a sparkly tablecloth, and trays for the top of my dresser.
Everything else was purchased online. Hallelujah! Our sofa is the Finn from West Elm, the sick Kartell lamp on my desk was sourced on eBay for a fraction of ABC Home’s price, and I picked up Jonathan Adler rainbow sequin pillows with a gift card from my mother. (See below.) They. Are. AMAZING!
FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY!
My experience with Tiffany was a little scary, I have to say. I had been to plenty of flea markets, but I had never gone there prepared to make any big purchases. This was very, very different. Within about 15 minutes of arriving at the Brooklyn Flea, we had already purchased an enormous armoire, an ornate mirror, a side table, and a huge folding panel!
It was a pretty drastic change of pace, and it required some ultra-fast processing on my part. Throwing down cash on clothing is one thing, and it’s something I’m pretty comfortable with, but when it came to furniture, I was freaked out! However, Tiffany reassured me that I was making good choices, and life went on. I’m glad she did — if she hadn’t, by the time I had gotten comfortable with the idea, the pieces I wanted would have definitely been snapped up.
What I learned from spending time with Tiffany is that if you like something, you have to pounce on it. Don’t let analysis paralysis get the best of you. You can um and ah over every single item in your house, but it’s best to take the BandAid approach: rip it off quickly, and let the chips fall where they may!
ACCESSORIES MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Don’t forget to put signs of life into your home! After all, anyone can go out and buy this couch or that rug, but it’s the real, true expressions of your personality and interests that will make your home unique and different. In fact, when you look at photos of rooms you like, you’ll probably notice that what makes them really pop are the unusual or funny accent pieces.
So, ask yourself: what are the things that make you feel like you are really home?
Personally, I need candles burning, trays full of crystals, a rainbow maker stuck to at least window (they are truly magical), sequins, and plenty of weird art. I want fresh flowers and lots of mirrors with Instax photos stuck into the frames. I hang my clothes up like art.
Those are the things that make me feel glad to be home. Even though I love my couch, because damn, is it ever comfortable, it doesn’t add any soul to the room. My collections of weird stuff, though, do. They make the difference between a house and a home.
DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY!
Shopping for homewares — just like shopping for shoes — should be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong! You’re choosing a rug, not doing your taxes, so lighten up a little. If you get something home and it absolutely does not work, you can always return it! Plus, remember, nothing stays the same forever. You will probably not love that couch until you’re 55 years old. It’s okay to buy something you love right now, and change it later.
In fact, I think buying pieces with the knowledge that you may not love it in 10 years is great. Who wants to furnish their home while thinking about what might please their senior self? Puh-LEASE! What a yawn.
Throw caution to the wind! If you want a sparkly bead curtain, by all means, buy one! If you can’t resist a really odd painting, go get it, tiger! Purchase things that make you feel something. Do it with joy!
Of course, I had to go direct to my glitter guru for her thoughts on the matter. I am an amateur, while she does this 24/7! I mean, have you seen The Glitter Suite?! I love her advice.
“Adding color to your home should be like putting on great music. Colour is a symphony and in design we let one of the colors be the conductor. You do not need to limit the use of color by selecting number— start yourself with a great neutral base to add to slowly. This way whatever you add will be a noncommittal accessory which you can add to or take away. What color you are feeling will be the ones that you introduce by way of pillows, occasional chairs, wallpaper, accessories and throws. In the case of Gala’s space, we let pink prevail–but placed it in an all white-room background and hit it with turquoise, black and a few rainbows for texture. Consider the big things in your room the base line foundation pieces–they will always look chic in a neutral. Then you frost it with the fun color–so you can grow and change with your hot damn pops of color and your wild collections of interest. Have fun. Don’t stress. Enjoy the ride.”