In the last post I suggested that to feel satisfied in your own space you have to stop chasing after what other people want in a home, and get to the bottom of what’s important to you. I know that’s easier said than done. Frequently when I meet with new clients they say “I don’t know my style”. It’s probably because for most of us it’s not cut and dried, and it’s easy to be influenced by trends and what other people think is “stylish”. That’s why I’m going to guide us through it in a way that is inward focused and independent of trends. Now, get a cup of coffee, something to write with, and find a cozy place to settle in. This is going to be fun, but you have to be free of distractions.
Finding your “Happy Place”
Let’s discover how you are affected by your environment. Think of a favorite place (it doesn’t have to be a room. It can be a childhood meeting spot, a friend’s house, a hotel, etc.). What did you like about it? How did it make you feel? Was it open and light? Or warm and cozy? Perhaps it was a bed and breakfast with crisp white sheets and beautiful views. Or maybe it was your dad’s study with dark wood paneling, a worn leather sofa, and the smell of pipe tobacco. Take your time and document everything you can think of, being as specific as you can. Make a list of at least 5 physical descriptors, including colors, smells, etc.. Then out to the right, list the emotions evoked.
Conversely, think of a place where you did not feel joyful. What was disturbing about it? Was it cold and sterile? Cluttered and claustrophobic? I often hear references to hospitals or to grandma's house for this part (sorry grandma!). Describe the space in detail, including sensory perceptions and how it made you feel. Make the list again, of at least 5 physical descriptors and the emotional associations.
This is YOU!
Now, imagine a place where your closest friends would walk in and say “Wow - this is so YOU”. What would it look like? Would it be casual? Formal? Spare and neutral, or colorful and adorned with interesting items at every turn? If you’re unsure then think about your wardrobe. Do you lean toward neutrals with “go-to” basics and little variation from day to day? Or do you love fun, colorful prints and wouldn’t dare be seen in the same thing twice? For me, most of my closet is white and denim - and if it were socially acceptable I'd wear the same thing every day (please tell me it is!). These are clues to the fact that you do have a style, even if you might not realize it. Use these ideas to make a list of the 5 adjectives that others might use to describe your ideal space.
Assessing your Current House
Think about how that “perfect you” compares with your current home. I realize it’s complicated, because many of us live with a companion, or have inherited items we didn’t select, but try to identify which elements of your space don’t jive with your taste. From there you can develop a grand plan for your overall direction, because for most of us re-inventing our environment is a gradual process. Admittedly, I have never really liked most of my furniture, but I haven't had the opportunity to buy more than a few pieces at a time. If I'd had a master plan I could have been wiser about my purchases. Instead when replacing worn out items, I let the style of the existing pieces drive the process. I wouldn’t have even picked those to begin with!
The Bottom Line
Now let’s create a summary. Review the descriptors and emotions you wrote for your favorite and least favorite environments, and how your closest friends would describe your ideal space. Pick 4 key words to describe the physical qualities that you gravitate toward, and 3 of the emotions you strive for. My list looks like this:
Adjectives: 1) Comfortable 2) Simple 3) Fresh 4) Natural
Emotions: 1) Relaxed 2) Cheerful 3) Calm
Write your words in bold letters at the bottom of the page, and let them become your guide. The next time you consider ANY purchase for your home, ask yourself “does this purchase fit my ideal description?”. Every item you bring in, whether big or small, will either contribute to the end goal or detract from it.