A year and a half ago we signed a bunch of papers and unlocked the door to our 100-year-old, yellow house for the very first time. It's been a trip. If you would have asked me on that day how long I thought it would take to get everything "decorated" I would have said three months. Our closing date was in August, and I was pretty sure that by Christmas it would be perfect.
I have friends and family with "finished" homes. They moved in, decorated for a couple weeks, and have lived there happily for many years without so much as moving a picture frame. I would be lying if I said I didn't envy them, but I'm completely unable to do what they do. I'm a project person. I love change. I'm busy. Oh, and one more thing—I LOVE decorating. I obsess over it. For all of these reasons, my home will never be "finished." But a girl can dream, right?
Fast forward a year and a half, and I'll tell you one thing I know for sure—nothing is ever perfect. Our home is still very much "in progress." Some rooms are decorated, some rooms are not. Some rooms are even on their third or fourth round of changes and still aren't feeling complete.
Unrealistic expectations? Check! Learning experience? Totally.
Here's what I mean. When I was in seventh grade (okay, and high school, and my early twenties—haha), I would look at fashion magazines and try to style my hair and makeup like the models. I ended up with some pretty unflattering looks. What looked beautiful on them did not work for me. But I didn't get it. I kept trying to make things work that just were not meant for me. Perms, pixie cuts, blue lipstick, bleached hair. Should I go on?
As the years went by I started to understand my look a little more. I'm still figuring it out, for sure, but these days I can tell a little more easily if something is just NOT going to work for me.
Houses are the same way. And those models in fashion magazines—well, just replace them with houses on Pinterest.
Your home has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. It has colors and styles that will flatter it and things that will make it look like an awkward seventh grader with a home perm. I didn't always agree with this. I used to think, "Who cares? Just do what you want!" While I still appreciate that attitude, I think that studying your home's architectural style and getting inspired by other homes that share that style will teach you a lot.
I'm not one of those people who thinks if you buy a 1960s home that you have to decorate it just like the sixties, but learning about the era will teach you a ton and provide both context and inspiration for your ideas! Every space has different assets that can be played up through good design. Observing how other people decorate rooms with a similar style and shape to yours will teach you so much about what you like, don't like, and what you may want to try in your own space!2. Guilty feelings are a waste of energy.
I'm not a lazy person. I have proof here. But I can't tell you how many times I've felt guilty and SUPER lazy because of unfinished home projects. Like many people, I'm one of those people who welcomes guests through her front door and immediately starts apologizing for "the mess" and saying things like, "We're about to work on this room" and "Don't judge me, I'm sorry!".
But you know what? Feeling guilty doesn't fix a thing. In fact, I would argue that it does the opposite, and can keep you stuck in a negative mindset.
These past few months I've started to realize that I am never, ever, ever going to have the kind of time I need, in one block, to finish all my projects. Instead, if I tackle one project (usually a smaller one!) every weekend, I can make real progress.
What I learned—guilt keeps me frustrated and does nothing. Instead of dwelling on all the projects that are still on that never-ending list, plan and tackle one project at a time. This is SO hard for me. I want to plan and start six projects every weekend, but (for me) the only way to move forward is to focus on one at a time. Planning and small steps are the keys to progress!3. Style takes time.
No matter how many cute rooms you've pinned on Pinterest, it takes time to create a well styled home. Don't get me wrong; I know you can technically do a cute room makeover in a day (that's what all those HGTV shows are for, right?), but to put together a room that nurtures your lifestyle, reflects your personality, and "feels like home," well, that takes time.
When we moved in I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I'm a planner, and I had spent several months making mood boards for each room, shopping and planning out renovation projects. A lot of those plans worked out great, but some didn't take, and that's just a part of the process.
One of the biggest home decor lessons I've learned is that sometimes you have to try things to know if you like them. You have to live with choices to see if you can live with them. Decor style isn't just about appearances; it's also about the lifestyle it nurtures. It's worth it to give it time. I'm an impatient person, but I'm learning to be a patient decorator.
Now when I'm trying a paint color, I paint a section and live with it for a week to see it in every lighting situation. I move things around constantly. I return things (something I never did before—big step!), and I am always looking for little ways to change up our spaces. Sometimes it's the little things that make it feel right.
I've learned that everything is fixable and changeable in our home. Sure, I've made mistakes, but my mom always says that mistakes (with artwork) guide you, and I really embrace that idea now with home decor. It's not an easy process, but when you take the pressure off to get eveything right the first time, it helps a lot! Our home isn't perfect, but it is our dream home. I started my journey so idealistically, and boy, have I learned a lot.
I no longer think of our home as a project that I can start and finish. Now I think of our home as my space to learn. I can (usually) live without guilt because I know it's a waste. I plan one project at a time, even if it's a small one. I forgive my decorating mistakes, even though I try to learn from them. I'm becoming more patient and enjoying a slower design process. I'm more concerned about what works for my home, playing to its strengths, than what's cool looking in someone else's home.
And you know what? I'm happier with my imperfect, incomplete home. I have plans and goals for it, but I'm no longer letting them spoil today. So I guess that's probably the most important lesson I learned. Instead of looking to the future for a better version of my home, I'm enjoying it as it is—with messes and unfinished spaces. I'm not sure if it'll ever feel complete or not. I still hope so, and I'm still working toward that, but I'm no longer waiting on that day to plan parties and invite guests and enjoy it fully, because I'm realizing that there's a pretty good chance that day will never come.I'm thankful for my space to learn. It's a great place to be.
I'd love to hear about your experiences! Thanks so much for reading. Elsie
Credits// Author: Elsie Larson, Photos: Janae Hardy and Elsie Larson (all previously shared here over the past few years)