When I think of decorating mistakes there are many that come to mind... and I'm sure that you can think of a handful right now. Hanging art too high... choosing a mirror that's too small for the wall... curtains that are way too short for the window... outdated wallpaper. You know, the more obvious things. But today I want to hone in on a mistake that is far more subtle and often a completely subconscious mistake that many people make when renovating or decorating. It's a mistake that even I fall into from time to time... because it's just so easy to. It starts with the mind.
If I got a dollar every time I heard someone say that they have an idea of what kind of home they like... but they just don't know how to make THEIR home like that... I'd be rich. (Okay, I'm exaggerating. I'd probably eat out more often, though.) The problem here is that it's difficult for most people to visualize how their home can be transformed into that beautiful magazine cover. "Sure, it looks nice in that photographed, staged picture, but that's where it ends. It's just not possible to create something like that in MY house." Have you ever thought this way?
Often times this is because the space we are currently living in is so different from the space that we actually want. Achieving a different look requires thinking big-picture. It means thinking about how you want to feel in that space. How you want to use that space. It means ensuring all your big-ticket pieces flow together in harmony with how you imagine your ideal space to be. The flooring, the lighting, the wall colour, the furniture, the finishing touches. Thinking about the big-picture reveal takes planning and commitment to the overall finished result. Too often we throw out the big picture because it's overwhelming. It's too much. We think it's just not possible. We think it's going to cost too much. We end up putting our focus onto bits and pieces. This is the big mistake. Our mindset is limited and so we limit our own ability.
I still remember the furniture that I had when I first moved out of my parents house. I rented a 3 bedroom place with a roommate and we merged all that we had. The result was definitely not going to be featured in a Style at Home magazine. We had two ugly brown couches, mis-matched curtains that came from a bargain bin, a gigantic silver entertainment stand, a random granite coffee table, a dining table that was wayyyyy too big for our tiny eating area (complete with mustard-yellow chair seats!) Many of us start out this way. We take what we can get and build onto our lives from there. If your home feels like this... jump with joy! It means that you can start fresh and plan your way into the place of your dreams. (I certainly didn't think like this at the time. I made the huge mistake of buying items here and there that "went with" what I currently had. Even though I didn't LIKE what I currently had.)
Later on in life, I had some nice pieces. A much more sophisticated sectional couch... a far more reasonable sized entertainment unit that hid my electronics and was stained to match some other furniture in the room... a few nice plants and art pieces. Yet, that's what it was. Piece-work.
What happens when we focus our energy onto the individual puzzle pieces rather than how it should all fit together in the end? We end up buying items that we like... but that don't actually fit into our idea of the perfect space. The end result is a space that has bits and pieces, thrown together. A dresser that was gifted to you from your gramma. A headboard that you splurged on because you just loved the colour and the grandeur. Curtains that you liked a lot in the store... but aren't actually sure of now that they're in your bedroom. A painting above the bed that you picked up in your travels and just LOVE... buuuut it doesn't really go with the wall colour. Many of us arrive at this stage in our decorating and don't know where to go from here. We arrived here without a plan. We forgot to think about big picture! We went shopping and bought individual items without first delving into what it is that really takes our breath away in a home.
Even people who begin a renovation project where they're starting from scratch can fall into this mistake. They pick their new flooring, cabinet colours, and appliances. Then late one night they've got to make a final decision on the backsplash. They find a beautiful mosaic tile that they just love the colour of. The detail! The intricate beauty! Buuuut now that it's installed... it seems off. It clashes. It's too busy. They realize that all of the show-kitchens they loved had a common theme... simple. Minimal. White. If only they had remembered their overall vision.
Vision. This is the key to avoiding the mistake of piece-work and small picture syndrome. You need a plan to keep you on track toward your ideal home. So here's what you're gonna do:
1.) Begin your planning journey by getting inspired.
Pinterest is one of the BEST ways to be inspired, because you can create a board to save all the images that you fall in love with. Flipping through magazines and cutting out or circling photos is another great way. Watching HGTV shows can be helpful, but more time consuming. The goal here is to create a vision board for the things that you like. Don't overthink it. Don't stop yourself from choosing a photo because you don't think it would "fit in your home." If you are drawn to the picture for whatever reason, keep it. You might even choose images that seem nothing alike. That's OKAY! You might choose a photo that has nothing to do with home decor because you like how the colours go together. That's great too. If you have other people in your home that are going to be influencing the decisions you make, get them to do their own board. Don't show each other. Don't influence each other. Just go with your own gut. (Don't worry if you have totally different style. Later on we'll narrow these visions down and make them work together!) *hint* If you're creating a vision for your whole house, I recommend doing a vision board for each room.
2.) Find the common ground in your images, even if they are totally different at first glace.
Don't merge your vision boards yet if you've got more than one person contributing. Do this step for each board. Look really closely at each image and figure out what speaks to you the most. Is there a theme? Is there a certain type of furniture? Is there a wood colour? Is there a lot of contrast? Do each of the images invoke a certain emotion? Are there a lot of natural pieces? Are there common colours? Does each photo feel light and airy? Are there key features that show up in multiple photos? Is there a lot of texture? Is there a certain arrangement of furniture you seem to be drawn to? Do the accents pop out? Are the pieces intricate, or minimal? Square? Heavy? Feminine? Curvy? Really analyze and come up with the underlying emotion and themes that tie your images together Focus on what you really love about each photo. Pay attention to the small details. *hint* if you're creating a vision for your whole house, this is a good time to compare your boards room to room to decide how you want each room to flow together, especially if your home is open concept.
3.) Figure out what you DON'T like.
Now is the time to cut out the things you don't like. Be ruthless. You want to really hone in on what you love the most, which means narrowing down your vision board. If something is "meh"... note WHY. What is it that you don't like about it? Anything that is less than "YES"... get rid of! (On Pinterest, you can make a note. On a physical board, you can just cut it out or draw an x through it!)
4.) If you have more than one board, it's time to merge them.
Look for commonality between the two... focusing on the reasons WHY. For example, perhaps a husband and a wife are renovating their kitchen. The wife has chosen photos that are mostly white and airy, with smooth features. The husband has chosen a much darker palette, with a lot of wood and stone. The wife is drawn to her photos because she enjoys the feeling of a bright spacious kitchen that looks clean and cheerful. The husband finds the natural materials to be comforting and esthetically pleasing, but finds painted cabinets look cheap. When they compare boards, the husband finds that he does like white marble. The wife notices she still prefers white cabinets, but adding a rich wood to the island warms the space up and gives her that same cheery feeling. The husband notices that he doesn't mind white upper cabinets, so long as they have a raised panel style, because it looks more ornate and not as cheap to him.
5.) Create a shopping list. And stick to it.
Don't worry about the price tag associated with certain items. You can use this shopping list as a work-in-progress. Maybe it's not in the budget to buy a couch right now... but you can work on acquiring pieces that fit into the rest of your plan. The point here is to figure out which pieces in your home need to be changed in order to fit in with your vision. You may have certain pieces that already work. Or you may have pieces that you like, but after reviewing your vision board, you realize that they really don't fit. Make your shopping list as detailed as possible. For example, if you're working on your living room and are describing the piece of art that you need to buy for the wall above the couch, consult your vision boards. Do family photo gallery walls come up? No? Then don't put one there. Do you notice a theme of blue abstract art? How big is it? Is it on a canvas, or is it framed? What hue of blue is it? This line on your shopping list could look like this:
- Art above couch. 3 canvases that measure approximately 30"x40"x1.5" each. Abstract art or surreal figures or ocean waves with the majority of the piece featuring white space. A variety of shades including navy blue, turquoise, and silver.
Then... wait until you find an item that matches that description. Don't go to the store and find something different. The right piece is worth waiting for.
If you are on a restricted time line and budget, it's even more important to keep your vision board in mind when you are picking materials. Start with the most important pieces and work your way down to the less significant. Give your budget over to the things that are of the highest priority to you. For example, maybe buying refurbished appliances without all the bells and whistles (like an ice maker) in order to afford the granite countertops is worth it to you. If you've eaten up a lot of your budget and can't afford the marble backsplash you wanted, consult your vision board to figure out what it was about that backsplash you really really loved. Is it the colour? Is there another tile you can choose to give you the same effect? Is it worth waiting until next year to put in the one that you really want? Don't compromise your overall vision for "good enough" or "want it now."