When designing a space, it’s critical to make sure that the decor matches the personality of the homeowner and not the designer. That’s why you need to personalize your space with the things that you love.
But personalization doesn’t have to mean hanging monogram letters on the wall to spell out your name or ordering custom plaques (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it can simply mean selecting the things you love. Let’s take Phyllis for example.
Facing a blank canvas, Phyllis had just purchased the home of her dreams and needed help furnishing it. A friend put her in touch with me and we met.
“A famous artist once said that the most difficult thing to face is a blank canvas,” says Phylliss, mother of two pre-teen girls. Her house, with its pale gray walls, was virtually empty except for a mahogany dining room table and chairs that she never actually liked and her daughter’s piano. Phylliss wanted something beautiful and livable but had no idea how to start.
She had made costly mistakes in a previous home with an interior designer who had a vision for a beautiful, traditional home, and she convinced Phylliss that her vision was the right one. “The only problem was the rooms never reflected my personality or my tastes, and I never truly felt at home there,” she says.
Phylliss knew when I asked her to start collecting pictures of rooms that appealed to her that this time the experience would be different.
“I knew that you were interested in helping me create a home that reflected ‘me,’” Phylliss explains, “and not ‘you.’”
Preparing for our first visit produced an added bonus for Phylliss: It helped her clarify the kind of contemporary space with hints of Scandinavian appeal that she wanted to create. During our first meeting, I carefully listened to her wish list and found out how she liked to entertain, how many people she needed to provide seating for in the living room, and measured off the downstairs for AutoCAD floor plans.
After studying the magazine pages she had chosen as her “inspiration” rooms, she seemed to be drawn toward warm neutrals. Something that felt soft and natural without being overwhelming. She also was drawn to rooms that had an abundance of living greenery in the form of potted plants.
“I had never considered that I should also be complemented by the colors in my home. It was interesting to have the paint colors held up to my skin,” Phylliss says with a smile.
She felt the first visit was exciting because she was left with a detailed list of homework assignments, including painting sample boards of the two paint colors to be sure they worked.
Phylliss also received a written master plan with specific item numbers from catalogs, like westelm.com, for her breakfast table, chairs, and rolling storage cabinet, which she loved and could purchase immediately. She had resources for shops she could visit for specific items or just browse for accessories that pleased her.
Soon after, floor plans arrived with specific sizes to facilitate shopping for furniture. “As the furniture was delivered, I could see that it was the beginning of something beautiful,” she says.
We set a date for shopping together. She fell in love with some Scandinavian and industrial pieces that one might not always consider putting together, but it was important to make sure the home reflected her style.
A dramatic fruit tree from China Silks, a seagrass rug, and some geometric pillows from Ikea added some lovely touches. “Refinishing some vintage chairs was one of my favorite ideas,” Phylliss explains. “By reclaiming the old chairs, we created something beautiful at considerably less cost, and I loved the idea of using what I already had to create the new look I was after.”
In the living room, we found a closeout contemporary buffet at Z Gallerie to use as a TV cabinet and a $50 black candlestick chandelier added a rustic touch.
We ordered a sofa from Crate & Barrel (ordering extra “Jigsaw Spice” fabric for chair pillows), a tall ceramic vase for the mantel, and Rio chairs from Storehouse. We also purchased extra chair fabric to make color-complementary throw pillows for the sofa.
TIP: It is a great idea to order extra fabric from the manufacturer to visually pull fabrics around the room and tie store-bought furniture together in a “custom” way.
At Crate & Barrel, we found a pair of “Abstract II” framed paper pieces — which fit perfectly between the built-in bookcases above the sofa.
On the floor, a contemporary wool rug purchased through Crate & Barrel’s online outlet store unified the living room’s cozy seating arrangement. Phylliss found glassware for the nearby breakfast room’s rolling storage cabinet, as well as a pair of leather and wood stools for the living room, from Eclectic Home. We found a very affordable coffee table from Cost Plus World Market and some side tables at Pier 1 Imports.
“Friends who have seen the house consistently comment on its beauty and often remark how much it reflects ‘me,’” Phylliss says, “which is exactly what I wanted. It now feels like home.”