When my brother and I moved into our house a few years back, everything happened fast — we had zero time to plan how we wanted our surroundings to look and to complicate matters more, our decorating budget was also close to zero. Most of our furniture was hand-me-downs, thrift-store finds or purchased from the newly-opened IKEA. At that time, I was 27 and he was 25 and we were just happy to have a place of our own. And, IKEA really is awesome.
Our house was previously owned by a much older couple who thought high-gloss beige walls and off-white berber carpet were just fine. Our first impulse was to paint out as many rooms white as quickly possible and to rip out the filthy carpet. To keep things easy, we kept the scheme throughout the house white and black. We really just wanted a blank canvas to build off of.
Over time though, I felt like our place was missing two things: color and those special pieces that make a house feel like a home. Last week, I picked up a custom order from Schoolhouse here in Portland: the City Chandelier. The yellow base and oversized bulbs felt unique and fun and replaced a standard white IKEA fixture we’d had in our dining room. Sometimes, all a room needs is one simple change. In our case, the dining room just needed a splash of color to bring it to life.
Our living room is still a work in progress but a lot of the things we need to change are going to take some serious time and effort. So for now, I’m focusing on what I can change. Our all black couch in the middle of our all white living room has never felt very inviting.
I knew I wanted a blanket to throw over the back to add to the coziness factor but my heart was set on the Crux Blanket by Pia Wallen. I’d been obsessed with this blanket for years but it was totally out of reach until a cotton version, the Cross Blanket was finally released last year. It was still expensive but I knew that if I settled for any other blanket, I just wouldn’t be happy. Sometimes it’s just better to wait it out and to save for what you really want. (Yes, that’s an 8 ft. tall black bear in the corner of our living room. Inviting, huh?)
• Don’t settle for what you don’t want. In our case, we spent the bare minimum on IKEA basics until we could save towards the particular items we loved. It took a few years but we didn’t make any big impulse purchases. If you buy a substitute for the real thing you’ve always wanted, you probably won’t be satisfied and will just keep obsessing over the object du jour you still don’t have. I saw plenty of other blankets that were great…but they weren’t THE Cross blanket. I knew it was better to wait it out for the blanket of my dreams (yes, that sounds crazy. Thankfully, I’m not alone).
• When you move into a new place and nothing feels right, start by painting the walls a neutral color. For us, there were so many details about our house that felt off that it was beyond overwhelming. Starting with white walls gave us a blank canvas to begin with and allowed us to build our own vision.
• Sometimes, all a room needs is a few small changes to come to life. We tried our dining room in a number of configurations early on but it all felt off until my brother found an old workbench for a table that grounded the room. At first, I didn’t like it but what I later realized is that it added some much needed personality.
• If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle. When we first moved in, we thought it would be funny to have a black living room (haha?) We spent a few days painting it and…it looked horrible. We kept trying to make it work but walking into a cave every day just felt weird. We finally agreed that it had been a huge mistake and repainted the black walls white. What a pain! But immediately, everything felt better. Go with your gut and suck up those mistakes!
• Don’t get too caught up on Pinterest and inspiration sites. If you see something you like, it doesn’t matter if it’s popular. If you love it, you’ll usually find a way to make it work. Our house is filled with ‘oddities’ but it works for us.
We still have a million changes to make to our place but these two recent additions have started to make our house feel more like a home. It’s those special touches that bring your surroundings to life.
Readers: What are your suggestions for making a house a home and is there anything on your must-have list you’d like to share?