What I Know For Sure....About Decor

Oprah's favorite designer, Nate Berkus as featured in Elle Decor.

Sorry about the recent lack of posting.  I've been distracted with the good (a new part-time job and client projects), the still-pretty good (trying to get my garden in hand and ready for the "it's not the heat, the humdity....no wait, it's both"  portion of the year---which has now hit...temps close to ninety and 100% humidity), and the ugly (Damn you, BP).  But now I'm back ready to share more of my vast wisdom and knowledge.....( I am joking...kind of).

Anyway, with everything that's been happening in the gulf, and the world, lately, I've been thinking more about the important aspects of home.  After all, talking about trends and paint colors is fun, but creating a home has to do with more than that...it has to do with the intangibles like atmosphere and comfort and peacefulness. 

I've jokingly referred to Ms. Winfrey as Our Lady Oprah, but I am actually a fan.  Not so much of her show, but I do enjoy her magazine.  As I desperately to rewire my brain from cynicism and negativity to optimisim, and I do try to focus on the positive, and I find that her magazine does that.  One of my favorite columns is her monthly, "What I know for sure" lettter.  So here's my interior design centric version:

What I know for Sure about Home Interiors:

1.  People (most of them, anyway) and pets (almost all of them) are far more important than your home and the things in it.  So if you find yourself delaying or avoiding entertaining friends and family  because of the potential mess or damage, get over yourself.  There is nothing sadder to me than a perfect home or room that is never used.   I'd never trade the joy of snuggling with Cleopatra (cutest, sweetest doggy ever) on the sofa for a pristinely white slipcover.  So it's no longer perfect---i'd rather have the memories of hanging out with Cleo.  If your family is forced to curtail all their activities to one "safe"zone or drop in guests flee in moments after a quick look around fails to yeild a comfortable perch, perhaps it's time to do a little tweaking.  Even if you like formal, or have expensive furniture, the key to being able to relax around it is to make it usable--co-ordinating throws and slip covers can protect delicate or expensive upolstery.  Make sure that coasters are handy--I like to put them on every cocktail or side table.  Fresh, simply arranged flowers and houseplants, candid family photos, and books (real ones that have been read---not those horrible, bourgeouis fake ones tied with twine--i hate that----"Oh look, I'm so cultured....I have French books, even though I can't read french and have no idea what the subject of the book is, but I couldn't read them anyway because they're tied together with string..." 

2.Use it, cause you may lose it.  Hurricane Katrina taught me many things, but one really important lesson I learned is that shit happens, so you might as well use the good china while you can.  I'm mean, sure if you use it (and I say that displaying it beautifully in a china cabinet counts as "using" it), it can get broken or damaged,  but that's life.  We never no how long we have to enjoy things---houses flood, burn, get broken into, etc.  Use and enjoy everything you own like it's your last chance...it may be.

3.  Let love lead you.  Go with what instinctively touches you.  My experience has been that if you fall for something, say a fabric, in a particular colourway that justs makes your heart sing....if you decided to change to a "safer" version for practical reasons, you'll always regret it.  It's better to move on to something completely different.

4.  Pick your paint last.  One of the most common design problems I have with clients is trying to retroactively co-ordinate items with an existing paint color.  Especially in new construction, builders push clients to pick their paint colors fairly early, and lots of them decided on a palette before picking finishes, and usually before picking fabrics and rugs.  The problem is that if you have a fabric featuring robin's egg blue, you can easily find a paint to work with it, or custom match it.  However, if you paint first, it's going to be a lot more difficult to find a fabric (especially the more parameters that you place-i.e. price, durability, type of print) that perfectly co-ordinates.  The reasons--once you consider custom paint, there is an unlimited number of variations of every color.  Their is a much more limited number of available rugs and fabrics--even more limited when you started looking for cheaper options.  Again,  pick finishes and fabrics first, then paint.

5.  You need to get rid of your crap, not organize it.  I spend a lot of time and money helping clients and myself organize their things.  Honestly,  80% of the things I organize are used so rarely or never that you'd be better off removing them.  Give them to relatives, charity, the dump--whatever, just get rid of it.

6.  Clean your damn house.  You want your house to automatically look better and more polished---clean it.  And I mean really clean it---purge unnecessary paper, polish your furniture, donate unwanted items, line and organize your kitchen shelves, wash windows, dry clean or wash curtains, polish hardware, vaccum.  Your house will thank you.

7.  The 5 things that make a house a home:  original art, candid photos, books, fresh flowers and houseplants, and something old.


Karena said...

So glad you are back at it! Every one of your thoughts are so true. This has really made me think about editing out the "stuff".

Love your site!

Art by Karena

Sally@DivineDistractions said...

Excellent post! You have zeroed in on the essense of what we do as designers...make a house a home. I'm so with you on using things, finding comfort in good design and in making a space family friendly. I slo have loved Oprah for many years just because of her positive mental outlook. I've enjoyed reading this on a reflective holiday.

mimi said...

Hmm. I am in the midst of moving and find many words of wisdom in this post. I will try to arrange my new home with these thoughts in mind.

Glamoursmith said...

Thanks for the reminder, I fear I've gotten caught up in the "don't touch it, you'll ruin it" state of mind at times. You're right about it all - it is the people and the memories we create that make our lives worth living. Happy Memorial Day!

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

I love your list. Alot of wisdom in print!

Visual Vamp said...

Just wonderful Mitchell, and your house is truly a home Alberto and I enjoy.
xo xo

Linda in AZ * said...

*** THANKS!!! WAY TO "Tell like like it SHOULD be told"! ~~~

TERRIFFIC!!!... am forwarding to my nieces, who I think are really LIVING this way NOW, but "just to e sure", I'll send it on... Great houses they have, & am glad they earned this EARLY!!!

THANKS n' Best,
Linda in AZ *

beki said...

Amen! I agree completely with everything you've said. So, when are you coming over? You're welcome any time..so long as you overlook the everyday living that takes place (and makes everything in my house far from perfect!).

Marlo said...

Great post; I especially like #2 and #5. It reminds me to be aware and be grateful for what I have today and enjoy the little things in life - photos, books, art, fresh flowers - because those are the things that give me joy the most - other than loved ones of course.