We were gypsies who made it a habit to memorize numbers: 946, 1256, 77, 81, 27, 119, 167, 1714, 248, 949, 323, 333. Neighbors called us the midnight typhoon — we shoved cardboard boxes into vans, piled the whole of our small lives into trash bags, barreled down quiet streets — abandoning crayon drawings, polyester skirts, untouched bowls of cold macaroni, and old records in our wake. We were determined to never be what we left behind. Every door was a chrysalis. Every window a point of entry.
In the back of a station wagon, we passed time mixing up the numbers we’d memorized. Hopeful that a new home, a new life would emerge. We were fakirs, this way. And it was all fresh paint and chicken cutlets for a while, but soon the darkness slouched in. The windows would inevitably be whitewashed shut, the television in the room blared game shows into the evening, a plume of smoke rose and filtered into the kitchen, and our house would become a place where the air couldn’t get in. Where families were put out to pasture.
We never lived in a house that had two floors. We never knew the sound of cold feet on floorboards. And we never lived in a house that truly was a home.
So we lived this way, itinerant, ambivalent for longer that we probably should, until a day came and passed and we glanced about our small piece of real estate and wanted it to be so much more than what it was. Until a friend nudged us, saying, when I’m here I don’t feel you.
Fast forward to this summer, and I asked a stylish, sweet friend, Christine White, if she would take on the challenge of imbuing my apartment with the warmth, creativity and coziness I so desperately needed. In a former life, I was Christine’s boss, and I envied her effortless sense of style, the way that she can walk into a room and arrange things.
After a few intake sessions and a review of my Pinterest home inspirations, Chris created several floor plans and mood boards for each of my rooms. We went a few rounds on this because I’m notoriously difficult, particular and precise, and I didn’t want my home to resemble a Pottery Barn catalog. I wanted Celine, but cozier; I wanted pieces that weren’t easily identifiable. I wanted a home that felt cultivated rather than planned.
And I wanted BLUE. A lot of it. So much so that Chris must have felt she needed to have several BLUE interventions (i.e. Felicia, everything can’t be blue, to which I responded, Why not blue?, and on it went). After a summer of planning, assiduously reviewing and comparing everything from rugs to chairs to benches to coffee tables, and shopping trips in New Jersey, I finally have a space worth adoring. A space that reflects my evolved taste. I had such a specific vision going into this project, and coming out I felt as if I learned so much about what I like and what makes sense for my space. Did I ever think I’d have a MUSTARD anything in my home? That I’d tolerate a pattern? That I sort my books (MY FIRST EDITIONS!!!) by hue?
NO. But I have, I did, and I love every bit of it. You’ll notice that books are a big part of my space, and that every decorative object has a function. I don’t buy vases unless I can use them. I loathe tchotchkes on the level of MITTENS and MUSHROOMS, and I need to feel like I can curl up with a book and a movie without feeling I’m going to damage something.
Most of my pieces came from Home Decorators, Overstock.com, Wayfair, Target, Home Goods, West Elm, Gilt, Amazon.com, Rugs Usa, Crate + Barrel, Joss + Main, Room + Board (my sofa), which was my most significant purchase, Shabby Chic and Anthropologie (for kitchen/accents). Nothing outrageous, nothing too fancy, just simple, nice things. Most of my furniture came in at the $200-$350 range, and my splurges were my chair and couch. Chris also kept track of sales and kept alerting me about scores of options at different price points.
Although you’re seeing my living room, I assure you that my bedroom and deck are coming along quite well, and my kitchen has endured a bit of reorganizing considering the HOARDS of cookbooks I own. Storage has always been an issue in my apartment (I’ve one closet and one closet ONLY), and Chris has helped me figure out smarter ways to maximize storage, while maintaining an eye for creative display.
What I’ve learned:
Possess the things I only love and adore, which meant parting with 300-400 books I knew in my heart I’d never read, and parting with clothes that will never fit/aren’t my style. It’s not virtuous to own simply to own, but to own to love, use and share with those who inhabit your space. Clean out, donate, give to a friend. Because of this, a lot of my coworkers are pretty tickled to own new books and my friends are really happy with their new-to-them wardrobe
Sort by color. I never thought I’d entertain this, and I even smirked when Chris first mentioned sorting my books by color, because I am admittedly a book snob, but she was RIGHT. Sorting my books + clothes not only allows for a smarter organization (I now know that I have a wardrobe the color of a bruise, i.e. black + blue), but for a keener sense of discovery (I use to group books by author, now every trip to my shelf is a new discovery, a new book found)
Mix patterns and solids. I should say that patterns give me vertigo. MASSIVE vertigo. And somehow I have patterns in my home. How, you ask? Because when I acquired my soft, coffee table, bookcase, small ottoman and bench — all in single colors — I grew bored. So much like how I consider my wardrobe — invest in the bones, or basics, and go crazy with the accessories — Chris helped me find fun in pillows, accent chairs and rugs. Not all the patterns cohere, but they somehow work in a simple symphony. Perhaps because I like geometric, simple shapes, than something wild or crazy.
Group by threes. You’ll notice that I group vases, pitches and candle holders in threes, and these decorative pieces all have different sizes and textures. I adore blue, so you’ll notice shades of blue glass, but some pebbled, some reflective, some marbled. Chris taught me that odd parings are interesting to the eye and appear less cluttered — especially if you have objects of varying heights.
It may never be what you intended it to be. Did I ever think my home would turn out like this? Well, no. The blue, I expected, but not everything else. I have loads of storage (coffee tables with drawers, benches with compartments, and mustard, askance.
Find love in unexpected places. Imagine my awe and delight when I received a gift from my oldest and dearest friend’s mother. Noticing that I’m in a Picasso Blue Period, she sent me a smattering of beautiful blue china. I nearly fainted after I viewed the exquisite pieces, which have now found their way as displays in my livingroom and kitchen. Never did I imagine that my loved ones would know me better than I know myself. But I’m humbled and grateful to have such beautiful, magic lights in my life.
I’ll post many more photos of my redecorated home soon, but check out my evolving Pinterest Home Photo Album, and I want to thank Christine White for her patience, wisdom, and for understanding my style implicitly.
I love, love, love my home. Nomad, no more.
Bottom image courtesy of Christine White, Court + Hudson.