22 Mar

What with the recent launch of OffbeatHome, and the state of my own apartment, and my dad’s impending visit, AND the inexplicable arrival of both a Crate&Barrel and Rejuvenation Hardware catalogue – I am super into home-stuff lately. So far that hasn’t translated into any action toward actually changing the way my home is now – but I still had my (fake) Christmas tree up until just this afternoon, so let’s be reasonable.

My dad is coming to visit next weekend, which means I at least have to get the place clean. While I would like to get it totally redecorated, this is an ambition I always briefly cherish when I have to clean for guests that never comes to fruition for obvious reasons (*cough* Christmas tree *cough*).

Like most people, Trevor and I both have amassed a bunch of stuff (me more than he, I admit). Some of it – like my beloved velvet matador, an awesome wooden screen on loan from my mom, Trevor’s models and (some) of his posters, our favorite wall art, the Dia De Los Muertos cake topper from our wedding, and fancy kitchenware/appliances – would definitely have a place in any conceptualization of home I could create for us:

But other things – my giant “Emily” poster, for instance, or his particle-board dresser with punk-wannabe stickers on it, or the cow piggybank on our bookshelves – these are things that I can’t imagine actually having any place in the future home of my dreams (much as I love my cowbank).

Then there are things that I think could have a place, just a place somewhere other than where they are now – like the stone buddah and the ceramic orange dragon that currently grace our entryway hallway, but might be better in a garden.

Paint would make a huge difference in this space – and had I known we would be in this apartment going on 3 years I would’ve probably been able to talk Trevor into it way back when – but now, knowing we are planning to move into a house in the next year or so if possible, it just doesn’t seem worth it, even to me.  Still, I’m trying not to let the prospect of a new home in the semi-near-future derail my scheming to make this space more pleasant to live in while we’re here.

Less clutter would go a long way, as would keeping it cleaner. To me, sparsely-decorated spaces generally look cleaner, whether or not they actually are – so it’s a goal of mine to really pare down our possessions, and make things a lot more simple. This is doubly-useful because if I can get rid of a bunch of stuff, that will make moving easier once it becomes time for that. But at the same time, I don’t like spaces that are too sparse because often they feel void of any personality to me. I’m attracted to modern, clean lines and bright colors on the one hand, but on the other I have a love affair with reclaimed wood, and dark, rich colors. I also really love when I see a home that is a mishmash of all kinds of random stuff that all works together – if everything is too uniform and same-y I think that’s boring.

Bright and modern tends to be cheaper and easier to find (hello, Ikea!), while the best of the other stuff I like tend to be handmade, locally-crafted, artisan goods – often prohibitively expensive. Going the Ikea route means you have the same stuff everybody of a certain age and income level has, and that can also contribute to a that same-y feeling for me unless the stuff is used in the space in interesting, creative ways.

My strategy so far has been the slow collection of things I really like, which I then try to intersperse with the all the necessary Ikea-type stuff in appealing ways. But it is a kind of unsatisfying strategy because it’s much easier to get my hands on the smaller stuff, and harder to get really beautiful bigger pieces, like furniture or paintings. And knowing that I will have a beautiful home after 40 years of careful collecting doesn’t help make it prettier now.

I think I need to be more savvy about how to make incremental changes in ways that still feel impactful, and I need to be savvier in my investments – sure drawer-pulls from Anthropologie are expensive, but they transform a kitchen; likewise, there are plenty of cheap, great pieces to be found if you’re only willing to look (so far, I haven’t been too keen on that, being the one person living in Portland who hates the Goodwill Bins outlets).

Anyway, since there’s not much I can do right this moment to change my space, I’ve just been having fun thinking about what I will do differently once we move, and what I might do differently even before that. I’ve been playing with one of my favorite tools: the multicolr search lab, by idee. You create a color palette, and it generates a collage of Flickr images that reflect that palette. It’s a great way to test out different color combinations.

Sometimes I forget that the whole dwelling does not have to look the same – I’ll get really excited about one color combination or one decorative theme but then get equally excited about something completely and irreconcilably different and think I have to choose between them. But another thing I really like experiencing in other people’s homes is every room you walk into being different. There generally has to be some unifying element to tie it all together though, except in the case of super theme-y rooms. For example, one of the best bathrooms I have ever seen was absolutely plastered with vintage pinups and pulp book covers. Obviously, this was restricted to the one room, the bathroom, but both because of the type of room it was and because it was such a fun theme, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t in line with the rest of the house.

I prize comfort and the look of comfort, but I also value fun, a sense of humor, personality, spunk, and verve – figuring out how to reconcile those somewhat clashing ideals is going to be my next big challenge in decorating this or any future home of mine.

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