House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

The courage to make a home your own

by Meagan Francis on October 27, 2011

After we moved into our home the year before last, we spent a lot of time with bare walls and the horrible brass chandelier that was in our family room area when we moved in.

yikes.

One of the chandeliers got bumped by a flying ball at some point, so for nearly a year the light hung unevenly and one of the brass rings was askew. I never bothered to fix it. I hated that light and wanted to be rid of it, and fiddling with it – or even looking at it – just served as an annoying reminder that it was still around.

Only problem? Choosing a new light. I’d go to Lowe’s and stand there, staring upward at the lighting display for a few minutes, completely dazzled by the options. Any time I liked something, my inner critic would talk me out of it: too big, too small, not right for the period of my house, not the ‘look’ I was going for..blahblahblah. I’d leave the store light-less and return home to my brass nightmare.

Now, most of the time I am pretty busy and happy in my house and don’t really get too worked up about its flaws…ugly brass chandeliers included. So I’m OK with making decor changes slowly, over time, as our budget allows. But I have also hesitated on making simple decisions far too many times, and often it’s because I’m afraid of making the “wrong” choice. I haven’t really trusted my own design sense, taste in art or decor, or ability to pull a room together, and the result has been a lot of stalling and non-decision (and, in the meantime, things that could have been vastly improved just look half-finished and not like “me” at all.)

From side chairs to end tables, paint colors to paintings, I’ve let my inner critic talk me out of the things I have been most attracted to. Or I’ve wondered if the chair I really love would coordinate with the theoretical area rug I have not yet found, or if the table is in precisely the right shade to match the wood elsewhere in the room, or if the console table I picked up at Target looks cheap.

But after over a decade of cowardly home decorating, I’ve come to realize a few things.

  • First, I’m not a designer, so I don’t have to act like one. I know what looks good to my eye and when a room feels right – and that’s all I need to know. Scale, texture, period, materials…all those things are important, but trying too hard to adhere to “rules” I barely understand just leaves me paralyzed. So what if I make a mistake sometimes?
  • I am also not a millionaire, but a busy, budgeting, working mom of many. I have to work with the resources I have (which means that, yes, some of my furniture is going to look cheap because it is cheap and who cares?)
  • Yes, our home is 100+ years old, but it houses a modern family (so a house full of perfectly period-appropriate decor would be not only unnecessary, but weird.)
  • Colors and patterns don’t have to match to work together. In fact, matchy-matchy isn’t a lot of fun to my eye.
  • Trying to copy a magazine-spread room is a sure way to wind up disappointed…or bored.

I’ve decided that, despite what my inner critic would have me believe, anything I bring into my home only really needs to meet two criteria (besides, of course, whether I can afford it): Does it work for my family? And…do I love it?

When I finally decided I had had enough of the brass chandelier, I marched boldly into Lowe’s and – before I let the design judge living in my head make a single peep – I spotted this bronze pendant light. And I said: “I love it!”

I didn’t obsess about whether the scale or color were just right (though, as it turns out, it’s perfect on both counts). And I didn’t worry about or whether it was perfectly period-appropriate or whether Candace or Genevieve or one of the other HGTV divas would approve.

I just loved it. So before I had time to chicken out, I said, “Let’s buy it!”

 

Now it hangs in the main living area of our house, and the brass light has gone bye-bye. And every time I see our new light I feel happy.

I loved it. It worked. What was there to second guess?

Of course, sometimes I love something so much that I’m willing to put up with a little less function than I’d usually hope for. And other times, we have to choose things we don’t love as much simply because they work. I’ve had to make several of those trade-offs during our kitchen reno (I hope to have some “after” pictures to show you very soon!)

But not buying something I love, or not buying something that works, just because I’m afraid it won’t fit some idealized perfect home or because it doesn’t fit a certain style I think I’m supposed to want? That’s just letting my nasty inner critic keep me from really making my home my own.

At the beginning of the month I wrote about how fear can hold us back from finishing projects or trying new things at home. Whether our walls are bare because we’re too afraid to commit to that painting we love (but aren’t sure our art history major friend would think “good”) or because we’re too afraid to swing the hammer, I’m learning that fear has no place in home decorating.

Slowly but surely I’m getting over myself (and my inner Design Star judge) and finding the courage to make my house a home on my own terms. I have nothing to prove, and no one to please except myself and my family.

Now every time I hang something on my wall, it feels like a little victory…and I’m just getting started.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah October 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I love this! I finally got over my fear of hanging pictures. ARe they all exactly evenly spaced and centered over the floor? Nope. Does it look good? Yep. :)

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AlexisAnne@CleanSmartSimpleStyle October 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Oh I love it! I have tons of stuff in my house that probably breaks all kinds of design rules, but if it makes me happy, it’s worth it!

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Rachel October 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I am working on applying this rule in our house: “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”, William Morris.

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Jenna October 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I have been shopping for a new light for months now, since ours got broken. I have been to Lowe’s four times and every time the exact same light you bought jumps out at me and I think “I love It” but then I don’t get it, because what if there is a more perfect light out there….. I think I’m going to go buy it this weekend!

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Meagan Francis October 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Jenna, that is too funny! Yes, buy it…it looks fantastic and has made such a difference in the room.

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Tragic Sandwich October 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

That new light is beautiful! I’ll bet it transforms the room for you.

One of these days we’re going to replace the light in our eating area (our house is so small that to call it a dining room would be not just pretentious, but bizarre), but it’s tolerable in the meantime. First I want to replace the blinding white CFLs in the ceiling fan (well, first we may need to replace the ceiling fan; it’s set on high with no way to turn it off, unless you’re okay with a dark room) and replace the vinyl blinds that came with the house with the wooden blinds we’ve installed elsewhere.

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Natalie October 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I love this post! I can be a complete perfectionist with decorating, and purchases in general I suppose. I am always looking for the best thing ever, be that a rug, or a lamp, or a pair of shoes. It has to be the ultimate version of itself, which probably only exists in Plato’s world of forms (hows that for some freshman year philosophy). I have to just give it up and say, okay, this may not be perfect, but its good enough. Otherwise I would be paralyzed.

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Meagan Francis October 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Natalie – I have the same problem exactly, too! So while a lot of it is fear, there is also that quest for the perfect ___ that doesn’t exist. I’m actually writing about this on Babble today and I’ll link to the post later!

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Lisa October 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Yep, this is me all over the place – in every room of the house. That’s why we still haven’t painted our walls yet (well, I usually say it’s lack of time & money, but I think that might be a lie). I want to paint our dining room & include an accent wall and also do a unique art wall that I can only see in my head right now but can’t explain. It’s time to pick colors and stop dragging my feet.

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Eve June 28, 2013 at 12:33 am

Me TOO!

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deborah October 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

My home wouldn’t be featured in any designer magazines by far, but filling it with things I love is definitely my style. I read once that ypu should only have things you love or need in your home. Don’t keep something just because it was Aunt Doris’. I try to remember this rule!

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carrien (she laughs at the days) October 28, 2011 at 12:56 am

My house is a total mix of random things that we like. Most of it was free or inherited or salvaged and re-purposed and adapted until it works for us. It won’t win any design competitions, but we like it. Everything we have has a story to tell and it’s a very interesting house. (A recently visiting friend compared it to a museum.)

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Dana @ Cooking at Cafe D October 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

Oh, I love it!
Has a slight vintage feel.

We have a very unusual light in our kitchen now – one of these days I’ll get around to our kitchen reveal. Anyway, I looked at lights forever before choosing. Way to jump right in! Kudos!

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Shannon LC Cate October 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

You can always change it.

That is my mantra. (As long as it’s not too expensive.)

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Jen October 28, 2011 at 11:21 am

I totally needed this post! I think several things make it hard for me:
1. Tight budget. Not only do you have to compromise but that horrid feeling that if I mess it up, I may have to wait six months to fix it! :)
2. Children: I am pregnant with number seven. How to balance what I love with functional and not finding myself crying too much: ” can’t I have anything nice?” ( I have good kids so atleast I only cry this after accidents.)
3. Not only are there the tv divas but it FEELS like I have so many friends who design freely and cheerfully in their homes while I stress like you do. I wonder how I missed the design gene.
4. Time. Homeschool. Almost seven kids. Enough said. :)
I like your ideas. I have tried to make my rule for organizing, getting rid of, and obtaining things based on whether or not it makes us happy and contributes positively to our home. Not whether or not it is on some one elses classic or must have list. I need to feel free to do that in decorating as well. Thanks for the courage. Sorry this was so wordy!

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Jo October 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

As a teenager I’d rearrange the furniture in my bedroom to give it a new look without bringing in anything new.
Now that I’m married and we live in grad family housing on a grad salary, we brought what we could, bought the little we needed, and everything else we got for free from the lobby of our building (desk and chair, area rugs, coffee table). Not everything we have is what I would have chosen for myself if I went shopping, but I love that we’ve got our own patchwork home, with it’s own character, which reflects us to a surprising degree.
I haven’t bothered with many things on the wall because, although I like having pictures up, I can’t be bothered for longer than five minutes to figure out where things would look best.

btw, your new light looks awesome! I can imagine feeling so high class dining under that lamp. :)

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Margaret October 30, 2011 at 7:16 am

Reading your post defined my home decorating to a T! I have lived with the ugliest chandelier – roccoco with faux wood – for 10 years because I cannot make the same decision. You have motivated me, I am buying one this week!!

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