The courage to make a home your own

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.


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.

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