mother’s day special: design lessons from my grandmother
A decorator shares the lessons she learned from her inspiring role model.
Published Apr 28, 2015 7:00 AM
My grandmother married in 1947 at the age of 19. By the time she established her household and began decorating her first home, she had lived through World War II and the Great Depression. Though she is my husband’s grandmother, I call her mine, and we have bonded through the years over our love of design. She is inspirational in many ways, but she has especially inspired me to make my home reflective of what I hold dear. Here are five decorating lessons Granny has taught me that I believe are true for anyone in any time period.
lesson 1: make your favorite color the common thread in your home
While most everyone falls in love with a color scheme outside of their normal palette at some point, by using your favorite color throughout your home, you will not tire of your decor as quickly. If you typically favor blue but feel enamored with the idea of a green room, you can still choose blue for the main color and throw in pops of green through pillows, or as an accent in your window treatments. Often times, shades you are drawn to are soothing and comforting, so it is a good idea to stay focused on what you routinely like to ensure you love your space now and a year from now.
lesson 2: not enough money to buy new? discover the beauty of estate sales!
As a big estate sale shopper, I can wholeheartedly agree with this! Finding old, cool things to use in your home can really make your space stand out. Yes, they often need some sort of rehab, but once you put in a little elbow grease, you have something unique no one else will have. Plus utilizing vintage items along with big box store furniture contributes a layered feel that brings your space to life. If estate sales intimidate you, here’s my advice on “How To Find Estate Sales” and “How To Shop Estate Sales”. And don’t restrict yourself to estate sales only – flea markets, Craigslist, garage sales, thrift stores, and antique malls are also great places to score treasures! Although it is hard to have patience when you have an unrequited design vision, something Granny told me helps me see the silver lining. “There is a kind of beauty in adding pieces over time. If you have to wait for it, you appreciate it more.”
lesson 3: make it new to you
After living through the Depression, Granny has often said it is difficult for her to let go of the old and change her furniture and decor. The benefit of this mentality is it forces you to get creative and develop talents like upholstering and painting furniture. A new shade of paint on a beat-up side table, a layer of gold leaf on a shabby looking frame, or a fun trim added to drapery can revitalize your items in a way that makes you appreciate them again. The bench in the photo was boring and generic until I used some old curtains to revamp it. (see more of this guest bedroom/office space here)
lesson 4: put your ideas on paper and wait on it a week
In the digital age, it is so easy to create a plan on our devices of what we envision for a space. But there is nothing like good ‘ole pen and paper to capture your ideas. Use images you clipped from magazines to create a tangible inspiration board, draw the cabinetry design you dreamed up, or even print out a collection of ideas you gathered digitally, and pin it up for a week. Seeing your proposed plan every day may change your mind about what you want to do, or you may think it needs tweaking. Regardless, a well-thought out design always turns out better than a rushed one!
lesson 5: fill your home with things you really love
This blue farmhouse door with colored glass hung in the original family home, so Granny moved it to her kitchen so she could see it every day. One of my favorite pieces of advice she gives on home design is, “Trends come and go, but when you really love something, it becomes more valuable than the trends of your time.” What is popular is not nearly as important as what you love. I think it is helpful to edit yourself while eyeing a piece of furniture or holding a pillow or accessory in a store by asking the question, “Do I really love this?” For a home to feel collected and personal, it takes time. Your preferences change, and your lifestyle may change, but through these transitions, you can create a home full of what is important and lovely to you by being honest with yourself. (See Granny’s Porch Makover here.)
Thank you, Granny, and grandmothers/mothers everywhere, for all of the great advice, and certainly, your example.