Pinterest’s primary function in my life is to make me realize that I am wildly inadequate in virtually every area of my existence. Mostly in my ability to artfully light and photograph my dinner, but I have also learned that many, many things about me are lacking, from my nail polish application skills to my window treatments to the fact that I persist in buying Ben & Jerry’s rather than churning my own mixed-berry frozen yogurt in a crate that I hand-crafted from toothpicks, pom poms and dreams.
But another thing that Pinterest has taught me is actually quite a lot about home decor. I’ve always been a big believer in letting your freak flag fly when it comes to your home, filling it up with things that aren’t just “pretty,” but remind you of the places and people and things you love the most – that have actual stories – but still: sometimes it helps to take a step back, examine what’s around you, and look for the simple little fixes that can make an enormous difference.
1. Chill out about making everything line up perfectly. Now, I didn’t really have to “work” on this, being as I am the least handy person with a level ever, but it’s nice to remember that sometimes you can get even more impact by letting things go a little off-center (like the painting above; its placement goes a long way towards lightening up the vibe of an otherwise formal dining room).
2. White walls always look great. After living in rental apartments for years and years, I developed the belief that white was what you went for when you were trying to appeal to everyone (e.g. be boring), but now, two houses and many, many paint colors in, I’ve realized that it really is my favorite. It just makes spaces – especially relatively minimalist ones like my bedroom – feel so clean and open.
3. Emerald green is a seriously underutilized color. Pre-Pinterest, it would never have occurred to me to own an emerald green velvet couch, but now? Want. (The color is especially pretty paired with pale pink, white and splashes of gold, as pictured above.)
4. Get a good rug. Rugs can be so expensive, but a) they don’t have to be (try Overstock) and b) they’re so worth an investment for the color and coziness and life they bring to a room. We added this Lulu & Georgia to our dining room (and then moved it to the living room), and it totally transformed our home.
5. But first, get a tape measurer. Because rugs are good, but rugs that do not fit your space are not. You know how too-small furniture in a too-big room has the paradoxical effect of making the place look somehow smaller? A rug that’s floating around in the middle of the floor, untethered to any furniture, makes the whole space feel off-balance. Rule of thumb: it should touch all of the major pieces of furniture in the room.
6. Good lighting makes your room look better (and also you). Possibly the best investment I made for our new place was also one that was a total impulse buy and that I didn’t know would be as transformative as it was until I actually saw it: this sputnik-style chandelier. Our living room was dark and small, and now – thanks to the addition of all those (dimmable) bulbs projecting light from tons of different angles – it feels glowy and warm. Lesson learned: good lighting is super, super worth laying out a little cash for.
7. Mismatched dining room chairs are good dining room chairs. This is fortunate, because you know what the very best thing to buy at thrift stores and flea markets are? CHAIRS. If you don’t want a totally mismatched look, try four matched chairs and two different ones on the ends, or four matched chairs plus a boldly colored bench (bonus points if you can find one with storage, like the one from Big Daddy’s Antiques that we put in our dining room).
8. Built-in shelving is totally worth it. Custom shelves and drawers are expensive, yes. They’re totally worth it – especially if you live in a small space with limited storage and lots and lots of toys. During my initial house renovations, the biggest revamp we did was this guest bedroom to office/playroom makeover, and the element that made the biggest difference in our day-to-day lives was the shelving structure I had the Thumbtack expert I found build: it has shelves for books and extra-deep drawers for toys, and is just exactly what we needed to make our home feel uncluttered and efficient. (I’m adding built-ins to the kids’ closets next so we can get rid of the dressers in their teeny-tiny bedrooms.)
9. Oh, just add a plant. (Maybe not that many.) Nothing like a yucca to instantly inject some vivre into a space. (Have I mentioned how much I love my yucca? I love my yucca.)
10. Lauren Conrad does everything better than me.
(That last one’s not a decor tip. It’s just something that has been impressed upon me over and over.)