I love home making. I mean I really love making a house into a home. We have learned through the years that we can turn any livable area into an inviting and charming home. In a little over a decade of marriage we have lived in basement apartments, traditional apartments, rented rooms in big houses, a garage, an RV, a beautiful house on a 10-acre farm, an historic 1904 victorian house, and we have rented my mom’s little 1940’s house many times in between. We have loved and hated so many things about everywhere we have lived, but one thing we now know for sure is that no matter the state of the place when we move in, we will make it into a true palace for our family in no time flat.
Indeed, we lived contentedly in our first few apartments with the dusty brownish furniture we had inherited from a friend of a friend whose grandparents had passed away leaving their furniture to anyone willing and able to take it. We were willing and able and so we were set. I cannot even remember what the pieces were like; they made no impression. They were just things that went in the rooms and we did not really think about them beyond that. We simply did not care what the furniture looked like. To me, home making simply meant keeping it all clean.
Two years into our marriage we welcomed our first daughter, Lily. I became a stay-at-home mom and it really was like they say because everything changed. Among the many changes was that I was now at home most of the time. For the first time I was looking at and really living in the home we had created and I did not like it. We did not have curtains, the furniture was ugly and uncomfortable. The lighting made me feel like I was the star of some play, always blinding me if I looked up and casting my shadow on every wall. I did not know what needed to be done or where to start, but I knew that I did not like the feeling of our house and I wanted to learn to make a home where we would love the feel of every space.
It took time and research and thought to understand how to make a home. I looked at magazines and blogs trying to figure out what I liked and did not, what was practical for a growing family, and what we could afford.
Thankfully, the home of your dreams can be achieved on any budget with a little thought and effort. Once you decide on a general idea of the shape and style of furniture you like, the colors that please you, and the size and function of the pieces you want for each space, it can all usually be found used or new, sometimes even free if you’re willing to search and be patient. You don’t have to have the Pottery Barn furniture to create the Pottery Barn look.
Here is my thought process for every room in our house. One room at a time.
1. Clean it. Every corner, every dust bunny, every smudged surface or coffee drip. Get it clean. Starting with a clean slate helps you to focus on designing the space.
2. Put every item away. A place for every thing, every thing in its place. Say it over and over as you put the room together. When finished, evaluate the room. If there is clutter on a desk, a shelf, a table, you are not done. Pens cannot live on counters, books that are not meant to be decor don’t go on tables, toys need homes, shoes, tools, hair brushes, everything you own and use deserves to have its place in your home.
3. Lighting. I believe that most rooms need to have three light sources. I prefer simple lamps with soft light bulbs to be placed around the room. Try the room without overhead lighting and just lamps and see how you like it. Occasionally, the right overhead light gives the room a good feel but that is not usually the case.
4. Curtains. The windows are the eyes of a house and the curtains are the mascara. Hang them high and wide outside of the frame (I usually try for 8-12 inches up and out from the frame corner) to make your window look bigger. Choose something you love but classic or neutral colors and patterns are smart so that you don’t get tired of them. Consider double rods and hang lace or sheer panels on the inside rod to filter sunlight and make a soft ambience in your room and to provide privacy. Ikea and Target are my favorite curtain haunts.
5. Hard floors deserve big rugs. They really do. A big rug in a living room brings all the pieces together and invites people to stay and to connect. They can be pricey, but Costco and Home Goods usually have good options for good prices and it’s worth it. Or if you have pets or children and worry about keeping it clean or if you are worried about allergens consider something like Ruggable’s machine washable rug options.
6. Furniture. I love simple lines in white or cream color. I also love painted or dark wood. Find what you love and what is practical. My white Ikea couch covers are machine washable which is a must with four kids, a dog, and a cat. Simple and clean patterns and colors are my favorite because neutrals are hard to get tired of. You can always add color and character with throw pillows, blankets, and decor which is much easier and less expensive to swap out when fashions change or your tastes do.
7. Now that your room is clean, organized, well lighted, curtained, has a rug, and is furnished to your liking, choose one or two places in the room where you can add something beautiful that you will want to rest your eyes on and admire when you walk into or sit in the room. It can be candled lanterns on a table behind the sofa, a few beautiful books stacked underneath, a succulent garden on the mantel, or your grandmother’s Polish Pottery collection inside a dark wood curio. Whatever you like to look at, just keep it simple, clean, and uncluttered or what is meant to delight your eye will annoy your subconscious with a crowded appearance. If you have a million collections you want to display, try storing some away and rotate items as the seasons change or when you want a fresh look.
8. Living plants or live-looking plants. They literally add life to any room. If you’re looking for a way to brighten a dark bathroom, or spruce up your kitchen window, think about greenery. Plants say “life” to people. They tell the visitor and denizen, “someone lives here and cares for this place as is evidenced by my thriving presence.”
9. Candles. Candles are a daily necessary in our home three seasons out of the year. Keep them in mind too for a romantic and magical feel. I love especially my battery operated remote controlled candles that come on automatically every evening and shut off by bedtime. They make the early sunsets something to look forward to during the long and early nights of winter.
And there you have it. These simple tips have helped us to create a home everywhere we go. Go through the process in every room and continue to be thoughtful and aware of the way every room feels. Keep the clutter out of your life, keep it clean, and make it pretty. When your environment is pretty and comfortable and you crave to be there, your family does too. Your home is the base for all of your family’s adventures, make it a happy and beautiful place to be!