Because We All Love Beautiful Things: Why I Worked With An Interior Designer

In our time living here at Oakland Avenue, all of the rooms in our home have given me a run for my money (literally and figuratively). I've written before about how difficult decorating is and some of the challenges I've faced as I've become a homeowner, found my style, and stumbled and tripped through the beautiful yet deceitful and jealousy-inducing world of blogs and Pinterest. Decorating is a natural love for me, one I only discovered after I married and became a homeowner. While five years of it has definitely improved my skills, I'm still a novice when it comes to decorating a room. And so when my first few ideas with the living and dining room in our home didn't turn out the way I hoped, I didn't know what to do.

For a long time, I had just sort of given up. I wasn't happy with where it was at, but I had no clue what to do to get it where I wanted it. Because "where I wanted it" wasn't clear. Of course, I tweaked a few things here or there (I seriously just can't help myself.) but overall, I had just resigned myself that I would never truly love the space, let alone like it.

But then I quit my job, became a stay-at-home-mom, and as the name would imply, I started to spend most of my days at home, hanging out with the kids. We color and do puzzles at the dining room table, play trucks and blocks and dinosaur-attack on the living room floor, snuggle and read on the couch, and watch squirrels from every window. And all that time at home gave me lots of time to think about the space that had given me so much trouble.

Beyond being unhappy with the furniture and decor, I knew it could function better for a small, yet growing family. The coffee table was too large, the rug too white and the furniture felt bulky and far apart, rather than cozy and well-laid out.

I thought about it all the time, to the point it was making me a little crazy.

I knew it probably shouldn't have been driving me as nuts as it was. Admittedly, there have been times design and decor and my dreams for my home have taken up much more brain space than it should. There have been times when I've been sinfully discontent with my home, more focused on how I'm working for my home, rather than how my home is working for me.

It is a fine line between glorifying the Creator and the created.


But at the same time, I believe there is a God designed desire in all of us to be surrounded by beautiful things. I think we all can relate to savoring the last colors of a fading sunset. Reveling in a tall oak's strength, or the detail on a flower petal. Appreciating the stroke of an artist brush, the chisel of their blade, or the fine lines of their sketch.

We're hardwired to be drawn to beauty. To be attracted to loveliness. To want to be surrounded by prettiness. Our creator is creative, and he made us in his image - which means we were made to be creative people. He gave us tools and talents to create beauty and order - the only response we can give is to do just that in our own lives. And so it is only natural to desire to live in a space you feel comfortable in, enjoy spending time in and find beauty in. To take time to invest in our homes to create beauty, peace and order not only loves our family well, it is to be a good steward of what God has given us.

Yes, from an eternal perspective, the items we decorate with are unimportant. Frivolous. Worthless, actually - they are the things that moth and rust destroy. Yet these very items are the things we use to create spaces that can be used for so much more - for an eternal purpose. By creating a cozy cluster of chairs around a coffee table, complete with warm throws and pillows, we can foster conversations of the deepest kind - because making people comfortable in the space they are in can make them comfortable in the skin they are in. Through a well thought out living room arrangement we can host Christmas and Super Bowl and Fourth of July parties, welcoming in friends and strangers alike, developing unexpected, yet lasting friendships and connections.

I think as moms, often decorating can fall on the same rung of the ladder as self-care. We want to do it, but we're busy prioritizing everything and everyone else that it falls to the wayside. It's one of those things we'd love to get done, and think about often, but time, money and indecision get in the way. We tell ourselves, "This isn't my forever home, I'll do it in the next house." or, "It's too much money to do it, I'd rather spend that money on my husband or kids." or, "It could probably be better, but I don't know where to start." And so you never do.

But the excuses in the moment, turn into years of living in a home that we're just so-so about. We're daydreaming about what could be while never doing anything about what is.

And just like self-care, we can't wait for the ideal circumstances to emerge before take time to do it, or it will never get done. And whether or not you or I choose to recognize it, I think spending all our time dreaming about what could be while never dealing with what is creates frustration, distraction and discontentment within our hearts, to the point that our thoughts can become slaves to our homes.

So I keep this in mind: I don't want serve my home, I want it to serve me, my friends, my family, my God.

And I believe, if kept in perspective, interior decorating can help do that.

Your home is an expression of who you are - of who your family is and what they value. It doesn't mean it has to cost thousands of dollars, or take years of work - which I think is the common misconception - it can be thrift store finds on a thrift-store budget. A well chosen second-hand couch, flea market dishes, and DIY painting can and often create a more beautiful and welcoming environment than a living room off the Crate & Barrel showroom floor.

But admittedly, decorating is a skill, just like any other talent, one that is honed and strengthened through time and practice. And sometimes, we need an expert's help. Maybe decorating is difficult for you and only makes your head hurt with frustration when you attempt it, and so you need help from the ground up, taking a room from nothing to something. Or maybe you enjoy decorating, but your design muscles still need a little strength - so you just need help with finishing touches to pull a room together, or with an oddly shaped room that's giving you trouble.

For me personally, I identified with the latter. I had a lot of the groundwork laid but I just couldn't seem to make it all work together. Because of indecision, our living room was often in an unfinished state: projects only half done, ideas executed midway, and lots of clutter from things that I was still "trying out" only to return a few weeks later. Particularly in the living room, our home was no longer serving us well because of all my indecision. It didn't feel welcoming or relaxing, it felt disjointed and half-finished, each day my husband coming home to something different or new, and that's fine for a while, but eventually we all grew tired of it.

As the frustration started to build for both my husband and I (him with me, me with the room), I started thinking about seeking a professional's help. Someone to bounce some ideas off of, to guide my decision-making and ward off unwise purchases. Someone to encourage what I thought would work and push me on things I didn't think would. Really, I needed someone to push me to finish it and stop thinking about the space so much. I knew it could serve us better, but because of indecision, I was serving it.

After talking with my husband and settling on a budget (abliet, a very small one) I reached out to Anne Golliher, an interior designer here in the cities, whom I had several mutual friends in common, and had heard good things about. Thankfully, she agreed to work with me right away, and as you've seen, helped me to create a space I'm not only proud of, but a space that expresses who my family is, and what our family is about. A space that serves us well.
As Anne and I were chatting about this very thing - this idea that a well designed interior is not achievable or worthwhile for us "regular people" we talked about a few myths that exist, and why hiring an interior designer is not only a valuable choice, but a practical decision.
  • Save Money - Let's just tackle the big one first, okay?  When I approached my husband on hiring an interior designer, he had the same reaction 99 percent of the husbands in the world would have. "No way, you can do this on your own, it's a waste of money." While I appreciated his faith in me, truth be told, if we looked back over the last five years, I personally had wasted a lot of money because of his (and mine for a while), "you can do it" mentality. Have you ever purchased something, then realized it doesn't work, or grown tired of it past the date of when you can return it? Or have you ever painted a room, one, two even three times looking for the perfect color? I'll be the first to raise my hand on both of those. Working with a professional helps you to avoid costly mistakes; they can tell you what works and what doesn't before you spend your money on it. Plus, they know where to go for resources, and often they're able to find a "look for less," or even land a trade discount which wouldn't normally be available to you. Another thing Anne did that I really appreciated was to help me discern where to spend money, like the wallpaper. At first, I really struggled with spending money on wallpaper, but she helped me understand that it's like investing in a piece of art and through conversations and Pinterest, also helped me see how much it would "make" the room. We saved money in a lot of other areas like landing the side tables off Craigslist, or shopping clearance aisles for tchotchkes, but that wallpaper, well it was worth every penny. And for the record, my husband now believes a little help is definitely worth the money. 
  • Save Time - Particularly for us moms, time is one of those resources we can never get enough of. I worked with Anne for about six weeks to take the rooms from incomplete and disconnected, to fully finished and unified. Working with a designer saves a ton of time. Depending on how you set up your relationship with them, they can take the room from start to finish, or if you like doing more of the hands-on work - like me - they can help you know where to go for products, what brands to look at and some of their favorite places to shop, saving you time while you do the actual legwork. Plus, they can tell you exactly what to look for, so you don't spend your time looking at items that won't work. Anne suggested we find two midcentury side tables for either side of the couch and showed me a few pictures of what she was thinking of. From there, I scoured Craigslist to come up with the two you see in the room. Having a clear vision from her kept me focused in my search and I was able to confidently pull the trigger once the right ones popped up. 
  • A Fresh Perspective - Designers work with furniture and decor all day every day. Most of them can walk into a room and immediately tell you what works and what doesn't in a space. They're talented at space planning and furniture layout, giving you new ideas for how the room can be set up. Anne completely rearranged our living room when I thought there were no other options than what I had before, and I love it. The room is so much cozier and conducive for conversation, plus it created a great space for play in front of the card catalog. It was something I wouldn't have done on my own. In addition, designers are great with knowing what pieces can be repurposed, eliminated or added to a room. Often we can be so attached to our stuff, that we don't know what to let go of or where it might work better in our homes. Anne was awesome at working with what I had first and foremost, then helping me know why certain things wouldn't work, or why other things should be added. 

Maybe you're frustrated with your home because it doesn't function well for you, or you feel stressed out because it's disordered and cluttered. Maybe you've lived with bare floors and walls for years because you can't decided what to do and you're afraid of not making the right choice. Or maybe you don't like having anyone over to your house because you're embarrassed or ashamed of the way it looks, but don't really know how to make it better. Or on the flip side, maybe you love to host, but you're constantly giving excuses for why "this or that" are not done, or don't look as good as you'd like. (Which is just as bad, and I'm very guilty of this!)

All of these things are ways we can be enslaved to our homes - creating discontentment and frustration in our hearts. Not only are these attitudes all sources of pride, they also don't serve and love our families well. Remember, it doesn't mean it has to be perfect - in fact it shouldn't be. As moms, we know our kids will only make messes, so even if we could get it be so-called, "perfect," it wouldn't stay that way for long.

It's not - and can't be - about making it look like a picture in a magazine or on a blog or on Pinterest. That's the wrong motivation. Taking time to invest in our homes isn't about impressing people, it's about welcoming people. It's about creating a space that works hard for our ourselves, our husbands and our kids. And to get it there, that may take seeking out a professional's help, and it may not. For me, it turned out to be the right answer, and I do think more people should consider it - after all, many of the reasons people don't hire an interior designer are myths. But I also recognize that it might not be the right time for you and that's okay too - it's still important to take time to invest in your home. Start with what you have, shop your house, be okay with slow decorating, try a new arrangement, and edit, edit, edit. (A lost art in my opinion.)

We all love beautiful things. It's by design. So channel that God-given desire into creating beauty and order in your home. It's time to stop daydreaming about what could be and do something about what is. So pull out the paint can and change that wall color, drag out the hammer and hang those pictures, or put those throw pillows you've been eyeing on your birthday list.

Yes, your home is not about the couches, chairs, lamps or art, but those are the things that help create a space that has a much higher purpose for what it is about - the people who live there and the people who visit.
“Interior decoration is not just one's artistic efforts, but it is that which your home (even if it is just a room) is. If you are 'decorating' with clothes draped on every chair, with scratched and broken furniture- it is still your interior decoration! Your home expresses you to other people, and they cannot see or feel your daydreams of what you expect to make in that misty future, when all the circumstances are what you think they must be before you will find it worthwhile to start. You have started, whether you recognize that fact or not!― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking
*Photos by Anne Golliher
*While this isn't a sponsored post, I did receive Anne's interior design consultation and services complimentary. 

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