How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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The Spookable Home

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I love decorating, I love holidays.  I do not have a vacation home, or a weekend home, I barely get the rent paid on this beauty.  Our home is our retreat and I want it to be fun and whimsical!

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My decorating style momentarily would have to be deemed Vintage Farmhouse Adobe.  My Halloween decorating style would have to called Charming Spook.

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We have always loved Halloween around here.  Not the scary, gory, stay up all night watching horror movies kind, but the Charlie Brown pumpkin patch, Martha Stewart deco, stay up all night watching Winnie the Pooh Halloween kind of spooky.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

When the kids were little we plastered the walls with cardboard cutouts and fake spider webs.  Boxes of costumes stood at the ready to be worn any day during October.  The kids would come home from school one day to the house filled with scary music (Mickey Mouse Halloween tape) and I would be at the stove stirring a pot of Witch’s Brew with my witch hat on.  A large cardboard cutout of a witch hung above the dining room table on her broom and we called her grandma.  Every square inch of house decorated with something charmingly scary.

Last year's scarecrow with Bret (Emily's boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

Last year’s scarecrow with Bret (Emily’s boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

We go to a historic park that puts on a pumpkin patch and festival every year.  And I mean, every year.  We are taking Maryjane for the first time this year.  Sadly, Andrew will be in Tennessee for the weekend with his friend and will miss our yearly outing.  Last year, the house was oddly empty.  The kids were here, but not here.  Too old to play witches, the recipe for my witch’s brew already known (apple cider heated with pumpkin pie spice), and trick or treating with mom and dad out of the question, we had a sad holiday.  We didn’t decorate much.  The kids never came home to carve pumpkins.  We left a large bowl of candy on the stoop and went to Red Lobster.  It was depressing.

Maryjane in her new costume.

Maryjane in her new costume.

This year, the kids are still not here but I want the house to emanate Halloween as Doug and I love it too.  And when the kids do come by, particularly Maryjane, there will be whimsical fun for all.  I started by planting a very large pumpkin patch spanning the entire front yard.  It is now full of orange orbs and dying leaves.  Very spooky.  A simple sign stating it to be haunted is all it takes to make it fit the holiday.  I left the corn stalks up because they just scream spooky evening with their tall shadows in the dark.

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We don’t have the walls plastered with cardboard or window clings.  We may not have five carved pumpkins.  But, I did want to have an air of spooky fun throughout the house.  This can be easily done with just a few touches.

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I like to decorate with a mix of vintage touches, natural elements, and lights.  I abhor overhead lighting.  My every day oil lamps and candles play the part of old Halloween house just fine.  A few pieces we have picked up over the years like miniature cauldrons, metal signs, and dark candelabras help bring the spirit of the season in without it looking cluttered or cheesy.

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A leaf covered table cloth and a generous scattering of pumpkins help make the place feel like Autumn.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

Getting those blankets out and throwing them haphazardly over seating, a black cat, and a pile of books invites people to curl up and relax.

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Indian corn on the table, orange twinkly lights, and pumpkin pie spice coffee.  Happy Spooking!