This week, we’re doing a fun opinion episode of design rules. Do you ever wonder why it’s cool to break certain rules and a disaster in other cases? We do our best to break that down in this episode. We’d love to hear where you agree and disagree!
You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.
Thank you so much to this week’s sponsors! Be sure to check out the offers from BetterHelp, JuneShine, Function Of Beauty and Grove. If you’re ever looking for a past sponsor you can find all the current links/codes on this page.
-Elsie mentions Folex cleaner.
-Elsie mentions pink Himalayan salt lamps and night lights.
-Here’s a link to the macrame from Urban Outfitters that Elsie sometimes uses in bathrooms.
-Curtain guide note: Sorry, friends, the curtain guide is not published yet, but it’s coming soon!
-Elsie mentions JA’s eye coffee table.
-Elsie mentions her daughters’ room (which has way more than one “statement”).
-Linking Cheap Old Houses IG and T-shirt shop.
-The number for our hotline is 417-893-0011.
Miss an episode? Get caught up!
- Episode #89: Book Report
- Episode #88: What We Learned From Our Airbnb Biz Experience (And Why We Closed That Chapter)
- Episode #87: (Bonus) How to Start a Working From Home VA Business
Episode 90 Transcript
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast this week, we’re weighing in on which design rules were made to be broken and which ones you should probably stick to. It’s an opinion episode. We know that you love these because you can either nod your head along with us or you can gasp in horror and throw something at your phone. (laughs) Either way, we’re here for it! We’re also answering a couple listener questions from our new hotline. So let’s jump in. In this episode. I’m pretty much going to read off design rules and we’re going to be like, “yes, important! No, not important”. But before I begin, I wanted to ask you, do you feel like you’re influenced by design rules? And if so, how much?
Emma: I think I probably should be more? (laughs) Like I, I basically think I’m a real wing it person. And then sometimes I learn a rule and I’m like, “oh, actually that’s really helpful”. (laughs) So that’s, you know, my I don’t know, maybe that’s like a humble thing to admit, but there you have it. So yeah, I would say I’m influenced by them, but also I don’t I’m not always aware of them. I definitely am a, you know, dance to the beat of my own drum person. So I don’t always know.
Elsie: I think I feel similar to you. I, a lot of times get a design role in my head and it just is like an annoying voice where I’m like, come on, do I have to follow that? You know? And a lot of them are snobby. So it’s like you actually don’t have to follow all of them. But like, sometimes it can just be like something that makes you feel insecure, which isn’t helpful. But other times, like learning to hang my curtains, you guys know, I’m crazy about like (laughs) the curtain heights and everything. The proper curtain etiquette, that kind of stuff, I think is actually useful. Like when I learned how to buy the right size rug, you know, things like that. So we’ll get into all of that in this episode. I think some of it is very useful and like essential. And then I think some of it is just like snobby and like, let’s kind of like take a chill, you know what I mean? Like, at the end of the day, if your rug is too small, your life can still be beautiful (laughs) and you can still — you can still do all the same things I can do with my perfectly sized rug. (laughs)
Emma: All right.
Elsie: So do you want to read some rules?
Emma: Yeah, let’s read through the rules and then we can say if we’re into them or not. (laughs)
Elsie: Yes, let’s just go one by one and say, thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs middle.
Emma: Ok, first one. Buying furniture sets makes your home look like a catalog. OK, OK. Question on this is, is, is your house looking like a catalog a good or bad thing? Like is this question, you know what I mean?
Elsie: Ok, so this I think is actually. This is — I’m going full opinion here. This is snobby advice. I see this on blogs all the time. And I actually think it’s just snobby because the thing is, like, first of all, a lot of people don’t mind their house looking like a West Elm catalog is a West Elm catalog look, a bad look? Obviously not, like…
Emma: Clearly from my question I was like, “oh that would be great if my house looked like a catalog!”
Elsie: Like you don’t have to be a cool design blogger, though. You can be a person who, like, is fine with a matching furniture set. So I personally think that rule is very snobby. I do think that it’s cooler to mix it up. Like for the most part, it’s it’s a little true, but it’s also like just the attitude of it I don’t like. So I wouldn’t give that as advice. I would say like whatever you do is great for you, you know, and some people really like matching too, you know?
Elsie: I think that if you’re going to have, like, the kind of home that’s, you know, in a magazine, probably you’re not going to have like all matching furniture where it’s really obvious, at least like you’re probably going to mix up because like the collected look is like a thing, you know, like you want to look like every piece is intentional. But also, you know, you collected over fifteen years from different vintage shops. And, you know, like, I’m sounding snobby, right?
Emma: Well, you also sound like you had enough time to do that. You had enough you know, maybe like…
Elsie: Time and money and like patience and it’s a hobby like all those things.
Emma: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And maybe you’re not in that space. So you just want to get the matching set. And I think that could look really good, too. I mean, I like catalogs! (laughs)
Elsie: I guess — and my other comment is that a lot of times in my life I didn’t ever have enough money to have a matching set and I didn’t ever have that option. So I think if it’s like your first, I guess I just don’t want to take away someone’s joy when it’s their first time to finally have enough money to buy, like their first grown up matching set. Like, I want them to fully enjoy that with, like, no, like, snob bringing them down. Right?
Emma: Yeah, so. Oh yeah. So that was what you’re saving your money for. You did it. Good job. Live, your rich life!
Elsie: You did it!
Emma: Get that matching furniture.
Emma: OK, next you want to read the next?
Elsie: Yes. So the next one is OK. And by the way where I got these from is I read like so many articles it was actually really hard to find like definitive rules. Like this was a harder one to research for. So I just pulled, like, anything that sounds like a rule that you hear people saying over and over, and I pulled them from all over, so I don’t have a source list of where they came from. It’s just random. So, sorry about that. OK, the next one is you should never cover a fireplace even if it is inoperable. I think that — I think it’s pretty obvious that we don’t subscribe to that rule. I don’t — I definitely like, we’re like, you want to stuff your fireplace full of logs? Great. You want to stuff it full of books? Great. You want to make it look like like an Anthropologie, like, you know, front window? Great. Good for you. Like I…
Emma: Christmas lights? Love it.
Elsie: Yeah. I have no problem with any of that. I think a fireplace, it’s — for me, I would always rather have a fireplace even if it didn’t work, even if it wasn’t a real fireplace, even if it was closed up and it had boards like I would always rather have one than not have one. And I think they’re all special and beautiful. And you don’t know, like someone might have had like a big leak or a bird coming through. Like, you don’t know why it’s like that. And I honestly wouldn’t worry about it too much. So…
Emma: Yeah, pretty much the same. I will say, if you’re in a space that you’re either renting or you’re probably going to sell sometime in the near-ish future, then I would consider like making sure however you’re covering it isn’t too permanent. Like you’re going to be able to, you know, kind of remove that because the next person may not want it that way. Or if you’re renting, it may not be like…you’re allowed to do that. So that. But like me personally, I am never,and I don’t have very many of these in my life, but I am never going to do a wood-burning fireplace. I don’t care. I don’t have the time. I like the smell, but it belongs outside, in my opinion. If you love a wood burning fireplace, awesome. I do not. And so if I have one in my house, I’m not going to use it. So I will put books in it, or lights or whatever.
Elsie: I have this exact situation. OK, so our house has a wood-burning fire…it’s a gas fireplace. You can put logs in it, it has logs in it right now. They’re like halfway burned. (laughs) And I’m like, I think what we’re going to do is put fake logs in so we can burn it because I don’t want to clean it up all the time. So I think that’s also your choice is like, is it important to you to have that wood smell? And like is that authenticity like a factor to you? Or is it just annoying to you? Like to me it would just be annoying.
Emma: Yeah. If you’re into it great. Like, awesome. I would never be like no one should have a wood-burning…it’s like, no, if you love it. Some people that’s like their thing, it’s like great. I do not. I really, really don’t…
Elsie: I love the idea of it burning in the winter and I think we definitely could have used the heat. But I do not want real logs so much.
Emma: Not me. Makes me feel like I’m camping inside of my home and I’m like, no, that’s… I’m not interested, I’m sorry. But it’s not for me. So if it doesn’t come with a remote or a switch, I am not going to turn that fireplace on. (laughs) So yeah, that’s where I’m at.
Elsie: (laughs) Ok, the next one is sofas should always be neutral.
Emma: Wow. I mean, I don’t know, no? It seems pretty obvious. Seems like an obvious no to me, but…
Elsie: First, I think that this is an obvious no, but the reason why I put it is because this is actually like, a very common comment that we’ll get from blog readers. Any time you get anything colorful that’s like a big purchase, people will be like, you’re gonna get sick of that. And that’s like their immediate reaction is like you’re going to get sick of that and like and actually…
Emma: Sounds like YOU’RE going to get sick of it… (laughs).
Elsie: I know, right? And I will say for me, I do prefer neutral sofas most of the time, although I have my pink sofa and you know, but…
Emma: Pink is a neutral.
Elsie: Pink is a neutral in my house for sure. But in our new TV living room, you know, I just ordered a sectional it took me a few months to decide what color and I ended up getting is like kind of an oatmeal white. And it’s like, I refuse to call it beige. It’s…it’s beige. And um (laughs) it’s performance fabric.
Emma: I heard, yeah, I knew.
Elsie: And I think it’ll look white enough, but I also like got the samples and tested, you know, with the stain removing with the Folex, you know how the bloggers love Folex. (laughs) It’s like a big thing. It works good.
Emma: I love it too.
Elsie: So anyway, I just basically picked the one that was the easiest to clean and the most forgiving just in case. And I really intended to buy a leather sofa, but they were so expensive and you guys know I’m not a cheap-ass but like they were just like more than ten thousand dollars, like it got like bonkers! And I was like, okay, well I don’t think I need leather that bad. And I kind of actually was excited to get like the lighter color in there since we were doing the moodier walls. So anyway, I do I love a neutral sofa, but definitely like no, it doesn’t always have to be neutral. Like there are a lot of rooms where a colorful sofa is the perfect choice. I love a colorful sofa, so…
Emma: Yeah, I think you also kind of — it’s one of those you have to know thyself a little bit on that one. Because it’s like, if you’re going to get sick of it after a year, then, yeah, maybe you need to go with the neutral. But I would also say, like, if I, if I do have a neutral sofa, I tend to do pretty colorful or more interesting, throw pillows or throw blankets. And I kind of like the reverse can be true. If you get kind of a more bold colored sofa, then you can do more neutral throw pillows or throw blankets if you want to tone it down.
Elsie: That’s an interesting point because yeah, I don’t this is something about me, once you guys know this, you’ll see it. I don’t like pattern-y pillows at all. Like all my pillows are like shades of white and neutral. Like I do not like, like busy color — like when people say a fun pillow, that’s not for me. And I see I feel like I seem like I would be a fun pillow person, but I’m not. I’m a boring…
Emma: You do seem like you would be a fun pillow person.
Elsie: I’m not. (laughs)
Emma: So Yeah.
Elsie: I’m a boring pillow person. I love the neutral pillow. So that kind of makes me seem like I should want a colorful couch, but I don’t even necessarily…I think I’m like more neutral than people think. Anyways. But the pink throws them off, maybe? The pink is like my cover. It makes it seem like so fun even though I’m totally boring. OK, the next rule is always buy the biggest rug your room can fit.
Emma: Yeah. So this is not a rule. I would say this is the opposite of a rule like this is a mistake in my opinion, because I used to do this for years and I feel like sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Like if you were like, oh, I need a giant rug. And then it turns out it’s like, no, you should have got one, like maybe even half the size or done a kind of layering look or broke up your space into like two different spaces. And yeah. So I don’t think agree with that one.
Elsie: Really? I mostly agree with it, but maybe in — maybe you had an experience in like an open living space that was meant to be like in sections like what you’re saying and that makes, that makes sense.
Emma: Well, I also think it’s very common for people to buy too small of a rug. And the reason is cost, of course. I mean, I’ve definitely bought too small of a rug before.
Elsie: And you just don’t think you actually need it to be that big until you see the smaller — like I’ve had times, a lot of times, where I got a rug and it’s like…it’s kind of like between two sizes. Right? And you’re not sure which size… so you buy the smaller one because you don’t want it to be too big and then you get it. It’s just like, oh, it looks a little bit dinky. I hate that.
Emma: But I feel like that’s so easy to fix because you can always put like a more neutral rug underneath it, like a jute or something like, if you want.
Elsie: But rug layering is a preference because I prefer one rug. (laughs) I don’t, I don’t like a lot layered rugs, it’s not my…
Emma: It depends on the rug. I like a layered rug. But yeah, some people aren’t into the look. I think it seems very cozy and very homey though.
Elsie: I do it when I’m desperate and like I did it in my sunroom before because I had this vintage rug that I love. But it was really small like times like that when it’s like you have this vintage, it’s usually to save a vintage rug. Yes.
Emma: Not me. I like the look of layered rugs. I think it’s cozy.
Elsie: I like how your layered rugs in your living room look right now, so I see that.
Emma: I also feel like it’s a way if you have a rug you love, not necessarily vintage, but just like you like it and it didn’t have fringe, and you really kind of wanted the fringe, it’s like a way to kind of get that feeling because you can put one underneath it that’s more neutral but has fringe. Anyway. I don’t know.
Elsie: That’s true. Oh, my gosh. You know, I love the fringe. And I’m like, the person that bends down and arranges the fringe. (laughs) Like oh my god, get a life.
Emma: Oh yeah, you get a comb out and you’re like, I’m gonna fix this this week! (laughs) Yeah. Is not everyone combing their rug? OK, well my bad. OK.
Emma: Next one is: only one light source in a room can make the room feel flat — so you want multiple light sources, probably a lot of can lights, am I right sister? (laughs)
Elsie: I think this is a great one because I think a lot of times I have had only one light source and it maybe did feel a little bit flat. So I can see that more — the more lamps, the merrier. I’ve been on my Nancy Meyers kick and the number of lamps in those rooms. It’s like there’s like a lamp on like the bathroom vanity. There’s a lamp on the kitchen counters. There’s definitely a lamp on every single dresser. Like, I do not have that many lamps in my life at all. So I do think that maybe I should up my lamp game and, you know, I love those glowing pink Himalayan salt lamps. You know those?
Elsie: And they have like night light ones. All put those in the show notes. We put those in our kids room and they’re like way prettier. The night lights we had before were led and they were like blaring like white. And these ones are like glowy pink and they’re just much more beautiful and vibey feeling. So I think I can subscribe to the light source rule. What about you?
Emma: Yeah, I actually kind of agree with this one too. And it’s it’s not even as much — it is a design thing, but I think it’s also kind of a functional like mood thing? Like, for example, in my back living room I have those big Hunter fans, the Hepburn ones and one, you can dim them. So like a certain time of day, I always go back there and dim them. I dim them and then I turn on these LED fake candles that I have in my faux fireplace. And I also plug in these Christmas lights that I have wrapped around a faux fiddlew plant and all of a sudden the room feels like nighttime to me, like it feels like, oh, time to chill and watch TV. Or just like, you know, it goes from like a daytime living room to a nighttime living room. And even the ritual of, like, dimming the lights and turning the other little alternative light sources on. I kind of like just the ritual of that. And it takes like two minutes. So…
Elsie: I love that. Yeah, I think that I need to get some lamps. I’m going to start lamp shopping. This is, this is exciting. I learned something from my own podcast. (laughs) All right. Let’s just take a quick sponsor break.
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Elsie: The next one. Do you want to say it?
Emma: Yes. Elsie is going to love this. It is avoid awkward curtain lengths at all costs.
Elsie: You know, I love curtains. So did you see in the blog drafts I am doing, maybe it’ll be up by this time. I bet it’ll be up by this time. I’m going to say it like that. So I’ve recently just published my curtain guide that I’ve been promising for like two years and I will link that in the show notes it. It really spells it out like how to shop for curtains, what kind? There’s so many different options and there are awkward spots. So yes, I love like a curtain that’s hung very wide and high and then it goes to the floor. And I think in most spaces that’s possible and it looks the best. But when you’re in a really narrow space, like a really narrow hallway or in a bathroom where the window is really close to like the toilet or things like that, you can’t always have these big fluffy curtains. So you have to have other options. So I think that that’s a good time for like the different types of like decorative blinds. You know, I love, like those macrames that I buy from Urban Outfitters, which I’m like not even that bohemian of a decorator at all. But I just I think that they’re really pretty and they’re different and they work for they work really well for bathrooms.
Emma: Yeah bathrooms.
Elsie: Yeah. So I, I do I definitely agree with that. Avoid awkward lengths at all costs. Like to do a short curtain, find another way. Find another way.
Elsie: Besides that short curtain.
Emma: I would just also just encourage anyone get into curtains OK? Because so often I feel like people are like oh curtains. That’s like this boring thing, or doesn’t even matter. I don’t even need curtains or whatever and I just really, really disagree. I think curtains can totally change the vibe of a room. It can add so much color or pattern, it can change the lighting. And yeah, it could really change the feeling too of like how big your windows are or if you’re trying to cover like sliding doors or whatever it is that you might be working with. It’s a functional thing, but it’s also a decor thing and it’s kind of a big deal. Turns out window treatments are a big deal. (laughs) Get into it!
Elsie: You saw recently in our living room where like I remember I showed it on Instagram, I was like, does this need curtains? And 70 percent of people voted no. And then I put the curtains up and showed them and I got hundreds of DMS that were like, OK, this is like so much better with curtains. It’s just like the kind of thing where you might think that it doesn’t need it because it looks good without it. But most windows can benefit from curtains. It doesn’t have to make your room dark. It doesn’t have to obstruct the light unless that’s what you’re going for. Yeah, it definitely doesn’t have to. Yeah, I’m very passionate about curtains. I think that it’s a thing for me too, where I — when I was younger, I would just be like, I don’t want to spend money on this. I just want to get something like fast and cheap. And you go to Target and you see what they have. And it’s like they have no selection. They’re not going to have the perfect size that you need. They’re not going to have…what are the odds that they’re going to have a curtain and a rod and hardware that all fits your style that you’re going for? You know what I mean? Like, it’s just not realistic. So I am going on a curtain rant again!
Emma: Curtains are a big deal. So, yeah, I think you can tell that we are both very passionate about curtains. And so now we’re changing the name of the podcast to Curtains R US.
Elsie: (laughs) I do. I never thought I would care, but it makes such a big difference, like the way that I feel about rugs. It’s like that, but 10 times more.
Emma: This is one of those like tell me you’re in your mid 30s without telling me you’re mid 30s. Oh my God. Like I could talk for 15 minutes about curtains!
Elsie: Yeah. For real. In every episode. It’s scary. OK, the next one is you’re going to think I wrote this, but I really didn’t — choose a cohesive color palette and stick with it. OK, so first of all, no, I don’t think this is a rule. I think that this rule can be broken. If you want to live in an eclectic feeling house and you don’t like want to have like one set color scheme, I would set a very loose color scheme, like maybe by your main pieces in a loose color scheme and then go crazy on like your decorations and your accent pillows and like buy the fun pillow at Target every time and let it be like weird and different and like that’s fine. Like a lot of people decorate that way. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think that it can be very cozy. For me personally, I found this like huge amount of simplicity in living on my color scheme. And I have, you know, like my low contrast thing. I have my certain colors of metals that I always use. And then I have my color scheme and I add colors to it and I take colors away. But for the most part, everything kind of blends together and matches. And I love that. I do it with my clothes. I do it with my kids clothes. I feel like it just makes it easy to take photos, which is something that’s important to me, not even just as an influencer, but just as a human. It’s something that I care about and love. So I recommend it, but I don’t think it’s a requirement. What do you think?
Emma: Yeah, I pretty much completely agree. And I think of it, too, like you mentioned, clothes, I think of it that way, too. Like I, it kind of helps when you’re shopping to feel you just kind of can shut down the FOMO whenever you’re like, oh, this is such a cool piece, but it’s like it doesn’t really go with the rest of your closet or the rest of your home. So if you want to buy it as a gift, cool. But you know, and the other thing and I do really think you could totally break the rule. I actually think, though, if you are very confident in your decor style and choices and just like where you’re at with that, then it’s easier to break this rule. And if you are feeling like, you know what, I don’t feel 100 percent confident in my decor choices, I sometimes just buy a fun pillow and then regret it or whatever. You know, we’ve all been there. Like my example would be I’m not great at choosing fonts. You might think, like I’m a creative person or whatever, and I am. But I am not good at choosing fonts. So I, if I am in charge of choosing a font for whatever reason, for a work thing or whatever, and I can’t ask a designer, I will pick something very simple and I will just stick with it. I will not try to be creative. And I would kind of say maybe that’s not a bad idea when it comes to a color palette for your home. If you don’t feel the confidence to go eclectic, then pick a palette and kind of stick with it because it’s just going to make it easier for you. And sometimes that’s really helpful with like decision fatigue or if you’re just like, I’m not really, and you know, that’s not my thing, but it’s great.
Elsie: I think it can really help for people like me who I love so many different styles, like, you know, if you just feel like you’re painting like different like colors and styles and things, like you’re like, I don’t even know why I love this, but I just love all these different things. That’s like a normal way to feel and choosing like that one, like cornerstone for yourself, like you can keep on your phone. Like I keep a mood board that’s just like my own little like, you know, lots of decor pictures in a color scheme at the bottom, you can even keep just like one picture from, like your favorite movie from your favorite room in your favorite movie. And just try to, like, keep aiming your home in that direction. And it will work if you keep focusing on it, it will help. Like if you don’t. I think the trouble is, is that you keep buying like things that are like cute, that are, you know, it’s like these adorable like, you know, they have so many end caps at Target with, like, the colorful dishes and the colorful, you know, whatever. But when you get it home, if it doesn’t fit with the rest of your stuff, then it’s kind of just clutter. So it’s not this, like, adorable, useful thing anymore. So that’s what I would recommend, is to find some way to keep yourself focused. It doesn’t have to be a color scheme, but I have benefited immensely from my color scheme. So…
Emma: Yep, I agree.
Elsie: All right. The next rule.
Emma: The next rule is every room should have something vintage in it.
Elsie: I’ve heard this rule a lot. I think it’s kind of like the first rule. It’s like one of those like snobby design blog things that we all say. I’ve said it, I know all the bloggers have said it, but I actually stand by this one because I think that it is attainable to find something cute and vintage for each room in your home. And I think it’s fun. So why not, you know, like why not find like the cutest, like, brass seashell thing for your bathroom or like the cutest basket for your kitchen, you know, where you can keep all you’re like kid’s like crappy candy that they bring home, you know what I mean? Like something like that. Like there’s something for every room that’s vintage and vintage shopping is a joy.
Emma: Yeah.I more or less agree. But as my therapist would say, I think we should reframe this a little.
Emma: I just would say let’s let’s take this one off the list of like rules and let’s just say this one’s more of a fun challenge when you’re decorating.
Elsie: That’s true.
Emma: Because I do kind of feel like sometimes there can be a lot of pressure to buy vintage and you just don’t really have time that month. But you’re setting up a space or something, you know what I mean? And it’s like, I don’t know, maybe it’s a little bit unrealistic to feel like you’re always going to have time or the opportunity to shop that way.
Elsie: Yeah, you should never have to rush that either, because it’s supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to be like your joyful little accent piece, not your obligation.
Emma: Exactly. And if you buy something vintage that you don’t really love, I feel like that kind of defeats the whole point, you know? So I think it would be better to reframe it as less of a rule and more of a like, this is a fun challenge that especially if you’re the type of person who’s like, I’m not sure I’m a vintage person, it’s like, oh, you should try this challenge then, because there’s just so many different decades and it can really open your mind to different styles, different textures, different colors, maybe even different stores that you normally wouldn’t have gone to in person or online, and so, yeah, I would just reframe it, but I, I do think it’s a good quote unquote rule. (laughs) I would just make it more of a challenge.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean, I think they know this isn’t really that serious, but it’s not.
Emma: No, we were serious about the curtains, though. We’re we’re serious about that. (laughs)
Elsie: Oh, my curtain judgment rains down like fire. (laughs) All right. The next one is choose one focal point or hero piece for each room, I think is what it means. I would say I say meh on that one. A lot of times you move into a house and the room has like a built in thing about it. That’s like the obvious, like it’s the thing. And then sometimes you buy a piece like you, maybe you splurge on, like if you if anyone has this, send me a picture because I want one, but I’m not going to get one. The Jonathan Adler coffee table that’s like an eye is one of my favorite pieces of all time. It didn’t really fit into my plans for my house, so I’m not buying it. But it’s amazing. And it’s like it’s one of those like heirloom level, like just very cool. Like if you buy something like that, you kind of know that you, like, bought your own hero piece and it’s like the thing for the room. I don’t think that every room has to have one though. And I also don’t think every room has to have only one. Like sometimes you might have like a bunch of like in my kid’s bedroom, for example, they have they’re like kind of busy, bold peach wallpaper, which is kind of statement. And they have their giant full wall bookshelves, which is kind of a statement. And then they have their like seven ukuleles statement wall, which is kind of a statement. I don’t think three of those is a bad thing for that room because it works and it’s cute and it’s like serving the needs of their life right now.
Emma: And the chandelier. You forgot their chandelier.
Elsie: Oh, yeah. The chandelier is ridiculously big and I honestly should probably swap it out, but I don’t have the heart to now.
Emma: It looks good there. And it’s funny too, because like that room you’re just describing your girls room right now, it doesn’t feel overdone to me like. It feels nice.
Elsie: Don’t you think sometimes you can have a bunch of hero pieces. It just depends on what’s the room. What’s it for. How are you using this room like in a bathroom. I wouldn’t have that many statements. (laughs).
Elsie: You know, and even in like a kitchen. I probably wouldn’t. But in that room it makes sense. So I don’t know.
Emma: I will say if it helps you design. Like if you’re kind of like I, I don’t know what to do in this room or I’m feeling really stuck or whatever to the point in choosing a hero piece and building everything around it is a good exercise. Like I think that’s a great way to kind of make something cohesive that you’re probably going to like. And it’s built around hopefully a piece you really love, which is the hero piece or the feature of the room that you’re stuck with or whatever. So that can be good. But I don’t know if it. Yeah, I don’t really agree with it as a rule, I think it would be more like something that could be helpful.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean, either way, whatever, I think it’s it’s something, you know, if you need it or you don’t need it for your room that you’re decorating, I don’t think it’s a good rule.
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Emma: This one, this last one here is so controversial I, I feel like this is going to be the one everyone’s going to like write in about or be like…
Elsie: I think this one is like a great topic though. OK, you read it.
Emma: Ok, always preserve original features in historic homes. Bum bum bum!
Elsie: Ok, so this is really complicated. We’ve both lived in historic homes so we can speak from experience on this and I think you can speak for yourself. But I know I’ve changed features that people considered a historic feature that I should have preserved. I have done that before and then at times I’ve left stuff. We definitely have like a high awareness of how important and controversial this is to people from blog comments. And anyone who’s a blogger knows that this is a hot topic. So I guess I’ll say my opinion. I love historic homes like I have my cheap old houses t shirt on, I’ll link Cheap Old Houses store and Instagram. Yeah, this is like a big part of her mission. And she might cringe at my answer a little bit, but I think she would agree with part of it. So we’ll see. But I think it kind of goes both ways. I’m just going to be honest. I think that on one part you should fully respect the home, the history of it, and you should decorate in line with what it is like. For example, last year and then I found this house in Springfield and I was like this like house is like so awesome. It had like a pool, swimming pool view from the kitchen. It was a big house.
Emma: I was going to talk about this house!
Elsie: Yeah, it had hidden nooks, just like all the things that a historic home is that you want it to be. Had a ton of fireplaces. You know, I have a soft spot for that. But Emma immediately wrote me back, very decisive and was like, I wouldn’t buy that home. I wouldn’t even look at the home because I don’t want all that wood. It was like a ton of ornate wood and it was all…
Emma: Banisters and all sorts. And it was just like this. And if someone bought that house, by the way, and they did change it, it’s your house now and you get to choose. But for me, I just felt like if I’m not going to work with this, then it would require so much changing of this historical home that I’m not really comfortable with it. Which, again, I would change something. Like I’m with Elsie. I’m kind of like, you know, I see this both ways. I do think you should respect the age of the home, but also it’s OK to change some things. But this particular home, that Elsie is talking about. Yeah, I had already seen it because I’m zillow obsessed, of course. And I just was like, beautiful home. Not for me. Because I can’t keep everything historical that’s in it. And I really think you should. And again, if somebody did buy it and change it, that’s fine. That’s their choice. I don’t really like to judge others for, like, changing wood in a home, but I just couldn’t do it. I knew I didn’t have it in me to, like, change it. And so it was like, OK, this house wasn’t for me.
Elsie: Yeah, I like I loved that house — was definitely like, amazing. It was incredible. But I did respect your line you drew and I got it, you know, because also, as you know, bloggers, we’re going to share the before and after of our home. So we’re like a little bit more exposed in the choices we make. We can’t just be like, you know, a regular person who paints their banister white and has no consequences. We’ll have, like, a thrashing for it, you know, So I think we have to sort of, like, live with that as well. But I guess, OK, so for me, where I draw the line is I looked at a few historic homes that had a little bit too much wood for me, and I don’t think it’s a big deal to paint some wood, and I think that it’s a big deal to change, like to renovate. If you go into a home that’s like a beautiful historic cottage and you put a modern kitchen in it, I think that’s bad. But I don’t think that painting like a little bit of the wood white so that there’s a little bit more contrast is bad. If it is if it’s a small tweak that makes you love the home more, I think it is your home and you should feel like you’re able to decorate it with your style to an extent. But I don’t think that you should change the whole nature of it. And especially like ripping out features, you know, that are really special about it. I think. I think sometimes you where it gets sad is like when you can tell that someone didn’t think it was charming, like they didn’t think it was worth saving. So I think if old houses have built-ins or like, you know, these like cute little features, like the little phone nooks and things like that, I think those are always worth saving if you can, because they’re special and charming and cute. And, you know, if you need to change some things to make it more functional for you, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As long as you decorate along with the style like as one part of your mood board.
Emma: Yeah, I would also say sometimes you find a house where someone like the previous owner has kind of already like half ripped out something historic. And then at that point, I feel like it’s really up to you if you want to try to restore it or if you want to kind of, you know, maybe find a different path with it, like keep what’s what is historical and and maybe make another part, modern or different style or whatever. At that point, I kind of feel like, well, it’s already in a certain state. So, you know, if you if you feel like changing it, go for it at that point, because I also really love it. Sometimes I’ve seen houses that are like very historical house and then there’s like a very modern addition and it’s like two completely different houses. And I actually think that’s really fun.
Elsie: Really, you like that?!
Emma: Yeah, I like it.
Elsie: I don’t like it.
Emma: I don’t love it if you were to like, rip out the original part and make the whole thing modern, I would have thought that was a little bit sad, you know, but I think kind of trying to like be like, oh, well, this was built one hundred years ago. But this part that we added on, we just built it this year. So we’re doing it a whole different thing. I think that’s kind of fun. It almost adds like a new level to the story. But I think it’s more like ripping out something historical that kind of gives me pause, I’ll say.
Elsie: Yeah, I guess the the rule, the way it was written was always preserve original features in historic homes. And I guess I would say yes, always, maybe always preserve them as much as you can, at least. Like I don’t think you should have to keep like a lot of historic homes have like very, very tiny kitchens, you know, and maybe if that’s like the one thing about the home that’s not functional for your life and you’re like, I would love this home if I could expand the kitchen a little bit, but I would still do it in the style. Like, I personally don’t think that’s bad. I think that that’s, you know, but I think that if you can become like a little bit nerdy about the era that your home was built and, you know, get into it and like learn about it and study pictures and get inspired. I think that that’s the best case scenario for sure. And it’s fun. Like it’s a hobby.
Emma: I agree.
Elsie: Awesome. Ok, so that was fun. We would love to hear from you which decorating rules if you think we missed any if you think that any of our opinions were really wrong, we just want to hear all of that in the comments in our show notes at abeautifulmess.com/podcast. So now we’re going to play our first listener question from our hotline. We are so excited.
Caller: Hi. Quick question about redoing a room, using what you have at home. If you don’t want to buy any new furniture, you don’t have a budget for that. You just want to take what you have and kind of pull it all out and start over. How would you say the steps should be for you to do that the most effectively, to make the space, I guess, as functional, but as appealing as possible, any tips would be so appreciated. Thank you!
Elsie: All right. I love to redecorate by shuffling things around, like kind of that like feeling of like it’s 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night and I have to change something in my house right now. Like every store is closed and I’m going to do it like I just have the itch. And I love that idea. I think swapping things from room to room is a really good idea if you have any kind of storage. My friend Ting and I both have this little thing we do in our garages where we make our own home goods store for ourselves. (laughs) And I think that that’s. A great thing if you have any kind of extra storage to make this like little styling section, it can be like a drawer or like a cabinet, you know, where you keep like all your extra vases and all your extra pillows, you know, and then, yeah, just move things around and change things up, make a new flower arrangement. I mean, I don’t know. I think redecorating without buying anything is pretty much just moving things around, which is one of my favorite things to do. Like we grew up on, you know, a limited budget. And also we didn’t really work, like I didn’t work at all in high school. So I didn’t really have, like, money. But we redecorate our rooms all the time.
Emma: Oh, yeah, all the time.
Elsie: It was pretty much just painting, painting over and over.
Emma: Yeah. I would also say you can kind of like look around your house and repurpose things for something they weren’t originally — like for example, if you have extra leftover wallpaper and you’re saving it, you’re maybe going to wrap a gift, you could frame it and now you have a piece of art or you could frame like a really cool blouse that you love. And maybe it’s sentimental, but you don’t wear it anymore, like things like that. And then I also, you know, if you have other stylish friends, never a bad idea to be like, hey, I’m getting rid of this rug, but I’d really like to swap it. Does anyone have a a five by eight, you know, that they’d like to trade or whatever, you know, like you can just text a bunch of friends and see, you know, someone may have something and be like, yeah, let’s trade or let’s trade for a year like, you know, definitely, definitely put it out there. If you’re if you’re like, can I keep this forever or not, because you’ll want to know that kind of thing. Because like I, I recently swapped a couple of things with a friend and she gave me this piece of art and I was like, are you ever going to want this back? And she said, no. And I the reason I asked was because I was planning to paint half of it, like do it’s kind of like Pinteresty look. So I wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to want it back a year from now or two years from now. And she was like, no, I don’t want it back. So it’s like, OK, great. So now it’s like a half-painted old-timey portrait that’s sitting above my piano so honest. And I didn’t I didn’t buy it. And I used paint that I had at my house. It was like leftover wall paint and yeah, it was fun.
Elsie: Yes. I mean, I guess we haven’t gotten into this, but if you have a home printer, you can make so much art for your home.
Emma: You really can.
Elsie: It’s definitely one of the Christmas presents that you should ask for if you don’t have one. Ok, and then the next question.
Caller: Hey, Elsie and Emma. This is Brianne from St. Louis. My question is, if you can swap three houses down in any states or any cities in the U.S., what would you pick and why?
Elsie: Ok, so how we’re interpreting Brianne’s question is like kind of like the movie The Holiday where we can swap houses and they could stay at my house and I would stay at their house. So, OK, my top three cities, this is my top three favorite cities and it’s my top three cities for architecture and it’s my top three cities to visit for vacations.
Elsie: Yes. So these are the ones. Charleston, South Carolina, New Orleans, Louisiana. And Palm Springs, California. That’s where I would go. What about you Em?
Emma: I would do Santa Fe and I would. Yeah, and I’d really love something. I don’t have a specific town in mind, but like something on the East Coast, like a Maine, something charming and small, like I just want like a creaky house by the ocean.
Elsie: You know what I just heard about? Nantucket.
Emma: Okay then. Nantucket.
Elsie: I’m so excited to go there!
Emma: I have not done enough East Coast visiting in my lifetime. So that’s on the list.
Elsie: Me neither.
Emma: And then I’m also going to put Palm Springs because it’s fun there and I like it.
Elsie: Palm Springs is definitely a vacation is it’s so slow and like chill and it’s so great for taking walks. And I just like to drive around and look at everyone’s plants in their yard.
Emma: Yeah. And I guess I should say, like, you might be like, why Santa Fe? I really want to go to Meow Wolf so that and then also I like like outdoorsy, like hiking and things like that. And I love the kind of desert states. I think they’re just really beautiful.
Elsie: Santa Fe looks beautiful.
Emma: Yeah. And it’s kind of eclectic there. Like there’s actually skiing there sometimes during the winter months too. So it’s, you know, cool place.
Elsie: Yeah! All right. Well, you can submit your question to our hotline any time you want. The phone number for it is 417-893-0011. Also, if you don’t want your voice recorded, you can just email us a questions at email@example.com. Bye!
I’m fairly new to your podcasts and I do enjoy them so much!! I love listening to them, and I’m trying to catch up on listening to all of them.
Emma – I just listened to #90’s episode and you mentioned Santa Fe, NM to visit. I was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, and I would highly recommend visiting. Please feel free to reach out and I’ll send you some great places to visit.
I enjoying following your “Beautiful Mess” on Instagram and listening to the podcasts as well. Keep up the great work. I love hearing your team work and especially because your sisters!!
Stay Well and Take Care,
Diane C. Parshall
This was a fun episode! I like hearing opinions, and I feel like you’re both very open minded about design generally! I’d be in trouble if you could see my curtains though 😉 I have cats who will tug at long curtains and try to force their way through blinds if they want to see out when they’re closed, so curtains that hang just past the windowsill (where they can jump up under them easily) are the only window coverings I have! I can only imagine what they would do to macramé tassels. I do at least hang the rods high though!
This episode was so much fun! I think that the design rule that every room should have something vintage an it isn’t a rule that should be broken.
Basically, it is cheaper and better for the environment and most importantly: “You should never be the oldest thing in your home.” I do love this statement from Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. 🙂
Hi all! Love your podcast so much. I’m not sure if anyone’s surfaced this issue to you yet, but I’ve had a terrible time accessing your podcast lately! When I try to access it through my apple Podcasts app, I get an error. I also tried using pocketcasts and had the same error. Seems like Spotify was the only thing that worked. I love listening so much that I will try all of the options until I find one, but it would be great to access it via Apple Podcasts so I could queue it up in a playlist!
Erica – I don’t have this problem at all and listen exclusively on iTunes. You might need to reinstall your app. Good luck!
I loved this episode so much! I thought you two were opinionated and but understanding that not everyone Needs to follow the rules if it’s not their thing.
I just bought a 1930s home and am in the thick of learning about 1900s to 1930s design. Over the years the owners made “upgrades” in what was I’m sure the 80s and 90s so when I bought the house I knew that I wanted to honor the homes history and really being her back to her original beauty. I want to decorate with as many 1930s inspired decor as I can while still keeping it true to my style.
Thanks for the great episode!