My Space to Learn

My Space To LearnA year and a half ago we signed a bunch of papers and unlocked the door to our 100-year-old yellow house for the very first time. It's been a trip. If you would have asked me on that day how long I thought it would take to get everything "decorated", I would have said three months. Our closing date was in August, and I was pretty sure that by Christmas it would be perfect.

I have friends and family with "finished" homes. They moved in, decorated for a couple weeks, and have lived there happily for many years without so much as moving a picture frame. I would be lying if I said I didn't envy them, but I'm completely unable to do what they do. I'm a project person. I love change. I'm busy. Oh, and one more thing—I LOVE decorating. I obsess over it. For all of these reasons, my home will never be "finished". But a girl can dream, right? 

Fast forward a year and a half, and I'll tell you one thing I know for sure—nothing is ever perfect. Our home is still very much "in progress". Some rooms are decorated, some rooms are not. Some rooms are even on their third or fourth round of changes and still aren't feeling complete. 

Unrealistic expectations? Check! Learning experience? Totally

Today I'm here to share what I've learned from this 100-year-old yellow house and this past year and a half of in-progress living. My Space To Learn 1. Homes are kinda like faces. (That sounds weird, but read on….)

Here's what I mean. When I was in seventh grade (okay, and high school, and my early twenties—haha), I would look at fashion magazines and try to style my hair and makeup like the models. I ended up with some pretty unflattering looks. What looked beautiful on them did not work for me. But I didn't get it. I kept trying to make things work that just were not meant for me. Perms, pixie cuts, blue lipstick, bleached hair. Should I go on? 

As the years went by, I started to understand my look a little more. I'm still figuring it out, for sure, but these days I can tell a little more easily if something is just NOT going to work for me. 

Houses are the same way. And those models in fashion magazines—well, just replace them with houses on Pinterest. 

Your home has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. It has colors and styles that will flatter it and things that will make it look like an awkward seventh grader with a home perm. I didn't always agree with this. I used to think, "Who cares? Just do what you want!" While I still appreciate that attitude, I think that studying your home's architectural style and getting inspired by other homes that share that style will teach you a lot. 

I'm not one of those people who thinks if you buy a 1960s home that you have to decorate it just like the sixties, but learning about the era will teach you a ton and provide both context and inspiration for your ideas! Every space has different assets that can be played up through good design. Observing how other people decorate rooms with a similar style and shape to yours will teach you so much about what you like, don't like, and what you may want to try in your own space!My Space To Learn  2. Guilty feelings are a waste of energy. 

I'm not a lazy person. I have proof here. But I can't tell you how many times I've felt guilty and SUPER lazy because of unfinished home projects. Like many people, I'm one of those people who welcomes guests through her front door and immediately starts apologizing for "the mess" and saying things like, "We're about to work on this room" and "Don't judge me, I'm sorry!" 

But you know what? Feeling guilty doesn't fix a thing. In fact, I would argue that it does the opposite and can keep you stuck in a negative mindset.

These past few months I've started to realize that I am never, ever, ever going to have the kind of time I need, in one block, to finish all my projects. Instead, if I tackle one project (usually a smaller one!) every weekend, I can make real progress.

What I learned—guilt keeps me frustrated and does nothing. Instead of dwelling on all the projects that are still on that never-ending list, plan and tackle one project at a time. This is SO hard for me. I want to plan and start six projects every weekend, but (for me) the only way to move forward is to focus on one at a time. Planning and small steps are the keys to progress!My Space To Learn   3. Style takes time. 

No matter how many cute rooms you've pinned on Pinterest, it takes time to create a well styled home. Don't get me wrong; I know you can technically do a cute room makeover in a day (that's what all those HGTV shows are for, right?), but to put together a room that nurtures your lifestyle, reflects your personality, and "feels like home", well, that takes time. 

When we moved in, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I'm a planner, and I had spent several months making mood boards for each room, shopping and planning out renovation projects. A lot of those plans worked out great, but some didn't take, and that's just a part of the process. 

One of the biggest home decor lessons I've learned is that sometimes you have to try things to know if you like them. You have to live with choices to see if you can live with them. Decor style isn't just about appearances; it's also about the lifestyle it nurtures. It's worth it to give it time. I'm an impatient person, but I'm learning to be a patient decorator.

Now when I'm trying a paint color, I paint a section and live with it for a week to see it in every lighting situation. I move things around constantly. I return things (something I never did before—big step!), and I am always looking for little ways to change up our spaces. Sometimes it's the little things that make it feel right. 

I've learned that everything is fixable and changeable in our home. Sure, I've made mistakes, but my mom always says that mistakes (with artwork) guide you, and I really embrace that idea now with home decor. It's not an easy process, but when you take the pressure off of getting eveything right the first time, it helps a lot! My Space To Learn    Our home isn't perfect, but it is our dream home. I started my journey so idealistically, and boy, have I learned a lot.

I no longer think of our home as a project that I can start and finish. Now I think of our home as my space to learn. I can (usually) live without guilt because I know it's a waste. I plan one project at a time, even if it's a small one. I forgive my decorating mistakes, even though I try to learn from them. I'm becoming more patient and enjoying a slower design process. I'm more concerned about what works for my home, playing to its strengths, than what's cool looking in someone else's home. 

And you know what? I'm happier with my imperfect, incomplete home. I have plans and goals for it, but I'm no longer letting them spoil today. So I guess that's probably the most important lesson I learned. Instead of looking to the future for a better version of my home, I'm enjoying it as it is—with messes and unfinished spaces. I'm not sure if it'll ever feel complete or not. I still hope so, and I'm still working toward that, but I'm no longer waiting on that day to plan parties and invite guests and enjoy it fully, because I'm realizing that there's a pretty good chance that day will never come.My Space To Learn     I'm thankful for my space to learn. It's a great place to be. 

I'd love to hear about your experiences! Thanks so much for reading. Elsie 

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson, Photos: Janae Hardy and Elsie Larson (all previously shared here over the past few years)

  • Oh it’s gorgeous and coming along so well. Also I LOVE the quote in your laundry room. So would my husband…he’s always saying something similar.

  • Do you have any tips for night photography? Because sometimes there are cases where I have to shoot at night’s events. Just wanted to ask if you have great tips that I can apply. Thanks!

  • I grew up in a home with a mother in constant quest for perfection, which, of course, she never achieved. She always wanted to make things “better” or more practical. I, on the other hand, change my furnitue around every six months or so. Not because I don’t like what the room looks like, but because it’s cheaper than moving 🙂 and so much fun!
    I do not want a home that looks the same ten years in a row. I once even changed the furniture arrangement at night while my spouse was in bed sleeping! Call it the “jibbies”, the “routine-allergy” or boredom if you like (no offence)but I am a person in constant evolution, I gesture like an Italian on caffeine overdose, I interrupt people constantly, wear bright red lipstick to work… and I like that my house looks and feels like me. Sure, it’s messy. But people find it homey, even the neat-freak ones.
    the biggest challenge I’ve had so far was in the discrepancies between my spouse’s and my style. But when we both let go of what we thought would look good and started experimenting, it actually looked pretty good!
    Even though my mother always moves things around the second she has the chance 🙂
    Love your house. It really does look like you: it has a beautiful face and a glowing soul…

  • We’ve been living in our odd little house for 2 years now and have only just made the start on putting our personal stamp on the place. We didn’t rush in to it for a couple of reasons: 1) We were planning our wedding and I knew I couldn’t take on any more work while that was going on and 2) We wanted time to bed in, get comfortable and figure out exactly what we wanted to do.

    The bathroom has been our first project and I have loved every moment, even when it’s been pretty stressful. We’re almost finished now and it looks like we’re quickly moving on to the kitchen but I actually can’t wait to get the main structural stuff done now so I can concentrate on the “pretty” side of things!!

    I love this blog for giving me some amazing ideas and I have completely home envy looking at these photographs. So beautiful! x

  • This is a little (a lot ) off topic, but I’m an avid reader of your blog and I was hoping that somewhere in the archives there was a marbling tutorial! I bet you girls would do a great job with it and show the rest of us budding-creatives a trick or two!

  • Everything you’ve written here I can totally relate to. I’m always changing something or have a project lined up just like you I’m trying to relax more in my home and not put pressure on myself or rush it! I’m so impatient too but if I rush a job it usually turns out a mess! Thanks for sharing you’re experince, your home looks really beautiful xx

  • Totally agree with so many of the great comments, especially how I’d love to see more pics of the kitchen. It’s so fresh and yet holds to the character of the home with a retro vibe. Not an easy mix but done exceptionally well here.

  • I have a hard time getting started on projects because I have so many too… And working full time, with kids, it gets hard to find time because when they’re not sleeping, all I want to do is play with them. Lol. So everything takes forever, then I get frustrated because I feel like I’m doing nothing and my home isn’t progressing. I’m still working on finding a balance, and I try to work mostly at night time or during nap times on the weekends… But then the planning takes so much time that it usually takes me a few weeks (sometimes months) to get started. I’ve learned to make projects simple, quick and fun to be able to deliver. Creating realistic expectations is what keeps me sane. 🙂

  • I couldn’t love this post more. It’s soooo true and perfectly said. I feel like the most beautiful and comfortable homes are those that are curated over time. I also totally agree about taking cues from the era of your home during the design process. Your home is absolutely gorgeous and it’s such an inspiration. Creating home is definitely not an “instant gratification” process:) thanks so much for sharing.

  • These are all things that resonate with me as I am constantly redecorating my apartment. Thanks for sharing these words and thoughts. They were really encouraging to me right now.

  • It is incredible, you found the words to explain what i feel !
    With my new home, my thousand ideas but my job and my 2 baby girls i’m feeling like too busy but doing nothing productive… It makes me crazy sometimes.
    Thank you for your words which resound until my French farm house.

  • You hit the nail on the head! Every point that you made, I was like, “Yes! Yes!”
    I LOVE changing things up, and I definitely don’t think I could ever say, “my house is finished.” It is ALWAYS a work in progress; but I like it that way. In fact, we are probably putting our house on the market soon because of a job change and I haven’t been able to begin any new projects, and it is killing me! I need to be working on something!

  • So true! We all learn from our homes. Patience more than anything. 🙂

  • I love the glimpses into your home. It’s so great to see how others decorate their space. I live in Toronto and recently came across this photo tour of a home for sale here in Toronto. A woman has lived in it for 72 years and it is perfectly decorated in 1950-60 style. It’s stunning, I think you’d really enjoy it 🙂!/0

  • Thank you for sharing! I always felt down about the unit I’m in since we always had flat mates until recently, and I couldn’t do much to decorate, and even after they left, it’s been a case of we’ve been packing up to move and it’s a mess. I feel a little weird having people around, but I’m trying to embrace the imperfection and realise it’s a work in progress.

    I’m also building a new place with my partner, and can’t wait to have the clean slate for when we move! This is a good preemptive reminder to enjoy it being a work in progress! 🙂

  • I love these tips as we’re starting our own home ourselves and I feel like for the three months we’ve lived there, I’ve accomplished nothing, but it’s just because I’m still really trying to figure things out.


  • This is so relatable, I just bought a new home only a week ago, and my mind is constantly going a million miles a minute about all the things I cannot wait to do to it. I have so many cool projects planned for it, but at the same time I’m trying to pull back the reigns on myself a little bit and just enjoy being a first time homeowner. My place isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I, especially after such a difficult and trying process. So I’m learning to let things fall into place on their own and let my home evolve along with me at a natural pace. Thanks for this post!

  • This was a really great post. Thanks for sharing more about your process and how you are growing as a person and a decorator. This year will be my first year tackling more than just a craft project or painting a room. I realized I was just afraid to mess up and that’s why I never attempted anything more. But I’m going for it this year! Now that my three kids are a little older it seems like the perfect time to get started!

  • I’m also one of those people apologizing for the mess or incomplete corners . I’ve realized that while I could work on the mess, the fact that my house is incomplete makes it alive. My lifestyle has changed so much recently. My son was born, I started to run my blog and many other exciting things happened. My house wasn’t prepared to welcome all these things so we’ve started redecorating it express what we feel at the moment but at the same time I’m aware that it’s a never ending project, which is what makes it exciting 🙂

  • U guys are so inspiring whenever I feel bored I always go to ur blog. I got inspired once by home with and there was an African woman who volunteers to help the others by making bags and so I was inspired to join causes and campaign. Plz help me and vote to my poster at neta project and then click the number 4 and scroll down then the pic contest. Our is the poster with sticks and stones will break my bones and so do words. The middle one in the top. Our campaign is about bullying. I hope this inspires the others to do volunteering.

  • Such a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It seems that it’s a concept that many struggle with, and I don’t really have anything to add about that.

    What’s REAAALLY bothering me, (way more than it should) is the poster in the last photo (of the laundry room). It’s a lovely quote, but it is not by Leo Tolstoy. It is by a collective of creatives who called themselves Koz’ma Prootkov (fictional first and last name) and was kind of the XIX’s century’s Russian version of SNL. One of the contributors was name Aleksey Tolstoy, but Leo is a different person and had no connections to this outfit.
    The quote on the poster is also meant in a VERY snarky way and was part of a book of quotes that was spoofing the then-trendy books of wisdom quotes. Even though I’m sure no one (or very few) people who know this will see your photos, so I’m most definitely not saying anything needs to be changed, but it quite clearly has been bothering me enough to feel like I should say something. So, apologies if you feel like it’s a needless/pointless comment, and I hope you don’t take it in a negative way.

  • Love those racks on top of the cabinets- oh my word! Alex

  • I’ve moved house quite a few times in the past few years, and I always think you need to be somewhere for a while in order to understand how you live in the space and what will work for you and your home in terms of decoration. At the moment, we rent, so it’s just a case of shifting some furniture around and compromising on other things, but I’m looking forward to buying somewhere and being able to make more drastic changes.

    I think you’re doing a fantastic job with your home – it’s beautiful, and it’s great that you’re appreciating the journey as well as the end result.

  • i so agree! even now as i’m planning a kitchen gut job, i’m glad that we lived with the house for 2 years first to know what’s going to work better in that space. and i’m PLANNING that there are going to be things i’m going to want to tweak and change even after we finish the remodel. it’s a process, and when i remember that, there is no pressure to make it perfect this one time around. 🙂

  • Such a great post, I had to read the part about the homes being faces to my husband and when I read the part about the “awkward seventh grader with a home perm” we both busted out. So true and funny!

  • This is such a great lesson. It’s good to hear that even people whose style and projects we admire make mistakes in their homes and have undecorated spaces. I’m trying to remember that mistakes are okay, and I just need to get on with it already! No more decision paralysis.

  • Hi! Im 13 and just got my own room last year, and i have change it up all the time and is never ‘perfect’, lol 🙂
    Thanks for this post, your website is so insperational!

  • So perfect! I have been thinking about this very same thing in our house. June will mark two years of being in our first home (built in 1950, mostly original!) and we’ve barely made a dent in our to-do list! Thanks for sharing!!

  • If there is one thing I have learned from moving home more than 25 times in the last 30 years it is to allow it to settle around you and within you. Only once I have a real feel for my house or apartment do I know what works best and what it needs. This process can take time although I am also finding that I get to this point a lot quicker these days because I have done it so often! My style has definitely changed over the years but there are certain pieces of furniture and art that have remained with me throughout, as well as my love for putting up lots of pictures and wall art. (Love your corner with the b&w prints!) I suppose you could say that these days I curate my homes rather than follow a trend or whim, and this goes in line with what you say about homes being kind of like faces because you need to understand its individuality and character to show its true nature. Needless to say, I love your house! And wouldn’t mind seeing more photos, either 🙂

  • I love your point about feeling guilt. I always want to start a bunch of projects in one weekend and then end up getting overwhelmed and upset if I don’t finish at least one. I too have friends who finished decorating in a few months, but their homes were new construction. My 1930s home has history and character so it takes time find the right balance between its quirks and my constantly changing style. Thanks for this post!

  • My husband and I moved into our own rented apartment not long ago. After a few weeks it still has a lot of decorating to do and looks kind of..empty.
    I have realized that this is so because we want our home to feel like our home. We want pictures and paintings with meaning. We want a color and style that reflects our energy and mood. And all of that takes time and I am happy with that.
    I, too, apologize for the lack of furniture or the blank white walls waiting to be filled with beautiful things, but I will most certainly not run out and buy just anything because its pretty or because the space needs to be filled. I am happy to keep that wall bare or that corner empty if it means waiting for the perfect item to be placed there and make me happy every time I look at it. Thank you so so much for sharing your beautiful thoughts.

  • Love this. Having moved into a new apartment 3 months ago and ‘trying out’ different furniture pieces only to find they didn’t work, I felt guilty at returning or selling them. But you’re right, it takes time and you have to love with things for a while to realize if you love them or hate them.
    I’d rather do that than be ambivalent about my space and the objects in it.

  • I think this is a fabulous article and you couldn’t have said it any better! I’ve lived in my home for 3.5 years and now we are relocating, so finding a home again is an exciting yet scary experience! I’ve learned that a house itself is not perfect, but the special times spent with family and friend and memories make it just right! Thank you for sharing your home with us!

  • I’m coming to terms with just this thing! We have moved back into a flat we first lived in as students, except now we’re proper grown ups (kind of) with a toddler!

    I was determined to make it feel grown up, but it’s taking longer than I hoped. I think your idea of a process, it makes it sounds like an adventure rather than a deadline I’m hopelessly behind on.

  • It is already a dream house. Everything is so lovely and perfect. But I completely get you, I’m also a design freak and I have this incontrolable need of moving things around, getting a new look and such a few times a year. Yep, every year – a fewwwww times.

  • I’ve never commented before, but I just need to say that I can totally relate to this!!!
    I got married last year and we moved to a new city and house. The beginning was not easy, we didn’t have all the facilities and furniture, but I discover that you can adapt, and that you can live with less than you always had.
    The only issue is, as you said, things keep changing and sometimes you can fell overwhelmed…
    Thanks for the post! It makes me fell better to see that I’m not alone! 🙂

  • Beautiful and so cozy 🙂 could you tell me where you found the pendant light fixture that is in the second picture, as youre walking upstairs? Thanks!!

  • Hi Elsie,

    Thank you so so much for this post. We just bought our first home (half a world away) and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just style our new house as quickly and as easily as our previous rentals.

    I thought it was just me – but then after reading this post something clicked. It hasn’t happened that way because it is not supposed to happen that way. Its supposed to take time, love, and a whole of of patience (that I need to develop).

    Thanks again,
    Genevieve xx

  • I’m a lot like you in terms of home-decorating. I mean, I am the complete opposite stylishly (I couldn’t match things to save a life!), but I often feel as though things are incomplete.
    I am glad to be living in my “forever” home, but that thought itself is a little daunting. It’s been two years, so why does it look like I am just renting?!
    I am on holidays for two weeks now, and I am thinking of changing things a bit. I don’t have the money to buy anything new (I am still in debt from school!), but a lot needs to be redone, removed, and tidied. I can’t wait to purchase a new lounge for our media room… I eagerly await the chance to do that!
    Regardless of where you are with your house, thanks for all your great inspiration. I look forward to do you getting some more rooms done – and redone 😉

  • Great little read Thanks for sharing the awesome pics.
    We moved into our “starter” home 8 years ago this July. Yes it was a fixer upper and we were thrilled with that notion. BUT we are still fixing LOL I am so much like you, I need constant change so for me moving into the “perfect” home is boring. Anyway, no such thing as perfection right? Well so much for starter home haha. After all this work, I am staying put! Imagine you get it just right and then sell? I can not even begin to imagine that.
    4 dogs 2 cats and some fish later we are constantly learning what it takes to function in this little home. I am blessed to have a handy man in my life which saves us tons of moula. He is also super creative and thinks outside the box.
    I am a graphic artist and I create greeting cards n gifts. So I am constantly on the look out for ideas!
    We live in a home built in the 1960’s. It was one of the original cottages in the area. Tiny at 1.100 sq feet but filled with potential. We have many projects but that takes cash, so one day at a time right? I appreciate reading your home blogs. So inspiring. Have I written too much? LOL

  • One of the great things about living in a house that you plan to live in forever is that you can collect and experiment. My house is so small, with doors taking up a lot of wall space, that there is really only one way for furniture to be arranged in most rooms. But now that my children are grown and out on their own I’m thinking of ways to change the furnishings I have. Also, a lot of my living space has turned into space for my business and that’s okay, too. I love the pictures of your house and you, always happy to see more!

  • Way to go, Elsie! You are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It sure ain’t easy for me to decorate my home, specially when I’m a freaking perfectionist, but your posts always give me hope, haha. Lots of love!

  • Your home is beautiful! I think you’ve done a great job it loos amazing. Any lessons you’ve learnt along the way is a bonus

  • I love your use of colour in your kitchen! The white plates against the lime green kitchenaid mixer is amazing!

    Fie xx
    Coffee Confetti

  • wow, this is one hell of a good post. as all of your posts are; totally inspiring. and highly philosphical in this case too. everything you’re writing isn’t about home decor only, but applies to many other things in life. thank you for sharing this process with us. ad thank you for letting us peek into your home. it looks gorgeous and even more, it looks like a real home.

  • I can so relate to this post, and it’s moved me to comment for the first time after reading your blog for a few years! I’m just now learning some of these lessons, after being in my house for 15 years, and it’s a great feeling knowing that I can still have interior design projects ahead of me, that I don’t ever have to “finish” my house!
    I recently watched a BBC programme called The Great Interior Design Challenge, and one of the things I learned from it was to look at the era of your home and work with it rather than against it. This encouraged me to bring a few mid century modern touches into my living room, and I love how this looks.
    I’m decorating my craft room just now, and now I’m feeling less guilty about its half-finished state. Whenever I am working on a project like this, I always like to remind myself of the 6 months it took me to sand down the banister in my hall, how stressed I felt looking at it when it was half-done, and how good I felt when it was finished 🙂

  • This was written with beautiful insight. We are a military family and move every 2-3 years. I love the adventure of decorating a new space, but as I get it “just right” everything is packed and the walls return to rentable white. This can be frustrating. So I’ve started learning what I LOVE in each created space. What made it feel the fastest like HOME, because really, when you’re in a whole new town, country, etc, you want to feel like at least when you walk through your own door, it feels like you’ve lived there awhile. I appreciate that even as a home owner, you are developing and taking risks, it has helped me greatly as I begin to take more of my own!

  • Thank you Elsie for sharing ! It’s so frustrating to be a decorator and feel sometimes armless at home ! I am also renovating an old house in France and it takes a lot of time to make it looks like what I have in mind, but it’s getting better every day and I enjoy keeping the “original spirit” of the house.

  • this is a beautiful space nonetheless. sometimes growth means having to change your mind and your decor whenever you feel like and whenever you want.


  • Would love to know where the print “if you want to be happy be” is from?? X

  • I loved reading this, one of my favorite things I’ve seen here thus far! And I adore all of these photos with their bright and colorful crispness. I can’t believe you thought it would only take three months. :] Seems like you’re staying balanced about everything, though. I love posts about your house!

  • Your home is beautiful and reading this I was in awe, you have such a great sense of style! How could you not feel like it is perfect. But that’s just it – the grass is always greener, I guess haha! My apartment still feels “not perfect” after being here 2 years! Here is to never ending DIY projects and weekends spent rearranging furniture 🙂 Thanks for the tips and perspective.

  • I’ve been living in my house for almost six years and let me tell you…. it doesn’t look nearly as “finished” as yours!!! But I don’t panic… in truth I do what I can with my tiny budget. What I agree with you is that I’ve learned to love my house as it is!

  • hey!! I feel like this too… we just bought a house and we have already changed a lot of bones (paint, lighting etc.) but decorating, although something I love, becomes daunting when I think of the upkeep to dust and clean all of the picture frames, bits and bobs.. etc. then I end up with bare walls and minimal furniture! also, I have a lot of design commitment issues.. lol. I would love to learn more about your own personal cleaning routines!!

  • I just have to say that I read a lot of decorating and design blogs and this is the most encouraging post I’ve ever read. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think I might try to make a list of small projects to tackle on weekends.

  • Such a good read!!!! I really enjoy your writing! and I totally agree, a home is always changing, growing…like us! It’s a reflection of us 🙂

  • I love your perspective on decorating a home. I definitely scour Pinterest, etc. for ideas, but my best “work” happens when I just close the computer and look inside myself. Also, it’s funny how you plan to do one thing, but get started and it morphs into something unexpected, but better.

    So far your place looks great! Very artistic with a lot of personality-and I love your yellow dining chairs 🙂
    Happy decorating!

  • What a fantastic article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My fiance and I are just considering our living situation for when we get married and I have my eye on a beautiful old house nearby. The place would seem disgusting to the average eye (the current owner is a heavy indoor smoker), but the house has beautiful bones full of character, so I am already dreaming and planning what I would do if we moved in there. It’s so fun to dream about, but I find that I get so caught up on pinterest without taking into consideration what the house itself has to offer. Here’s to hoping we can get it and eventually make it our “home”! Thanks for the inspiration, Elsie!

  • That Tolstoy print in the last picture is fantastic! If I had any more wall space in my apartment, I’d consider getting one immediately!

  • I love this post. This home is so pretty I wish I had natural flair. I cannot wait for when we move out into an unfurnished apartment, just so I can put my own stamp on the place. I have home magazines and furniture booklets at the ready!!!

  • This article is beautifully written Elsie! Thanks for sharing!

    Homes are a work in progress, and not exactly the model homes you see on pinterest- but spaces to LIVE, to DREAM, to WORK, to LOVE, etc.

    I love this post!

  • Your house is gorgeous! I don’t see myself purchasing anywhere in the near future, but I do look forward to it!

  • I can’t wait to see the projects you come up with! I love your creativity!

  • Y’all have NO idea how badly I needed to read this today. My husband and I bought our first home on New Years Eve and it is a total fixer upper. I thought that we’d blast through all our projects and get it looking quite spiffy by the time summer rolled around but we got burnt out fast and we haven’t done a thing since February. I struggle every day with how unfinished our home is and how badly I want it 100% fixed up and styled. Reading your post has given me somewhat of a sigh of relief. I will no longer glare at our unadorned walls or our kitchen stuck in the 80s, longing to update and refresh. I will love my home always and not wait until our frames are hung to enjoy living in our place. Thank you SO much for posting this. I loved it!

  • That poster in your laundry room has inspired me to start finishing all my half-started projects that would not only look super cool, but actually benefit me!

  • I’m glad I’m not alone in how I do projects, but I think your advice is right on, and I’m trying to do that a little bit more. I just finished a big project and I realized that focusing on that one was more *efficient* (for lack of a better word) than constantly gathering ideas, getting an imaginary list of one hundred projects, and then feeling bad because I could never finish them. Time and energy aren’t infinite, so I like your plan. You can check out my blog if you want to see the latest project. I’ll post the finished piece this week (it has to do with painting and nursery rhymes).

  • I feel the same way! I can’t just tackle one project at a time. I like to start 6 in a week (scratch that, more like a day!) I can bounce back and forth between 3 things in a 10 minute span and it completely drives me nuts!! I hope I can learn to patiently work on each project and realize it’s a slow and delicate process. Thanks so much for sharing and I absolutely love your home (project), I grew up in a 100 year old home and my parents still live there today!! I may have just pinned a few things.

  • Loved this post! We bought our 100+ year old Victorian home about a year and half ago. We are in the process of (slowly) renovating it. It was turned into a boarding house after WWII. Sometime in the 1970’s it was turned back into a single family home, but nothing was done quite right. We have definitely had our hands full with projects. 😉 I really appreciated everything you said, and it was all so encouraging. This quote, “Now I think of our home as my space to learn.” gave me a new perspective! Thank you! 🙂

  • This is a really cute post. My boyfriend and I have been in our house now for almost two years. It was a little difficult for us at first because we rent from his parents and his wonderful mother painted every room of it, so for now I must restrain all want to paint! it’s okay though because I actually got really inspired by your “renter friendly DIY” post, and have made some awesome adjustments. I feel your pain on always wanting change. Let’s just say that saving for buying a house is first on my priority list, otherwise if I wait any longer I’ll go crazy from all of the weird ideas floating around in my head!

  • I love this post! It speaks to me directly. I have lived in my home for a year now and I still feel so unfinished. There are times that I love the choices I’ve made and there are times, when walking into someone else’s home for instance, that I am envious and craving something different/more. I allow it to fester within me as if questioning whether I know my own taste or whether my taste is as pleasing as I thought it to be. There are days where I feel the furniture too dark or when the light rays cascade through the window and cast the perfect amount of glow to highlight perfection. I am my own Goldilocks and I have to remember, as you have said, that I have plenty of time.
    Your house is gorgeous as is your style and outlook. Bravo! 🙂

  • Really enjoyed this post. I can’t wait to have a house of my own to decorate and make a life in.
    xox Logan
    p.s. I’m hosting a giveaway on my blog right now!

  • Pff I find it so hard to decorate! I know that I have a great style that suits me oh so well. It’s just the perfect combo (in my opinion) of urban and vintage. My partner doesn’t like anything vintage though!! Big problem! Because I like to do everything my way!
    He is more of a.. I’ll let you handle it kind of guy… Until he sees I’ve taken over the place with freaky 70s colors and decoration that’s just there for being pretty. For him everything has to have a function.. Except for that horrible brown painting he brought from his previous home which we hung (prepare yourself) in the middle of the living room.. I try not to look at it so much and tell myself that I can do what ever I want with the rest of the apartment as long as that thing is hanging up there.
    Oh, and the tricky thing about decorating? Budget! All those tiny details costs a lot of money all together.. I wasn’t at all prepared for that!

  • I LOVE this post! Definitely something for me to keep in mind when I move in June. 🙂 I also think I’ll have “everything done” by Christmas, but heh, maybe that’s too unrealistic. Thanks for always sharing your thoughts and learning with us!

  • You make so many great points here. Your space is gorgeous and inspiring and you!

  • Hi Elsie (& Gang),

    I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve really come to love and appreciate your blog over the years. I’ve been reading for almost four years now (yikes, how time flies!), and for some reason I’ve just never gotten around to commenting. (I suppose I’m just not much of the commenting type, haha). But overall, I just want to congratulate you on your progress and let you know how inspiring you are. If it wasn’t for your blog, I really don’t know if I would have started mine. It’s obvious that you have a real amount of talent, and I can tell that you absolutely love what you do. Every time I read something that you write, I always say to myself “Ah, that’s me! This girl is exactly like me.” It’s kind of a magical feeling. I’ve always seen your blog as an inspiration and I hope that one day I can find myself in a place like yours.


  • I love the quote in the laundry-room!

  • I really appreciate this post, it’s beautiful, and it helps me understand why I never feel my house is really done!

  • We bought our house when I was 19… eight years later and we are still decorating. Not because we were lazy or didn’t know what we wanted but because our tastes and circumstances have changed. What we did to the house years ago doesn’t suite us now.

    I know ‘my style’ better now than I ever have and I’m oh so comfortable with making choices based on my tastes and (as you so perfectly put in your post) the style of the house.

    I certainly think embracing and understanding the style, era and social history of a house can make an incredible difference when making design choices. We always viewed our house as a step onto the property ladder and not a forever home but lately I’ve fallen a little in love with it and largely because I’ve changed the way I see it.

  • Well, i’m moving soon and i’m soooo excited about all the things i wanna do, but first of all, my house has to be my home, my place. For a while in all the moving crazyness i thought i wanted my new place decorated and perfect, just to have magazine (or blog!) perfect pictures, me and my girlfriends got so excited about all the projects we wanted to make! But it happened yesterday: i thought “man, if we do all we say we’re gonna do it’s gonna get all messy and crowded, i just have to do one thing at the time and see what happens”, so i have to say i feel really syncronized with what you posted today. I’ll just start with painting my table, because it NEEDS to be painted, then if we like it we’ll see what is needed to go on, and so on, forever, because no, a home is never ever finished until you are bored of living there.
    And other thing i thought: us girls get so excited about all decorating and creative DIYs for the home and all, but if you live with your husband hey, it’s his home too!! So there’s another thing, not only your process but his, and the things you learn, negotiate and do together, that’s a big thing to learn too, isn’t it? At least in my case, my guy wants to participate in all the decorative process of our home too, despite he trusts me as a decorator and probably won’t be likely to deep study every detail i feel like doing, it’s OUR home, and mail decisions have to be taken together!

  • This is so so true. I have to learn to be patient SO much. Because I always want to realize all of my plans immediately.
    Thanks so much for your advice. With love from Germany, Eva

  • “. . . I paint a section and live with it for a week to see it in every lighting situation.” Ya, I do that too… I hope there isn’t a time limit with paint swatches painted on a wall. Mine have been there for well over 2 years. ha!! And now, I don’t even want those colors ~ I’ve found a different shower I need to pick different paint colors. I’ve been in my lil home for 12 years this month ~ and there is always something to do, or uhm… re-do!!

    I love your home and would love to see the outside too =)

  • I think it’s so important to be cool with not having it all together. I love going to a friends house and seeing unfinished projects, laundry loads and kitchen messes because that means they aren’t afraid to show me the bad with the good and their everyday life, not just the one that’s photographable. xoxo

  • your home is so beautiful! i love the shot of your stunning staircase. love the pendant light, the vintage oil painting, and the stained glass window <3

  • I love your house! I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying about apologizing when people come to visit. I do the apologizing thing too. I’m in the middle of applying feng shui to my apartment again so I have everything out. It’s a big job and the truth is, I will probably never be completely done. Thank you for reminding me, one thing at a time!

    Love and Luck,

    Laurali Star

  • How beautiful! I am working on redoing my house and making it more my own style! Starting with my bathroom – so once yours is all settled I’m searching for inspiration! If it’s as lovely ad your house, I’m gonna have to steal some ideas!

  • You have a beautiful home. 🙂

    ♥ Naomi Starry Eyes + Coffee Cups

  • Still being a renter, and not sure where I’ll end up living over the next couple of years, I haven’t gotten into any home decoration. Although that doesn’t stop me from collecting ideas on Pinterest ;)It will definitely be a learning experience when I do have a house or permanent apartment, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and fun of it.

  • Hey girlies! Thanks for this post!!
    I was wondering when your Blog Love class will be starting? I saw it was on for April. Let me know.
    summer xoxo

  • i absolutely love your decorating style. It is everything I would want if I had the time & money (not to mention own a home!)
    It’s fantastic. It’s just… fantastic.

    <3 dani

  • Thank you so much for writing this!!! it is SO TRUE that you start to feel lazy or guilty if you take a day off and don’t feel that your house is completely ‘finished’ — it’s a hard lesson to learn that it’s never truly finished, you’ll always have projects and things to do better but you live and you learn and you make progress and that’s what counts. Great article!

  • I used to spend a lot of time trying to emulate other people’s style, especially when it came to my home/apartment/closet under the stairs. Once I moved into a place without roommates, I came into my own, so to speak. I identify so hard with what you say about fashion magazines. We all go through that awkward period of trying things on until they fit, I guess. 🙂

    Great post!

  • We just bought our first house in October and it was a disaster. We’ve slowly been renovating as we can. And man, I can totally relate to apologizing for something not being finished. I have a ton of ideas to recreate and project lists to get done. But, it will happen in time. One at a time! And slowly it’s all coming together and really starting to look like a HOME. I have really enjoyed the process of turning this space into OUR space. No matter how long it takes, it’s OURS!!

  • Elsie – Thank you so much for this post. My boyfriend and I have been in our first home (yay!) for two years now, and are still working on rooms and finding new ways to organize and purge belongings. I am the same way, I beat myself up if I don’t finish a project (or even don’t finish a project fast enough). I often apologize for messes and then that causes anxiety and it’s just a crazy cycle.

    This post brought me back to reality and I am sitting at work with a smile on my face. It’s wonderful to know someone is in the same boat and feels the same way.

    I am going to try to remind myself that our home is a “space to learn” during my not so happy moments. And looking at your blog is definitely a mood booster – it gives me so many wonderful ideas for our own home!

  • “Planning and small steps are the keys to progress!”
    I’m actually getting in a hard time as I’m about to have a very important contest in a couple of weeks… your advice is so precious to me! Just now i was wondering how i was going to do to plan every single thing left I’d like to study before the D-Day… now i know what i am gonna do!
    Thank you a lot and now let’s go back to work!
    bisous bisous 🙂

  • We moved in September. Some times I get frustrated about how much is left to do. Other times I just enjoy the process. I think it is a constant evolution.

  • Thank you, Elsie! This was a beautifully written post 🙂 I love your home, all your projects are so inspiring; so thank you 🙂 I’ve lived in the apartment I live now for four years, and it’s only been the last year or so that I’ve felt that this is Home (with the large H); so I’ve realized that it takes time. I do recognize the need for being “finished” and having a perfect flat before I can invite people over, but like you so truthfully put it over here: that day might never come. So I think I’ll really let myself be inspired by this post and just accept that a home in progress is beautiful – although I would like to finish all the projects in my idea book in one weekend 😉


  • For me personally, I feel you have to live in a home…when my sister moved into her home…she had some strong idea’s but now he’s been living in the house for a few months…..some of her feelings have changed….always a work in progress…

  • Love this post Elsie! I moved into my boyfriends house a couple years ago and we are still trying to mesh our styles and slowly update the house. It’s an old home, and while so much has been done, it still needs lots of work. I feel like my to-do list just grows by the day and it starts to feel very overwhelming. Love what you said about realizing your home isn’t a project you can just start and finish, I think that realization will help me a lot 🙂

  • Love this post so much. Since I’m still a college student, I’m constantly moving year to year. Dorms one year, then home, apartment the next year, then home, sorority house this year, inevitably home again, solo apartment living next year, and then who knows? I like the versatility this gives me in decorating. Nothing is ever permanent. This also serves as a source of frustration. However, it’s allowed me to experiment and keep things I love and try other things/switch up things I don’t. Thanks for the advice in this post!


  • Hi Elsie!

    While your home may not be “perfect” – as no home ever will be! – it seems so perfectly suited to you, Jeremy, Dolly & Suki. Because I’ve followed ABM for so long, as I look at these pictures of your home, I’m instantly brought back to past posts, projects, and pictures of you and your little family… I can’t imagine any home in the world being more well-suited to the artsy, fun-loving, ever-evolving person that you are! Of course we’ve never met, but from what I’ve read for years, your home is a true reflection of you. Thank you so much for sharing this post – we’re in the process of searching for our first so this was perfect timing.

    I hope you continue to give your friends, family, and vistors the chance to enjoy the home that you so beautifully created, no excused required. 🙂

    Hugs from a fellow perfectionist 🙂



  • Your house is very nice and that is so great you have so much different rooms where you can “try things” ! it’s a lot of inspiration ! i can’t wait to leave my tiny parisian room in a shared flat for a little flat of my own with my boyfriend… just hope he will agree with my tastes ! 😀
    the first project i want to try is the one of the yellow chairs in the dinning room, great effect for not too much effort and money !

  • I always love your positivity and outlook on life. You’ve totally convinced me to rearrange the furniture in my living room! If I don’t like it, it can always be moved back 🙂

  • Great writing, just what I needed to hear NOW! I’m still figuring it out and we’ve been in our house for 7 years. I hate that guilty feeling of unfinished rooms, new projects that take over the oldest on the list. Very much appreciated!

  • I’m one of those people whose house will always be in project mode. I have friends who say my house feels like a different home every time they come over. I happiest when I’m being crafty, and my home is usually the top of the list for that.

  • I think I needed to hear that! It is hard sometimes to look around you house and see all the things you want to do, but very little budget and time to do it. It is nice to see someone I personally find so inspiring have the same challenges. From someone who writes a little blog to see someone who writes a very big blog struggle with that same concept too is somehow comforting.

    Keep up all the awesome, inspiring work!

  • This is such an amazing post, Elsie! I sometimes feel limited with my decorating (the renter’s curse) but I am learning things as I try to be creative without paint, too many nails, etc. I also love the guilt aspect – forget it! It’s not helping anything or anyone! A little progress is better than none.

  • That sounds so lovely! I wish I was better at keeping plants alive so I could do that too.

  • Ahh this is so inspiring — I feel like my home, too, has become a place where I exercise a kind of ethic of my life — that I want to be surrounded by things with character and things that last, to gesture toward the power of beauty and art to make livable lives and to see the world as enchanted, somehow. I feel like the process of decorating and detailing can be a way to think through who we want to be and what kind of space that life happens within. <3

  • So true! I don’t own a home (yet), but I have this same problem not only with my apartment but also with my office! I have somany DIY projects started and get so stressed when I try to get them all done in one weekend. I keep telling myself though to strive for progress, not perfection. Thanks for the article. You blog has been my daily read for years.

  • Its one of those things that I find so frustrating about my fiance. We moved into a three bedroom rental 7 months ago. Basically a Yours, Mine and Ours with the bedrooms. He moves in and in three days, it’s completely Comic Book Geek Man Caved. Mine still has boxes and just my dresser and clothes rack because my closet contains the kitty’s privy box (been reading waaay too much Game of Thrones). He keeps telling me to clean, but I have no clear direction on what to do with my room, other than getting a new desk and shelving for my crafting supplies.

    The living room is the same way. I have this Mid Century Modern Morticia Addams feeling in the open kitchen, but the living room will never get that “feel” because the couch is this Sunshine Yellow with burgundy rose pattern. UGH! I want to slip cover it, but then, I have no time! Plus I need shelves for ALL. MY. BOOKS. I got a Nook to prevent book clutter…look how that took care of everything. Fiance tells me to sell my books (jokingly) and its one of those “HOW CAN I GET RID OF MY CHILDREN” Moments (not really real children…book children). So I can definitely relate to HOW DO I MAKE THIS INTO A HOME I CAN NO LONGER DECORATE feeling. It’s overwhelming, but I love it all the same.


  • I love this! I definitely feel that constant “lazy guilt” over not completing all my home projects. But I agree that style takes time. The pieces in my home that are my favorites, and feel the most “me”, were collected years apart and often have stories attached to them. Most people can’t buy their way into a homey house, it takes years of curating, tweaking, and memories to create a space that evokes that perfect combination of styled and lived in. Thanks so much for sharing, I love knowing that I’m not alone!

  • when I moved into my home I told an interior designer friend “I just can’t wait for it to be done. I can’t live like this” She responded, “a home is never done” She was right. It’s a learning and changing process 🙂

  • Oh my goodness! What you said about homes being like faces… I feel like a light bulb just turned on for me. I have been so frustrated with my home ever since we bought it. I never stopped to think about why all of my design choices are falling so flat. I really haven’t stopped to think about my home and it’s particular strengths and weaknesses! I live in a 4 year old totally builder grade everything, zero character home… I need to take that into consideration! Thank you so much! I am feeling better about going forward with decorating… and redecorating my home!

  • your home is amazing!! can’t wait til i have my own house one day and can make it reflect me 🙂


  • Thank you so much for writing such wise words Elsie! We just moved into our new home about two months ago (after being semi-nomadic gypsies for 4 months in between selling our previous home and waiting for our new home to be finished). These last couple months I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt and frustration that everything isn’t coming together as quickly as I’d hoped. While waiting for this home, I had grand visions of all the projects I’d tackle and finish as *soon* as we moved in. Miiiight of forgot about a little thing called real life and how it sometimes gets in the way of such idealistic expectations 🙂 That said, when I think about this home as a place for our little family to learn and grow and settle comfortably into the people we’re becoming, I can only smile. It’s ok if it takes time, and if it always evolves or is never really finished. If I’m honest and gentler with myself, I think I’d rather my home be a canvas that’s constantly changing as we change. I plan on embracing this idea with realistic forward motion and the idea of being ‘in-progress’, with the goal of learning from each experience! Thanks again for sharing. I feel uplifted and encouraged after reading this!

  • I love this post. I am the most impatient person and we are about to buy our first home. What has overwhelmed me the most is the thought of not getting the interior done. What I need to realize is that it may never be “done” because we as people change all the time. What’s “done” for me now will most certainly not be done for me when we start to have children and when I decide I no longer like metallic details (or something mundane like that). I love that you found your patience and have thus reminded me to find mine.

  • We literally just got our home yesterday and I have already changed my mind on the theme and color palette a million times. Just like your business, you will continue to make changes. You will find what works and what doesn’t and you will grow with it 🙂 I love what you’ve done so far – gives me a lot of inspiration!

  • It was really nice to read this article! I’m 28 and I just bought my first house last April. I’m still waiting for it to feel like “home.” I had so many plans and ideas for decorating and creating an atmosphere, but instead we’ve encountered some unfortunate happenings– first a drain leak that led to us having to replace the entire bathroom and floor throughout the house because of water damage. Then three months later we had a slab leak and had to totally repipe the entire house! It was so disappointing to know that our money would have to be spent on putting everything back together with none left for anything else. But it made me feel better to remember that it does take a while to create a space! It’s nice to know that there’s no rush. Thanks 🙂

  • I could have written this post myself! I am a mom to 2 little girls, with a business to run, a new to us midcentury home that needs love, and a limited budget. I am a planner and a perfectionist, and so it can be challenging to be proud of my in-progress home. About 6 months ago I found myself so frustrated because I had put so much effort into our home, but I had been “inspired” by so many trends that I loved and nothing was coming together. I decided to stop the decorating madness and use what I had, my own creative skills, what fit my home, and those looks that I know I truly love. It became my goal to do 1 thing for my home each weekend. It could be paint a room, or hang 1 thing on the wall. 6 months later I’m finally starting to love our home!

    I also find looking at before pictures very comforting! I’m always blown away at how much work we’ve really accomplished!

  • This post is awesome not only because your home is beautiful, but also because it helped me discover some great past projects of yours (I ended up finding a link to your Andy Warhol graphic that I plan on framing for my sister’s birthday!).

    I’m longing for the day where I finally find that perfect home that’s meant just for my husband and me (the search has been long and weary). I also hope that when it finally comes along, I’ll be able to personalize it to fit us just as well as your home fits you. 🙂

  • I moved in with my boyfriend almost two years ago. Before my arrival it was (and still is mostly) the quintessential bachelor pad. At first I had all these wonderful ideas and projects planned to make the home more “us,” yet as time went by I realized that my expectations were set way too high.

    Since then I have also realized that I don’t have to do everything in just a day or a week or even a month and that, to be really happy in this now-combined space, I need to lose the unnecessary stress.

    You’re right–it takes time. Rushing style, especially one that two people are making up as they go along, is a fast way to dislike a space rather than love it!

    Great post!

  • I’m still trying to figure out how to decorate my small apartment. I have a really small budget but I’ve been trying to decorate with plants, flowers, herbs, and greens, especially now that it’s Spring. It makes it feel really fresh and it isn’t too expensive.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to hear/read all of this! Your timing in impeccable and your words are appreciated! Thank you!!

  • Hey Lydia,
    Yeah- I hear you. I don’t think it’s possible to have a magazine style “staged” house all the time, but at the same time I don’t want to give up. There’s definitely a balance to be had and I think a lot of us are struggling to find that!

    Thanks so much for your comment.
    xx- Elsie

  • I can relate to this a lot! I also need things to be perfect, but I always see room for improvement so that results in never ending projects. I was wondering if you also obsess about needing rooms to be tidy? Sometimes I get so obsessive about cleaning because I think my house has to look like houses in magazines and it can be so frustrating. I really have trouble accepting that houses are meant to be lived in and that means that things don’t always look nice and tidy. Thank you for this post! 🙂

  • Completely know how you feel. We moved into our first propper home one and a half years ago and I thought the process of decorating would be soooo much quicker. And I promised myself not to rush myself and get stressed. And what am I doing? Exactly that 😉 But I started to feel more relaxed about it again and also I am soo glad that we didnt’t decorate everything straight away. Because now we want different things as we and our life has changed 🙂
    Thanks for the post, love reading your home deco stuff!
    Andrea xx

  • I love “houses are like faces.” Your home is absolutely stunning. Your kitchen is gorgeous. I wish we could see even more pictures of it! And those yellow chairs are too cool!


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