A 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. 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!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!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! 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.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.
Dear Elsie, this post is amazing! I really enjoyed reading it! Best Luu
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 🙂
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 🙂