I do some of my best decorating-related dreaming during the quiet, still days of early January, when the hullabaloo of the holidays is past, the seasonal finery is packed away and my home is back to its most natural state. That’s when I make my decorating New Year’s resolutions, the list of things in my home I want to tackle in the coming year. I’ve learned from experience that I’m happiest with my design decisions when I keep these five guiding principles in mind. I hope they will help you, too, as you dream big about what you’d like your home to become in 2014.
1.Keep your ultimate destination in mind.
Dan and I recently purchased a tiny little fixer upper (which is being charitable – it needed major work) by sweet little lake near Kansas City. It’s modest and cozy and reminds me of the bungalow I lived in when I moved back to Atchison years ago to start Nell Hill’s.
Since I spend my days helping Nell Hill’s customers reach their decorating dreams, imagine my glee at having this project of my own to pour some creative energy into. I was starting from scratch, so I spent a lot of time mulling over what style I wanted for my little escape. Modern? Transitional? Traditional?
So what do you do when you are at a decorating crossroads, when you’re moving into a new home, renovating a room or just giving an existing space a facelift? Which direction do you go – your tried-and-true look or someplace new? Only you can discern the right answer, but here’s my recommendation: Stay true to your style. That’s what I ended up doing with my little lake house. After veering off in different decorating directions, I finally stopped and listened to my heart: I wanted this little house to look like it had been in my family for generations, filled with comfortably classic furnishings.
2. Push a bit out of your comfort zone.
Once you know your decorating destination, be open to serendipity. As you are exposed to new styles and trends, give them a look and see how you might adapt them to your home to keep your décor fresh. If you love color, that may mean painting a wall a splashy new tone. Maybe you could experiment with pattern on a new piece of furniture. Or you might want to mix up your displays with a few new accents every season.
In my home, I’ve been taking a new look on my traditional décor. As a result, I’ve lightened up my layers through the years, introduced contemporary patterns though my accent pillows and bought some fabulous transitional lamps, like the ones in the picture above. My home still says “me”, but is always evolving, never stale.
3. Stay true to your palette.
This is an over simplification, I know, but in general, I think people gravitate toward warm or cool color palettes. Even though I adore the clean lines and bold colors in today’s reinvented geometric prints, when I use orange, turquoise or chartreuse in my own home, I pair them with creams because a warmer palette suits me best. In contrast, many of the young Nell Hill’s associates pair their bold colors with crisp white. Which one works best for you and your home?
A few Nell Hill’s customers have told me that they tried some more contemporary pieces in their traditional homes but didn’t fall in love with them. They wanted to go back to their traditional look. My guess is that when they picked the more modern pieces, they stepped too far outside their color palette and missed the warmer tones. Solution: Mix in warm colors through pillows, window coverings, area rugs or accents.
4. Make sure your home nourishes your spirit.
As you decorate your home, your goal should not be to make it the stuff of decorating magazine centerfolds. It should be to create a space that fills your senses and nourishes your spirit. Beautiful furnishings are a means to an end, not the end itself. I know it sounds schmaltzy, but my home is kind of a sanctuary for me, a place where I can refill my tank. Every morning I recharge my batteries as I sit in my favorite chair, drinking a cup of coffee, enjoying a moment of solitude before the craziness of the day.
One of the ways to decorate your rooms so they nourish your spirit is to fill them with things that give you joy, like photos of loved ones, gifts from treasured friends, mementos from vacations or special events, heirlooms or collections. I keep all of the above on display in my home, like the photo of our daughter on her wedding day, in the picture above. This year, as you design your rooms, include objects that tell your visitors about you, your family and all you hold dear. As you personalize your spaces, you will not only make your décor more beautiful, you’ll make your life more beautiful, too.
5. Let your rooms evolve over time.
I’ve been reminded of a valuable lesson as I’ve renovated my tiny lake house. Don’t be in a rush to finish. Instead, let your spaces evolve over time. In our hurry-up world, we are often anxious to zip through a decorating project so we can get to the other 10 million things on our list. But I’ve found that the rooms I love most in my own home and in the homes of others are those that have come together more slowly, layer by layer. A slower, more deliberate approach to decorating allows you to stick your toe in and see how it feels, whether that’s experimenting with a new color, style or accent.
For example, as I’ve decorated my living room through the years, I’ve filled about every inch of wall space with artwork. I really love artwork, so in order to pack more in, I’ve had to get creative on where to squeeze in new pieces. That’s how I ended up resting Dan’s butterfly collection against the books in our bookcases. I love how it looks! Each layer, one on top of another, added through the years, makes my home more beautiful to me.
Next Week … Interior decor style maker Holly Blalock will share what styles and colors will be hot in 2014!
Melinda Muck saysDecember 30, 2013 at 10:55 am
Your advice is so on target. I totally agree. Maybe over the years, we see these things, and those things that we love and warm us are the ones we find places for. Thank you, what a great blog!
Colleen Cover saysDecember 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Thank you again, Mary Carol, for sharing simple yet practical ideas in home decorating. I’ve often thought of changing my style but always come back to the traditional style that is me.
Susan Sage saysDecember 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm
Thank you for always inspiring us with your practical advice and gorgeous decor. It has made a huge difference in our lives over the years.
Phyllis Airington saysDecember 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm
FIRST…Happy New Year to you and Dan.
Thanks for this email as I found it inspiring. Since I do not want to throw everything out I love your idea’s about keeping with your comfortable style and just rearranging and updating things you know that could either replace or newer
My style is Traditional as at my young age of 86 I have had a life time of complete changes.
First was whatever I could afford.
2nd was Early American
3rd was Mediterranean
4th was SW while living in Phoenix
Now back home in Kansas City and Traditional.
Love your site and best in New Year and your new cottahe.
franki saysDecember 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm
I’ll have what you’re having…it just feels right!! (That first photo could have been taken in our cabin living area!) franki
Rosie Flener saysDecember 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm
About two (2) years ago we built a lake house. We owned the lot for 15 years and when our youngest graduated college, we decided to build. Over the years I went to Flea Markets, Antique Malls and Thrift stores and purchased items for the house. We did buy new sectional sofas with slip covers. But it is wonderful when you wake up in the morning and can see the lake, hear the children jumping off the boat dock and see the boats ride by. Hope you enjoy your lake house as much as we have ours. I hope you will post pictures of it.
Kathy Raines saysDecember 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm
Loved reading this and how very true! I live in South Carolina and love reading your blog. I would live to know where you purchased those beautiful navy and off white throw pillows on your couch! Hapoy New Years!
Mary Carol saysDecember 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm
Happy New Year to you all! It’s been a wonderful year, spending time with so many amazing customers and friends, whether at Nell Hill’s or through my blog or Facebook page. I love hearing about your homes, your families, your special events — feels like we are old friends, even if we’ve never met face to face! I hope you have a wonderful 2014 and that your homes are filled with joy and love 🙂
Mary Ruth saysDecember 31, 2013 at 5:55 am
What a great READ for first of the day for me, so happy I signed up to follow your incredible blog! Thank you for sharing with all of us!
Sandra saysDecember 31, 2013 at 7:44 am
Thank you for the common sense advice and the decorating lesson. Happy New Year!
Lisa Fernandez saysDecember 31, 2013 at 8:55 am
Congratulations to you and Dan on your new adventure and project. Omgosh How fun! It will be stunning I’m sure. May it bring you peace love and joy. Thank you for everything you teach us and share with us. You are a blessing.
Happy New Year,
Joyce saysDecember 31, 2013 at 10:09 am
Oh, how I love your weekly blog! I have learned (and ordered) a lot from you this year. I found your webiste by accident and I’m so glad I did. BTW, I LOVE the picture of your dog sitting on the chair. I think pets make a house a home. You have written before about incorporating new and old in your decor, and I think a lot of us incorporate our furry and feathered friends as well. Please post more pet friendly pictures and ideas in 2014. Happy New Year to all at Nell Hills!
Joyce McNabb saysDecember 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm
I love it when you use examples from your own home. Thank you for this thoughtful New Year’s column. You are an inspriation! — Joyce McNabb
Clare Geiger saysDecember 31, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Happy New Year Mary Carol! Looking forward to the continuing evolution of our home in 2014 with your lovely touch and guidance. Thank you for sharing your talents with all of us! Clare
Beth saysDecember 31, 2013 at 5:05 pm
Ha, ha, I have to agree with Joyce. There’s nothing that says “home” more than a gorgeous golden sitting in your beautiful chair. (Lyric?) Thanks for your words of wisdom. Maybe after 30 years of working on an old house, I’m doing it right after all. Happy New Year, Mary Carol!
mary kooser saysJanuary 1, 2014 at 11:08 am
I enjoyed this letter so much. It did remind me to be true to my style which brings me the most joy. Thank you for your thoughts and mentoring
The best wishes for you, your family and your staff in 2014.
Gail Davis saysJanuary 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm
Question: As I clicked on your photos to see the picture in better detail, several appeared sideways in this article. Is it my computer or yours? Can a tech person tell me how to rotate your photos so I can view them right side up?
Mary Carol saysJanuary 2, 2014 at 8:43 am
So glad you all are on his home-decorating journey with me! It’s fun to share with one another what we’ve learned as we try new things in our homes. You all nailed one area I’ve evolved in: pets. Before I met Dan, I thought the perfect dog was a stone one that sat on your front porch surrounded by potted plants. Dan and Kelly are animal lovers and brought a variety of cats and dogs into our home (one of the kitties gave birth under my bed!). I’ve learned to love our pets and, like you all, figure out how to make a beautiful home that works around them.
Robin Frank saysJanuary 2, 2014 at 11:09 pm
Hi all … My decorating challenge has been my 14 yr old …. Smelly I might add , Bassett hound named Moses . He gives new meaning to Drool ! He wipes his face off on my sofa and scratches his back on my coffee table ……… He was such a cute puppy !!!! I just pat him on the head and re – fluff my throw pillows …. And move on……!!!
Robin Frank saysJanuary 4, 2014 at 12:09 am
PS ….. Then evenings will find the two of us curled up in front of my fireplace … Me in my chair pulled up close and he on the ottoman ….. Love my family , love my home ….. And love my Moses ! .. Bring on the snow !!!!!!