I’ve got three things for you today:
- Why decorating shakes your confidence
- What I do instead
- And an invite to something awesome at the end.
One of my students recently described her old decorating process as “flitting from room to room, but it just wasn’t “fitting together” somehow.” Another said she used to feel “frustrated, aimless, helpless, like I was going in ten directions at once!”
Has that happened to you? Where decorating feels like one big guessing game? Mostly second-guessing yourself and your ability to do anything creative. Why can’t you just get it right the first time?
It sucks to feel lost in a place that’s supposed to feel like home.
But you don’t want to give up on your vision of a dream home. As frustrating as it can be, decorating matters to you. You know there’s got to be a better way. Obviously, at least judging from Pinterest, everyone else has it figured out.
So when decorating feels like it all hinges on a hope and a prayer…
How do you decorate with ease and confidence?
Think about a few things you’re already confident doing. I bet what popped into your head first are things you’re experienced in—that you know how to do first-hand.
Now, think of a few more things you’re fairly confident doing. You might be thinking of things you’re less experienced in, but that you’ve studied, tried, or know someone who could show you how to do it. You have some level of confidence in those areas as well.
Next to first-hand knowledge, we gain confidence by learning from someone else’s experience when they teach us. We take their word for it and follow their guidelines instead of doing the trial and error ourselves. One of the ways we learn from the experts is through their rules, guidelines, and tips. It’s their synthesis of what works from their experience (shared to spare you from making mistakes).
So when it comes to decorating I have to ask…
Have you thought of following the decorating rules?
Ooh…the R word. I know, you probably hate rules. And you’ve read all the articles about which design rules to break. Breaking rules is in, right?!
Not so fast. The rules were created by people more experienced than us…to be helpful, not restrictive. To teach us. To guide us. To keep us from making mistakes. In turn, building our confidence.
I know you’ve seen the articles and pins for “the best decorating rules to break”. They all say “go ahead, break the rules…it’s, okay”, as if that is what will make you a more confident decorator. But if you’re still stuck on what color to paint your walls and how to arrange your furniture, breaking design rules is the last thing you should be thinking about.
You need to find your decorating confidence first.
You can’t successfully break “the rules” until you understand them and why they exist.
You have to understand the reasoning behind the decorating guidelines and best practices, and why they work, before you can even think about bending or breaking them. Otherwise you’re getting ahead of yourself.
Instead, you should start by using the rules to your advantage. Remember, the rules were created by the experts who tried this before you and figured out what works.
Confidence comes from knowing what works and getting comfortable with that first.
The rules remove the guesswork.
They allow you to confidently do something, because you already know it should work. Sounds like a good place to start when you aren’t sure what to do.
I love rules, guidelines, formulas, processes, patterns, or whatever you want to call them. They are always the best place to start. I look for them in everything I do, because they always make the next time I do the same thing easier and better.
I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t following the rules make my home predictable and boring?
Well, if you’re living with unfinished rooms, feeling stuck, and you’ve already tried breaking the rules, tell me:
How’s that working out for you?
It might be time to try the rule following thing.
Following the rules and using guidelines from the people that have already figured it out doesn’t make you (or your home) boring, it makes you smart. And the rules are never so prescriptive that you can’t be yourself. If anything they give you more confidence to do just that.
[Tweet “Following the decorating rules doesn’t make you (or your home) boring, it makes you smart.”]
Decorating might feel hard for you, but it doesn’t have to be.
Right now you’re playing the guessing game. It’s time to leave the guesswork behind for real guidelines that work in real homes. There’s a lot less guessing when you already know what works and why.
I know you don’t want to be told what to do, yet at the same time you want to know what is right for your home. What will work. What looks good. You want reassurance. If you stop viewing decorating tips as rules and more as guidelines to get you started, then decorating is easier. Start with what is known to work, then adjust from there.
[Tweet “Decorating rules are good guidelines to get you started and make decorating easier.”]
Fellow rule followers unite!
Finding and following the rules, even when I had to dig to uncover them myself, is what made decorating my third and largest home easiest of all.
Following the rules didn’t make my home predictable or boring. The rules gave me the confidence to go for it and make it ours (knowing I had the guidelines to back me up).
What does following the rules really look like?
1. Choosing the right piece the first time, so you don’t have to deal with returning it and trying something else
2. Getting more decorating done, because the guidelines and steps are repeatable in the next room
3. Feeling confident in your choices and more importantly in your home (so you get that little swell of pride in your chest when someone compliments your beautiful home)
The rules make it possible, because it’s easier to confidently:
- Choose a bold pattern rug, when you know it’s the right size and works with the other patterns in your room.
- Pick paint colors when you know your palette works according to color theory.
- Accessorize your room when you know the secrets that make stuff look good.
When I confront a new decorating challenge, here’s a quick rundown of my process:
1) Start With What Works
I don’t start with a search for inspiration. I am too picky and never seem to find inspiration that speaks to me or matches the vision I already have in my head.
Instead, I start with research. I look for the decorating rules and guidelines that apply to my decorating challenge. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I save time, money, and energy (and sometimes my sanity) by starting with what works.
So, instead of searching Pinterest for something generic like “window treatments” and being bombarded with random ideas, I search for something more specific. Like “how to make my window look bigger” or “how to dress an off-center window”. That’s how I find the rules and examples of what already works for the specific challenge I am trying to solve.
2) Does The Rule Fit?
Of course, not all rules work universally. Our homes all have their own unique challenges. So once I’ve uncovered the rules and guidelines, I decide if it works for my space. Why or why not? If the rule works, I run with it.
3) If not, what’s the easiest way to make it work?
If the rule doesn’t work for my space as-is, I tweak it. I look for the easiest way to make it work in my situation. Instead of dismissing or breaking the rule, I bend it to fit my space. I’ve always found it’s easier to use the rule as much as possible, rather than starting from scratch.
For example, I know a common guideline for making a room, and your window, appear larger and taller is to hang your curtain panels high and wide. That guideline worked famously all over my house until I got to the basement. We have a soffit running above all the windows. Instead of scratching the high and wide idea all together, I tweaked it. I hung the curtain rod as high as possible under the soffit and still extended the curtain rod past the window frame. The result still makes the window look larger, even though I couldn’t maximize the visual height of the room.
Is not following the rules costing you?
If you want to stop guessing at your decor, so you can get back to actually enjoying your home, then try following the rules for a little while. You might be a born rebel or just trying to stave off boredom, but not following the decorating rules might be costing you…time, money, energy, or your confidence.
And now your special invitation…
To learn some of my favorite decorating “rules” to start with, join me for the FREE Décorography Open House starting next week.
As you can tell, I geek out on decorating rules and what really works for real homes. I collect them, test them, and teach them in Décorography. I specialize in how to follow the rules while making your home uniquely you. This month marks the 6-month anniversary of Décorography and I want to celebrate with an Open House.
RSVP here to join us. Each day of the Open House you’ll receive an email with a short video showing you one of my top decorating rules or guidelines. The open house starts on Friday, March 20th.
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Love the ottomans/coffee tables in both of the pictures!