You Need a Recipe to Make Your Place a Home
Maybe you're in an apartment and the brown(ish) carpet and white(ish) walls must stay.
Maybe you're on a budget and the dark wood-like shelving works fine to hold your books, and you can't justify replacing it.
You've never invested much into your place. You have some hand me down dressers. A sofa from Target. You don't own art, really, except the ready-framed Klimt print you found at your neighbor's yard sale.
You live in a space, but for lots of reasons it doesn't feel like home. It's not warm or inviting. You want full but not cluttered, fresh but not stark, modern but not trendy, bohemian but not—well, bohemian. Like your grandma's house (the cooler grandma) or your favorite professor's, or that friend's...you know, the one who makes everything look easy.
We have a recipe for that.
Here, in short, is what you need.
You need something at all three levels.
Ambient. Lights on the ceiling: recessed, pendants, chandeliers. They light up a whole space.
Human scale. Lighting at your eye or table level. They can be sconces, floor and table lamps, sometimes pendants. They often do double duty as ambient lighting.
Task. Opaque shades on pendants, floor lamps and table lamps, mean they are meant to point in one direction, often but not always for task lighting.
It's okay to spend some money on lighting because a good fixture wears lots of hats at once: it's a mood-setter, functional necessity, sculpture and color, art, and accent.
2. Functional pieces that look found
Don't have a place to set your beverage? Get a table. But make it a good, interesting one with tiers or brass detailing or painted kelly green. Don't buy the safe piece. You have plenty of those. We're going for the home feeling. And to achieve that, you need variety and interest.
3. Textiles and knick knacks
The inviting, cozy home is one that has been (or looks, anyway) curated. That's fancy for collecting things you love over time, as you go through life. Throws and throw pillows, hanging macramé, terrific kitchen towels, framed photos of family members from eras gone by, small bowls that hold life's random bits and pieces. These kind of things add texture and warmth. They are the useful (or not-so-useful) stuffs of life that could have been found at a market in London or at a women's cooperative in Uganda. You know, when you spent time there back in your youth. And if perhaps you didn't spend time in cool faraway places, there is this brilliant thing called Etsy.
5. Books and stuff
Think of yourself as a collector. What do you do? Read? Listen to music? Surf? Display the things that you love.
They are green and beautiful and absorb electrodes and stuff. Or something like that. They're good in every way. And they come fake too.
There's nothing secret about this recipe, but we know it can be overwhelming. You have to cross the tipping point from random/worn to artfully haphazard/vintage. You have to eschew clutter while embracing coziness. This can be a fine line. Here's our advice: The more you think of the process as freeing and fun—after all, the main thing is just to decorate with what you love—the more it will be freeing and fun. And the results will work because they reflect who you are and what you do in the world.
*The bigger the better. Just sayin'.