What I’ve Learned About Decorating

In the few years that I’ve been blogging, I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way in regards to my home and its decor. When I started out, I had ZERO taste of my own, and whatever taste I did have I was too insecure to explore. My house was brown. Brown brown brown. Brown leather and brown wood, stunningly accented by mustard yellow walls (literally… the paint was called “Dijon” by Ben Moore) and maroon curtains and pillows…

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It wasn’t horrible… it just wasn’t great. It was bland and boring and didn’t really reflect how I feel inside at all. The problem was that I didn’t know how to take what I like in my mind and translate it to my home! Eventually I found the joy that are home decor blogs – mainly Young House Love – and they showed me that it’s possible to have a bright, warm home with lots of colour without it looking gaudy or cheap, when done right. The trick was to incorporate these ideas into my house, and make sure they reflected who I am, and not someone else that I saw online! I have stumbled along the way most definitely.. my husband and kids will attest to that! LOL… but I think that the style of my home has evolved quite nicely over the last few years. You can check out my house tour for the full monty, but in this post I will just touch on the areas where I’ve learned the most.

5 things
#1 – Keep the big stuff simple

This is a pretty common design rule, but keeping your walls are larger items neutral is ALWAYS smart. Big pieces like sofas and dining room furniture are best kept basic and sleek. This allows you to add some personality and colour in smaller areas like throw pillows, curtains and lamp shades!
It’s a lot easier to switch out little items when you’re in the mood to redecorate than it is to replace a couch.

When I first did my living room I was stuck with a sectional from Ikea that, while very cute, was NOT doing me any favours by forcing me to stick with boring EVERYTHING when it came to accessories. Drapes, carpet, pillows, throw blankets… everything had to be neutral because of the overwhelming pattern on the sofa:

Too much.

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By the time I realized it, it was too late. I began to plan for “part two” of my living room makeover. I looked at ideas on Pinterest and figured out the direction I wanted to go in. Essentially, when you look at these rooms you can see that if you remove all the “little things”, you’re pretty much left with a blank slate, and that’s what I wanted….

Ummm… I think this is the most beautiful bedroom I have ever seen. Wow.

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 See how everything is clean and natural? The pops of green come from easily changeable items…

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So, when I found my current sofa on Craigslist, I snapped it up immediately. It changed the feel of the entire room, brought things back to neutral and now I’m slowly introducing some colour and pattern back into the room!

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My dining room (and slowly, the rest of the house) follows the same formula:

mirror 2


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Simple, soft paint and furniture that is complimented and brightened up by some fun and colourful accessories. I’m pretty sure I will decorate this way for the rest of my life now that I have it figured out.

I sure wish I’d known about mood boards when we bought this house six years ago. Let me tell ya, it would have been a whole better coordinated different ball game! It never ocurred to me that I could come up with a colour scheme for my entire home and work from it. Not that it’s crucial to do this, but it’s certainly helpful! Working backwards, it appears that I’ve been relatively lucky…

house colour chart

1 – Our entire main floor: “Gray Horse”, Benjamin Moore

2 – Accent wall in the dining room: “Storm Cloud Gray”, Benjamin Moore

3 – All of the trim in the house: “Cloud White”, Benjamin Moore

4 – Cal & Ella’s room: “Mountain Air”, Benjamin Moore

5 – Planned striped wall in Master bedroom: “Thousand Islands”, Benjamin Moore

6 – Taya’s room: “Athabasca Blue”, Benjamin Moore

7 – Master bedroom: “Brookline Beige”, Benjamin Moore

Looking at them now, it almost looks like I planned that colour palette, but alas… we all know I’m not that bright. At least, I WASN’T that bright. I’d like to think I am now. Ha. But luckily the colours seem to work well together, and there’s a nice flow throughout the house. In the future, I know the brilliance of a mood board, and I will create and use them diligently! The biggest makeover in the house right now is the bathroom, and here is the inspiration I’m working from:

grasscloth bathroom

And of course, a mood board:

bath 2

I will be definitely looking back at these to compare once it’s all complete!

Speaking of complete… sigh. This is one of my weaknesses. I have a tendency to have many projects happening at once, and no space ever feels like it’s DONE. This bathroom reno has dragged on for so long that I’ve found myself starting on other areas of the house, and I’m not sure that’s so smart. I think that the best thing to do is pick a room, or a space, and work on it until it’s complete. Every spare hour, every spare dollar… put your time, money and effort into that spot until it’s exactly what you want it to be, and then walk away from it.

The bathroom has gone from this:

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To this:

bathroom progress

 But that’s it. Over the span of a year. There’s still SO much more to do.

Focusing on one space until it’s totally done not only gives the room a sense of completion, but it gives YOU a sense of satisfaction and hopefully deters you from endlessly tweaking a space that will never truly feel finished.

Buy something with a use or a place in mind… not just because you like it.
I have always had a habit of falling in love with something in a store, and bringing it home with the intention of just “finding” a place for it. That’s not usually a good idea. Unless it’s an amazing one of a kind item or an incredible deal on a vintage or antique piece, buying something without any idea of where or how it will be used in your home is just clutter waiting to happen. Thankfully I don’t have an example photo of this inside the house… I’ve learned from my mistakes!

Or have I???
Yah… that’s our garage.

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I’m as guilty as anyone of buying small, decorative items at Target or HomeSense – I LOVE those stores! – but I’ve learned that whenever possible, it’s better for something to MEAN something to me. I don’t travel a lot, so it’s not like I can gather beautiful trinkets from around the globe, but I make a point of decorating my home with sentimental items that have history and value – even if it’s just to me.

This cake topper was not only on my wedding cake in 2009, it was on my grandparents’ cake when they married over 70 years ago.

cake topper

Decor shops have lots of lovely things, and they’re perfect for filling an empty spot on a wall or a shelf, but the things that make a house a home are the ones that have a story, and a spot in your heart!

This pretty vintage container holds what’s left of my Grandma’s “White Lavender” perfume powder.
And the tissue flowers in a clay pot behind it are something that my oldest daughter made me years ago in school.

white lavendar

Sometimes I get a real burst of energy and even MAKE something!

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So there you have it.. nothing fancy, just the most useful things that I’ve learned through trial and error over the last few years. I feel like I’m finally in a bit of a groove with decorating, and I can’t WAIT until our next house when I can start from scratch and (hopefully!) not have to undo my own mistakes. What’s in your design bible? Any rules you live by or tips to share? Until I win the lottery and my dream of looking at fabric swatches over tea with Sarah Richardson comes true, I will remain a faithful student of the decor world.


  1. Jackie says

    Hi! I really like your write-up on this – not only because the points you’ve raised are totally spot-on, but because it’s such a smart idea to do a root-cause analysis on outcomes to try and learn and improve. The family pieces you highlighted are really wonderful and it was super sweet to learn about them. :)

    Random observation – although I really like it, is the tan chair in your den potentially crowding the space? I really like all of your things but I personally suffer from putting too much furniture in a room so recently it’s been the first thing I look for.

    Thanks again for the interesting read!

    • says

      Thanks Jackie! Great comments… I’m not totally sure about that chair. I do know that it’s my favourite spot to sit, so I don’t think I’m ditching it any time soon… lol. But I will definitely look at it with a critical eye next time I walk into the room.
      It’s always great to have a fresh pair of eyes share their view!
      Thanks for reading,

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