Define, Design, Decorate

By Johi Kokjohn-Wagner

Designing your home’s interior can feel like a daunting task. Your space needs to be functional, yet beautiful. It should feel homey, yet uncluttered. It should be a reflection of you, not your toddler/cat/dogs/junk mail. Never fear, I am here to help you enjoy the process and end up in a home that you will successfully define and decorate with confidence, personality and passion!
As a person who is often called upon for interior decorating advice, I hear the same thing over and over: “I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start.”
Aside from starting with cleaning and de-cluttering, my best advice is to start with changing your thought process considering design. Most people think of decorating as PERMANENCE. The thought of making lifelong decisions can be paralyzing. I think of good design and decorating as the tide of the ocean. It is an ebb and flow that should be an ever-changing reflection of the homeowner’s personal taste and style.
This idea of permanence is understandable, as many aspects of design, like quality furniture, are costly. Those items should be chosen after much consideration. While initial design (as in floor plans) of a home is somewhat permanent (I’m married to a remodeler; nothing is incapable of change in the right hands), your personal design of a room should be breathing with life. With life, there is always change, and hopefully growth. If not, you end up in the 1970s gold-flocked wallpapered living room of Silver Linings Playbook and no one is allowed to put the remote controls in the wrong spot.
Some things should never change” does not apply to interior design.  Photo from www.latimes.com
When you approach design with the knowledge that it will change with you, the task becomes intimate and manageable. Knowing that your decisions aren’t concrete opens a world of possibilities. Herein lies the next obstacle:
“I’m not sure about my style. I like a lot of different things, but I want my home to feel cohesive.”
The easiest way to pinpoint “your style” is with magazines, a pair of scissors and a binder. Flip through a stack of different design magazines and start ripping out pictures. Tear out anything that you find appealing. Be ruthless. After you have gone through 5-10 magazines, separate your selected pages into different piles. Make a kitchen, dining, living, bath, mudroom/laundry and bedroom pile. You can either put these into a stack on your dining room table and move them to 386 places over the course of the next seven years (like I did), or you can simply insert them into plastic sleeves and a giant binder and store them on your shelf, like a functional organized person.  You can also use Pinterest—which is cost- and mess-free—like the rest of your 21st century friends.
My inspiration book, Instagrammed.
When browsing your Pinterest boards or flipping through your beautiful new binder full of hand-selected inspiration pages, you will begin to see a pattern unfold. These spaces will elicit a certain reaction. They will be pleasing to your eye. They will make you feel peaceful. They will make you breathe into your diaphragm.  Look for the commonality of design elements, such as colors, textures, forms and lines. This, my friend, is your style.
There was a large portion of my life where I was uncertain of my style. This simple binder activity really clarified my personal taste. I always thought that I like color, color, color! In fact, I am drawn to the peaceful simplicity of white combined with natural stone and old wood. In a perfect world, my ideal house comes with 12-foot ceilings, lots of windows and a housecleaner. I was truly shocked to discover this. It is kind of like how I spent all those years believing that I wanted to marry Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains and I ended up marrying Schroeder from One Day at a Time. Things are not always as they seem.
According to my Pinterest Boards, I want a white mud room. Somehow I don’t think that is the best idea for my boy/dog/dirt-filled house, but a girl can dream.
You are now armed with two important things to better serve you in your quest for good design:

1. Design is not permanent
, and yes, you are allowed to take the Precious Moments collection from your tween years to GoodWill.
2. A lovely, OCD binder or Pinterest boards full of your style. You now know your style. Embrace your style. Love your style. Live your style.
Remember, it is up to you to define your home that should, in turn, represent the wonderful, dynamic person that is YOU. Grab that scraper. It’s time to remove some gold-flocked wallpaper.
Coming Up Next: The Wonderful World of Color