Do you know how many times I’ve heard conversations going on where someone is asking others “what do you think my style is?” Back and forth random opinions fly about what is seen to be that persons design style based on the tiny glimpse we have been allowed to see of that persons inner world. Sometimes the opinions may be spot on and sometimes they might be out in left field from people who really only know the names of a couple different styles and who really haven’t gotten to even see the reality of what is behind closed doors. It’s the Instagram square versus reality!
Forget about Contemporary and Eclectic and Shabby Chic and French Provincial and Farmhouse and all the other styles for a moment. Let’s step outside that little box.
It’s easy to look at someone else and think they have it all figured out and that they never question their choices or doubt their abilities or feel insecure about their homes.
Wanna know a secret? We all feel insecure at one point or another.
Let me share my design story….
I’m not sure exactly when I first got interested in design but I do recall at the age of 11 or 12, convincing my momma to let me decorate my own room when we finished another new build. I wanted full authority on every choice. I picked the paint color and the wallpaper and window treatments and everything. I can still picture every single detail vividly.
Back then I was attracted to lots of saturated colors and I think momma was worried that I was going to create a space that would require visitors to wear sunglasses upon entry! 😄
To her great relief I actually designed a very pastel palette!
By the time I was 16 I distinctly recall being very much in love with the Victorian style period but I preferred lighter colors than the dark moody ones typically used in Victorian times. I designed a room for myself in white and palest Tiffany blue. Lots of Battenberg lace and ribbons and bows. Candles began showing up everywhere and pewter was my favorite shiny thing! 😄
I also remember starting to check out Thrift Stores and Flea Markets around this time. I used to adore setting very fancy tables with tablecloths and cloth napkins and my momma’s wedding China and silver and crystal. I learned all sorts of really neat napkin folds and I used to spend a lot of time outside in the flower gardens. I remember growing roses in all kinds of colors and varieties just for bouquets and for drying for potpourri.
By the time I moved out on my own I had discovered what I was missing and I was solidly established as a lover of all things French. A good bit of my small paychecks were often squirreled away to make payments on antique furniture I had fallen in love with or to buy decor or materials for my apartment.
It wasn’t long before I purchased my first fixer upper home and began renovating it. Once again it was being slowly moved into a French style but when I say slowly, I mean s-l-o-w-l-y 😴.
What I envisioned for my home and what was actually reality were two different things but I was convinced it would someday be dreamy!
I was pretty sure I was going to be famous one day and was going to become famous by restoring historical houses. I was going to be Joanna Gaines before the world had heard of Joanna but without the TV show because I don’t like being photographed. It was all worked out. In my head.
And then I had kids.
Or so it seemed for quite a while.
I realized right away that I did NOT want to be that mother who was always screaming at my kids to not touch this and not sit here and not walk over there for fear of some precious antique getting damaged or broken. I felt I had to say goodbye to a good amount of my things because, after all, they were just things.
And so I sold basically all my precious antiques and my favorite things and packed up what I didn’t sell that was very precious and that I didn’t want broken and I think I packed up a piece of myself with it.
My passion was always for design and creating and crafting and I not only didn’t have time to do these things anymore, but I think I let a piece of myself be taken away when I sealed those boxes and thought I had to be someone different in order to be a good mom.
Fast forward a few years and a lot less sleep and I found myself feeling stuck. Stuck with 5 kids in a house I didn’t like, without anything to make me feel like even a sliver of my old self. I was embarrassed of my house to the point where I never ever let anyone in the front door. We never had anyone over and I preferred it that way. There was not a room or a piece of furniture anywhere to be found in my house that I was proud of. I wasn’t sewing, crafting, creating, refinishing, building, DIYing ANYTHING! I was even starting to feel like I wasn’t capable of carrying on an intelligent adult conversation anymore!
I knew something had to change and then an old friend of mine said something that I’d been told so many times before over the years. “You should start designing again. That was really your passion”.
I knew this but I wasn’t ready to go out to work yet. I was a SAHM now and still felt that was the right choice for me.
Then she said “Why don’t you start a blog?”
Now that was downright hilarious! I hadn’t even LIKED language arts in school. I had passed but I hadn’t liked it and it was never my best subject so how was it even possible for someone like me to consider writing something that anyone would want to read???? What would I write anyways? My friend said I should share DIYs on a blog.
For some reason it piqued my interest for the first time in a very long time. I felt some excitement building. Then she told me I should join Instagram! Insta-WHAT?
Suffice it to say that the stars must have aligned during our conversation that day because before I knew it I was making myself an account on Instagram, I was teaching myself about setting up my own website and self-hosting and plugins and widgets and on and on.
And I liked it!
I began sharing my little projects and my ugly little house that I was so embarrassed for anyone to see! Why was I so embarrassed? Because I’m a designer! My home should be beautiful and perfect and this should all be effortless for me and it wasn’t.
But something strange began to happen. The more I took a chance and went out on a limb and shared pieces of my house that I wasn’t very happy with and that wasn’t nearly what I wanted it to be, the more the ideas started flooding into my brain of things I could do with each space. I got all these amazing ideas and I wanted to create things and make everything beautiful!
I was slowly coming back to life and it felt SO GOOD!!!!
Strangely though, a lot of the things that I was envisioning looked kind of French and I wasn’t decorating in a French style anymore. I had turned over a new leaf! I was something else now. Something much more rustic and moodier and closer to Farmhouse but not Farmhouse because I’m not someone who follows trends just because they’re trends!
Maybe it was Tuscan or just Old World but more rustic and plain but it wasn’t feeling like me and it wasn’t getting me excited and it wasn’t quite right but it worked with KIDS!
But I made some amazing new friends and I started getting the confidence back to do some designing again and I often got in discussions with some of my friends about their homes and projects they were working on.
And I heard myself saying things to them that I needed to be saying to me.
After I said it enough times I decided to listen to my own advice and last January I wrote a blog post about being true to myself as my resolution for the New Year!
And I meant it.
And do you know what happened? When I started being true to myself and I started listening to my heart and I started designing my home based on what made my heart go pitter patter, I felt like someone had just unlocked the door of my cage!
I started getting very excited about projects again, and I started turning everything into a DIY again and you wouldn’t believe how much my home has evolved over the past year, even. And it feels like me!
I bet you can’t guess what style it’s turned out to be! Yup! French! It’s more like a French Country home than a high end Salon or Parisian Apartment but I’m good with that. It’s perfect for me and my life with kids.
I’ve discovered I can have my cake and I can eat it too!
Okay I don’t have beautiful antique French furniture in my living room that cost several paychecks but I have some very lovely vintage pieces and every single piece is one I’ve had a hand in refinishing. I’ve deconstructed and reupholstered and sanded and stained and on and on and made it mine which is even more special. And it’s my style again but it’s also working with my kids and I’m not that mom who is always yelling “don’t touch that!”
You see I discovered that the most valuable lesson I could teach my children is how to be comfortable in their own skin in every area of their lives and how to be true to themselves. Not to try and be what they think they are supposed to be or what is maybe popular on Instagram (ring a bell, ladies?) but what makes your heart go pitter patter.
In every relationship there is a little bit of compromise. I’m not a single woman with no children anymore so I’ve had to compromise just a little in a few areas of my design but surprisingly very little. And I’m just as happy with how it’s all turning out now as I was back then. Maybe even more.
Ignore what everyone else is doing or how someone who seems to have the perfect life and the perfect home is doing things.
Listen to your hearts, ladies. What makes your heart skip a beat and then go pitter patter? That’s YOUR design style!
It’s called “Perfection”.
Until next time, my friends….
As a special treat, you can click the photo below to go to Emily’s blog at Le Cultivateur and read all about her journey to finding her amazing design style. I can’t wait to check it out. I’ve been in love with her home and style since I first met her!