Spending four years of my life in a college dorm all those years ago was enough to fuel my passion for personalization. There was something about the white cinder block walls and stale green carpet that ignited an angry need in my soul to never live in such a lifeless space again. Today, my home is my sanctuary. It’s where I spend the majority of my time, but most importantly, it’s a reflection of who I am.
Personalizing your space isn’t as simple as hanging a few family photos and calling it a day. This is your place of comfort, so you want to push the boundaries on what it is that defines you. Think beyond what makes you happy to create a home you’re proud, and a space you’re excited to share with guests.
Not sure where to begin? The startling number of TV shows devoted to creating your “dream” home proves that you’re not the only one confused about personalized home design. In a world of mass-produced furniture and one-size-fits-all style, it can be hard to find pieces that really welcome you into your own space. This is a guide to finding a personal style that’s completely you so your home can feel like a personal, intimate reprieve.
I know I just mocked family photos, but they’re not all bad. Hanging photos of your life, your memories, and your favorite things is the first step to making your home feel lived in and welcoming. While there has been some controversy in the design world about whether or not family photos belong in living spaces, we can all agree that including your own photos around your home will help it feel personalized.
While you might not want to hang that blown-up photo of you and your pet dog right above your fireplace, there are easy ways to integrate your personal collection of images tastefully. Using professional-quality, black-and-white photos in a modern frame is always in style. However, you can opt for an arrangement that speaks to you. From gallery walls of family memories to your favorite prints, the key here is not to overdo it. Think of these photos as an introduction. They’re a way for your guests to meet members of your family, but they don’t need to tell your entire life story.
2. Custom Furniture
While your IKEA bookshelf might be affordable, it doesn’t have much to say about who you are as a person. Mass-produced furniture is the new normal, but these low-quality pieces transform your home into model showrooms that aren’t intended for living everyday life. Custom, quality furniture is built to last with durable materials that will survive generations.
As Americans, we think of too many things as disposable. We have disposable fashion, disposable decor, and a neverending list of disposable products. Your furniture should not be disposable. From American-made Amish Tables to recovered antiques, make sure the pieces in your home work as hard for you as you do for them.
3. Colorful Accents
You don’t want to turn your home into a funhouse, but you don’t want to shy away from color either. Everything bohemian and patterned is in right now, and it’s easy to add these minimal touches to your own home. You can go as small as a few vibrant pillows in your bedroom to as large as an entire accent wall, but find a color (or colors!) that brings vitality into your home.
There’s nothing wrong with crisp white walls, don’t get me wrong, but they do tend to feel like an impersonal hotel room after a while. If you decide exciting colors are too much for your unique space, opt for natural fibers and neutral shades that invite light. These are the small details that will bring your home to life.
Even if you’re a serial plant-killer, you can still add some greenery to your home. Plants are like color: a little goes a long way. Bringing life (literally) into your home shows that your space is well lived-in and cared for. If you’re new to the world of plant care, start small with a succulent or spider plant which can both handle a lack of TLC. If your plant history is nothing but a laundry list of deaths, consider a fake plant that takes no care at all.
5. Books, Books, and More Books
There’s a reason so many people love libraries: they’re cozy. Even if you’re not an avid reader, adding a bookshelf—or seven—to your space adds an element of warmth. Whether you flaunt your collection of literary classics or your hoarded pile of magazines, nothing says “I’m home” like your favorite books.
Running out of space? If there’s no way to fit another bookshelf into your cramped living arrangement, you’re in luck. You can opt for built-in shelving, floating shelves, or even just include a few of your favorite books stacked neatly on your coffee table. Bonus: these coffee table books will impress your guests with your bibliophile ways.
A lot of homeowners are intimidated by art. They’re not sure what’s appropriate to hang in their home, and they might not even feel they know enough about art to make a sound choice. When it comes to what hangs in your home, it’s all about your tastes and what you’re interested in.
First, realize there is no such thing as the “right” and “wrong” art. You can go classic with period works that show off your favorite oil paintings of the 18th century, or you can frame your favorite travel photography from your last trip to Europe. Mix mediums or stick to something you love. The only rule is to love with the pieces you choose. Beyond that, you’re free to hang anything that strikes your fancy.
Lighting is one of the most significant factors of mood in a home. The general rule of thumb is that good lighting goes unnoticed, while bad lighting is immediately obvious. Who hasn’t painfully squinted when entering a harshly lit room? Mood lighting is a science, and one you can master with a little bit of effort. We aren’t talking about your overhead lamp. We’re talking about floor lamps, table lamps, and customizable lamps with dimmers.
Studies suggest mood lighting might be more powerful than you think. The Journal of Circadian Rhythms reports that using a lamp with a correlated color temperature increases overall work performance and alertness. If the work boost wasn’t enough, lighting can also help you get a better night’s sleep. These studies just go to show you need to take the lighting in your home seriously. Your wellbeing counts on it.
Designing A Well-Loved Home
Too many first-time home decorators and even those with design experience get trapped in the mindset that their homes need to look a certain way. While the “experts” on TV and in magazines might have their own ideas, the real trick to making your home feel personal is to simply choose things that make you happy.
Decorate your home with your own style. Picture your home as a firm handshake. It’s a way to introduce yourself to guests, and it’s also comforting. Choose art, colors, and even lamps that say something about your personal taste. That’s how you create a home that’s well-loved and welcoming to all.