Tricia Firmaniuk, my senior colour designer was in Los Angeles with me last weekend along with Irene Hill my senior copywriter. I was presenting my system to a large corporation and they were so great to have as resources in the room. I am so lucky to work with both of these amazing women!
Tricia, Maria and Irene in Huntington Beach
Tricia is also an artist and my resident colour scientist who understands my System for Specifying Colour like no one else.
She is also a great writer, this post is an important lesson for everyone, read on:
It was clear from an early age that I was an artist and a decorator. When I was nine years old, I desperately wanted a mint green and peach room with a canopy bed and pillows with ruffled trim. It was the early 80’s. I went on and on about it, but my parents, being practical and hardworking, could see no good reason to indulge me.
My childhood room remained builders beige with a painted plywood floor and sheets tacked over the windows for curtains because I couldn’t convince my dad that a can of paint and some fabric were that important.
I loved drawing and writing as a kid, so I carried a journal where I would write stories and draw pictures. I thought I was a failure as a writer because my desire to continue the story dried up once I finished the opening bit of setting the scene in detail. I realize now, that was the point. I was filling my need to create pretty spaces without any physical resources to do so.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having to make do, but I think back to my family home, from the perspective of an adult and a decorator, with some sadness, because while I appreciate that my parents certainly worked very hard to give us what we needed, I recognize that they made the very common mistake of buying a house bigger than they could afford, and certainly bigger than they could furnish, essentially making us house poor.
It was a split level house with largely unfurnished rooms on the two lower levels that tended to collect toys, piles of laundry and hockey equipment. The living room was very basically furnished with a sofa, chair and coffee table, and not a decorative element in sight. It was spartan to say the least.
The house was built in 1979 and had chocolate brown carpet, busy brown and gold lino, dark wood trim, cabinets and countertops, and cream walls. To be honest, it was a bit bleak.
My mom managed to put a pretty metallic wallpaper in the main bathroom with elegantly arched reeds and flowers, that I loved to look at. But overall, I was desperately under stimulated visually. The house only had a warm and inviting feel at Christmas, the only time of year it was deemed important to do some decorating.
Don’t forget to budget for details that create interest like wallpaper Source
So in the end, that my dad had made the all too common mistake of choosing the biggest, most impressive house the bank would allow him, meant that it was never a cozy and inviting home.
I see people making this mistake all the time. They buy a house at the top end of their budget, investing all they have in the shell and leaving nothing for the content. It’s like blowing your budget on the gift box and not being able to buy the gift.
And I think creating an inviting and beautiful home is an important gift to give yourself and your family. I’ve long overcome any received notions that decorating and caring what my space looks like is somehow wasteful or self indulgent.
Plan and budget for pretty details like mood lighting Source
We have a tiny house, my husband, daughter and I, but it is chock full of pretty things, and lots of art (below). I never hesitate to invest in that can of paint or pretty pillow I need to pull it all together. And guess what? My house is the one everyone wants to hang out in all the time.
My husband who was admittedly a bit alarmed by my propensity to paint a room or redecorate on a whim, has come around to admit that our house now feels like a home.
My casual dining room with painting by Violet Owen (paint colour BM Indian White)
The bottom line for me is that I would never buy a large house that I couldn’t afford to decorate well. And it’s a value I’d like to share. If you read this blog, chances are, you get that it’s important to decorate, but I’ll bet you have friends or family who don’t.
Good quality furnishings, window coverings, lighting, art, decor and all the little details that make a space a home don’t come cheap, even if you are very clever and thrifty.
Beautiful drapery gives this kitchen polish
It amazes me how often people are willing to invest in extra renovation details like fancy mouldings and expensive tile but don’t give a thought to, or reserve any kind of budget for, actually furnishing, decorating or styling their home.
Styling, art and lighting create a look and feel. Source
As a general rule, you need to reserve at least ten percent of the value of your home to invest in furniture and decor. And that’s really the bare minimum. If you can’t comfortably make that amount available for the actual contents of your new home, you are spending too much on your mortgage.
I am no financial advisor, but what’s the point of a pretty house with nothing in it? No comfort, no beauty, no look and feel? It’s a waste.
My daughter’s small room is modestly furnished, but I bought her a bright green shag rug that she uses as “grass” for her horse stable games, a grown up bold multi colored floral bedding set with a pile of colourful throw pillows and curtains to match in in her favorite deep teal blue. She recently said to me, “Mom, I love my room, it feels so real, like I have real, pretty pillows and things to look at.” So there you have it, my childhood dream fulfilled.
Thanks Tricia for this great advice!
PS. Now is the time to find a Specify Colour with Confidence workshop near you this Spring. In the Fall of 2018 my schedule will only allow for 2 events and the price will be going up.