|Old picture but new readers are almost four times of what they were when I posted this, so can do this again, yes?|
I get this question a lot: how do you get started on decorating your home? I’m not a décor professional so I hardly have any pro tips to hand out. But I’ve always enjoyed having my space done up in some way and there are some things I always follow when starting out on a new place.
My taste has definitely evolved from being seriously questionable to something I now like even when I look back at it spaced out by a few months (my single homes were at the beginning of the learning curve and pretty terrible). But these 14 rules have pretty much been the fundamental for me when pulling a home together.
I’ll share some actionable décor tips that have worked for me in the coming few days. But I want to get started with these 14 rules that are always a part of my design philosophy (using important words to sound legit). These are the things that are the backbone for me no matter what design aesthetic I’m going for. Let’s discuss?
1. Go for lived-in, not a design magazine. While design magazines/blogs are so incredible to look at (serious guilty pleasure), the goal is not to replicate them. Real people have real homes that should look lived-in. Don’t decorate with a design-catalogue in mind and you won’t find flaws in your house.
2. Take as long as it takes. When you move into a new space, there’s the urge to get it all ready and happening within days. That happens on HGTV, not in real life. While I love having a fully-ready space, I am never in a rush to make it happen instantaneously. I never took the pressure even when I started documenting it on the blog – you guys know I moved into this space 2 years ago and I still don’t have every corner all decked up. I don’t care if it takes me forever – as long as every piece I have is something I truly love, I’m cool with it slowly evolving over time. What if I move out of this place before it’s even done? No problem, I’ll decorate the next apartment. It’s about loving your home even if that means small bits of it versus creating something in an urgency that you just averagely like. If it’s not done, it’s not done. Practice saying ‘so what’ to yourself. Don’t take the pressure.
3. Collect vs. Hoard. I mass-shopped once to just quickly get the pending ‘undone’ corners out of the way at my first apartment with N. A month later, I didn’t like most of it. I now try to collect things I truly love. Things that I absolutely fall in love with versus having things that will just plug the gap.
4. Invest in some things. I’m a big fan of budget decorating. I love second-hand buys, DIY-ed stuff. But there are some things that I will spend moderately on. Things like the couch. If you’re someone who hardly spends any time at home, it would make sense to get a couch that wasn’t super comfortable. But for homebodies like us, we love hanging out at the end of the day on our couch with a good show or a book and so our couch is everything to us. I’d rather spend on a super comfortable couch and then not get ten other pointless things than have something that’s like a piece of concrete. I’ll also happily spend on a vintage rug for example because it will add oomph to the space as well as appreciate in value unlike other décor stuff (my kilim is worth more today than how much I bought it for).
5. Create your happy spots. I see my home as a place where I’ll relax at the end of a day, after work and home chores are done, and have a space to really heal my body and mind. I’ve specifically made my living room such a spot with low lighting and candles so I can truly unwind and just love being at home. If you share your home with someone and don’t have décor authority everywhere, find a private space in your bedroom, for example, and make your happy spot there. All you need is square footage enough to accommodate a minimum of one human and you’re set. Your home should always be a place that you associate contentment and relaxation with and if your whole house can’t embody that, make a tiny spot do that for you.
6. Messy is ok. A mess at home is perfectly okay and inevitable. It’s impossible to have a put-together place all the time, especially if you’re a large family. A mess means people hang out together or do stuff at home (even if they’re ignoring each other). Mess equals life. Things will get organized to get messy to get organized to get messy and so on. Making a mess is fun. Organizing is fun. Love your home both ways.
7. All things don’t have to be expensive. I’m the biggest ambassador of buying second-hand. 80% of the big pieces in my home are second hand. 60% of the total things in my home are again second hand. You just need stuff that looks good which means it doesn’t necessarily have to come with a big price tag.
8. No excuses. Don’t make excuses if you can’t find something you really want where you live. If you can’t find something exactly that you want, don’t let that stop you from decorating the place of your dreams. Make it work with something that you can find. Particularly for Pakistan, affordable furniture shops that also do great pieces are limited BUT Pakistan is the perfect place for getting things made at the most incredible prices if you have the will. When I was living in Karachi, I would get things custom made for myself and they would turn out fab. I never let anything stop me, I just tried to find the right person for it. I was way too young to practice on bigger pieces then but I got smaller stuff custom done like wall frames/art and they looked great AND were dirt cheap. Get inspiration off the internet and make it happen if you really want it.
9. Don’t shop impulsively. I try to not shop too high-end but there have been a couple of times that I saw something which I really loved and tried to justify the price tag. I have a simple rule when that happens: if you love it that much, go home and see if you still want it the next day. 80% of the things that I thought I reallllllyyyyy-oh-my-god-wanted just became yeah-they-were-nice-but-I-don’t-want-them-that-bad-anymore.
10. If you don’t have the money to decorate a full room, focus on something small. Make something that you engage with frequently an experience. Decorate a corner of your living room only with a comfortable armchair and simple accents if that’s where you hang out everyday. If you can’t manage even a corner, make an activity beautiful – make your everyday chai/coffee-drinking fun, for example, with beautiful mugs and enjoy that experience; you’ll be doing it everyday and it’ll be all decked up for you every time.
11. Build together. Whoever you’re sharing and decorating your home with, build it together. Instead of fighting over design choices, losing your shit over not getting things done, do it as a team project. If it’s going slow, let it go slow. Be in the moment and enjoy everything about making decisions together and as the place starts coming into shape. The process of home decorating should be a fond memory not a torture marathon.
12. Use the best for yourself. I know we love keeping our best crockery for the guests. Our best bedsheets, drinkware, towels, everything is slotted for people who don’t live with us. I keep all my best things for myself. I have nothing at my place that only gets pulled out for guests. Treat yourself everyday. Even if my best plates are slightly chipped when a guest comes over, I don’t care. I enjoy them everyday and that’s all that matters.
13. Don’t let your stuff own you. When you shop and manage to have a beautiful space for yourself, be spirited enough to fully use it. Don’t be scared of spilling on a couch, spoiling a coffee table – you own your stuff, it doesn’t own you. Enjoy it.
14. Don’t hate on your home. If despite your best efforts, your place just doesn’t look like what you want it to, don’t hate on it. Your home is always a part of where you are in life. Let your home be about more than décor and about the overall phase of your life. My first home in Karachi, I picked the absolute ugliest carpet, but I still love that shitty apartment because it was my home that got me started on my career independently in a new city. Let your home be about your independence, a new partnership, family, new baby, memories, even if starting a new chapter in your life after separation or divorce. Always love your home.
If you enjoyed this, let me know. CosIwannaknow.
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+ If you’re interested, I once documented the single homes I’d lived in before moving in with N.