Tagged: home

A Conscious Home Update

This I Wear | A Conscious Home Update

I promise that next week I will get back to fashion, but as I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting Friday to head to the famous Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts, I can’t think of anything but coffee tables and artwork and everything else conspicuously missing from our apartment. And I thought it was time to give a little update after my first post on our apartment back in November when our apartment was pretty bare.

So the short story is: our apartment is still not complete.

The longer story is that this has been the longest apartment decorating experience I’ve ever had. We’ve been in the apartment for nine months now. And it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do: the bedroom lacks art and any place to set a glass of water or book and the living room is missing a cozy chair and a coffee table to make it a great place to hang out with friends. I think more than anything the sense of “home” is still missing. I still don’t feel relaxed in the space because it feels less than complete.

I was again inspired by design*sponge when earlier this year the site’s founder, Grace Bonney, wrote an article on mindfulness at home. She wrote about how happy she was even when living in a nearly empty apartment and when things weren’t “finished” or perfect. It’s clear that the happiness doesn’t come from the things in her apartment but from a deeper internal place, and in turn, that happiness turns our house (or tiny apartment) into a home.

I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the struggle for finding perfection has been a recent theme of mine, even if I’ve only recently rediscovered this trait from my younger years. But perhaps I didn’t stop being a perfectionist but instead just changed my definition: I’m no longer benchmarking myself against others, but instead looking for what feels “perfect” or most in line with who I am. And that isn’t necessarily any easier.

But there have been a few bright spots:

The Gallery Wall
My boyfriend has an incredible collection of work from his days as an art minor, but all of his work was hidden in various portfolios. In fact, one of my favorite memories from the beginning of our friendship was sitting on his apartment floor in New Orleans as he flipped through his art, suddenly introducing me to a whole different side to him I hadn’t met yet. In the apartment, I wanted to give us plenty of space to show off his art, my “art”, and pieces I’ve collected from friends, family and different places, so a gallery wall was inevitable. It started with two pieces, framed as a Christmas surprise. Then, slowly, I’ve framed other meaningful pieces: a vintage postcard that reminds me of a life-changing trip to Greece, a photo I took in Mexico after planning a wedding there for a client, silly photos of us in a Mississippi cornfield from the road trip that sealed our friendship, and a watercolor by my sister. Each piece was added one at a time, giving us time to truly appreciate the new arrival. If there is anywhere that excess could easily creep up, it is in an art wall. But I’ve practiced reserve and feel happy each time I see these beautiful pieces. I’m already dreaming about what memory to add to the wall next.

The Rug
For several weeks (maybe months), I became an absolute rug addict. Not drugs. Just rugs. And I could not sleep until I found the perfect rug for the apartment. It got a little dramatic at times. As I scrolled through rug after rug online, I kept seeing the same styles and patterns. Yet with some stroke of luck, I stumbled on Gypsya’s store on Etsy, which sells naturally-dyed handwoven organic cotton rugs. It was a welcome relief, and the owner Rose had the rug pattern I liked in stock, so I didn’t have to wait for it to be made. It’s beautiful and it improved the feeling of “home” significantly, but it took a lot of searching and a little going over budget. While I did drive myself a little crazy over this, I’m proud that I didn’t give into the temptation of easy and held out instead for what I know I will enjoy for the long run.

Grace’s article suggests that we truly ask ourselves if something has a sense of meaning before we add it to our homes and to let go of the feeling that we need to buy to fill the void. This goes for our homes in general but also our closets. Why are we so scared of an empty house or wardrobe? Perhaps because it forces us to narrow in on what’s really at the core of us. There is nothing more difficult than being concise or minimal. Excess is easy, and it’s also easy to hide behind.

It’s nice knowing that this rug, this gallery wall, and the other thoughtful pieces of our apartment (the shelves I built, the pillows my mom and I made together, and even the candles that make our apartment smell like my favorite scents) represent me.

For our weekend at the antique fair, I’m making a list of what we need and sticking to it. And while I hope I’ll find a few special things to make our home more comfortable, I’ll also be working on filling our home with more happiness and not just things.

A Conscious Home

I once listened to an interview between design*sponge’s Grace Bonney and stylist Sibella Court where they reached the conclusion that you are either a fashion person or a home person. Well, I work in fashion and I write about fashion (well apparel and style), but I love home decorating too.

Even though moving is the absolute worst, there is something thrilling in the prospect of making a new space feel like home. But after the experience of writing this blog, I knew that decorating my new apartment, which I moved into in August, was going to be different. This time, I wanted to be intentional about all of my purchases, even though I was starting from scratch without even a fork or a chair to my name (literally).

It was a challenge but one that seemed inevitable. If I am so careful to make sure my clothing purchases are responsible and thoughtful, why shouldn’t I do the same for my home?

So I made some rules:
1. Always question whether the purchase is really necessary. (Do I actually need it?)
2. Try to buy used first.
3. If used isn’t possible, search for handmade, local or sustainably or ethically sourced items.

Extra points, of course, if it’s both used and handmade, local or sustainably-made.

And these rules seemed natural: I am on a budget, I tend to prefer vintage home goods with personality, vintage goods are more likely to have been made to last, and shopping used offered the opportunity to connect with people and have things with a story.

So how is it going?

Well, our apartment is only half-furnished, and literally all of my weekends have been taken up with home projects instead of blog writing. However, we have had some amazing finds. Here are a few of my favorite stories:

The couch
I am terrified of bed bugs, so I assumed the couch was the one thing we’d have to buy new, even though the only options seemed to be a disposable Ikea couch or incredibly expensive designer couches. With my friend’s encouragement, we scoured Craigslist and found a perfect lightly-used Room & board couch for half the retail price but no compromise on style. And it happens to be made in North Carolina (bonus!).

Vintage Ethan Allen table
Another fantastic Craigslist find, this table and set of chairs fits perfectly in our tiny apartment, and we got to wish the seller good luck on a new job as he prepared to move to a new city. His mom had picked up this set years ago and stored it, knowing that one day it’d be the perfect apartment-sized dining table. She was right.

Kitchenware
There’s something really tempting about going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, armed with coupons and leaving with everything you need (until it all breaks). But that place makes me miserable, and there is such a thing as going home with too much. We needed new pots and pans, but the big box stores want you to buy the unnecessary 10-piece set. We decided that we really only needed 4 pieces, so we only bought exactly what we needed. And buying from a restaurant supply shop meant it was reasonably priced and built tough.

As the apartment becomes more like home, I promise to share photos. And if this is something that you’d like me to share more about, leave a note in the comments or tweet @ThisIWear!

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