I’m going to start this post by saying: I completely realize I’m writing a decorating post and not including any images. There’s a point to this and I’ll get to it. I have a method to my madness.
When we moved into Stony Ford a year ago, I committed to not doing anything much in terms of decorating. There are a few reasons for this decision. One was logistical, we had to get the house up and running. We dealt with bats, water filtration systems, mold in the basement and a host of other items. The second reason was emotional. I wanted to get a feel for the house and get to know it, through every season and situation. This was someone else’s home when we moved into it, I think in the last year we’ve made it our home. I admit, this is our first home we’ve owned and the first few months felt like we’ve were in some awkward bed and breakfast, and the house really wasn’t ‘ours’. I was also incredibly intimidated by the square feet. The house is 5,200 square feet, over three floors. The rooms are huge on the first and second floor. I have never told such a large format visual story. We’ve lived in a 350 sq ft apartment, and our last loft was about 2,000 sq ft which is huge by NYC standards. However in the loft we didn’t have much furniture since we used the space as a photo studio. To say the least three floors and over five thousand square feet scared me. I thought a lot about flow and transition from room to room and floor to floor.
The past year, I’ve been looking for inspiration everywhere, from magazines to movies to Pinterest. You name it, I’m looking for inspiration. This house is so different from our last place that I wanted to really consider the house and what the house should ‘feel’ like. I’m writing about this because I want you to be able to follow along with us, as we undertake this journey. I think it will take me 2 to 5 years to decorate the house. I’m being pretty realistic about the time period, because I have to buy a significant amount of furniture, and we have other house projects that will come up like new electrical during that time period. Also, one fact to note: I’m not an interior designer. I like to use the term interior stylist, but really I just love beautiful things. I take design rules into consideration, then break them when I feel like it. An interior designer would probably decorate this house in a matter of months, given the correct budget. I’ll struggle my way through it and second guess decisions, I’m sure. I’m really good at setting up a room for a photo shoot, or knowing what will look good through camera, but turn that room into a 3-D space and I’m out of my element. It takes me longer to figure out furniture placement, and other traffic flow items.
Another reason why I wanted to write this post is because I looked for decorating ‘journeys’ and I didn’t find much that really satisfied me, deep down. Magazines publish finished amazing spaces, with very little information on how they got from point A to point B, and sometimes very little about the lifestyle of the people who live in the spaces. They are more show houses. I want to see homes. I bought a few books and they were either hard core down and dirty renovation books (not pretty, nor in good taste finished spaces) or the designer books again, just showed off the finished product and shared very little of the journey. I want to see process, more than just before and afters of one room. With our culture becoming more and more quick and easy with shorter attention spans, I was getting a sour attitude to how ‘quick and easy’ decorating was presented to the public. I won’t even touch on the TV shows. Even pinning images on Pinterest didn’t get me any closer to having a goal, nor a focus. I stepped away and took a break, so I could understand what my end game was, then be inspired. No images, no visual distractions. Hence no images in this post! Let’s talk design theory.
I’m starting right here. This is the first step in my decorating process: the concept. I finally figured out how I want the house to ‘feel’ and what that translates to visually. I’m only using words right now to describe what I’m looking to accomplish with this house.
I made a list of key words and some items I’m going to focus on when making selections over the next few years. This helps keep me straight, and I’ll circle back to this when I’m on the fence about a purchase. I’ll really push these concepts from time to time to add tension to the space, which adds interest visually.
This means linen drapery, some rustic furniture, a casualness about the house that is lazy and romantic.
While this does seem over the top, I want to honor the grandness of the house. I’ll follow through by paying close attention to scale of furniture and lighting. The landscaping will be traditional and grand, to make the property feel connected to the house.
Convenient and up to date. I don’t want to house to feel old, even though it is old. I’ll express this with furniture choices and beautiful, smooth wall surfaces on the first and second floor.
This is where I veer off course. I want the house to be a bit curious and sexy. By dusty, I mean soft colors, and nothing too saturated or brash. I love the color palette of the TV show Downtown Abbey and how romantic it looks. I have to be careful here because I love contrast and these items can conflict.
If you’ve ever taken a class with me, you know I’m a huge fan of having a ‘style statement’. We had a style statement when we moved into this house, and I’ve been doing a lot thinking as to how I can remain true to this statement. I also need to respect that we moved from a loft in midtown Manhattan to a historic home in the middle of the country. The spaces couldn’t be more different, yet stylistically we are the same people. How do you ‘transfer’ the style to a new home and still honor the home?
Here’s our style statement for everything we do:
Our style is about contrast: black and white, light and dark, masculine and feminine, old and new, rustic and modern.
After getting to the bottom of who we were, we are truly our style statement, down to the core. We are city slickers in the extreme opposite of the country. It really is all about contrast to us!
I made some observations about our house. This is my free style writing, if you will, and how I get a feel for a project when I start. Our house has a masculine energy, with straight lines and a traditional Greek Revival style. The scale is large, with the molding surrounds clocking in at 10 to 12 inches wide around the french doors and some windows. The fireplace opening continues with the large scale at 5 ft wide by 4 ft tall. The wide hallways make the house feel lush and a bit over the top because it’s such a ‘wasted’ space by our modern standards. Our house is grand with out being pretentious. The second floor feels similar to the first floor and needs to maintain a polished look. The second floor has the same wide hallway as the first floor, so there is a social element to meeting in the hallway. When you arrive on the third floor the energy changes to a much more quiet, intimate space. The rooms are smaller and the daylight moodier. You can sit up there and feel the world move around you, but you feel still. It’s a quiet, private space. Romantic and secret.
Here are the style statements and how I translated them into this house. This is a work in progress, but I think you’ll be able to follow along as I make additions or subtractions to this long term project.
This was a tough one for me. This house doesn’t do black and white, it’s just too harsh. I knew it the second week we lived here, and I mourned the fact for a short while. Our last place thrived with this non-color palette, but it’s too stark for this house. Realizing this was difficult for me because I’m a bit of a colorphobe and love black and white. The contrast black and white offers is undeniable and the visual stimulation and unexpectedness is exciting. For those same reasons, it was easy for me to walk away from. I was seeing a lot of black and white spaces online and it’s become too much of a trend for me. It’s not exciting anymore, nor unexpected. Cie l’vie. So the place where I’ll be translating this theme is in the hallways. I translated the traditional stark black and white to a softer version with bone and off black. I’m painting the walls a bone color and painting certain ceilings off black. We have picture molding on all the walls in the hallway, and I’m going to gold leaf it. When it’s done, it will be dramatic. At first I wasn’t crazy about the bone color, but now it’s really grown on me. I’m also going to do most of the hall way furniture in a rustic black to keep the theme alive.
Keep in mind, the outside of the house should be black and white as it was in the 1850s, so that’s a whole different color palette animal.
This theme is an easy one for me, and I’ve tried to think about the movement between rooms, one room light, the next one dark. Or even the walls being dark with white trim. The daylight in the house has really influenced my idea of understanding light and dark, especially watching the light change each season.
For those of you who personally know me, I’m not a super girly-girl. I like feminine things, but not in an over the top way. Until I moved into a primarily masculine house that is. I knew I had to balance the architecture of the house in some way, so I’m going all in. And yes, William is very supportive of my choices, I might add. I painted our bedroom pink. Yupp, you read it right, I painted the ceiling pink too. It’s a very light pink, almost blush. I’m making some very masculine furniture choices to offset the pink. I’m using the same balance when looking at the rest of the house. The floral wall paper that will hang in a guest bedroom will be offset by a large masculine bed, or a masculine color in the rest of the room. This is one of the most important items for me to get right because it’s such a big part of our style.
Since I love antiques, this is an easy one for me. I have to make sure not to have only antiques, but to contrast that with some modern pieces. This will be fun in a house like this cause the modern items have to be the correct scale, and I have to stay away from undersized furniture. The house is already old, so I want to make sure we are offsetting the oldness of the house with some new items as well.
The rustic part of this statement I struggled with for a bit, and I realize I have to mix in the rustic in a romantic type of way. Maybe more dusty, is a nice way to think of rustic. This house is not right for the industrial vibe our last place had (i.e., I’m selling most of our old furniture from our last place). I have seen wonderful examples from Roman and Williams that I really love. They managed to take these formal rooms and place one item that is a bit rustic, maybe like the finish of a piece of furniture is not hyper polished. That’s just the right dose this house will do ok with. I also think I can include the rustic aspect outdoors in the landscaping style. The modern part will come to play with our lighting. I’d love to make some areas complete conversation pieces, and do some very modern light fixtures.
Thanks so much for reading to the end of my no-image post! It’s important to step back and understand WHY we want something to look a certain way, so we can feel confident when the project is completed. I’m going to share the entire journey with you, down to my mood boards and even start posting round ups of items I’m searching for. I have no idea why I haven’t done these in the past. I’m pretty good at sourcing, but every blog was posting round ups so I never had a reason to. With the house I’m looking for very specific items for certain rooms, so I’ll share my round up of the items I found during my search.
When you start a big decorating project how do you start? I’d love to hear your experiences or suggestions.
As a relatively (right at a year) new owner of a historic, masculine house, I very much appreciate you walking the reader thru your decisions. We too are working on our ideas as we have gotten a feel for the house, it’s energy and history. I want to make more considered decisions and love how you have broken down rationale in this post. I am very much looking forward to continued posts.