Spaces & Places is a three-week series focusing on the private and community areas we occupy, the ways we personalize them, and the meanings that we assign to them. Organized and edited by Meg Jones Wall.
I’ve always been the kind of person who knows exactly what I like. The kind of person who is ruled by an instant, immediate “yes, I love this” or “God no, never,” reaction. Like most personality quirks, it has proved to be both a blessing and curse over my 32 years on this earth. I have a good sense of my own style, true, but I can also get a bit stuck in a rut, reaching for things that feel comfortable and safe rather than new and interesting. (Yes, I am a Taurus.) So when I found myself facing the blank walls of my new room, I had a minor moment of panic. Sure, I can choose things, but that skill supposes that there are options, not…an expanse of nothing.
Has the same thing happened to you? Maybe you need a little help figuring out how your personal style transfers to designing a space, and that’s exactly what this 101 guide is for. I’m going to take you through my process, show you some pictures of the space in progress and now that it is (mostly) done, how I arrived at the energy I did!
Indulge me, if you will, in a few caveats. I moved from one room in my house to a different one, which gave me a really luxurious amount of time to do things like paint and put up shelves. Also, I live with a contractor, which…well, I gotta be honest, it rocks.
I knew that the majority of space would be my bed, and that figuring out what I wanted it to look like would help decide the vibe for the rest of the design. I have an office to do work in, so my bedroom is dedicated to sleeping, getting dressed and putting on my usual full face of makeup. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was ready to lean into all my bougie tendencies and invest in a linen duvet. I spent a long time debating between blush, a muted blue, and white, like the beach mom I am. After some prayerful reflection, I went for blush and a focal point was born!
You can do this too! Is there something you already own and love that you want to design your space around? Like, maybe it’s a bedroom and you’ve got a gorgeous headboard you want to showcase. Or maybe it’s a living room and you have a chair you absolutely can’t get enough of. Find the thing that sparks delight and work out from there! It doesn’t even have to be as big as a piece of furniture—maybe it’s a piece of art, or your favorite planter. Whatever it is, it’s going to be the thing that guides you and hopefully makes the process a little less overwhelming!
Once I had the bedding color nailed down, it was much easier to think about what paint colors I wanted to pair with it. I wanted something that would make the headboard pop and go with the blush duvet, but you know, grown up. After long time staring at paint samples, I landed on a deep, almost black purple.
Suddenly, I had a color palette! Sure, I didn’t know what else I was going to do at the moment, but I did know I was working with those two colors, and narrowing it down just that tiny bit helped immeasurably. If even finding two colors feels insurmountable, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of online color palettes. I love this one, you can let it generate random ones, you can pull from photos, you can start with one color and let it work out from there, it has a ton of possibilities.
Okay, so the next part is where having a friend who lives with you and is a contractor really came in handy. I love books. Like, an outrageous amount. And I weeded out a ton of them when I moved to Philly, but that meant that the ones I kept were special, and I wanted them to become a holistic part of the focal point of the room, the bed! So I asked my friend to mount them over the bed, and asked if they could match the headboard, to tie everything together. And you know what? She crushed it.
I am willing to bet you also have something meaningful that you want to display in your space, something that will make it feel like you. Maybe you tumble rocks, or have a dazzling array of vintage movie posters, maybe you’ve got a crystal collection to rival Goop’s. Maybe you have a ton of plants that you want to artfully hang from every wall you can find! Whatever your thing is, showing it off will help you feel like you are making a space for you and you alone.
I felt like a master of design! I had done it!
Rather, I thought I had done it — until I laid down. Then I realized the wall across from me was completely blank, save for a mirror. Also, I was missing curtains? Maybe I needed more shelves? Where did I get all this stuff, little things like lipstick and makeup and lotions, those things all needed a home too. And wow, I needed art, desperately, and maybe more color on the bed? Thankfully, I had given myself the tools I needed for success! And you have too! Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and go back to the thing you started with, let it be your guiding light.
I did some more color scheme generating. I thought about the things I already owned, and how they could fit into the space I had created. I found some incredible prints on Etsy. I rediscovered this gold lamp that I had found a couple of months earlier on Instagram that was all wrong for the office anyway. I found some white and gold floating shelves that felt exactly right for the wall across from bed, and a long console table for all of my makeup. I found this incredible throw for my bed. It all came together, bit by bit.
Of course, I’m still messing around, still scrolling through Etsy when I can’t sleep. But that’s part of the fun! It’s yours, you get to change your mind, refresh stuff, flip the script if you need to. When I come home from being out in the world, and flop on my bed, it is a sigh of relief, a long exhale. A space of my very own. What could be better than that?