Years ago, when I read a short biography about Diana Vreeland, one of her quotes devastated me. She wrote: “Of course, one is born with good taste. It’s very hard to acquire. You can acquire the patina of taste.” Perhaps she was being snobbish, I thought. Or perhaps I was being optimistic. I like to think that anything can be within reach, even good taste.
I learned that Seth Godin has a great cookbook collection*. He says books are a bargain because “for fifteen or twenty dollars you have something that might change your life.” Some people are bad at cooking he argues, because while “it costs very little to find out, lots of people are afraid to find out.”
The thing is, fear applies to decorating too! I remember when I was expecting our little girl, I was stressed that the room wouldn’t be magazine-picture ready for her. I printed pictures off the internet (this before the delightful Pinterest!) and hoped I would find myself infused with style wisdom. I wasn’t though… We painted the walls yellow and hung wallpaper, and fitted a white crib with a plain pink mattress cover. At my request, my friend brought a sheepskin rug from Toronto for a carpet and we borrowed a glider because it was within reach. I discovered that I didn’t like yellow, that sheepskin is tough to clean when baby throws up on it, and that gliders are wonderfully comfortable even before the baby arrives. You see, there’s nothing like experience and the only way to get experience is to take risks.
Taste is formed in part through exposure** and that’s the perfect excuse to indulge in the impulse to scroll through blogs and ogle over pretty Pinterest boards. Books provide the commentary that allow you to notice details you might not have, the chance to understand the components of the author’s vision.
Taste is also re-invention. When I was little, I used to think that a perfectly decorated room was the ideal you reached after enough purchases. But it’s not so. Décor is the pleasing expression of a practical way to use a space; but the way you use a space takes time to find out. Uses change and evolve. As I write I have toddler boys, born a year and three weeks apart, who endlessly test the endurance of every decor decision in my house. The hardwood floors are suffering… But I can credit them for causing me to streamline the de-cluttering. While I would like to put something pretty on the coffee table, or even on my bedside table, I know more about décor than I did as a newlywed.
This is my advice:
1. Tackle it! Have a vision, daydream, make a plan, create a budget and go! No excuses! No “I’ll wait until the kids are older to make my house pretty.” Make your home in the now, even just a little bit at a time.
2. Learn from it! Emily Henderson says there are no hard-and-fast rules, just “tons of tricks and tips” and she’s right! Points of view abound from one book to the other, but eventually you find out what you appreciate. Every experiment builds confidence.
3. Have fun with it! Having children is the best excuse to decorate, to explore colour, pattern and texture, to build projects and take them down. This is your kingdom and you are queen of your castle!
* Interview on The Tim Ferriss Show (February 10, 2016)
** This article: http://davidlewis.svbtle.com/can-taste-be-taught
I love books! Here are some of my favourite books about décor in no particular order:
Design Sponge by Grace Bonney
Big Book of Small Cool Spaces by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
Domino The Book of Decorating by Debora Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello and Dara Caponigro
The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Debora Needleman
Design Mom by Gabrielle Blair
Styled by Emily Henderson
The IKEA catalogue... :)