Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As I'm sure most of you know, buying a house is a blur of mortgage applications and appraisals and inspections and paperwork and constant meetings with your realtor to sign just one more thing. And we are dealing with all that logistical stuff and actually I find it all very interesting. But oh, thinking about this house which will so very soon be ours... it's like a blank canvas. It's just been redone, so we don't need to worry about the house itself. But the furnishing, and the decor? I don't even know where to start.

I've never really decorated before, at least not since I was into posters and dorm room chic. Our DC apartment had some framed artsy photos and a couple of paintings hanging up, but that was it. 95% of our furniture is from Ikea, and we never painted because it's too much of a hassle to paint back when you move out.

But oh, I love accent walls and bright colors and interesting artwork and light fixtures and cabinet handles and lamps and vases and fascinating furniture that fits together beautifully but unexpectedly.

What we're starting out with is so minimal it's almost laughable. Our house has eight rooms, not counting the basement or the bathrooms: 4 bedrooms upstairs, and a living room, family room, kitchen, and dining room downstairs. The basement is another big room with a bedroom off it, so I guess that counts as ten rooms, but I'm not even thinking about basement decor yet, so let's not go there.

In terms of the furniture we already have... well, there isn't much of it, at least not when you spread it out over eight rooms instead of the two we lived in for so long. We have a bed, dresser, and two nightstands for the master bedroom. We have a mattress, and just a mattress, for the guest room. We have a desk for each of the other two bedrooms, which will be turned into our offices, at least for now. We have a bookshelf to go in one of those offices as well. We have a couch, coffee table, and TV stand for the living room. We have a small table and four lightweight chairs for the dining room. We have a lone armchair for the family room. We have one area rug that can go... somewhere.

We also have an Ikea entertainment center, but it is too big for the layout of the living room and the color of the wood (very light) would clash with the floors of the house, so I think we're going to put that in the basement and turn the basement into a bit of a media center, eventually. Once we have somewhere to sit on while enjoying the media. Other than the floor.

A lot of the furniture that we do have is stuff that we eventually want to upgrade. The dining room table, for example, really doesn't fit the dining room. It's too small and the wood is all wrong. We'd like a glass coffee table for the living room, I think. Our bookshelf is already full to bursting, so we need another one of those. It would be nice to have a second armchair in the family room. We'd like a bedframe for our bed, and a proper set of furniture for the guest room. Eventually we'll need kiddie furniture for two of the bedrooms (or at least that's the plan). We'd like some furniture on the patio too. Maybe a china cabinet or something in the dining room. And I assume we'll want some assorted end tables and whatnot on which to display photos, vases, and other accessories. Plus, we need artwork for the walls. And let's not even get started on the yard.

Obviously we aren't doing this all at once. We do plan to go to High Point next time we visit my parents in North Carolina--it's the furniture Mecca, where you can get high-quality furniture at pretty much any price point. People go there just for that. They stay in hotels and buy truckloads of furniture to furnish their entire houses at once. We won't be doing that. We don't have the funds and I think we'd like to add on to and upgrade what we have slowly, over time.

But oh, just looking around and trying to get inspired is so fascinating. I bought Elle Decor yesterday and while I was overwhelmed at the high-end nature of what they featured ($2,000 teapot? Anybody?), the colors and the stylish furniture that they featured was just so beautiful. A lot of it isn't what we want for our house--too outre or modern or whatever--but it's definitely inspiring.

It's hard to know what we want. A lot of stuff looks lovely in photos, but the idea of really having it in our house is just overwhelming, or wrong. A lot of rooms just look SO put together, like too much so, if that's possible? I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself clearly. I look at amazing design blogs, like this and this and this and this, and it's all so gorgeous and exciting. But at the same time, if I stayed in a guest room like this:

Well, I'd be impressed, but also I'd feel kind of like I was staying at a bed and breakfast. And I would wonder just how compulsive my host was to have created such a ridiculous guest room to begin with. Do you know what I mean?

And yet, I love this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And I'm wondering how to do similar things in my own home. And I really have no clue if I can, or if it would look good if I did it, or how much it would cost. But I'm kind of excited to find out.

What do you think? Do you do any interior design in your home? What's your style? What are your inspirations?


  1. You have a great sense of style, Jess. My advice is to start an inspiration book. Maybe one page for each room. Something both you and Torsten can contribute to. Then, when it's time to purchase, you'll at least have a sense of what you'd like each room to emulate. Also, don't forget to take measurements of each room before you go shopping AND bring a measuring tape with you. It'll help you tremendously. Oh yeah, one final thing. I started this habit many years ago and Sweets has now joined me ... we aim to buy one nice piece of art each year. It takes pressure off to fill a whole house immediately, but we've been pleasantly surprised at how quickly our "collection" has grown. Also, nice art comes at all sorts of price points!

  2. Congratulations on the new house! The best thing about owning your own home is that you don't feel like you're throwing away money on the decor.

    I was going to suggest the inspiration book too. It really is a great place to start.

    My one piece of advice is to not feel compelled to fill all those rooms right away; there's nothing wrong with having empty rooms. Live with bare walls for awhile until you know you have the furniture placement right. You'll save yourself a lot of time and money by taking your time.

  3. We have been in our house for 10 months now. We bought a dining room set and a new bed right after we moved in. The rule was no buying new house stuff until we move in. It's easier to get a feel for what will work well in a room once you've lived in it for a bit. Don't feel rushed to fill all of those empty rooms right away! The next step is new living room furniture in a year or two. This is very exciting! You are going to have a lot of fun =)

  4. I think that you have a great sense of style just from your wedding! But my advice? GO SLOWLY.

    When we bought our house I wanted to do lots at once... but it's overwhelming. Going bit by bit and buying things when they TRULY fit your taste is what will make your house YOURS. Some of my favorite pieces are things I found at random when I wasn't even looking.

    We have goals for the house (master bedroom furniture is next year and I CAN'T WAIT) but the little stuff will just come along.

    Second the advice about measurements - for a while, just carry a card in your purse with all measurements you may need. That way, if you find something, you'll know right away if it will fit/work and you won't have to worry about returns. My purse had that card, along with a tape measure, paint cards, and fabric samples for the LONGEST time!

  5. Oh, also? ETHAN ALLEN.

    I know they're expensive, but just going and looking around will be so helpful. Their staff is amazing.

    I was 23 when we bought our house, and most furniture stores paid NO attention to me because I looked (and, I guess, WAS) so young. But the staff at Ethan Allen was amazingly helpful and kind. They gave me lots of advice and design books and I can't wait until we have the money to spend there, because I absolutely will based on service alone.

  6. There are so many bargans out there in antique and secondhand shops. Craigslist has been great to us and a fw friends. My friend found her bedroom set on there.

    Like Nilsa, buy one piece of art a year. When you go to Germany I am sure you will find a few pieces.

    Also, paint is the easiest way to change the look of a room. If you want to faux finish take a class at the local Home Depot. They can help you learn the trick of the trade.

  7. Yes, it is possible. Beyond possible, really. I'm design obsessed, I always have been, so my home is always thought out and designed. Have you considered buying the Domino Book of Decorating? It's divine. Not just for design inspiration but for tips and tricks for implementing your vision. It walks you through sketching, concept, the whole nine. The now defunct magazine did a wonderful job of mixing high end and low. Their website is still live but from what I understand won't remain that way for too long. Design Sponge, Decor8, Absolutely Beautiful Things, are all great sources. Personally, I run around sketching and swatching and photographing until I can't stand it. You can paint large sample squares on different walls in a room to see how the light catches. Get an idea for what your aesthetic is and troll eBay and the local markets. If you have the time you can refinish, strip, paint and upholster, which will allow you to both customize your look and stay well within budget.

  8. My best advice, especially since my fiance and I both have strong opinions, was to come to a middle ground. We found ourselves gravitating to a certain shade of wood (dark), coupled with some lighter elements. I'm afraid of too much commitment (i.e. a super bright accent wall) so we started out small with bright punches of colors in pillows and blankets, etc. It's a good way to ease into color.
    Also, the first time I moved into a larger place, I bought floor pillows for seating when I couldn't afford a new couch/loveseat. Even now, we still use those floor pillows!

  9. You now live in Colorado! I give you these three words... AMERICAN FURNITURE WAREHOUSE. There is one north of Denver located on I-25 and 88th. Have fun.
    Boulder, CO

  10. A design idea scrapbook is a huge help! You can read about them here for some pointers: http://nestingplacenc.blogspot.com/2009/03/idea-book-for-your-home.html

    When furniture shopping, bring a tape measure, your idea book, and a blueprint of each room with measurements. It makes selecting furniture much easier.

    I'm sure the last thing you want to do right now is look at more homes, but when I was first starting out and attempting to figure out my decorating style, I visited some staged homes to get a feel for all the decorating styles that were out there.

    Also, I decided early on that I would aim for quality over quantity. In the long run it's more cost-effective to invest once in a quality piece of furniture than it is to have to replace it down the road. It took longer to decorate that way, but it was worth it.

    I could go on and on, but I'll cut myself off here. Feel free to email me if you want to chat. I love interior decorating!

  11. I'll agree with what everyone else is saying. HGTV's website is good for ideas. Their TV shows are even better and if you watch enough of them, you'll get some great tips on designing on a budget.

    Sigh. I'm always talking about HGTV.

  12. No Ikea here in Denver...yet!

    Our style is earthy/asian/fun...browns, light greys, light greens, burgundy, yellow, pink. We've pulled together stuff from World Market, Crate & Barrel, Craigslist, Ikea (we had it shipped) and yes, American Furniture Warehouse. Denver doesn't have the best furniture scene, but if you take your time you can find pieces that you love in any of these places.

    Case in point: we bought our couch from Sofa Mart (oh yes, we did.)in kind of a hurry and now? HATE IT.

    It's overwhelming, but so fun!

  13. You really do have a good eye! I don't do any decorating here because we're renting and poor and I have gotten completely over the "decorate with posters" idea from my college years and early 20s. You might want to pick up a Good Housekeeping or a Better Homes and Gardens. They have decorating stuff in them (as well as gardening stuff for when you want to get started on the yard) that is good and not too overdone and (most importantly) generally affordable.

    One thing I'd advise is to make sure that the appliances are staying in the home and/or that you have enough $$ to purchase new ones if it turns out that the current owners are taking the appliances with them. The last thing you want is to get in there and find out that you have to buy a stove!

    Finally, I'm with everyone else: take your time. Build a home slowly that truly reflects who you guys are and your taste! If you go too quickly you'll be tempted to get things just because they fill up space. :)

  14. Lots of what we have decor-wise came from big trips we've gone on and photos we've taken - our living room is mostly stuff from China, for example.

    I agree that there's nothing wrong with having empty rooms for a while until you find the right pieces. Especially since you'll be moving into a space that's so much bigger than what you're used to; resist the urge to fill it up because it will be a lot harder to clean if it's crammed full!

    Some Denver-specific suggestions:
    For new, cheap(ish) furniture: American Furniture Warehouse
    For used, antiquey stuff: South Broadway has a ton of antique stores, as does West Colfax in the Lakewood area. My favorite antique store is in our neighborhood at 9th and Corona and we've gotten quite a few things there. For artsy stuff, check out the Santa Fe (street, not city) art district. And, above all, CRAIGSLIST.

    Much of our furniture came from Craigslist and from cast-offs people left in the alley that we refinished ourselves. I think we've only ever bought a few things new: our bed, the futon (now gone), the couch. Everything else is Craigslist, alley, or antique stores. And I like Rosalicious's suggestion of Cost Plus World Market (if you like that style of stuff; we do.)

  15. All my furniture has been collected over the years, ditto with house-items. However, I have simply moved to larger and larger apartments, not from an apartment to a house. I can't wait to see what you do with everything! Squee!


  16. So, not even talking decorating styles and how tos... but just for grown up furniture shopping, check out Costco online (Seriously!). They have amazing deals on sets of furniture (bedroom, etc). Also, in store, every January and June they have a big display of furniture. I got a kick ass table and 4 chairs for $299. Real wood.

    Also, if there's a Big Lots in your area, check it out. The local ones here get random pieces of furniture from the nicer furniture stores (and Pier 1). That's more for a mix-and-match style than buying full sets. But again, good quality stuff for cheap99.

    Happy homeowning!!!!

  17. ooooh i love decorating. which is SO SAD because i rent.

  18. First, congratulations the house is BEAUTIFUL!

    Second, my father is/was an interior designer/architect and here are a couple of tips I learned along the way. Use color as accents or pick one dominant color per room. If you use too much it'll clutter. Mirrors are your friends (and can often be found for cheap in yard sales and such) especially in dining rooms. Use it over a console table and it not only opens the room but gives it a glamorous feel. Also, remember to hang paintings/prints/pictures at eye level. Most peole think they have to be hung higher than necessary when that's not actually the case. And finally (last one that I can quickly come up with) have fun with rugs. Lots and lots of rugs. Not intentionally quoting The Dude, but rugs REALLY pull a room together (especially with hardwood floors). Good luck! And have fun!

  19. For wall art, I think family photographs are wonderful. I mean, you can't go overboard with them, but getting some great, interesting shots and then maybe having them blown up in black and white or sepia and just choosing a nice mat/frame can look very tasteful and unique and is pretty inexpensive. Once you have babies, I'm sure I won't need to promote that idea though! It's hard to resist not decorating every square inch in photos of le bebe!
    I think accent walls are awesome. Like, I wouldn't want red in a whole room I don't think, but I LOVE our dark red wall in the den. I also like doing complimenting colors in rooms, like dark yellow on the ends of the room and paler yellow on the inner walls.
    I do agree with a lot of the commenters who suggested going slow and just buying quality pieces when you can afford it rather than getting lots of cheap stuff just to fill the rooms. We've made that mistake a few times (more with curtains, artwork) and it was always just a waste of money. Not that inexpensive necessarily means you're going to hate it or it will fall apart. More just that hurrying into it means it's likely you'll find something you like a lot more later, but then you can't afford it because you already bought the cheap thing that you kinda liked.
    I DO think it's okay to buy cheap sofas if you're planning on having kids. In my experience, even the most careful furniture owners end up with stains and worn spots all over their sofas once kids come along, so I think it's better just to accept that this is the "interim" furniture for while you have little kids, and then plan on getting something nice once no one's running around with juice sippees anymore!

  20. I really can't say that I have a style! But what I like about my place is that it's obviously me who lives there. I wouldn't want to live in a beautiful, tasteful, match-y place that could be anyone's. This is my stuff; it's me.

    Not that I don't think my place is beautiful! It just doesn't look like an interior decorator was involved. My only advice is that you value things that speak to you over things that don't.

  21. Woo, I love all the pictures you posted except the last one - especially the dining room. Very elegant, but inviting at the same time.

  22. Whoa. That bedroom? Is pretty much the platonic ideal of a bedroom, to me. :) Congrats on buying the house!!

  23. Try to work on the rooms one at a time. You'll get overwhelmed if you think about it all at once. Take things slow and make sure you don't lose your design ideals in the process. Good luck!

  24. I get my art from www.etsy.com which is like ebay for people who create arts/crafts and want to sell it. It's a nice way to find original art at reasonable prices.

    I'm completely in love with that yellow and white room. I think you can do that with quite a few colours and the white just makes it look 'fresh'.

  25. buy things you love. make your home tell your story. it should reflect your tastes....pick different things you love..combine them...you'll be surprised how well they'll fit together...

    you planned a gorgeous wedding, and i know that you can make a beautiful home for yourself.

  26. Congratulations on your new home!
    One piece of advice -- make sure you have a big supply of Windex if you get a glass coffee table. The fingerprints and smudges can drive you crazy.

  27. Dude! That guest-room blue is totally the same blue I just bought to paint the livingroom of my new apartment!! Or if not, it's awfully close...

    I have eclectic taste, and my apartment reflects that. I think my new apartment will reflect a style I like to call "Pack Rat Moving Into a Much Smaller Apartment," but I'll probably just call it "cozy" :)

  28. i love the pictures you posted! I don't really have any style right now because it's not my house, but i'm into the simplistic look with colors.

  29. Absolutely amazing pictures!! Home depot is a nice way to find original art at reasonable prices.