Yesterday, while I was shopping in one of my favorite department stores, Dorothy the cashier and I began talking about simple things that make people happy. Her eyes lit up and she said, “I bought myself a wonderful gift when I was on my lunch break today. I stopped at one of the mall accessory stores and bought a dish towel. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it. It’s black-and-white check and has purple grapes on it. It reminded me of something beautiful.”
She went on to say that after she cleaned her kitchen that evening, she would hang the towel on her dishwasher handle and look at it and smile.
Dorothy’s story made me think about all the things I have in my home that make me feel good. I surround myself with pieces that express who I am. Even though I tell clients to only purchase items for specific places and don’t clutter your home or office, I don’t always follow my own advice. I find myself buying things that speak to me. It may be the color, texture, style, shape, function or just that je ne sais pas (I don’t know what it is, but I have to have it).
How have you surrounded yourself? Are the things in your personal space pieces that you chose and placed there because they give you a feeling of your individuality, identity and taste?
This week, one of my clients — a successful bachelor in his early 50s — finally discovered his style. We met when I designed his first office. When he was married, he lived in a home that was country French. After a divorce, he moved into a space that was more Southwest and soft and traditional. Now he has a new home, and I’m working with him for the fourth time.
During this time of transformation for him, I felt I could offer a different look. After seeing the possibilities, he made the decision to decorate in a very contemporary style. This included sleek black and red leather upholstery with chrome tables and contemporary art. After I pointed it out, he realized he was drawn to square shapes. These are the items he selected: Square leather pillows that were covered in a basket-weave design; a rug design that had squares; a piece of art that was a collage of colored, textured squares; and angular furniture.
He loved his new discovery. More importantly, he felt empowered to go out with confidence and make some choices on his own.
Trust is the missing ingredient for most people. You have to feel the power when making decisions about what to purchase for your home. We are not born knowing our taste. You must get to know who you are and what you are attracted to. The only way to do this is by exploration — trial and error. Fear of making a mistake robs us of having an environment that represents our authentic selves. It’s important to expose yourself to ideas and try one new thing.
Probably the most thrilling part of my work is to see people discover themselves and express themselves fearlessly. Learning that the rooms don’t care how you decorate them is freeing. Rooms have no feelings, you do! JN
Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based interior designer and the CEO of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for interior design. For more information, visit barbaraspicks.com.