Whole House Challenge

I'm about to step up the "One Room Challenge" and declare (on myself) a... dunh dunh dunh... WHOLE HOUSE CHALLENGE. And I am sure you are saying to yourself "But that defeats the purpose of the 'Better Homes and Gardens' One Room Challenge! The whole point is for 12 carefully selected and vetted top designers and influencers to transform one room over six weeks, while providing their expert advice and inspiration." I, for one, am not a top influencer (thank you for reading!) but what I do have is a lot of rooms and a lot of opinions which can be construed as expert advice.

Because that's what happens when one buys a whole house. It's not just one room waiting to be the star of the show, ready to make its entrance. It's a whole bunch of back up dancers, romantic leads, sympathetic villains, comedic relief, and (if I'm lucky) a breakout lead.

So... how do I design for a whole house? If you've moved at least once in your life, you know the "thrill" of having to repurpose furniture and art for a new space. It's a lot like my Italian Nonna once said -- not my actual Nana, but the Nonna I lived with while I lived in Florence during my college. My actual Nana hated cooking but LOVED interior design -- a good cook knows how to transform leftovers into a totally new meal. And she was a master. But not everything should go into the pot, so to speak, when designing a new space.

Note to self: this is a good time to get rid of that Creepshow promotional poster I inherited from my brother's childhood bedroom and terrified my college roommates with and replace it with something a little less "teenage boy." And my brother only had it because he used to work at a video rental store and they were giving away the old posters for free.

I am currently in the process of Marie Kondo'ing my prized possessions and it's a balancing act I will not fully finish or understand until my whole house is done. The problem is everything gives me joy! But not everything fits. Again, I go to the master chef Italian Nonna philosophy. Not everything can go into the pot, but you should still keep it interesting with some secret nutmeg. So how do I determine what fits?

Find the Hero

(Cue the Mariah Carey song) I have been told many times "You guys have a lot of stuff". Number 1, my husband is what I lovingly call "a collector" and he has over 3,000 movies. Honestly, he should teach a master class in film and have his own blog, let's just say the man likes to collect things. And I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Girl likes to collect art." But without some direction, my collection can become garage sale real quick.

My nomination for hero is a few things then:

The first is an Anthropologie apron I use almost every day. The second is an antique kilim rug I bought on Amber Interiors here and then third is a painting I bought at the Rose Bowl Flea Market from an unknown artist for $15. She wasn't even selling art there, and her booth boyfriend dismissed it as some crappy doodle. As you can see, I really like pink (I wear pink glasses every day of my life) and turquoise. But there are other color friends in there! Yellow, red, green, orange, and blue.

Only Children Have Favorite Colors

The other thing that becomes apparent is that I like a lot of colors. When I have decorated before, I usually stuck to two colors throughout the house and any other colors simply came along for the ride. Those colors were typically pink and turquoise. I was very into the whole minimalist boho Scandinavian vibe. And that was a solid game plan. I have a lot of disparate styles and not everything matches quite perfectly. I love the calm, cool, collected look of a perfectly balanced house with 2 or 3 hero colors and if that is your thing, please read Miss Emily Henderson's post. I am not knocking it. But I've discovered as I've gotten older that only children have favorite colors. And while I am quite childlike, I am a grown ass woman. This is 2020 and now almost 2021. Shit be crazy.

But what about consistency????? Let's go back again to my heroes. How do I get all those colors that make me happy to play together nicely without going clown house?

Keep Finishes Consistent

I subscribe to the three zone rule of finishes. There are three zones or planes in which the eye sees a room:

  • Furniture legs: keep chair and furniture legs the same style and color. For example, if you have an angular Eames chair paired with a very rolled arm Victorian couch, keep the same color for the legs. Or better yet, minimize the amount of leg you see. That sounds very prudish, but I like to pair couches with no legs with leggy chairs (as long as the seating heights are consistent).

  • Metal accessories: if we were in a minimal house with white and black decor, I would say go for mixing and matching finishes. However, you're in my house now. You could be in a room with a pink ceiling one minute and then another all-black room the next. So, if you can, try to keep all metal accessories in the same eye line the same. So choose wisely. I, of course, choose brass most of the time.

  • Lighting fixtures: this is the highest eye level and definitely a game changer if you choose correctly. Since I inherited this bad boy:

I needed to think of the new dining room light fixture as a little brother or satellite. I also wanted to avoid the round shape since I dunno. I wanted to.

So I chose this one here:

It is the same finish as Mr. HUGE CHANDELIER, still had some of the round shapes, but also very angular. I would have LOVED to use this:

But the gold and the globe shape would have read "chaotic". At least in my own mind. And bonus! I get to use Miss Serena and Lily Capiz pendant in my master bedroom!

Layers and balance

Let's go back to our heroes. Part of the fun of decorating a house, for me at least, is seeing how crazy and weird I can get without going obscene. Hello, set design for A Clockwork Orange.

As I see these images, I'm thinking "Oh my god, my moodboards and pinterest look exactly like this."

In this new house, I am going for the two hero colors with supporting colors in each room, but with a twist. Each room will have its own hero colors!

These are just a taste of what is coming, but as you can see, no color has been spared here. The trick is to pick the biggest brightest color (living room: red; TV room: blue; master bedroom: green) and choose colors to support and then also calm down, much like a race horse with its stable donkey. Maybe that analogy needs a little fleshing out... And of course, wood, leather and black & white patterns tie everything together.

Choosing colors also has something to do with energy balance. I wanted the living room to have a bit more excitement than the TV room. It's not a room we will use every day but it is the first room one sees as you enter the house and you can see it from the street. Red is powerful, bold, sexy. The green, unlike the black, comes in and much like a good partner, calms it down without smothering its brilliance. And then the barely there Malted Milk pink is warm but does not compete. White would be too harsh everywhere. It needs another color to set off the balance.

The blue in the TV room is similarly exciting but in a different way. It says, Hey, come play with me and eat popcorn upon my vibrant velvety hues. And then the warm pink dulls its puppy dog happiness. The grey green in the wallpaper sets off everything without being too pattern-y and invasive. Everyone playing in the same marble floor (I'll show you in later posts) sandbox.

And let's TALK ABOUT THE BEDROOM. Wait no, let's look at it again:

I really wanted to make this place a sanctuary. You'll see in a bit what craziness I put on my ceiling in the hallway leading up to it. And while the green was very calming in the living room, here it gets to be its own Jellicle cat with its own solo... perhaps Grizzabella? And let's not forget, grey is a color, too.

There's my favorite Serena & Lily light fixture! Hey, you thought I forgot about you! How have you been? Crazy year, right?

So there you have it. I will eventually get to showing "After" pictures but since everyone decided to redo their house during the pandemic, that might take a while. Let's go over it again:

  • Find the Hero

  • Keep Finishes Consistent

  • Only Children have Favorite Colors

  • Layer and Balance

But of course, I'm just one asshole and this is my opinion. The biggest part of being a home decorator and making it YOUR home and not someone else's is discovering your own rules of success. I have no idea why or how things might work. Remember, a hundred years ago, people absolutely needed butler pantries. The rules can change at any moment. Shit be crazy.

And I mentioned before, many people have different ideas of beauty. That painting I bought at the Rosebowl Flea Market was not some masterpiece (at least the person selling it to me didn't think so) but I framed it and now its the inspiration for my house. And you may hate yellow because it reminds you of an ugly dress your grandma made you wear. In that case, you have my permission to stay away from yellow for the rest of your life.

My point is, find your hero and decorate accordingly.

Recent Posts

See All