This article really delves into the feeling of restlessness and discontent that can accompany decorating a home in earnest; a feeling both of us have talked about and, at times, struggled with. It also speaks to something that used to be a big part of our “About Us” blurb–when we first started Red House West we confessed to being nervous that writing about decorating would diminish us or make us seem frivolous. Cusk writes, “there are other imperatives that bedevil the contemporary heirs of traditional female identity, for whom insouciance in the face of the domestic can seem a sort of political requirement, as though by ceasing to care about our homes we could prove our lack of triviality, our busyness, our equality.”
I realized I’ve been a little higgledy-piggledy in my approach to decorating the Rambler, so I’m using this post as an opportunity to step away from the immediate concerns of gaping holes where light fixtures should be and missing trim, and I’m going to expand my gaze to take in the whole picture.
I’m still very much a design novice. Paying attention to the details and intentionally creating the space we live in really only started when Mera and I began writing RHW two years ago. What I’ve come to realize, since moving, is just what a gentle design teacher the Red House was.
As I see it, there are two main differences between the Rambler and the Red House in terms of decorating:
Less architectural interest at the Rambler than the Red House
Open floor plan in the Rambler. I worked hard to create flow between the rooms at the Red House, but this is a whole other ball game: Here the kitchen, dining, and living space are all in a single room.
1. Less architectural interest at the Rambler than the Red House
The high ceilings, arched doorways, and old fir floorboards of the Red House were an effortlessly charming backdrop
Cameron and I both have a preference for simple furniture with streamlined shapes; much of what we own (in fact almost everything that made the cut when we moved to this smaller home) is mid-century modern. Looking back, I realize that achieving a look that was – to cadge my own wording from an earlier post – “eclectic and collected, with a mix of eras” at the Red House was pretty easy; all we had to do was place our furniture into that vintage setting and voila! Instant charm and juxtaposition.
Here at the Rambler, on the other hand, the effect of placing mid century furniture in a 1978 generic white box is much different. I shared a cropped version of this photo over on our Instagram:
It’s coming along… but has a ways to go
I have to admit that I’m excited by the challenge of achieving that charming ‘eclectic mix,’ when a vintage house isn’t part of the equation. Can I do it? I dunno; I feel like I just graduated to second grade in design school.
This is very much a space in progress (you can check out the before here); white paint is up, light fixture is down, furniture is in place, a few decorative items have been pulled out of boxes, it still needs curtains, and on and on. I’m planning a gallery wall for in here, but am treading carefully because I don’t want it to overwhelm the space (see #2, below).
Here are some inspiration images I refer to again and again when making choices for this house:
This room is a beautiful mix of traditional and mid-century and though the arched bookcase is a lovely architectural detail, it’s not what makes the space:
I love, love, love this image, and it perfectly captures the mix I’m going for. Now that I think of it, that arched mirror would be a great way to bring in the charm of the built-in bookshelf from the first photo:
This space obviously has a lot going for it architecturally, but it’s the antique pieces and worn wood juxtaposed with the oversized Noguchi light and the awesome art that’s giving me inspiration for the Rambler:
These photos not only evoke the feeling I want in our house, but also offer up some concrete ways I can introduce a little more charm into our white box: Mix in more antique pieces (rugs, small tables, worn wood) and mimic architecture by bringing shapes, such as arches, in via mirrors and other furnishings. Mera, when editing this post, pointed out that globes are also a feature in each of these rooms and that perhaps I’m unconsciously drawn to the potential these rounded shapes have to soften the boxy lines of the Rambler. She’s a genius and is, of course, right. No doubt that’s part of why I was so set on a globe light for our entryway:
Look! Progress! And globes! I’m hoping to pick your brains soon about what I should do with that front door.
And so we’re on to #2:
2. Open floor plan in the Rambler
If you were to play a drinking game in which you took a shot every time the phrase “open concept” is uttered on HGTV renovation shows, you’d be drunk as a skunk in about five minutes. But I gotta say, I’m finding it a lovely way to live. When we have guests, it’s so fun to have people lounging on the couch and chatting while we prepare dinner. It’s also great when it’s just the two of us; I work on projects at the dining table while Cameron cooks, or vice versa. I get it now HGTV! I’m a convert!
To help both you and me better visualize the space, I did a quick (not-to-scale) floor plan of the main room in the Rambler:
So open! So convenient! And so much potential for visual chaos and clutter. In my mind, there are two ways we’re going to be able to make this open floor plan thing work on a design level: Mitigate clutter, and keep a unified color palette.
I didn’t realize until I went hunting for photos of beautiful open floor plan images just what a desert the internet is of pulled back, whole-room shots. In fact, I’ve only found one that really inspires me. This room is obviously fancier than the ol’ Rambler, but really speaks to the effectiveness of a tight color palette – including in the gallery wall – and is also an excellent example of using rugs to define the space:
The color palette I’m planning is much the same as I used in the Red House; in the Rambler I’ll stick to the familiar combination of black, white, indigo, green, and wood. My preference for accent colors shifts with the seasons, but for now I’m loving soft pink and mustard:
All Benjamin Moore colors: White Dove, Onyx, Hale Navy, Vintage Vogue, Soft Blush, Spicy Mustard
I’m still working out how to mitigate clutter (I’ll let you know if – nay, when – I come up with some genius solutions), but I feel like summarizing these thoughts has given me a much more clear design direction for the Rambler. I hope it’s helped you see where we’re heading too! Thanks for reading along, have a great week!
Etsy continues to be one of our very favorite sources for finding unique treasures and inspiration, and we realized it has been ages since our last roundup of favorite Etsy stores. Here are three shops we’re loving:
Luola is one of the best curated shops on Etsy. The focus is on decorative mid-century items and they’re beautifully photographed and described. She updates her shop regularly, so there’s always some new wonder to discover: