My favorite home store is Anthropologie. I just love walking around the store, soaking in all the charming details and marveling at their stylists’ creative ingenuity in displaying merchandise and artistic elements. The store’s ambience is warm, cozy, and filled with layers of character. (Okay, I actually wouldn’t mind moving in!)
Through the years, my leisurely strolls through Anthropologie have inspired me to look outside the box for decorating ideas to add character to my home. They use pallets for wall shelving units, old book pages for wallpaper, tree branches to hang art…they have mastered the art of repurposing. After strolling around their displays, I’ve even been inspired to take a second look at items in my own house with an eye for possibility. Suddenly my antique bed, an old table, or a dated chair holds potential for charm.
Fair warning—if you stare too long at an Anthropologie catalog, you might decide you should move to an old barn and hang your chairs upside down from the ceiling as art (because really, almost anything would look amazing in a rustic barn). But don’t let the lack of natural character in your normal, suburban home dull your creative sparkle.
The good news is that character isn’t only found in old houses or rustic barns. Every home can be filled with charming details if you know a few of the secrets!
Reflect Your Charm and Character
I love a home that feels like a snapshot of a person’s life. A place where accessories reveal stories about people’s character, their travels, and what matters the most to them. I think that’s why I like Anthropologie so much. It feels as if someone has traveled the world and collected a variety of mementos she found interesting, humorous, or meaningful. Even if you and I haven’t traveled the world, we can gather the modern, the quirky, the reinvented, the antique, and the memorable—and let them happily coexist in one personality-filled space.
Do you embrace your own uniqueness? Do you appreciate the charm that makes you, you? What do you love about life? What are some of your favorite memories? Our style at home should flow out of our personality and life experiences.
I use the term “authentic style” to describe the personal, unique style we each bring to our own home. When you decorate in your authentic style, you surround yourself with things that you are passionate about and that have great meaning to your family. Your home is most charming when it reflects your heart, soul, way of living, history…everything you love.
I add some things to my home simply because they are useful. But I realize that to be fully connected to a space and drawn to spend time in a room, I need to bring in objects and elements that inspire. I add colors I love, frame cards my husband gave me, and display artwork my children made. Each piece tells a part of our story.
We have turned several walls in our home into photo galleries. They preserve wonderful memories of travel and experiences together. In our entry, we have a tray of seashells as a reminder of our many family beach trips. I’ve displayed a violin my grandpa gave us and teacups that remind me of my grandma. We treasure a beautiful canvas featuring the names of places around Portland (our hometown) and the Oregon coast, and we have several meaningful Bible verses painted on wood or art canvases throughout our home.
We decorate with things that transform our family on many levels. Over the years, we have collected old and new books to add color, pattern, and texture with stories we love to read and share with friends. Books add ambience and meaning to every room in our home. I love collecting beautiful cookbooks in the kitchen—they inspire me to try a new recipe, and they entice me to slow down and enjoy a feast of photos and artwork. Create a home inspired by your life and what you love, and then your home will inspire you!
A Place to Chat and Put Up Your Feet
If you can’t make yourself at home in many corners of your house, you won’t ever feel “at home.” The charming ambience you crave is possible, regardless of what you have to work with, when you create a comfortable place to be. Each corner and main space can become a welcoming area for you to connect with your family, rest your feet awhile, and breathe a sigh of relief. This is the foundation for a charming home.
Let’s start with your main living area. If your furniture is lined up along the walls around the room, with seating so far apart that you have to crank your head and pull out binoculars to see the people sitting on the sofa, your room won’t look or feel comfortable. Your neck will always have a cramp. You’ll be annoyed at all the shouting and the lack of eye contact. You may even start to feel antisocial or at least socially awkward! But with one simple change, your room can have the cozy ambience that nurtures a warm and welcoming conversation. Ready to try it?
Pull the seating pieces away from the walls and closer together so space between them is more inviting. Arrange comfortable chairs near the sofa, ideally in a U shape, so you can face the people you are talking to and have a friendly chat with them without projecting your voice across the room.
Sofas are great for two people who turn their bodies to face each other, but you will need the chairs in order to have a comfortable group conversation. If you don’t have living-room chairs, borrow a couple of chairs from your dining room. Move things around until you feel more at home!
Many of us think we have to own the perfect furniture in order to begin improving our spaces, but really we just need to start with what we have, what we can find, or what we can afford right now. Don’t blow your budget on dozens of accessories. Save up for the conversation areas and add to them as you are able. Be content and creative with what you have!
Next step. Make sure each chair and sofa is within reach of a place to set drinks and reading material. You should be able to reach the coffee table and end tables without standing up and walking away from the conversation area.
If you don’t have a coffee table, do you have a trunk or a couple of short stools or an ottoman? Small benches, nesting tables, or stools are great flexible pieces that can be pulled into the conversation area for more seating or surfaces during a party. Don’t worry about finding tables that match—an eclectic feel is much more interesting.
I actually keep quite a few extra stools and benches on hand (tucked away against a wall or under a console table) so we always have enough seating for guests, places to prop up tired feet, and tables for beverages. Short people (like me) will especially appreciate the extra footstools so our little legs can land somewhere with dignity rather than swinging around awkwardly as if we were fidgety preschoolers!
If you have comfortable seating, a coffee table and end tables for drinks, and convenient places for your feet, your conversation area will have a great foundation for comfort and you’ll be ready to add more layers of ambience!
Shine a Little Light on It
You can have a room full of character with a cozy conversation area, but if the lighting is wrong, its atmosphere will never seem right. A room radiating ambience will be bathed in soft light. One glaring ceiling light (or heaven forbid, the dreaded fluorescent light) will not do a room or your pretty face any favors. Light from multiple sources will soften dark corners and warm up the room. Natural light is wonderful if you have it, and if you are planning a remodel, be sure to add lots of big windows. But even with a lot of windows, ambient lighting will elevate the mood of a home in the evenings or on dark winter days.
If you aren’t yet a collector of lamps, try to become one. Trust me. Lamps will be your friends. If you are starting from scratch, you can find great, affordable lamps at garage sales and thrift stores. Look for lamps that are larger than you might normally have considered, and give yourself permission to enjoy a new shape or personality for your lamps! Every room needs at least two large lamps near the conversation areas. Some of my rooms have three or four lamps. It’s a bit of an addiction, but it’s a good one because it creates the ambience I love. It’s fun to add in a smaller lamp or two on a console table to provide extra light and charm. Floor lamps can be a great addition too. I prefer small-scale, pharmacy-style metal lamps because they don’t take up as much room as floor lamps and still add great light and personality.
Different lightbulbs set different moods. For lamps, I prefer bulbs that are labeled “warm light” rather than “daylight.” Daylight bulbs are great where we need a lot of light, such as in a garage, but in most spaces I prefer a warm glow, so I make choices with that priority in mind. Always serve your priorities and purpose for your home.
A pair of lamps will make a room feel more cohesive and the design more intentional. If you can’t get a set of matching lamps, bring out the spray paint and maybe invest in a set of matching lampshades. Paint and lampshades can fool the eye and do the trick. If you really want to go all out, make your own lamps! It’s pretty easy and can be so fun. You can make a lamp out of just about anything. I have a couple of tutorials at The Inspired Room. Grab a cup of coffee and take a peek at them some afternoon for inspiration (or for the pure amusement of seeing me try a DIY project!).
While you’re gathering inspiration, take a look at this list and con- sider how you can add some light to your home and life.
- Entryway light. I’m a big believer in having lamps for mood light- ing right inside the front door. If your entry space is small, you still have some options with a wall lamp, sconce, or a small lamp on a nearby table. Even a small-scale, pharmacy-style floor lamp near a chair will do the trick. When you turn it on at night, the entry to your home will be warm, cozy, and inviting!
- Kitchen light. I love the unexpected presence and comfort of lamps in the kitchen. They can make a huge difference in the mood! In our castle we had a lamp right on the counter. In our current house, we don’t have room on the counter, but we installed charming sconces on either side of our sink and have a lamp on the far side of the kitchen. Once the sun starts to go down, we start turning on the lamps. This comforting nighttime ritual makes our house cozy.
- Bedroom light. I believe having lamps on each side of the bed is a must for a shared room. Whether you use lamps on nightstands or hang two plug-in style wall sconces, good lighting invites you to read or relax. Overhead lights just won’t cut it when you want to create a romantic or soothing ambience in the evenings. Select lamps that add character and personality.
- Anywhere. Dimmer switches are a great way to transform the mood of any room or space. If you can install a dimmer switch, you can create the right ambience day or night, depending on your whims!