Decorating - Pottery Barn Style

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I have moved four times and with each move I have gained a greater understanding of how to decorate a home, in part because I have made so many mistakes.

With my first apartment I scoured decorating magazines and books to find just the right “look” but given my lack of decorating know how, I ended up painting my space with a color scheme that may have worked better in a Scottish cottage rather than my New York City apartment. At the time, I had recently spent a good deal of time in the British Isles which gave me the bold idea of painting a burgundy colored trim and a coordinating beige colored wall, but the beige ended up having an orange cast and the color scheme became irritating very quickly. I have since learned to sample colors within a room before committing to them.

Test colors like a decorator, before you commit

LESSON #1:

Sample color possibilities before committing. Inexpensive paint samples can now be purchased for most popular colors. These samples cost only a few dollars and are sometimes free. If you decide to buy samples, remember that you will need a small paint brush as well.

LESSON #2:

Realize that not all decorating styles work in all spaces; take into account the bare bones appearance of your space and the decorating styles that might work in it. Scottish color schemes might only work in Scotland.

In my next home I opted for a neutral palate, but thanks to an overzealous Benjamin Moore Paint salesman though, I made a different set of mistakes. I painted varying tones of the same color by creating “custom tints”, which though intended to create visual depth and a play of light, ended up creating a touch up nightmare. I could never figure out which shade of paint went where. I also don’t think that this effort was worth it since the color differential was indistinguishable to most people. Again, I learned from my mistakes.

LESSON #3:

Use one wall color and one trim color when possible, with tried and true colors most often being the best. Leave the color mixing to the professionals.

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“Shabby Chic” is a term that was coined in 1980 and encompasses a style that began in Great Brittan which includes décor items such as pillows made of vintage barkcloth fabric, vintage linens, chenille bedspreads, vintage chandeliers, and anything with roses on it. It is a soft, relaxed feminine romantic way of decorating that looks comfortable and inviting. Shabby chic colors include white, soft neutral colors such as sky blue, rose pink and beige tones.


The early forms of shabby chic were rather grand but the style has evolved taking inspiration from many forms of decoration. These range from 18th century Swedish painted decoration, the French Chateau as well as the American Shakers where simplicity and plainness was essential.

Shabby Chic

Then there was the shabby chic period. Target was selling it and I was buying it. This was around the time that I was moving into my third home. This home was in rural Connecticut and I thought that the shabby chic look would be just the ticket; I was all set, right? Wait, no…wrong again! When I started hanging my shabby chic curtains and floral patterned furniture I realized that I'd failed again. This was because although my house was in the country, the home was a larger scale colonial with 9 foot ceilings and a vaulted family room; shabby chic called for a more petite scale and now these decorations had to go. This lead me into a decorating depression. I was lost and didn’t know where to go. I felt committed to the shabby chic look. I was a bona fide fan of the Shabby Chic decorating television show with Rachel Ashwell and even bought the book.

The vaulted ceilings of my family room, shown here, did not compliment the shabby chic decor.
The vaulted ceilings of my family room, shown here, did not compliment the shabby chic decor. | Source

LESSON #4

Consider the scale of your home when choosing décor. Modern clean lines might not work in smaller cottage type homes. Try to compliment your space, not fight with it.

Then one day, in the depths of my decorating despair I walked to my rural mailbox and there inside was my saving grace, a Pottery Barn catalog.

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I skimmed through it and realized that the Pottery Barn style was neutral enough to appeal to my traditional taste but with clean enough lines to keep the look fresh and modern, voilà, I was saved! I was certain that this WOULD complement my larger scale home. I kissed my beloved shabby chic curtains, pillows and slip covers goodbye and said “hello” to my workable Pottery Barn style!

LESSON #5: Find a style that is workable and stick with it, this keeps things simple.

Although I am an artist, decorating is something that I don’t take much pleasure in. I would just like it to be done. I wish the walls were already painted, the couch in place, with a style and quality that will hopefully last long before I get tired of it, and that possibly I won’t ever get tired of either. I love the idea of timeless classics though I am not a fan of the ultra-conservative classic look; I like things to be more practical and durable, especially since I want my house to be a workable, touchable space for my children.

I reasoned that if I stuck with this flexible Pottery Barn style decorating could become more of a ‘no brainer’. I didn’t have to shop around to find things that coordinated, as that kind of decorating is time consuming and I lacked the ability to envision the way items work together in a space. One example of my lack of vision was when I was looking for a mirror to hang over my mantle, I went from store to store buying and returning what I thought was a good size mirror only to discover that it was far too small. I eventually learned to respect the scale of my home and keep an eye out for oversized items.

With my Pottery Barn decorating plan, I could simply purchase items through the pottery barn catalog, one of their stores or online, and since they all coordinate I am as good as DONE! As if this idea weren’t good enough, I also found that Target carries some of the very same type items listed in the catalog for a fraction of the price. No need to break the bank either. Checking Target for similar products does take a little extra effort but isn’t very time consuming.

This leads me to my present home. We just bought an older colonial style home in Virginia with standard height ceilings and lots of detail like dental crown molding and substantial chair rails that will involve a lot of painting and some updating, but this time I have learned my lesson and will stick with the tried and true Pottery Barn style, shabby chic will have to remain on the drawing board.

Pottery Barn Educational Videos!

As I have been shopping for items for my new space, I have discovered that pottery barn now makes educational videos that teach a variety of decorating concepts.

Go from mantle novice to mantle master

Coffee table beauty and practicality

Flowers are nature's focal point

In addition to these and other videos, Pottery Barn offers a range of services that include decorating both in store and in home.

Paul Secon
Paul Secon

History of Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn began when a musician named Paul Secon discovered three barns (probably where the name came from) full of discontinued and slightly damaged dishes for sale in upstate New York. Paul and his brother Morris then rented a store in downtown NYC to sell the merchandise, the store became very popular and years later was taken over by the Gap, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma in 1986. Pottery Barn has since expanded. There are currently:

  • 184 locations in the U.S.
  • 5 Locations in Canada
  • 3 locations in the Middle East

Pottery Barn has also created a line called Pottery Barn Kids which was launched in 1999, and most recently Pottery Barn Teen.

Pottery Barn Today

Pottery Barn designers are inspired both by an American heritage and an international sensibility. Their designs pull from modern influences while keeping a footing in traditional style with great attention being paid towards comfort, style and quality.

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Pottery Barn Kids

Is a collection described as“furnishings for babies and kids that has Pottery Barn's comfortable, well-designed character and a whimsy all its own.”

Pottery Barn Teen

“Is a collection of hip furniture and accessories designed just for teenagers. PBteen offers furniture, accessories, rugs, pillows, CD racks - everything teens need to decorate their world.”

Both offer quality home décor items with color schemes which coordinate with one another, making the decorating process really very simple.

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Benjamin Moore Paint

Benjamin Moore and Pottery Barn have joined forces to provide paint colors that coordinate with their décor, these paint colors are updated seasonally. There are paint colors for their standard Pottery Barn line, along with a separate selection of children and teens. With such a comprehensive decorating guide, turning your house into a home becomes as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Reese Witherspoon shops at Pottery Barn
Reese Witherspoon shops at Pottery Barn | Source

Pottery Barn in Pop Culture

  • Pottery Barn has been part of the story line in an episode of Friends
  • In an episode of Seinfeld Kramer receives multiple “junk mail” Pottery Barn Catalogs, and takes revenge by throwing them back into the store.

Celebrities known to shop at Pottery Barn

  • Musician Rod Stewart
  • Actress Reese Witherspoon


Saving Money at Pottery Barn

  • Pottery Barn has discount outlets in 7 States including: Georgia, Michigan, New York, Ohio Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
  • Pottery Barn also offers a credit card that gives 10% back in rewards or no interest for 12 months when you spend over $750.

While I am sure to make more decorating mistakes along the way, Pottery Barn has made my decorating experience so much easier.

Happy Decorating!

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Comments 3 comments

Liz-reviews profile image

Liz-reviews 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC

Well done on your very interesting Hub ! Love to decorate...just hard to find the time for bigger projects like painting. Looks like your gorgeous house has given you a very workable canvas. Definitely going to check out Potter Barn. Thanks

Voted up and interesting


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Liz - It is hard to find the time for the larger projects decorating projects like painting, but it can be done in sections. I hope my house will soon reflect my decorating vision with the assistance of my Pottery Barn elves. I am glad you enjoyed to hub, thank you!

Best, Tracy


Carol Morris profile image

Carol Morris 5 months ago

What a great hub, full of information. I just skimmed through but will be back to take my time over it when I have a bit more time.

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