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Personalizing Your Home Decor

Updated on July 17, 2012
Something old:  a leather map I bought as a young girl while living in Brazil.
Something old: a leather map I bought as a young girl while living in Brazil. | Source

What or Who Inspires You to Decorate?

As far as I see it, decorating your home is truly a labor of love. I happen to love decorating, but I know for a fact that it is not everyone's idea of a good time. In fact, I find it therapeutic (much to my husband's delight) to rearrange our furniture and change the decor on an ongoing, if not daily, basis.

This is a far cry from my grandparent's habits where I only saw and experienced everything they owned in one and the same place. From the large furniture pieces to the family photos casually placed against the inside glass door of an antique china cabinet, every piece literally seemed to grow roots to its original location. That reality definitely covers the time I have been alive, at least 40 years. And when my own mother assures me that what I remember is also exactly the same way she remembers it as a little girl, I can only assume that my grandparent's did not have the same interest and passion in home decorating as I do today.

So I credit my inspiration to my own parents, who through their travels and adventures, accumulated an amazing collection of unique finds. I think the word that I heard most often growing up is 'different'. Their home is unlike anything you would ever find in a catalogue or furniture store, even if some pieces definitely originated there. Because it tells the story of their lives, their decor is not reproduced elsewhere, except for maybe in my own home.

Personalization of Your Home Decor

The key to creating an interesting and inviting home decor is personalization. Anyone can shop at national chains such as Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel. And believe me, I do, too. But what I tend to purchase there are individual accents or pieces. I find nothing is more unappealing than entering a home which has been styled by one and the same designer or furniture company.

In fact, my taste is the polar opposite of matched decor. I cringe at pillows that are made to perfectly coordinate with the drapery. I think it speaks to a lack of imagination and creativity. Instead, I happen to love a home which combines the antique with the modern. I am sure they have a word for it, but I just call it my own. Where risks are taken to place old next to new. I believe this communicates and reflects our open-minded, active and fun lifestyle. Much like what we experience outside our home as a family living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Decorating with Old Versus New Finds

Yes, I clearly do spend some money on new home accessories, but by and large I work with things that I already have on hand. The method to my madness? Most things which I own, I own because there is a sentimental reason. Case in point is an armchair, which although I admit desperately needs to be reupholstered, has many times been saved from a trip to the dump. It is a chair which my father designed and had built while we lived in Brazil. And now that my father has passed away, I feel I have all the more reason to keep it in the family.

Nothing, or at least not much, of what I own is disposable. Flashback to a move between apartments in New York City, when my then future father-in-law suggested that we should leave a sleeper sofa behind (due to its weight and the stairs that were greeting us on the receiving end). When I asked what he would suggest in its place, he replied with the idea of renting a sofa that would suit the new and (correctly stated) temporary place.

My father-in-law's thought process accurately represents a viewpoint which is adopted and works well for many families. We live in a culture that is very comfortable with change and thrives of practicality. I, on the other hand, tend to hold on to things and repurpose them as needed. No better investment than to buy something that is well made and can stand the test of time. Our sleeper sofa, although with sweat and tears, made it on the moving truck.

Something new:  my oyster shell wire basket.
Something new: my oyster shell wire basket. | Source

Where Do You Find Unique Home Decor Items?

My tricks of the trade are simple and effective.

When I go on vacation, I always spend a part of my time hunting for a memento which I can bring back to display in our home. This process started early in life because I had the great fortune to travel far and wide from a young age. I love incorporating some of these pieces in our decor as they serve as a reminder of the places I have seen and the experiences I have had. They are the thread to the story around which our home is built.

Even if travel is not your speed, a hobby, sport or your family history can help set the tone for your home decor. The same is true for special outings or experiences you share with others.

Just a few weekends ago when we were celebrating my birthday at an oyster farm, my eye caught a glimpse of an oyster shell basket which was used to collect and dispose of, what else, but oyster shells. It was a simple wire basket, but interesting in design and purpose, as well as a souvenir. When I arrived back home, I located an almost identical one for purchase on I don't have to go on to tell you what I spent my birthday money on.

Other wonderful sources for unique home decor items are flea markets, your parents' home, your grandparents' attic, yard sales, your childrens' art work, old photos and the like. I personally also love old maps because travel is such an important part of my life. I encourage you to go through your cupboards, cabinets, closets, basements, and attics, to look for your own inspiration. Rather than letting your special, sentimental pieces stay hidden, let them collect dust on a shelf where you, as well as others, can see them. I guarantee it will be worth it.


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      i4u 5 years ago

      Good tips.

      keeping our place arranged and well maintained is something many of us lack to care.

      Best wishes from i4u..