What Pinterest Taught Me About Myself

by Grace Bonney

When Pinterest first launched, I will admit, I was not enthusiastic. I saw it as an example of so many of the problems we were facing as bloggers (a lack of crediting, the devaluing of original content and moving traffic away from original independent sources) and, to me, it represented a larger change for which I felt wholly unprepared. But over the years Pinterest has become the main way most people find, share and use design imagery online, so I’ve gotten more used to it and have honestly enjoyed seeing how helpful it is for people looking to create meaningful spaces of their own. And while I expected it to be a useful design tool, I didn’t realize it would end up helping me better understand myself, what I wanted from life (and home) and how to be more appreciative of the present. 

I’ve kept plenty of Pinterest boards for myself over the years, focusing on things like shoes and clothing and jewelry. But I never really used them to shop — I just wanted to catalog things I thought were beautiful or fun to look at. I’d check in on them every now and then and marvel at how much my style or interests had changed and laugh at myself for being so prone to huge style shifts. But it wasn’t until I started a Pinterest board for my “one day dream home” (below) that I noticed a more meaningful change.

Soon after Julia and I bought a house and left Brooklyn, I started a (then) private Pinterest board for myself of all of the things I’d hope to one day have in a house, from rugs and paint colors to lamps and gardening ideas. The act of owning a home was already a dream realized, and in a pinch-me state of gratitude I went about imagining what our home would be like with a little more love. I pinned willy-nilly for months, hunting down images from old magazine shoots and catalog pages that had always stayed in the back of my mind. I gathered them without any goals or agendas — just pinning whatever made me feel happy and “at home.” I knew we couldn’t afford or do half of the things I pinned, but I thought they’d be fun inspiration for years later when we had the time and budget to, say, redo all of our old wood floors with a harlequin pattern (a girl can dream).

Unlike the other boards I’d made, I visited this board daily for almost a year, looking for colors and patterns and layouts we could try to DIY in our space. And after about a year and a half of working on the house, we finally decided to take a break and settle in to see how we liked the space and the decisions we’d made so far. Not only did we need to take a financial break from renovating and furnishing, but we needed a mental break from over-thinking design decisions that shouldn’t be rushed. I felt so much pressure to have the house “done” so we could share it online, but after deciding together that we wouldn’t do that, we eased into a lot of blank walls and unfinished spaces and just let them be.

This fall will be the start of our fourth year here, and both Julia and I have been feeling the itch to start working on the house again (like our back dining/living room, shown above and below). So out came my laptop and my trusty “dream home” Pinterest board that hadn’t seen the light of day for two years. I fully expected, like always, to laugh at how much my interests and style had changed, but I found something very different.

While I scrolled through the pins and looked more closely at each picture from a huge range of sources, I felt like I was looking at our house. I recognized so many of the small moments and decisions we’d decided to try (from nautical rope sconces to striped banquette seats) and realized that not only had we actually followed through on so many of these ideas (and made them our own) — they all still felt like exactly what we wanted then (and now). Sure it might be covered in dog hair now or ripped up from use, but that house we’d wanted to create actually existed and we were lucky enough to be living in it right now.

In that moment I realized that I was actually living in the house I’d dreamed of. I needed to stop, soak it in and be appreciative of what we had in this very moment.

So much of the online design world is about new, better, more and what’s next. And while I love that momentum and excitement, I think sometimes we forget to stop and realize what we have right now — and how good that can be. And I have Pinterest to thank for that.

Seeing a visual reminder of my ability to settle into myself and my interests, carry ideas through to fruition and to make big decisions that are practical and livable was powerful. It’s not often in design that we get to stop, pause and enjoy things exactly as they are (without planning the next upgrade or overhaul) and today I’m going to do just that: be grateful for where we are right now, pet hair and all. xo, Grace

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  • Grace, I love this piece and as soon I looked at your photos, I thought to myself, ‘Why would you want to change that, it looks perfect.’

    Although I love decor and following the lovely images on Instagram and Pinterest, I find that for the most part, I like things the way they are. Changing decorations, planters, mantels, linens, etc. for every season – who has the time? I’ll add a pumpkin and gourds for fall and clean-up my scraggly planters, but that is enough. I enjoy taking the time to clean, garden, cook, relax with a book, go for a hike, spend time with my husband and friends.

    Relax and enjoy!

  • I love this!! 1. Your style is so chic and classic and 2. thanks for sharing how lovely it can be to take a break and just living in your house, after 2 years of a break I’m working on a living room and back yard update and loving it! Thanks for sharing, I love the D*S essays!

  • I love this. I recently bought a new house, and I’ve been doing a lot of Pinterest perusing for design inspiration. I’m trying to not rush things, but it’s hard when I’m walking through empty rooms wondering when the house is going to feel like home. (Also, ahem, budget constraints – after down payment, closing costs and unexpected repairs, I’m a little light on cash).

  • This is so resonant and so timely for me.

    I got myself tied up in emotional knots in the spring because I felt all of this pressure to furnish our backyard and plant every veggie and perennial known to humans. For weeks I drove everyone crazy agonising over outdoor throw pillows. And when the project was finally done, I enjoyed it so briefly before I moved on to obsessing about the mudroom.

    This weekend, as was driving my husband bananas driving all over town in search of THE PERFECT BASKETS for housing children’s mittens (you know, in the winter. Months from now.), he gently suggested that maybe we call it quits for the day and spend the afternoon enjoying the backyard that I had worked so hard on instead, and which I hadn’t really enjoyed in a month. So we did. We harvested tomatoes and peppers and squash, played in the sandbox, had coffee on the couch with the oh-so-precious throw pillows (lol). And the next day I thought about what the mudroom really needed right this moment, which was just a shoe rack/bench. So I assembled the simple Ikea unit we had bought (with the help of a deeply unhelpful 3 year old assistant), shoved our shoes in it, and shut the mudroom door. For now. One day soon I will revisit the mudroom question, but first I need a little distance, a little time consciously appreciating all the work we have done so far, and all the beautifully imperfect marks we have made on our house simply by living in it.

    Thanks for sharing Grace!

  • I just found myself doing the same thing, looking at my board of inspiration houses so we can find something better, or build something better. I pinned a lot of farm houses with warm wood, white walls, and a lot of windows, and then I realized that is exactly what I have now. I live in an old farm house, with red oak floors, white walls (or they could be painted) and tons of natural light from all the symmetrical windows. It turned out better is what I already have.

  • My “Nest Feathers” Pinterest board has evolved into a part scrapbook, part idea board too. Great article.

  • So glad to see you back to writing your always-thoughtful essays. Thank you for this one – a good reminder for all of us, including me, a 64-yr-old in a downsized apartment with my favorite furnishings that I’ll never change. I love my place, occasionally cull the little stuff, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying good articles on other’s design/home journeys.

    • Yes! To echo Ellen, hooray for your thoughtful essays. I love to hear what you are pondering.

  • AMEN Grace!!
    I know you are a convert but to be honest I still struggle with Pinterest… I am in the world of aesthetics yet I find Pinterest especially, causes the biggest increase in perfection paralysis to my friends, clients and community.

    It’s not the platforms fault of course but simply that there are SO many options it becomes overwhelming to the “average” person making design decisions. So many options we can’t seem to enjoy hosting a simple dinner party or decorating a entranceway any longer due to how it will compare against the Perfection of Pinterest. A great design or recipe idea is now not enough and so it either is pushed aside never to be realized, or is replace with a replica of someone else’s “better” version. Suddenly a platform meant to inspire has squashed the very creativity is was designed to bring out.

    I am glad you have seen past to the light on the other side of the board. I hope it encourages others to do the same. :)
    ~ Krayl
    p.s. -I love Kate’s story about the Perfect Basket and Perfect Throw pillow! and that the garden won in the end!! :)

    • I feel this way about fixer upper type shows! Every time I watch them I feel discontent and have the urge to remodel and update everything.

      I’m getting so over the design aesthetic obsession of our culture that I’m craving and seeking out cheesy and imperfection.

      These comments are all resonating as well as Graces’ beautifully articulated essay!

      • Kelly ~
        Ha! I can see that! For some reason they still inspire me. Maybe that is your design show “Cheesy and Imperfect”. Love it!! Keep the faith!
        Xo – krayl

  • This is so true! I use pinterest with a grain of salt, and understand that some (most) of it is only for daydreaming and not a standard I should strive for. It’s a catalogue of ideas and styles that has been useful in inspiring my tastes. When I find myself browsing pinterest a bit too much, I do something that brings me great pride and joy: I upload on my “dream home” folder a picture of my own home. Seeing it amidst pictures of interiors I admire always uplifts me and forces me to enjoy my home for what it is right now, and not what it will be tomorrow.

  • Grace, you said it so perfectly. There’s room to dream without being driven mad by it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of consciously nurturing a state of gratefulness in my life…grounding myself more in the present. We all need more of this today.

  • Your home is looking lovely! It takes time for a house to become a home. Waiting for the right inspiration is a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing your process,

  • Long before Pinterest, I kept a big file folder stuffed with clippings of decor ideas / objects from magazines.

    When I found / DIY’d / did something from the file, I would go back and note it. Exclamation points on anything that was a less expensive but just as good or even better alternative!

    And just like with your Pinterest boards, it was a great barometer to see how I had progressed in making the home I wanted.

    I’ve slowed down on decor in the last 10 years — somewhat because I already have most of what I needed or wanted decor-wise, somewhat because of budget. But a lot because of my physical challenges. Now it’s about things that make my life easier without looking ‘institutional.’ Which is why I love your attention to universal and accessible design, thank you!

    I feel lucky that I look around my home and am happy with the way it looks and makes me feel.

    Well, except for the one blank wall in the office… We all need something to strive for.

  • Back in high school, I created a collage from magazine cut outs of things I liked – most of which are material things, but also some images that personify what I would like my life to look like. I hung that collage in my room, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized that so much of what was on that collage came to life. I created a new one after I realized I’ve moved on from that first collage. I believe there’s power in visualizing what you want in life. It moves you unconsciously towards that direction in one way or another.

    • Patricia

      Yes! I’m such a huge fan of collages like that- I keep mine above my dresser and look at it every day until it starts to feel like it’s not inspiring me in the same way. Then I make a new one :)


  • Thank you for this post. I’m in the process of selling one home and will be building another from the ground up. It’s exciting and scary all at once. I have a Pinterest board for all the ideas I want to incorporate and not forget once we get into the thick of building and, then, decorating! It’s nice to see someone who’s made it through! Well done!