I’ve been in reflective mode ever since we announced our final year in January. I’ve been looking back at the old Design*Sponge at Home book (It’s so fun! I had totally forgotten how much I loved that book) and old posts and even old comments from way back in the day. It’s been fun to think about how much the site has changed, how much we’ve all changed, and how much I’ve learned working and living online for the past 15 years. One particular lesson I’ve learned stood out today and I wanted to talk about it here. Maybe I’m the only one, but has anyone else ever found themselves making excuses for their home?
I’m not proud of it, but at times when I’ve had guests over (or especially if anyone has ever come to take a picture at home), I’ve found myself doing the, “Oh don’t look at this, we’re going to be changing this to…” type of talk when I’m worried someone else won’t think something is up to snuff. I’ve made excuses for everything from paint colors and half-finished wallpaper to empty walls and mismatched furniture. Some things were legitimately in transition, but most were exactly the way they still are (or were, in my old apartments) — by choice. So why did I do that?
I know part of my worry was related to feeling like I was the design blog version of “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” I rarely cared about my own home as much as I enjoyed helping other people with theirs and, as a result, my spaces have often been on the empty side, half-finished, or just kind of neutral. In the beginning I used to make excuses because I felt embarrassed of their “less than perfect” aesthetic, but over time I made excuses because I didn’t want to reveal something more telling: that I was actually 100% okay with these unfinished or empty-ish spaces because that actually felt good to me. Filling them with design-y things didn’t matter much to me anymore. I just wanted to live in a home that didn’t need to be anything other than a safe, warm space to be with my family. But what would that say about someone whose job was to talk about design and filling homes with design-y things all day?
The vast majority of people who’ve been to any of my old apartments or our home now were never judging or worrying about what an empty wall meant (don’t get me started on that one photoshoot for a book cover though…). But I pre-empted the possibility of judgement with a slew of stories about what things were going to look like one day. And I think in the process, I not only shaded my own spaces (all of which I’ve mostly loved), I also created a distance between myself and those people who probably would have been fine to know that, like most people, my home wasn’t “done” and I was totally okay with that.
My favorite home tours anywhere these days are those belonging to people in their later years of life. Homes that are the result of 40, 50, or 60+ years of collecting, editing, and decorating. You simply can’t recreate that type of character and individuality in a space as a younger person. It takes life and experience to make something that feels that real. So if there’s one message I want to send to anyone reading who is younger or working on their first space, it’s this:
Love your home for exactly what it is right now.
Be thankful for it. Love it. Celebrate all of its unfinished nooks and crannies and uneven bits. They don’t need to be excused. And when we’re honest about those spaces and love them in all their imperfectness, we help other people feel comfortable to do the same. And isn’t that what we all want for each other — to feel comfortable in our homes?
Do you have any home habits from younger years you want to leave in the past? I’d love to know what things about home, decorating, or design you’ve come to better understand over the years, too. xo, Grace