7 Ways to Make Your House into a Home
by Dena Dyer
Over the 22 years we’ve been married, my husband and I have lived in eight different houses. Our dwellings have ranged from a 370-square foot newlywed apartment to a 2,000-square foot rental home, and everything in between. Some homes were newer, and others . . . well, let’s just say they were “well broken-in.” Each of them gave me the chance to experiment with décor, furniture and memorabilia.
Wherever we’ve lived, I’ve tried to make it a hospitable place for our family of four (we added two boys—and a dog—to the mix over the years), relatives and friends. Through the years, I’ve learned a few simple and economical ways to make a house into a home.
Collect items over time. Ideally, a dwelling space should feel warm and welcoming, not sterile or cold. Think about what makes you feel good, not just what’s trendy or in-style. Gone are the days when matching furniture sets were the rage. Instead, professional decorators say a curated or collected look is the most inviting. I love to shop resale, overstock and thrift stores in my area. I don’t always score a deal, but at different times, I’ve found beautiful rugs, plates, vases, tables and wall hangings—all at “what a steal!” prices
Play with textures. Layering different textures in your house will make it feel more home-y. Try adding silk or real plants to your rooms (you can buy a spray for silk plants that will keep them from collecting too much dust) and drape soft throws over your living room furniture. Use baskets to corral afghans, pillows, magazines or remote controls. You can also hang baskets on the wall. Stack books on side tables, put seashells in vases or place candles of varied sizes and shapes in your fireplace.
Keep it personal. Each year, pick out a few of your favorite snapshots—of pets, family members, vacation highlights—and download them from your phone or computer. Then, use photo services such as Shutterfly or Snapfish to create one-of-a-kind, meaningful décor items. You can create personalized blankets, canvases, plaques, coasters, prints—and much more. These photo gift sites frequently send out promo codes offering deep discounts, so if you don’t mind sharing your email with them and waiting a bit to order photo gifts, you can snag deeply-discounted bargains. Other ways to use photos: in matching frames for a gallery wall, on tabletops, in bookshelves and in a slideshow on your television or computer monitor.
Use color to brighten your space. Some people are afraid of color. However, paint is cheap, and a color you grow tired of can always be painted over. In the houses we’ve bought or rented, my husband and I have had blue, green, red, tan, brown and even yellow walls. Don’t want to paint? Buy colorful furniture, art, curtains or rugs. Also, wallpaper is making a big comeback, with many fun and dramatic patterns to choose from. I’d recommend you start small—paper a guest bath or a closet—and see how you like the pattern, just in case you have decorator’s remorse.
Don’t forget to layer scents. Realtors often tell their clients to bake cookies before the sellers open their home to potential buyers. Comforting smells—whether they come from candles, baked goods, diffusers or scented plug-ins—affect us on an emotional level and can bring a sense of calm and nostalgia.
Say “yes” to family heirlooms and hand-me-downs. If you’re offered furniture from a family member, think twice before turning it down. After all, almost anything can be stripped, stained, papered or painted. Tables can be used in a variety of ways, and extra chairs are handy to have when guests visit. (And there’s no better price than free!)
Be yourself. Because we’ve moved often, I’ve learned to decorate through trial-and-error in several different houses. Consequently, I’ve landed on a simple, eclectic style which fits our family. Because my husband likes more minimal décor, I limit the number of items I display, and since we’re raising two sons, our furniture is both durable and low-maintenance. However, that doesn’t mean our home is boring. To the contrary, it’s full of meaningful items which make me smile.
Right now, I’m composing this article on my laptop in the family room, and as I glance around, I am reminded of the people I love and the places we’ve been together. I can see my grandparents’ kitchen table and chairs, a wreath made by my cousin, a pillow my sister in-law picked out for me and framed family pictures. It’s not perfectly tidy or even perfectly clean—but it’s ours, and I’m grateful.
With patience and perseverance, you can have a home that welcomes everyone who enters your door . . . and is truly, uniquely yours.
Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, writing coach and speaker who enjoys coffee, dark chocolate and all things literary. She’s been married to a hilarious, talented guy for 20 wonderful years—and two they don’t talk about. Carey and Dena have two creative sons and live in Texas. Her hobbies include traveling, cooking and watching British television. She’s written hundreds of articles and nine books, including one with Carey—Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour).
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