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From Start To Furnish

Please enjoy my musings on all things interior design!

59 Design Lessons For A More Beautiful Home & Life

Dear reader, can I just take a moment to say Happy Birthday to ME?!

I'm turning 59 years of age this month!  Yes, it may be hard to believe, but my 60th birthday is on the foreseeable horizon.  I'm not sad or afraid of being a sexagenarian.  It just makes one ponder. 

I've learned a lot in my 59 years on this earth, and I know I have much more to learn before it's all over.  

Another thing that I know is life is like design. 

Not every part of design is as cut and dried as "53 inches is average eye level".  So here's 59 life lessons (one for every year of my life) that also apply to design.

1.  Life Is NOW

We've only got one shot at this thing called life.  So I believe in living it and doing it now.  If you've always wanted a pink kitchen, don't wait... do it!  Don't wait until you're 90 and thinking "I wish I'd done that black bedroom or built my dream home or..."  You get the idea...if it's in your wheelhouse, then do it!

2.  Passion Upgrades Life

Do what you are passionate about.  If you are passionate about the best life for your family, then create the environment that makes that happen! 

3.  Risk Expands Your Life

The journey of any adventure or project begins with the small step of taking a chance.  Don't be afraid to do what scares you.  If your design decision seems risky, the end result is going to be something that reflects your uniqueness.

4.  Change Is Good

Early in my career, I was quick to put certain types clients into certain boxes.  I would tell you that older clients were usually afraid of change.  It can be true.  But I would advise clients of any age to embrace change.  Be spontaneous and adventurous and fearless.

5.  Perfection Is Boring

Truth!  Who wants to live in a sterile box?  You're afraid of getting something dirty or putting something in the wrong place.  BORING.  Do what makes you happy, whether it's someone else's idea of perfection or not.  Put one thing in the room that seems like it "doesn't go".  These are the things of a great room - something that starts conversation!

6.  Simple Is Better

I do believe in simplicity.  It makes life more relaxed.  

7.  What's Sentimental Is Not a "Thing"

This one came from my very wise father.  He always said he was not sentimental about "things".  He cared much more for people.  Although my father and I owned a handful of things that were sentimental to him and to me, memories are more sentimental.

8.  “The only real valuable thing is intuition. Albert Einstein

Follow your intuition.  If you have a strong "gut feeling" that something is right... trust that feeling.  

9.  Trust Is A Virtue

In my 30-plus years in this business, I've built a reputation of trust.  I want to know that my clients trust that my decisions are what is right for their vision and their project.

10.  Relationships Matter

Your relationships with your family and friends and colleagues are treasures that cannot be matched by anything else.  They make life worth living and work less challenging.

11.  Everyone Worships Something

Try as you might to deny this fact, it's true.  As a Christian, I worship God.  And I believe that God has given me all of my blessings!  Others worship money or people or something else.  But everyone worships something that dictates the direction of all of our lives.  And that, no doubt, determines what is important in each individual's home.

12.  Fear Cripples

Never let fear of anything hold you back.  Don't be afraid that changing your formal living room into a master bedroom is the right decision.  Don't be afraid to build your dream home. It's ok to feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY.

13.  Shortcuts make long delaysJ.R.R. Tolkien

Never take shortcuts.  Anything done right is worth thinking it through to all of the details.  If you decide to do it quicker or cheaper, you're not going to be happy in the long run.

14.  Honesty Is Always the Best Policy

I want my clients to believe every word that I say as much as I want the people that I deal with to return the same favor to me.

15.  Prepare For The Worst, Expect The Best

A wee bit of wisdom from my hubby.  Something he said to me long ago and at first I took as maybe a bit pessimistic.  But it's true.  If you are prepared for the worst outcome, the delights that will surely come will be even sweeter.

16.  Your Actions Affect Those You Love The Most

And really that's all that matters.  Whatever you decide to do with your own home matters not to anyone else except the ones you love...your family and friends.

17.  Rules Are Made To Be Broken

Definitely true!  Who says you can't paint the ceiling black or add in an antique into a completely modern room?  Broken rules make for interesting spaces.

18.  Stop Complaining, Start Doing

Harsh reality.  Don't complain that your kitchen isn't as nice as your neighbors or your bedroom isn't as relaxing as the Four Seasons.  If you know what it's lacking... make it happen!

19.  Listen - or Silence Is Golden

That's just me.  I'm a listener.  Something else I got from my beloved Daddy, I guess.  Some people call it shy or quiet, I call it "I'm listening to what you want so that I can better make that happen for you".

20.  Live A Balanced Life

Fancy parties and cruises to exotic ports of call are fun, but a luxurious (meaning comfortable) home to return to is just as important.

21.  Tastes Change

And that's ok.  Reference #4 above.  Life experiences expand your horizons.  That makes your life and your home fun.

22.  Never Lose Yourself While Trying To Please


Don't worry about keeping up with the proverbial "Jones'".  If whatever is today's trend doesn't make your heart sing, then by all means don't do it.

23.  Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously

It'll make you miserable if you do. Period. 

24.  Yield Sometimes

Other people live in your home.  Be flexible.

25.  You Don't Always Get What You Want

It may not be affordable or practical.  If not, move on.

26.  There's Beauty In Failure

Maybe it didn't turn out EXACTLY as planned.  And hey, it's just paint or a pillow.  Nothing can't be undone.  And maybe, just maybe it turned out better!

27.  There Is No Shame In Not Knowing

Don't I know that!  I know how I want to dress a window.  I know if it needs to achieve privacy or light control or if it needs to be minimal, but please don't ask me to make it.  That's why God made my experienced seamstress, Janet Paneitz.

I know wallpaper will make the room, but I'm not going to hang it.  That's where Steve Thornburgh (who's hung thousands of rolls of paper) comes in.

And God also blessed me with Gary Stripling to build the vision, Juan Pineda to paint the vision, Sawyer Smith to light the get the idea. 

There's nothing wrong with not knowing how to make your vision a reality - sometimes, a vision takes an army.

28.  Know Your Limits

See #27.  I know what I want to do in the room but I always need help in the execution.

29.  Rest

Everyone is in such a hurry these days!  Take time to rest and create the perfect space in which to do it.

30.  Travel

We learn so much when we get out of our routines and comfort zones. Try to head out there and expand your horizons - literally - more often.

31.  Love

Obviously the MOST important!  Love your families and friends and fur-babies in the home that you love created just for them and you.

32.  Give

Nothing gives me more joy than to give from the heart.  To give of my talents.  To give what is needed. After all, it's in giving of ourselves that we receive. 

33.  The School of Hard Knocks Is Just As Important As The Building

My wise Mamaw said, "there is book-sense and there is horse-sense".  There is no way they could have taught me in school all of the valuable lessons that I have learned from experience.

34.  Cooperation and Collaboration Are Much More Productive Than Competition

I believe great things come when we work together with others.

35.  Show Gratitude

There are so many people (too many to number) that I am grateful to in my life and parents, my husband, teachers, co-workers... I try to share my gratitude often. 

36.  Contribute SOMETHING

My wise Daddy (once again) said "be useful as well as ornamental".  He instilled a work ethic in me.  I can't imagine a selfish life...a life that didn't include contribution.

37.  Live By Example

Want to inspire others? Forget buying fancy shoes or the latest model of Mercedes. Instead, impress them by living a good example. 

38.  The Journey Can Be As Fulfilling As The Destination

The process can be as fun and adventurous as the outcome.

39.  Burn The Candles, Use Your Nice Linens - Live For Today

I'm not very interested in things that are just on a shelf or in a drawer, just to look at or bring out twice a year.  We use real napkins daily.  We drink out of our crystal.  Why have things if you're not going to use them?

40.  Life Is Short

Back to #1.  If you want it, do it.

41.  Learn Something New Every Day

Here comes my Daddy again... he said to learn something new every day.  And I do.  Even at 59.  Every night I thank my Maker for life's lessons.

42.  Don't Let Possessions Own You

Don't be hung up on what it is or who else has it.  If you love it, that's all that matters. If you don't love it, don't worry about it.

43.  Trends Are For Sheep

Don't be a sheep.  If you don't love the trend, forget it.  And don't worry about what colors or anything else is popular now.  Choose what makes you happy.  

What's cool now will be frozen before you know it.

44.  Good Things Are Worth The Wait

Absolutely true!  If your budget doesn't quite allow for that Baker sofa yet, sit on some bean bag chairs for a couple of months.  The wait will be worth it!  

45.  Money is not the root of all evil - fear is.

Never let fear hold you back.

There are some places to save and some places where you just have to splurge because you're going to be happy with it a lot longer.

46.  Live With Kindness

I believe in the Golden Rule.  Live with kindness - it makes life more productive as well as less stressful.

47.  No Technology Replaces Love 

Who would have ever dreamed of the technology that we enjoy today!?  But it will never replace love.  (I should read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World again.)  No matter what man creates, it cannot replace human relationships.

48.  The Message Of A Single Teacher Can Be More Powerful Than The Rule Of A Great Empire

I did have great teachers and I will never forget the lessons.

49.  Suffering Builds Character

From one of those aforementioned great teachers.  That final exam or deadline or whatever the stressful situation was... just built a better me (hopefully).

50.  Move On - Vengeance Accomplishes Nothing

I've had people hurt me in my life.  Who hasn't?  But you know what I've found?  You have to let that stuff go... from your heart and your home.

51.  God Is In The Detail

The details of the project cannot be overlooked.  Don't get too busy with the big stuff to forget the finishing touches.

52.  Don't Be Too Serious

Learn to laugh it off.  Ok, that shade of yellow looks like the surface of the sun!  Not what we were after.  It's a couple of gallons of paint.  Laugh it off... and move on.

53.  Done Beats Perfect

Sometimes you just have to get a project done.  Don't get too mired in a sticky decision to let it hold up everything else.  Just paint the room white for now and we'll figure this space out later on after you've lived with it awhile.  Metaphorically speaking, but you know what I mean.

54.  Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. - Leonardo Da Vinci

If you can't learn from a Renaissance man, who can you learn from, then? (Also, I think this is much better than our modern interpretations like K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple, silly.)

55.  Don't Overthink It.

If you like it. 

If it keeps calling to you. 

If you keep going back to it! 

In spite of what anyone else thinks.  If you love it that much, chances are, it'll be perfect!

56.  Form Follows Function - Louis Sullivan

A quote we learned in design school from the famous architect.  I don't want to sit in an uncomfortable chair, do you?

57.  Luxury must be comfortable otherwise it is not luxury. - Coco Chanel

Oh so true, and anyone who's purchased a pair of beautiful but tortuous shoes knows it. 

58.  Less Is More - Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

Back to simplicity again.  This one can't be overstated.  

59.  Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. - William Morris

Words I've always remembered.  I don't want anything in my house or my clients that we don't believe is beautiful or useful.  Otherwise, get rid of it.

That wraps up my lessons from design and life. Who knows what lessons this next year will bring? I'm not sure, but I do know I'm looking forward to learning them (and sharing them with you, of course!)

Stay with me to hear more design lessons.