Use Your Own Life to Add Life to Your Home

I've discovered that many people think that a well organized, beautifully furnished home means one that is almost catalog-spartan apart from a few carefully curated objets, a throw artfully arranged across the arm of a couch and a small stack of art books on the coffee table. In fact, a home that studied feels empty. The best homes are ones in which your life sparkles from every corner. Here are some ideas to get you going!

Hang up your work: Even if you're not an artist, those silly little drawings you doodle while you're thinking can be blown up and hung on the wall or framed and displayed on a bookshelf. Even the worst photographer among us has a few gems that can be cropped and tweaked to become something frameable. And if you have a lot of friends who are artists, why not celebrate your friendship by bringing a piece into your home? Of course if you are an artist, even if you just do it in your spare time, bring it out. I love charcoal figure studies; the black forms on the white page are graphic and stunning.

Don't forget about the kids in your life, even the kid in you. Check with your parents to see if they can find something you made when you were a kid. Actually, I'm a big advocate in general of hanging up kid's artwork. It's often unselfconsciously brilliant and uninhibited. Those wonky clay pieces you made in pottery class that your mom insisted on keeping? Thank her and line them up on the credenza in your home.

Travel much? A stack of suitcases, postcards, a cluster of shells are great reminders of your trip and let guests know a little something about you.

Display your instruments: Instead of squirreling away your instruments when not in use, use them to decorate your home. Arrange your drumsticks in a vase, hang your guitar on the wall, display your sax on the coffee table. If you only dabble, that easily accessible instrument means you'll use it more often. And, if your instrument is too precious to leave out, find a place of pride to hang it in its case.

Leave out the tools of your trade: A big jar of your paintbrushes on a coffee table, your many cameras displayed on a bookshelf, poster proofs, a stack of paint cans, a bowl filled with tubes of oil paints, a beautiful large wooden bowl filled with all the yarns you've bought, a stack of film canisters; bring it all out!

Kid's stuff can be cool: Okay, not all of it, but blocks, an intricate Lego sculpture, a line of birthday party hats or Halloween masks are some of the items to use that add a welcome note of whimsy to a basic home.

Show it off even when you're not wearing it: Those bright satin evening shoes you rarely wear can serve double duty displayed on your shelf (wipe off the soles after you wear them), necklaces hung over a doorknob, a stack of bracelets spilling over a credenza, pins lined up along the bottom edge of a plain white kitchen curtain, the dress you wore on your first date hung up or framed, are all ways to use your things to brighten up your home, remind you to wear them and store them in full view.

Image: Ann Manubay, Dabney Frake from Jenn's Eclectic Industrial Modern Italianate