The other day I shared the evolution of my home office, from dining room to traditional office to lounge office. That was the outer change. But there was an inner transformation that was less apparent. I've learned that most of us, including myself, are constrained by the way someone else figured out how our homes should work. If we're told that this room is the dining room, that's what we furnish it as, never mind that we always eat sitting on the couch. Giving up a dining room is more than just a matter of moving the furniture around. Subconsciously, you're also giving up the idea of what that dining room means. This is especially true if, like myself, you grew up in a home with a dining room where we sat down to dinner every night.
The evolution of my own dining room is testament to my own experience wrestling with those expectations. I moved from other people's expectations for my life and then a little closer to my own dreams and now, with this latest evolution, even closer to a space that aligns with my real life and how I do things, however quirky or odd it may seem to others.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine got divorced and moved into his own apartment. He owned nothing and was overwhelmed by all the stuff he was "supposed to buy". He phoned his parents in a panic. "All you really need right now," his mother suggested, "is a bed." He realized she was right. He spent a happy afternoon testing out mattresses, a kid in a candy shop, enjoying the new found freedom of buying a bed that was just right for him.
The reality is that the best homes -- the house tours we go back to again and again, the homes where people hang out, the homes you want to visit -- are the ones that feel lived in, that feel like they "work" for a real life, not a life in a magazine. Sure, there are some decorating rules that have evolved over time but, if you look at them closely you'll discover that they really have to do with how we live. Seating is a certain size because that feels most comfortable, coffee tables and end tables are a certain height for the same reason.
There are things that make sense once you've played around with rooms for a while -- standing lamps, though they make look low, are the perfect height when they illuminate a page you're reading but don't cast an unflattering glow on your face; no matter how big your couch is, no more than three people will ever feel comfortable sitting on it; rugs anchored by furniture legs are less likely to be tripped over -- that have to do with livability. But, like all rules, they can be broken. Don't be afraid to break the rules when it comes to decorating your home and don't be afraid to break them when it comes to your life.
(Image: Adrienne Breaux from Trent's Relaxing Beach-like Retreat)