I Threw Out Everything I Thought I Knew About Design and Learned to Trust My Own Taste

published Oct 30, 2016
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(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)

When I could not find jewelry I wanted to wear, I started a company called Naughty Secretary Club and made my own. When the art I envisioned hanging on my walls was not available to purchase anywhere, I picked up a paint brush and got busy creating. I may not be crafty enough to build furniture or sew a pillow, but I know just where to go home decor hunting: I have to get dirt under my nails at a flea market, spend time sifting through the thrift store bins and cruise Craigslist religiously. How do I know what I’m looking for on those searches? I go with my gut and when something calls my name from across the junk pile, I listen to no one else but myself.

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(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)
(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)

A well-curated home is not born overnight; it takes years of treasure hunting and gut trusting. It takes not caring what other people think is on trend but creating the trends (even if they’re just for yourself). I choose items in my home based on what makes me happy. Whack-a-doodle art, clown string art, hot air balloon chairs—if everything in your home is something you chose with your heart, it will all come together and look harmonious in the end.

I personally have a propensity towards kitsch. This may be some sort of subliminal backlash from the pristine Victorian home in which I grew up. However, I have that same home (and amazing mother that decorated it) to thank for my love of flea market decor. I learned early to spot a piece of majolica painted pottery in a cow pasture and ask someone for their best price. This influence has served me well as an adult in my own decorating. Though my childhood home is full of crystal chandeliers, there is also plenty of whimsy that reminded me not to take interior design too seriously.

(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)
(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)

I see a match made in heaven in two paired items that others think would clash. Believe me, it took me a while to embrace the fact that it was okay to put my chrome Thayer Coggin chairs in the same room as my ’50s bar and racy half-dressed lady prints; it’s fine to have all that across from kilims and French provincial rugs—all of this in a house built in the ’80s. It’s passable because I say so, and because I love it. When I let unwritten interior design rules go and decided to trust my own instincts, it all started to come together.

(Image credit: Jennifer Perkins)

My taste is not for everyone and I’m okay with that. You don’t live here, I do. That is the most important thing to remember. You will be living with the things you buy at the flea market (or vintage shop, or big box store), no one else. You will be the one surrounded by these things for as long as you let them, not the designers featured in some magazine or the pinners on Pinterest. Let your design freak flag wave proud, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

See Jennifer’s house all decked out for Halloween in her signature anything-goes style:

Re-edited from a post that originally appeared 10.20.16 — AH