It doesn’t have to be perfect…

I’m re-reading the Nesting Place and I know, I know, everyone and their mom has heard about it and read it and implemented it but I’m just so stoked about how transformative it has been for my home decorating abilities. I would typically have modified that last sentence with some snarky little one off like “or lack thereof” but I’m newly convinced that I do, in fact, have some sort of authority in the style and decor world: namely, the mandate to deck my own halls however I see fit, using the resources and pieces I’ve been entrusted with.

I have a pretty distinctive style when it comes to home decor. I think it’s best encapsulated by the term “minimalist chic” or maybe “timeless, bare ass walls and floors.” The bottom line is this: I hate clutter, and if I haven’t used something in the last week or so (and if I haven’t seen you use it either, sweetheart) it’s going to Goodwill. I’ve also been known to donate items of children’s clothing simply because I’m tired of washing them. (When you outfit your young almost exclusively in thrift store couture, you can be ballsy like that. You’re welcome.)

Imagine my surprise then when I found myself re-reading the it homemaking book of the summer and finding the following advice resonating within my soul: don’t wait for the perfect house, don’t put off decorating because you’re renting, and don’t use something you hate simply because it’s on hand or “good enough.”

Guilty, guiltier, and guiltiest, as charged.

But then she goes on to talk about her favorite activity being furniture rearrangement and my heart skipped a beat because me too! Second to dropping bags of s at the curb, building new rooms out of old pieces in new places is my favorite!

So as I drifted off to sleep last night I envisioned multiple rearrangements of our sad, sterile living room where little to no living was ever done and whose beautiful bay window sat unloved and ignored day after day. No morning coffees were being enjoyed on our single common area new furniture purchase: our pretty leather (okay, bonded leather) couch. No sunlight was being soaked up through that pretty window. I decided that all had to change.

It’s a great window, amiright? And mama Mary deserves fresh flowers, even though a cat bit off her thumbs. 

So, when Evie bounced me out of bed this morning at 6:25 or so, (still riding the injury list in the breast-feeding department, fyi, but we’re soldiering on) instead of moaning and dreaming of more sleep, I flew into the front room to start my extreme home makeover. A few minutes of pushing and sliding and a shot or two of espresso later, bam, the transformation was complete. And finally, after a year of living in our current rental (and we’ve just signed on for another year) I have a living room that I actually want to do some living in. It still wants a piece or two of art for the walls, and I’m not in love with the very expensive but very not-my-style Oriental rug we received as a wedding gift, but considering this was accomplished for the very low price of zero dollars, I’m pretty satisfied with the outcome.

Mind you, I’m no photographer, iPhone enabled or not. I took not one single art/photo/crafting class in all my years of life. I mean I suppose there was mandatory art in elementary school, but I remember it not. Consider your eyeballs forewarned.

Family room/kiddie watching/reading/crafting area: airy and decluttered (and washed out. See above.)

Myquillen (no idea how that’s pronounced but I feel like it might rhyme with Nyquil?) talks about re-purposing assigned spaces that you don’t have a use for and lassoing it for space you do desperately need and I guess I’d already sort of intuited that because goodbye, formal dining room, hello mommy’s office:

Everything be thrifted, everything be fabulous. (Oh, except the rug. HomeGoods 4 life.)

I especially love this little wall. I feel like it’s the most (only?) pinterest-worthy space in my home and not that I give a particular damn about that (maybe a very tiny one), but it’s nice to feel like there’s at least one area you wouldn’t really change, even if you had the budget to do so:

Check those wedding photos from Lucy O Photography. See that cute little Jude Landry print in that thrifted frame? I love. Also, globes. Probably the reason my 3 year old reads atlases for fun is genetic in origin.

She also talks about how beauty is not useless, or something to that effect. So fresh flowers, why not? Why is it better to spend $4 on yet another sisyphean gallon of whole milk than to buy a bouquet of slightly past their prime carnations?

Look how nice that looks! And that’s on a dirty, hand me down kitchen table with a Bumbo in the background.

So at last we come to the piece de resistance, the formerly unliveable and unloveable living room. Let me scrounge around for a before (clearly not a home decor blogger; rookie mistake)

Sorry, I got nothing. So here’s the after, anyway. Just picture the before as bland, couch shoved against the wall immediately facing the front door, and seating for only 3 very cozy adults.

Blurry front view.
Natural view with toddler photo bomber.
From the side 
Looking from the front door. 

So is it perfect? I mean, is it ever? Obviously I’d add some gorgeous, $600 window treatments if I could, and I’d love to have some non-religous art on my walls so that our neighbors don’t think we’re even bigger weirdos than they suspect, but for now, this makes me 100% happier than the old setup ever did, and I achieved it with no money and no time spent in Target. That’s a big win in this mama’s book, both from a budgetary and spiritual perspective.

Spiritual, you ask? Yes, because you see, (or maybe you don’t, but I’m about to do a little confessing to you so pull on your stole) sometimes I shop out of a place of emptiness, and I don’t just mean the bare walls kind. I mean sometimes I really, truly believe that something I find at Target or TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack is going to make it all better. Is going to make me feel happy/fulfilled/peaceful. So imagine my surprise at how incredible it felt to buy nothing, to grasp for nothing, to simply make do with what was already on hand…and to have it turn out so utterly to my satisfaction.

I think that’s been my biggest takeaway from the Nesting Place: love where you are, and be grateful for what you have. And for the love of chevron and jute rugs, don’t consign yourself to living in a half-assembled dump just because you’re not commanding a Pottery Barn budget and dwelling in a 3,000 square foot palace. And if you are dwelling in a half-assembled dump? Or, say, a refuge camp? You can work with that, too.

Check this out:


There’s beauty everywhere.



    Moving around furniture has always been one of my favorite activities too. I’m sure my parents got tired of hearing me huff-and-puff my furniture all around my room when I was a kid. Once I even heaved an enormous metal desk up from the basement and waaaay into my room — all. by. my. self. (I’m obviously still proud of that accomplishment.)

    P.S. I love that you framed the Landry print from Edel. Mine’s in the baby’s room — unframed, so far.

  • Lauren T.

    I haven’t heard of that book but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. (Especially the part about target/tj maxx purchases) I want to enjoy our house while we live here and not just plan for the future house down the road. Your living room looks great!

  • Rachael

    Thank you so much for writing about this! I’m always hoping to read more about decorating a rental. We live in base housing so it’s just like that. It’s really nice, and has a ton of space, but I just don’t have the stuff to fill it up with. It still looks like we JUST moved in, so there’s no amount of rearranging furniture that’s going to take care of the bareness. I’ve already spread out what furniture and decor items I had and it’s all being stretched way too thin. And all the windows are bare and ugly! A couple of really expensive trips to Target and TJ Maxx could take care of all of this, but I try to be patient and watch Craigslist and the local yard sale type websites every day, hoping to find things I like that won’t break the bank. Maybe the book will help me? Oh and yes, I use a couple pieces of furniture that I HATE (baker’s rack in the kitchen, I’m looking at YOU) because my husband says it’s better than nothing. Sigh. I am so bad at decorating to begin with, and this house is my biggest challenge yet.

    You did a great job. I love the living room especially, rug and all.

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