Our colleague Samara has a secret. It’s somewhat embarrassing because it exposes her truly obsessive nature, but in the interest of public education, she’ll share it with you.
When she bought her first couch for her first home—a real one, not hand-me-down or something picked up off the side of the road to furnish a share house—she took two full weeks to come to a decision. She sat on over 200 couches, and every one made it into a spreadsheet. They were ranked and scored against three different criteria. A shortlist was collated. Those couches were revisited. Pro/con lists were drawn up.
It was a very detailed and stress-filled affair.
And it shouldn’t have been. Four years later that couch has scratches where a naughty kitten got its claws out; the leather has rarely been polished, and it’s more often than not mostly hidden underneath blankets, cushions and the dog.
Something as big as buying a new couch can be paralysing. There’s the feeling that you have to get it right.
We spoke to Kier Gregg from Dept. of Design about what holds people back from diving into interior styling.
In your experience, what stops people from having a go at truly trying to style their homes?
I think there are a couple of things. One is the fear factor of getting it wrong and the fact that larger items can be relatively expensive decisions to make. No one wants to make an expensive mistake.
I think the Internet has made it easier and harder to begin styling at the same time. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are great sources of knowledge and inspiration, but at the same time they set this expectation that everything should be perfect straight away; that you need to achieve a look straight up.
If you go back even a few decades, people created their homes using secondhand furniture. They would slowly build their collection of art and furniture. That’s not the way it works anymore.
If a new home owner is a little hesitant to get started, what would be your advice to them?
Home styling should be a fun process. And if you take some steps to relieve some of the pressure, you’ll get to that point. The first thing you should do is create a scrapbook. There are so many styles out there that it can get really confusing if you go shopping without a good idea of what you’re after.
Instagram and Pinterest are great ways to do this. They help you identify what style you’re naturally attracted to, and give you plenty of ideas. That way, when you’re out and about, you’ve got something to go off. You can look for the individual pieces you need that fit your mood board, as it were.
Places like Ikea make it feel you can do it all in a day and completely put together your home in one outing, but I find it becomes fairly two dimensional; everything becomes matchy-matchy and it looks like it’s off the shelf.
Taking your time, building layers, shopping at a multitude of places, gives you a more homely feel, because everything has more character.
What pieces are worth investing in, and what should be done on the cheap?
It depends a lot on what stage in life you’re at. If you’re a young family, you’ve got to be prepared for vegemite stains on the sofa, but as a whole, a good couch is definitely worth the investment. It’s used every day and makes a big difference to the look of your room. It’s one of the things that if you don’t invest good money, it ages quickly. A cheaper option to start with will need to be replaced much sooner.
The dining table is worth investing in (not so much chairs), and a good bed. It’s so important to get the right mattress. You need to get a good night’s sleep.
If someone knows they like to chop and change their look, what recommendations do you have for them in terms of choices for expensive/permanent pieces?
Opt for neutrals with big ticket items, and make the decorative elements around it interchangeable. Cushions, artwork, lamps are relatively inexpensive to change seasonally or when the mood takes you. But a bright or statement couch is harder to change the look of than something in a cream or grey.
How have societal attitudes towards home styling changed in the past few years?
There have been big changes, mainly brought upon by shows like The Block and the introduction of social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. But also it’s far more accessible in terms of cost. Places like Kmart and Ikea make designer-like items affordable.
I think it’s also a generational thing though. These days, people want their homes to look perfect straightaway, where previously it would take a lifetime to get the perfect space. You would collect art over decades, not in a summer.
I still have hand-me-down furniture that I’m quite attached to. I have an eclectic taste in design rather than modern one, so older pieces suit me.
From my point-of-view it’s about making sure the space has character, and that it brings warmth. It shouldn’t be so stylised that you don’t feel like you can interact and relax in the space.
Who are your go-to designers/stores for styling on a budget?
Kmart and Target have both bought some amazing homeware product out recently. And the introduction of Ikea to Canberra gives people another good option for certain items. At Dept. of Design we do quite a bit of shopping at the Canberra Outlet Centre. The shops there often have great deals. I really recommend not doing it all online. Yes, you have so much more variety and sometimes you’ll get stuff online that you won’t get anywhere else, but there’s something to be said for holding an item, getting a feel for it, before taking it home.
Our go-to designers are not really for budget buys, but we really recommend following Nim Design, Flax Studio and Fiona Lynch on Instagram. Even if you can’t afford their things, they’re great sources of inspiration, and you can study their aesthetic before looking for cost-effective options.
Here at Perspective, we’ve written about starting an art collection, plenty of our styling blog posts are Pinterest-inspired, and each morning we look forward to the plethora of design blog emails in our inboxes.
The Temple and Webster blog is one of our favs, and also a great place to go to buy pieces, as they have a fantastic range from budget to luxe. And though we’ve yet to try it, they offer an 10-hour online interior styling course, so if our heartfelt encouragement to ‘just do it’ hasn’t given you the confidence to go online to order that very first thing, then their Style School is designed to help you gain the confidence you need to create a stylish living space that’s a true reflection of your personality.
So there you have it. A solid argument for just biting the bullet and buying your first piece. No ridiculous spreadsheets needed. Last week Kmart dropped its new catalogue. We picked up this velvet cushion for $8. Will it still be on our chair in 12 months? Maybe. Or maybe we’ll have decided we want pastel tones rather than jewel colours. But that’s okay. Tastes change. What’s important is the space you create for yourself.