Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Case Study - A Regular House

Most people do not decorate with the motive to be magazine worthy, or create some kind of imaginary lifestyle, or to show their handiwork on their blog. Most people shop at big box stores, on big box store budgets, not on "tastemaker" sites like OKL, Joss, etc. Most people live in suburban sprawls with houses that look the same in subdivisions and gated communities. And fewer people than you think actually read shelter magazines, and even know what a blog is. Maybe they watch HGTV, but even that is a long shot.

My sister's house is a one level suburban bungalow with a split floor plan. The living room, dining room-kitchen, and family room are open to each other. The master bedroom is split from the other two bedrooms. There are two bathrooms, and  yard and patio, and a garage. The house has tone of storage space. I like the way she angled the furniture in the living room that echoes the angle of the wall.

Yet, even comfortable and attractive homes are out there, even if they are not trendy, stylish, and designer. I am staying in one such home, the home of my sister.

This is the entry hall with a little bench that belonged to our mother. The pony wall backs up to the couches in the living room, so the large plant softens the exposure of the room when the front door is opened, acting as a privacy screen.

We both had the same mother, who influenced us in similar ways. Our mother loved to make our home look cute, rearrange the furniture, and collect knick-knacks. She taught us to be excellent housekeepers, from shopping wisely to cleaning and cooking. She taught us that even if we were on a budget and had to make-do, things could still be (and should be) cute.

The living room looking toward the front door. See how great the angled furniture works. The "curio" cabinet was our mother's and my sister treasures it and its contents which also belonged to our mother. I love the whimsy of the giant cat sculpture. The toss pillows are nice colors, and the area rug breaks up the sea of wall-to-wall carpet. I love that my sister is comfortable not matching all the furniture, and how she groups her pictures on the walls.

So I present these images with an analysis of all the good design principles that my sister uses. She is instinctive, not trained. She lives in a rental. She is working class and does not have much money.

The "curio" cabinet and that fab cat

This is the guest room. comfortable and coordinated. Most people do have matching bedroom furniture sets.

This is my sister's granddaughter's bedroom. She loves pink like most little girls do, and this room works on every level. Furniture placement is spot-on, and the accessories are wonderful. This is a real kids room with posters on the wall and a stuffed animal collection.

I love being in her home. It is visually pleasing and comfortable and so well taken care of. There is a melange of furnishings that she has acquired over the years, some of my mother's things, some pass-along pieces, and the bulk purchased at big box discount stores.

This is the dining area. These pub style counter height tables are very popular. My sister added the chandelier to this rental house.

This is the kitchen. Note the cow head with horns. My sister has had this for 20 years, and another family member hand painted sunflowers on it. My sister has a thing for sunflowers and collects decorative objects with them on it.

How many houses have walls and cabinet situations like this, begging for things to be placed on them. I love how my sister styled all of this. It's cozy and softens the odd small walls that builders love to use in houses like these.

My sister's plate collection is perfectly hung in the dining area. I love how she went over the window.  I apologize for all my less than perfect photos. But I am sure you can appreciate the composition of how the plates are hung.

This little moment in the corner of the dining room is so sweet and interesting. The antique chair was our mother's. The large vase with branches adds a great layer in front of the plate collection. My sister is very good at layering.

Snobs might turn their noses up at a decor like this, but I really think my sister decorates better than most with what she has and in her wheelhouse. She has an eye for color and proportion, and layering and furniture placement. Her collections are unique to her. Magazine worthy? Maybe not. But eminently livable and pretty,

This is the family room at the back of the house. The sectional is great (it came from Big Lots), and there's a tray on the ottoman used as a coffee table, a trend seen in magazines. I love the round paper lantern, it's very Noguchi. Budget does not allow for better window treatments, so my sister keeps it clean and simple.

My sister is great with color. This rug and the pillows on the couch in the family room are great little accents. And yes, there is a leather recliner in the family room. It is a teal green/blue leather, not a usual color choice, again a nod to my sister for taking a risk. and mixing and  matching all the furniture.

This is such a trend - the gallery wall surrounding the big flat screen TV - My sister did a great job.


So I salute all you homeowners out there who never picked up Domino magazine, or read Lonny online, or read my blog (or any other design blog). I salute your natural instincts, and your down-to-earth reality. There is not a thing I would change about you.

Please add my NEW address to your blog list:
And please become a Follower again (or for the first time)


  1. ...i love your sister's home...and i love that her sister loves her home...and i love that you love one another...most of all...i love how you speak of your mother...she would be proud of her daughters...i also pray that you are safe...blessings laney

  2. I was interested to see the "pub style" height dining table here. Chris (my husband) has as his next project a dining table of this height. He has tried to talk his client out of this idea, thinking that it's just trendy and they will tire of it. I'm wondering too. This table will be expandable, with an extra leaf and has a foot rest that will need to expand also. I'll be writing the story of this design and fabrication on my blog. It will be an interesting project!
    Best regards.

  3. i love the sentiment here. We should be proud of our homes and not feel jealousy every time we look at Lonny or Elle Decor.

  4. This was a fun post. Your sister's house is neat and tidy and so very livable. It has her personality stamped on it everywhere, and that's no small feat considering it's a rental. Great job, both of you!

  5. Looks like a good place to "be", very sweet and comfortable and decorated quite well, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing part of your life!

  6. Thank you for celebrating a home. It looks like a fun place to hang out!
    There has to be a mix in the world of beauty, right?


  7. I love how you always share such real life. It looks like a welcoming house with open arms.
    I love real homes. Pretty is nice, but real seems more inviting.

  8. It's so nice to see a post like this about real every day people who love and appreciate their home. You are lucky to have a sister and a friend to share your love of home and family. Really sweet post!

  9. Hi Everyone,
    Thank you so much for all the great comments. I am so happy you enjoyed this post and my sister's home. I love how you always "keep it real".
    xo xo

  10. Thanks so much for this post for all of us "regular" people out there! Also, I'm just so glad to hear you are safe and out of harms way!

  11. I am safe and so is Alberto who stayed home and hunkered down through the storm. New Orleans did a fabulous job - the levees held, the pumps worked, there's law and order, and the crews are out cleaning up and getting the power back on, and everyone who stayed acted with intelligence and kindness.
    Our hearts go out to those outside of New Orleans who are having a much rougher time of it.

    My sister is going through a tough time, that's why I am here with her. All the wonderful comments, including yours, mean a lot to her and to me. Thanks so much!

    xo xo

  12. Great post! Thanks for reminding us what's important, that the most important decorating element in any home is love.

  13. There are many houses in the world, but few that can be called a home. Your sister's house is a home. Thank you for sharing with us all. I hope brighter days ahead for your sister. With love.

  14. The "Family" photo montage says it all.

  15. You are very lucky to have a sister and she you. I love how you care about her so much.

  16. So true. I thought about you during the storm. You are my only New Orleans connection, so you and Alberto were on my mind.

  17. I admire your response to your sister's home. Though not precisely your style, you clearly appreciate her instinctive gift for decorating, as well as the value she places on comfort and livability. These can be missing from many lovely homes and if they are--what's the point of being there?

    Frankly, most homes decorated on a budget are going to have some mixture of heirloom, big box, and items collected over the years that can't just be thrown out because trends change. I have an older friend who once told me "buy what you love and somehow it will all go together". That has actually proven to be great advice!

  18. I was thinking about you during the storm. Isn't it amazing how there are people you're not even aware of that send up prayers? What a refreshing post. For years my friend called her decor...well, if you don't want it I'll take it. Her style was so unique. It was like going to a very eccentric aunts home and feeling like you were in a peculiar museum for lots of color and discarded things. My kids loved going there when they were young. After years of being single she remarried. This time around the other half only believes in designer decor. I sure do miss the quirky warm home. It takes a strong person to do they're on thing. I LIKE IT!

  19. Thank you for this lovely/loving post, Valorie.

    All the best to you and your sister!

  20. Your sister has accomplished something very special, a home both welcoming and personal. A guest room is just right for a matching furniture set because it's calming and reassuring, which you want when you're traveling. And she's done three things I thought were impossible: using antiques in a contemporary house so that they look natural there; making an '80s light-oak kitchen look personal and like it would be a fun place to cook; and making a home cozy and inviting without draperies. I'm one that hates draperies and anyway I have to cope with family allergies, so I thought I'd always have to have a hard-edged minimalist look, but your sister has proved you don't have to settle. Please thank her for all the inspiration, and I hope times improve for your family.

  21. I love the plate collection on the wall...such a fun way to add texture and dimension to the space. It also gives us a glimpse of her personality. Great project!

    Love, Jamie Herzlinger

  22. love the space your sister created.. the plates are great and the kitchen looks full of love !

    xo to you my friend


  23. Your comments are so true. It takes a thoughtful person to recognize that "design" is not a priority for everyone, nor should it be. Spending money on experiences rather than "stuff" is so much more rewarding after all is said and done. (And a good photo really is what a good stylist does! Your photo of the dining area with the plates on the wall is very cute!).

  24. I love that you did this. I just love it. I truly enjoy your blog and your style. I am someone who follows blogs and magazines and loves to look at fabrics and chandeliers and furniture and rugs and lamps I absolutely cannot afford. I live in a cookie cutter townhouse that we have made our own. The idea of moving on to better is far in the future. I will say that your sister's house looks comfortable and clean and like a wonderful place to stay. I love that you appreciate it and it's obvious she has put care and thought into it. How cozy!

  25. Hi there! Just came across your blog, must tell you've got super collection of some creative stuffs. I like the collection of plates very much. Love the post!


Pin It button on image hover