Five Decorating Tricks for Dummies (Like Me)

Whenever I write about some area in which I'm clearly no expert, I think of Mike Greenberg (Greeny of ESPN's Mike and Mike) and his Twitter bio: "The world's foremost authority on all matters." Ha! Cleary he's joking (I think) and so am I... there's no question that practically any other lifestyle blog is going to have better information about decorating your house. HOWEVER, I always like to write the type of posts that I would enjoy reading, so that's what I'm doing. In the past year as I've decorated our house (and am now in the process of re-decorating a few spaces), I have picked up a few tips that I wish I had had at the beginning of this whole process. Given my benevolent nature, I decided to share them here. =)

Best decorating tip: have a cute baby and everything in your house will look adorable. =)

1. Shop your house. Before you head out to spend a fafillion dollars at Hobby Lobby (and if you do, no judgment here), look around (look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. Sorry, Broadway break) at what you already have. Obviously if you're starting from scratch, this won't work, but if I'm looking to refresh a side table or shelf setup, I find it best to look at my own stuff (including unexpected areas. I'm not too proud to steal stuff from Alice's room... there's currently a super adorable plush Bambi on one of my shelves. It won't stay there forever but I kinda love it.) And this kinda goes without saying but having a general color scheme throughout the house (rather than very divided themes from room to room) means that you can really move things around easily without trying to merge a nautical room with, say, a hunting theme. (What?! I don't know your life!) For me right now, that means anything with white, gold, gray, light pink, or turquoise is going to match nearly every room in my house. Good to know when I'm shopping and good when I'm shopping from room to room and moving things back and forth.

One of the million M's in my house. =)

2. Find bang for your buck/use things in unexpected ways. This could take on many forms... a pretty yet functional basket (I'm a huge fan of baskets or anything that hides stuff, really), a big mason jar that can be used as a vase or to hold holiday decor (I have one I fill with acorns and pinecones in the fall and ornaments at Christmas and it's currently holding some tulips), or something totally different. For example, last year I found a set of prints (the kind you usually find on Pinterest) at Hobby Lobby. It looked like a book of scrapbook paper but actually held nearly 40 of these prints, ranging from 4x6 to 9x13. They were all on thick card stock and were super high quality, and I have used that purchase a TON. There are probably 15 different places in my house where I've used those prints, and I got the book of them for about $8 with a coupon. Individually purchased, they would have cost WAY more than that. If you find something like that and know that you can use it in multiple ways, snatch it up!

All of the prints on the bottom row are from the same collection I bought at once. 

And as far as using things in an unexpected way... you can use a plate as a tray (or a book as a tray), frame sheet music, put flowers in a glass Coke bottle, or you can just choose to display things you really like. I have bought two gorgeous Disney ornaments this past Christmas and couldn't bear to pack them away. So the Beauty and the Beast one is sitting on my piano and the Alice in Wonderland one (what else?) is resting on a stack of books. Both of them make me happy every time I see them and it would be a tragedy for them to be wrapped up in a box for most of the year. (Also the Beauty and the Beast one plays a song and Alice gets SO excited whenever we push the button. Money well spent right there.) My sister just salvaged a pew from their church's renovation and is using it as a bench for her dining room table. SO cool. I'm jealous.

Also, a word on quality. Do I want my house to say, "Dollar Section Chic"? Not really. And there have been plenty of cheap impulsive purchases from that Bermuda Triangle of money that haven't lasted. But some of my favorite things are from the Dollar Section and are still holding up well. If it's made of wood or ceramic or glass, it has usually lasted for me. Anything plastic-y tends to warp over time. And, let's be honest, none of it is necessarily heirloom-for-Alice material, but getting a few good years of use out of it is fine with me, especially for a $3 basket.

3. Add greenery. And by this I mean (mostly) fake greenery. =) I am not a plant person... and by that I mean keeping flowers alive for more than a week seems like a feat to me. But the basic leafy plants and succulents (yes, I'm so trendy. My house is basically a Pinner's dream #lol) that I've bought in the past year or so have been some of my favorite and most useful purchases. They're super cheap at IKEA and brighten up just about any empty space, and you can put them in all kinds of cool containers to match your rooms. Plus they don't die and make you feel like a plant murderer, so there's that. But if you DO want to murder some plants (or if you're a better adult than me and can keep them alive) hit up your Trader Joe's every couple weeks for the cheapest, prettiest fresh flowers that $3.99 can buy.

If you didn't Instagram your Trader Joe's bouquet, did it really happen?

4. When in doubt, add a monogram (or any signature filler.) My dad is a dad and therefore likes to make dad jokes, so when he comes to my house he likes to say, "Hey Ashley, what's your last name? You might forget!" (Haha.) It's because we have different "M's" all over our house. As in, probably close to ten decorative M shapes. And I'm not ashamed! You know why? Because when in doubt, I add an M. They're easy to find, come in a million cool materials (or you can decorate your own) and aren't that expensive. My other signature filler is books. I use books for decoration all over my house. One trick is to use pretty books (my Puffin In Bloom and Baby Lit are some of my favorites, but I've recently used my Dear America series, and I've had a matching set of classic paperbacks from the Target dollar section on a shelf for over a year now.) Use whatever works. Old hardbacks, your collection of favorites... it doesn't matter. I've proudly displayed my Nancy Drew books as an adult, too. Work it.

My piano (plus pumpkins.)

5. In your house, as in life, be yourself. Looking at Pinterest, Instagram, and Fixer Upper (of course!) are all great. Get ideas, get inspired, etc. But in the end, it's totally find to buck certain trends in favor of what you love. For example, one of my greatest inspirations for decorating has always been my best friend, Brook. Her house is gorgeous and looks like a magazine, she can DIY anything, and she has always decorated on a very doable budget. But over the years, her style has really steered mostly toward neutrals, with lots of texture. I could copy her and make everything in my house white, but it wouldn't work for me. You know why? Because I love color! I've fought it but come back to it every time. That doesn't mean that every room in my house is going to look like Rainbow Road on Mario Karts (wasn't that the worst??) but it does mean  that while I find neutral rooms beautiful and I use neutrals to tone down my brighter pieces, I'm going to have bright colors in my house. It's just a fact of life.

(Bonus tip, speaking of color: don't underestimate the power of paint! It's cheap and such an easy way to change a room. My white piano is literally my favorite thing in my house- thank you BFF Sara!- and I've never regretted my decision to paint a wall in our bedroom blush pink.)

An M and more greenery! (And more beloved fall decor)

Now, does every piece in my house have to reflect my personality and three-point mission statement for my life and family? As we've discussed recently, no it does not. But I also don't have to feel intimidated or unsophisticated in comparison to someone with a different style vibe than mine. It's all good and beauty can be found wherever, even in a stack of Nancy Drew books.

Or, dare I say, especially in a stack of Nancy Drew books. =)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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