A few weeks ago, we posted the story of how our coworker Zoe bought and renovated her first home. The extensive redesign left the space in an ideal starting point to showcase a few textbook Schoolhouse styling tips. We often use the homes of fellow employees and friends for our catalog shoots and find the rewards of working in authentic spaces far outweigh the challenges often presented.
The basis of the Schoolhouse design ethos is rooted in a "want better, not more" philosophy. We always strive to create personal, lived-in spaces and abide by our number one rule: The mix beats the match.
Nothing should ever be too perfect or feel like it came from the same place or time period. And same as in life, a sense of humor is a must. Below, Creative Manager Jorie Garcia and Project Manager Summer Wick offer the wisdom they use when styling the rooms we show on the web and in our print catalogs. The beauty of these tips is that they can be used to elevate any space, regardless of style or season.
1. Solve A Problem
Part of decorating a space is understanding how the space is lived in. The more time you spend in the space, the more you’ll become acquainted with its strong points and challenges. From there, you can use design to solve problems. For example, in the dining room, the space felt echo-y and loud. By adding the rug, we dampened the sound substantially and also anchored the dining set.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Mix Metals
Many homeowners have it in their minds that every piece of metal in a home should be matching. This approach works in some spaces, but there’s no reason to fear mixing metals. As you can see in the kitchen, there is a brushed steel faucet, Gold Anodized Donna Pendants, and Natural Brass Edgecliff Pulls, and the combination fits the space.
3. Organize with Purpose
Another way to deal with clutter is by dividing rooms into zones of activity. Grouping things together by function and purpose helps to give more context to each item, so even if there is a lot of individual items in one space, there’s a reason for them to be together. Once you start grouping things in this way, you’ll see what items don’t fit in the space. When you work from a place of practicality, the things you fill your home with will feel purposeful instead of precious.
4. Edit to Amplify
The art of accumulation is tricky to get right, and it’s easy for a space to become cluttered. One phrase you might hear said around the Schoolhouse studio is “edit to amplify,” an idea related to the philosophy that “less is more.” You can apply this rule by looking for things you can remove from a room’s decor without changing its character and mood. Remove things that you don’t love and that don’t contribute and you’ll be left with a space that feels less cluttered and more personal.
5. Add an Emotional Element
People often talk about color, pattern, texture, and light when they talk about design. But less often do people talk about emotions like nostalgia, surprise, and humor. Bringing in something unexpected, playful, or humorous can add so much to a room. Here, the horse dolls in the dining room don’t exactly feel like high art, but they’re fun and quirky. Things like this function as conversation starters and a mood leaveners.
6. Decorate Around Meaningful Art
Try to find art that speaks to you and adjust your décor around that art. By starting with something you love, your space will feel more personal and alive. It’s easy to feel like you need to finish decorating your space, and to buy art just to break up wall space. But art is supposed to elicit feelings—not indifference.
7. Add Life with Greenery
Adding greenery and floral arrangements is one the most well-worn tools in the Schoolhouse design toolbox. The world of plant life extends farther than the ever-present succulents and cacti, even though those types of plants can certainly add to a room. Bring in different types of flora to add different organic architectures within your space. If you need a floral arrangement for your next brunch or dinner party, clip what’s growing outdoors at the moment. This will tie your room to the seasons and what’s going on in the natural world around you.
8. Play with Patterns
We often use different patterns in a manner that borders on reckless abandon. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns around the room. The trick is to look for ways you can repeat elements of the patterns you bring in. The gingham check on the hand towel here repeats the blue stripe of the dish towel, without feeling too “match-y”.
9. Elevate What’s Pre-Existing
It’s amazing how a few small tweaks can unlock a space’s freshness and vitality. Something as simple as changing out the hardware or adding a coat of paint on a built-in cabinet can make a huge difference.
10. Let it be a Work in Progress
Finally, it’s important to allow your house to be a work in progress. Unless you plan on walking into a store and “buying the room,” you’ll have to accept that making a house into a home takes time. By the time you finish one part of your house, it’s likely that you’ll feel like it’s time to make a change in another part of the house. That’s okay! Decorating isn’t a race, and there’s no finish line. Relax and enjoy the process.