By Derek Beres
Your space is a reflection of you -- more importantly, you want it to inspire you. So how do you make it work if you're not an interior designer? I've been dealing with this question after my recent move from Brooklyn to Santa Monica, as my wife and I are trying to strike that perfect balance between being creative and being comfortable.
What we found is that whether you live in a mansion or a pod, you can enhance both your living space and your inner space. All you need is a little innovation and clarity of vision. Here's what I suggest:
Home Decor Tip No. 1: De-clutter.
Culturally, Americans are finally recognizing that age-old maxim, "Less is more."
Embrace it: Think about what you need and what you hold on to just because you own it, then chuck the latter.
When my wife and I moved, we got rid of those boxes we'd been carrying from apartment to apartment that never actually got opened. Personally, I rid myself of the clutter surrounding my two main passions: books and music. I gave away more than half of my book collection -- predominantly, those books I knew I was never going to open again and had been kidding myself about. Then I started digitizing my 8,000-album collection.
It's incredible how my old wall of CDs can now be put onto a few hard drives, and I'm enjoying the newfound office space immensely.
Home Decor Tip No. 2: Get some plants.
I'm always a bit surprised when I walk into someone's home and there's nothing growing inside (and I don't mean mold). Plants are a perfect metaphor for life, as plants are alive.
Growing plants, herbs and vegetables is the easiest way to brighten your space. Granted, whether you can keep plants does depend on how much sunlight you get. But if you do have sunlight, try it.
Fortunately, we found an apartment with all-day sunlight, which is plentiful in Southern California. As an aspiring gardener, I've been spending plenty of time with blogs and YouTube videos to understand how to care for the many new varieties of life we have, including Meyer lemons, Australian finger lime trees, lilacs, rosemary, pepper plants, pansies, aloe, chamomile, parsley, basil, oregano and -- my favorite thing about this area -- succulents.
Perhaps one of the easiest types of plants to care for, succulents provide color and depth to any space. If you live in a sunny area, stock up. Match any dull white wall with colorful and dynamic lilacs or, as we did in New York City, grow vines to wrap around your windows to both enclose the space and give life to an otherwise drab area.
Home Decor Tip No. 3: Add some color.
Recently, I stopped into Lululemon to pick up a scarf for my wife. The employee said, "Oh, you're from New York City, right? She'll probably want gray." I laughed at how much truth there was in that statement regarding New Yorkers' dressing habits (though my wife has a very colorful wardrobe). In that same vein, many of us settle for plain white walls.
While there's nothing more powerful than an elegant wash of white, you can enhance the look with a well-placed splash of lavender or gentle orange, perhaps in a painting or even a properly framed black-and-white photograph.
A nice combination of plant life, patterned throw pillows and an Ashes and Snow print -- or whatever colorful additions suit your taste -- are much more than just decorations. They work to take a room's focus off of the television and onto more interesting elements. This leads us to our most drastic change yet.
Home Decor Tip No. 4: Take the spotlight off the TV.
While the image of the family centered around the television is pure Americana, it's an outdated one. Most every living room I've ever been in directs every piece of furniture toward the TV, which completely drains the room of life. While we usually want the couch facing that direction, you can still de-emphasize the importance of TV by keeping the TV in a cabinet or even covering it with a decorative throw blanket while the TV is not in use.
Creativity is important in this one, as we are so accustomed to having a TV as the main focus. You simply have to ask yourself what your intention is with your living space. TVs take us out of our home, and if you want to put the emphasis back in it, it might be time to change it up.