Every now and again, I find an older photo of my work and I’m like WOW. WOW. WOW. I REALLY DID IT. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS, especially in pulled back shots. Recently while writing my second book that is not about styling, I’ve realized how much I’ve changed (I think). While my current living room still has too much stuff (it’s the shelves’ fault!! I can’t leave them blank!) I generally have moved away from visual clutter. Now, what I’m wondering today is, is this me getting older and my styling “style” changing? Or is this where we as a design collective are moving? Or maybe it’s just based on the space? I know that I was on the more-is-more end of styling, for sure, but there were two magazine editors and a very experienced photographer in that kitchen above, and we all said “yes, yes we need the pears and tomatoes, and bread and lemons, cutting boards, other fruit in the bottom right corner (what are those?), roses and a fern. And cookbook. And a blue bowl. And water/tea towel. I used to overstyle, but now do I understyle? Let’s discuss.
“Styling” stuff was such a big thing 10 years ago. It’s why I won Design Star, and why my book Styled was a New York Times bestseller. That wasn’t meant to brag, it was just really good timing. It was the middle of the recession and we (all of America) couldn’t afford to buy or renovate homes, but we could buy small things that we loved and wanted to know how to place them. We wanted to know how to add personality to our homes without spending a lot of money. That is styling.
I love styling and I love stuff, so I’m extra prone to overdoing it. This one, from the book, is also a lot.
There are two terrariums. TWO. And remember that it wasn’t just me approving these—Scott Horne (a world-famous stylist) and David Tsay (incredible interiors photographer) both were like, yep, two terrariums and definitely display those crackers.
Remember this project (Bri Emery’s home)? I think I even remember Bri saying “whoa that’s a lot of plants” and I was like, “yes! It is!” but in a very positive way.
Sure, some of the pieces are now dated (that colorful pillow mostly, I actually still really like everything else, just less of it) but I didn’t need to put the branches on the table in front of the plants. Maybe we didn’t need that bull pinata next to the giant face planter. But maybe we did? There is a fearlessness about it that I still love.
Remember my old shelves from my “Commonwealth” years (the street we lived on)?:
I LOVE objects and collected so many things: body parts, brass animals, heads, anything footed. I do miss that head sculpture, and actually still have most of that art. But it’s a lot. It’s not only a lot of stuff but a lot of colors. But where else was I to display my 14-carat gold Monopoly figures? This was the room, remember, that someone said looked like “Spongebob Squarepants threw up” on, which will forever crack me up. There is an irreverence about it that I miss.
There are two dollhouse chairs up there: one in a glass cloche and one next to the head…the big one, not the creepy baby one. (I still have all that art, yay!)
The bedroom was exciting, it just was, and my issue isn’t with the crazy lamps (so fun) and the nutty vintage headboard that was reupholstered in shiny blue velvet (still so fun…I miss old me!!!) but the amount of stuff on both nightstands. Like a big brass A. Why? And boy did I like roses. (Sorry for the grainy photo…it’s from back in 2013 and we don’t have a higher-res version.)
It’s crazy that that girl also designed this bedroom:
And this living room, which I actually think is UNDERSTYLED.
I was so obsessed with not adding “stuff” just to add stuff. It had to make sense and really work in the space, but I actually think that could have just used more books on the bottom coffee table, another pillow (but I was trying to show off the curve of the sectional, my favorite part) and maybe some quiet art in the background.
I think this is understyled and now I know why. The last couple of years, I’ve been renovating so I’m looking for content that highlights the design more, not the stuff in it. So I intentionally wanted to keep it clean so that you could really see what the kitchen materials and function were all about. I also really like how clean and minimal it is, that’s for sure. But the magazine asked us to reshoot it with more life, more fruit/flowers, etc. (the dining room was also different so we needed to).
They were right…it needed more life. It needed a squash (the only shootable produce we had at the time)?
Anyway, point is that I’m so sensitive to my overstyling that now I’m almost understyling.
Take this powder room, for instance.
I wanted to stack towels on the bottom but it’s a powder room so that didn’t make sense. We tried baskets but didn’t have the right ones and so they either looked too small and messy or two big and bulky. The design of that room is so great that I wanted people to see the vanity, the sconces, the simplicity of the plumbing, that tile…but I think I could have added just a bit more life.
Magazines still feel really styled. In fact, House Beautiful asked us to really amp it up and add more than we were going to. But that’s because magazines are meant to be editorial, to tell a story, rather than just show a house.
Thoughts? Does the understyled look make you sad? Is the overstyled look over or was it never truly in and I was just an overstyler? 🙂
Now, for a quick announcement:
WE ARE DOING TWO POSTS A DAY
That’s right, we are going to write/publish a second post every weekday, sort of an afternoon snack for us all that will be shorter, maybe a little controversial at times, a little lifestyle sprinkled throughout…and just FUN. This was the original goal when I expanded my editorial team, but the mountain house and Portland projects (and writing/publishing) really dominated our ability to do more, so now that we are done with those, I/we have the bandwidth to write more and frankly, I want to. So to start, a lot of these will be from me but you’ll hear from more of the voices on our team, as well, because we all have a lot to say (in a shorter format that’s easier to get through for you readers). This is a bit of an experiment since digital media let’s you take lots of risks…and we’ll see if you guys are into it. I actually have a feeling that you’ll almost prefer these posts, so come back later today at 11 am PT and see… 🙂
***UPDATE! Our second post of the day is up. Head HERE to read it and chime in with your thoughts on the possibly controversial trend we’re chatting about today.