What's the first thing you do when you decide to throw a party? I'm not talking the practical things like picking a date or making a budget. I’m talking the fun stuff. Do you plan the food? Shop for decorations? Make a guest list? I’ll bet you throw a great party.
It turns out, decorating your home is a lot like throwing a party. There are four major things to look at when doing either: style, mood, guests, and venue (oh, and there's the timeline and budget, but we are ignoring those today). These things together create a theme for your home just like pulling together the theme for a perfect party.
Let's start with a quiz: Are you the kind of party planner who impulse purchases rainbow/cactus/donut/unicorn/insert-insta-friendly-theme-here garland because it is cute only to figure out later (probably while you are hanging it) that it does not in any way work for the swanky cocktail party you are hosting (tonight)?
You probably know that deciding on the party theme *should* come before the shopping. But that darn garland was just so cute. And it was only a dollar for crying out loud. The same might be true of those throw pillows on your sofa or that chair in the corner. They were so cute and so affordable, you just couldn't pass them up. I get it. We've all been there. Heck, Target is still in business because we've all been there. Sometimes, what we love in the store or online just doesn't work when we put it into the context of our homes.
Now, I’m all for filling your house with only the things you love. But if you are anything like me, those things may or may not go together and may or may not be functional for the space or other occupants of the house. (One day, remind me tell you about the ivory silk curtains that hung in my dining room and the bottle of balsamic dressing that wasn’t closed when it was shaken by a nine year old at the table. Learn from my mistakes, people.)
A good party isn’t just about what you like. It also takes into account your guests, the mood you want to create, and the venue where the party will take place. The same ideas apply to your home. Your personal style (insert roasted pig, rainbow garland, or those cute throw pillows here) is one piece of the puzzle. But there is more to both throwing a good party and decorating a home than what you like. How do you want your home to feel? Who lives in it? What is the existing architectural style? All of these things together contribute to your theme (aka concept).
Not every party should be a tea party. Time of day, venue, type of celebration, guest list, etc. all determine what kind of mood a party will have. Will the party be casual or formal? Will it be small and intimate or grand and showy? A child’s first birthday party might be a mid-morning affair with bright colors and cake and ice cream. An adult dinner party, on the other hand, is an evening affair and might have splashes of metallic and deep hues.
How do you want your home to feel? When you step across the threshold of your home or of one room in particular, do you want clean and simple or lush and comfortable or prim and proper? Do you want it to look like a cocktail dress or jeans and sneakers? What about jeans and heals? Or a cocktail dress and sneakers?
Just like setting the mood for a party, get in touch with the feeling you want your space to invoke and build from there. This can be different from room to room – you may want your bedroom to feel cozy and intimate but your kitchen to feel bright and open. Two moods can co-exist once we embrace the overall theme of the home.
We’ve figured out how you want the party to feel, and we know what you like, but what about your guests? Who’s coming to this party? Are your guests more comfortable in jeans and t-shirts or suits? I'll bet I could plan the best black tie gala ever, but my family would think I was nuts and stage a revolt. You know where I’m going with this, right? Yep. Compromise.
Your home has to work for everyone who lives there and take into account how you live. Remember the salad dressing and the silk drapes? The drapes were not at all functional for a house with five kids. That dark green velvet sofa you are so in love with? Unless it is super scotch-guarded performance velvet, you probably won’t want it in your play room. Does that mean you can't create a space that is just yours? Not at all. Perhaps you opt for a dark green velvet chair in your bedroom, where you can read and drink tea by yourself for 5 minutes (because who are we kidding that's how long it takes for the kids to find you). If you have the space, do it. But your home will feel happier and more cohesive if you take into account how your family lives.
Ok, so we know how we want the party to feel, and what would make our guests comfortable. It’s time to pick a venue. We’d all like a blank slate here, but as with most parties, sometimes you are stuck with the venue you have. Home. So make the most of it. You wouldn’t have a luau in a tea room, nor are you likely to decorate a 50s rancher with 18th century French antiques. Take some cues from the architecture of your home and incorporate pieces that make sense within that framework. I’m not saying that just because you are hosting a birthday party in a barn, the theme should be horses. However, you might play on the barn idea and decide on a theme of rustic elegance for the party: farm tables plus mason jars with sparkle lights and over the top floral arrangements and white candles everywhere. A little bit of country and a little bit glam.
The same goes for home. A 50s rancher needn’t be decorated exclusively in mid-century modern style. But you can take some clues from the architecture both in style and size. Paying attention to the style and size of a room will help narrow down the best style and scale of your furniture just like a party venue can help determine how many guests you can include or what colors you might use to decorate.
We've figured out your personal style, the mood, the guest list, and a little bit about your venue. Once you can mix all those things together, you can come up with a theme for your party. Let's say you really do love rainbows but you are having an evening gathering of adults, all of whom like to dress up. You might decide on a jewel toned theme for your soirée, complete with a ruby, sapphire, and emerald palette. To create the mood, you'd ditch the sparkle princess unicorn rainbow garland in favor of jewel toned flower arrangements, gold lined place cards, and flickering candles. Are you with me so far? Great. (In case you are still stuck on the rainbow theme here, please do this.)
Now let's go back to that 50s rancher. You love modern farmhouse style but your house is more rancher less farm. Can you mix the two styles? Perhaps you keep the rustic table but add some mid-century chairs. Perhaps a clean-lined upholstered sofa instead of an overstuffed slipcovered sofa. Call it modern farm rancher and you've got yourself a trend.
So the next time you are tempted by that cute garland/arm chair/antique roll-top desk, think first about the complete picture - your style, mood, guests, and venue. Does the piece still work? If so, go for it. Need help deciding? Let's talk.