June 24, 2024
Home & Living

How to Embrace Slow Decorating in Your Home

The latest trend in interior design places importance on mindfulness and timelessness without sacrificing style or comfort. Discover how to adopt the slow decorating ethos in your living space.

With chillier weather upon us, you may be thinking about new recipes to try in your slow cooker. There’s nothing quite like waiting hours for a moist, savory roast or a perfect cup of chili to simmer into deliciousness. With shorter daylight hours, nesting and being cozy at home is more vital than ever, and increased time inside may lead many people to ponder ways to freshen up their living spaces.

While we’re all familiar with slow cooking, the concept of slow decorating has gained serious traction in recent years in the interior design world and on social media. Unlike those one-and-done reveals seen across HGTV, slow decorating focuses instead on mindfully furnishing a space over an extended period of time, favoring environmentally friendly practices like upcycling and buying furniture secondhand.

Think of it as the antithesis of fast fashion, which exists for furniture too. Online, many retailers offer mass-produced home goods at a lower price point (and usually a lower quality). For many, it’s a necessary option, but opting for refurbished pieces that can hold up better over time often leads to a happier home, according to proponents of slow decorating.

What is slow decorating?

Melissa Parks, a Chicago-based vintage dealer and stylist, describes slow decorating as “an approach that resists our cultural bend towards perfection, speed, and waste.” It’s about being deliberate and intentional in the choices for your home. She says slow decorating has increased in popularity alongside environmental concerns.

“People are buying more intentionally,” Parks explains, “making sure what they buy they won’t grow tired of in a year and toss out or won’t fall apart. It’s also the reason people are turning to vintage and secondhand furnishings to outfit their homes.” She says that slow decorating is process-focused rather than outcome-focused. “It’s less about the perfect room,” Park notes, “than curating a perfect space.”

Jessica Nickerson, a home décor and DIY enthusiast, adds that slow decorating is a thoughtful endeavor that results in a “more one-of-a-kind home design.” Nickerson says that the hunt for pieces and the evolution of the home can be an inspiring part of the process.

How do you start?

Designer Jan Nelson believes slow decorating is about “living or working in a space and letting it evolve over time.” In other words, don’t rush the process. Adopt slowing down as you feel your way through your space, and figure out what works best for it in terms of configuration and design.

Nelson encourages people to find heirloom pieces from their family. If those aren’t an option, try turning to “a stunning handmade rug or original piece of art that you would eventually give [to] your kids,” she says.

When it comes to slowing down in the decorating process, Parks offers a personal example when she found an antique empire sofa on Facebook Marketplace. The sofa was wobbly and needed a lot of work; the fabric was threadbare. The sofa sat in her basement for three years as she searched for the perfect upholstery fabric. “I knew I would need to live with that sofa for at least another decade,” she says. “Reupholstering and rebuilding an antique sofa is expensive. I couldn’t be hasty in my decision.”

Leslie Jarrett, a furniture flipper and home décor blogger, emphasizes that patience is needed when you’re slow decorating. “Finding the right pieces takes time,” says Jarrett, who encourages going outside your comfort zone when you start slow decorating. “Be willing to fail. Try pieces that push you outside your box. They might be the missing puzzle piece.” Here are a few tips on embracing slow decorating:

Live deeply

Many of us have the impulse to simply get something done rather than get it done well. But by shifting gears down and living by the slow decorating ethos, you can decorate in a way that is more intuitive. Because you’ve taken your time, you will likely know the space better.

We’ve all had those realizations a month into living in a new space when you notice your desk would actually be better situated near the window in your bedroom instead of against the wall where your roommate plays music on the other side. By taking your time and not making snap decisions, you can feel out the space more thoroughly and get a sense of what works best.

“The best schemes evolve over time spent in your home,” London-based interior designer Charlotte Boundy says, “living in your home, gradually working out how you best use individual spaces, then curating rooms that evolve with time, experiences, and travel.”

Find an inspirational piece

In fashion, when you’re trying to style an outfit, having one primary piece — a statement necklace, an eye-catching skirt, killer shoes — can inform the entire outfit and choices you make with it. The same goes for home decorating: Find a piece that inspires you and can influence the rest of your space.

An inspirational piece might be a sentimental clock from a grandparent, a photo in an interesting frame, or that kitschy figurine you found at a flea market. Whatever it is, you can use it as an anchor for your slow decorating project. Nelson says such an item can be used “as a springboard to create a color scheme or plan.” She also encourages newbie designers to only use objects they love. “Don’t buy art — or anything — just because it fits your color scheme,” she advises. “Buy it because it makes you feel something.” Nelson also suggests keeping a small, purse-size tape measure on hand when you’re shopping so you can know if your desired item will fit your space.

Boundy is a fan of finding inspirational pieces while traveling. “Pieces sourced over time on our travels mean so much more to us as they have a story behind them,” she says, “and can transport us back to those special times away.” Boundy also believes inspirational pieces should be unique to your tastes. She encourages people to, if needed, save up for a special piece or item because it will potentially be more meaningful in the long run than a cheap and quick piece purchased in haste.

Do your research

Whether online or at the library, it’s a sound idea to source additional material to refer to as you move through the design process. Collect images in a notebook, online album, or Pinterest board so you know the direction you’d like to move in. The album might include layouts of different rooms, color schemes, or décor that speaks to you.

Are you inspired by the 1920s and the Art Deco aesthetic? Or perhaps you are drawn to the luxurious Regency-era looks you’ve watched on Bridgerton? Maybe you go gaga over the set designs and costumes from iconic 1960s-set shows and films like Mad Men and The Graduate? Whatever piques your interest, research it further and build a mood board to slowly achieve that look.

Boundy also suggests researching the age of your house or apartment building as well as facts about your neighborhood. “Is there a story behind it or the area you live in?” she says. “If so, that will often start you off in a direction of discovery.”

Cast a wide net

Part of the beauty of slowing down the design process is that you don’t have to rush and think only of crossing the finish line. Luxuriate in the process. This means you’ll have time to cast a wide net and engage in research and in-person browsing to find the best decor and furniture.

Boundy emphasizes how enriching it can be to shop from small businesses and local craftspeople. She also says that having secondhand books is a great way to “layer your home.” For her, visiting and shopping at antique shops and vintage markets provide invaluable amounts of inspiration.

Know you’re not finished

Nelson advises tossing out the idea of completing a space like it’s a novel. “You aren’t a finished, complete, never-changing person,” she says, “and your home shouldn’t be that way either. It will evolve and change as you do.” As you move through a slow decorating journey and make those deliberate choices, your beautiful home will thank you.

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