Playing House, Part 1: A Retrospective

The Husband and I have been in our new place for about five months now, and it has been a whirlwind of decorating and renovating. I keep looking around the rooms remembering what a mess we moved into, and how far we’ve come. I see the house as a sort of canvas for my design sensibilities, and I’ve been thinking about the ways my taste has evolved as a young adult. I’ve spent about a year finding pieces for my house, and the process has made me pause and reflect on the change in my approach to interior decorating over the last decade of my life.

My first foray into interior decorating was in my last year of college, way back in 2011. As a Real Grownup, I knew it was time to move out of the dorm rooms with their ironing board mattresses and generic furnishings. I was ready for the big leagues: a tiny studio apartment with a galley-style kitchen. My mom directed the decoration of the place, since she agreed to buy my first bits of furniture. Two words describe my mom’s sensibility: (1) high-quality; and (2) conservative. Thus, we got a solid walnut bedside table, a sturdy twin bed, and a round wooden dining table that doubled as a desk (which I don’t recommend for students with mountains of paperwork and projects). In the interest of saving space, Mom also got me a small wicker settee from Pier One Imports instead of a couch (the upside of being short is that you can nap in unconventional places, not unlike a cat).

My first apartment was utterly tasteful, shiny, and new. Mom helped me outfit my first kitchen with a set of Pier One dishes that coordinated with my settee cushions and wall décor. It looked much nicer than an average college apartment, but in retrospect, it lacked something in the personality department. In hindsight, I would say the problem was two-fold: (1) newness; and (2) matchy-matchy(ness). Almost everything in that apartment came from one of two sources: Pier One and Target.

Sadly, I don’t have photographic evidence of my matchy-matchy apartment, but I have included links to some of the Pier One product listings here:

Individually, any of these products could be considered tasteful and nice. Pared together with my other furnishings, they looked downright generic. My apartment could have been a cute Airbnb.

After college, I lived with my parents for a couple of years at my first job and stored/gave away most of my furniture and décor. Although this was an important time in my life, I chafed at the restraints of living in my parents’ house. Interior decorating is often seen as a superficial concern, but I’ve come to believe that it fulfills a deeper need. If you think about it, choosing pieces, paints, and textures for a room is an exertion of will. It is the one way we humans have of directly controlling our environment. So many things in life are out of our control, but the few that are, what we eat, wear, and design, speak to our need to feel agency in our most personal moments.

For a long time, I worried that I would never get a job away from home and regain the ability to reshape my home. As a new college graduate, I was shy and nervous about my skill set, and I didn’t do my best at job interviews. However, I eventually got Job No. 2 in Dallas, where the next part of my design journey began.


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