I didn't realize how many things go into starting from the ground up renovating a home. The home I had when I was married evolved over time, a project here, a project there, with no agreement on the overall feel, just safe and neutral choices.
If I trek back to my childhood, on our estate in Virginia, there were two cottages. It was a given that when kids in our family reached 16, they could have a cottage if they had a job to pay for food. It was a start to prepping to go to George Mason University right next door and being a responsible young adult.
However, we moved one year before I got my cottage. And something in me never lost that anticipation of moving out on my own, decorating my way, making a space an inspirational artist's den.
So, here I am today finally getting my own home and stripping it down to make it all new. Built in 1979, the house looks like a time capsule for that era, even having a harvest gold stove!
It's really easy to act like a kid in a candy store and simply find things you like and throw them into the environment or perhaps take on any free or used things you can find to be practical.
But how does one define their living environment?
I tried not to think of it as a portal to impress others because when we start saying "open concept," "stainless steel," and "granite," we probably lost ourselves in the "should wants" because of popular demand.
Do you really like an icky brown dotted counter, constantly cleaning fingerprints on your refrigerator, and having everyone see your dirty dishes and smell you cooking throughout the house?
If one is into impressing others, I would think doing what everyone else is doing is safe and boring and taking a risk to have a personality and taste is truly admirable.
First, I lived in it quite some time with furnishings that were more like dormitory temporary stuff. Then, I looked at light. One thing I did know about me is that I'm a very outdoors-oriented person. The house is secondary, but i really really hate dark houses and feeling dreary and disconnected from the outdoors.
In a practical sense, there were some things I knew I would NEVER want in a home and that list helped me eliminate some styles.
NO STAINLESS STEEL
NO DARK WALLS
NO UPPER CABINETS IN THE KITCHEN
NO PREFAB SHOWERS
Three big questions to answer -
1. What kind of environment makes me feel happy and productive?
2. What about my personality do I want to convey?
3. Do I like old or new, clutter or order?
1. I am drawn to beach resort vibes, sunshine, bright colors, bamboo, tons of plants, upbeat and kinda Jimmy Buffett'ish. I love outdoor stuff indoors and indoor stuff outdoors. I like a seamless transition from one to the other where I can have windchimes and bird feeders in sight. Water is #1 for me, whether it's a pool, jacuzzi, or fountain.
2. I am an artist and creative person who is in no way a suit-wearing type. I am also color obsessed. When I look at my paintings and photography my loves are very apparent =
So far, I know that I want indoor-outdoor, bright happy colors, lots of sunshine and plants, and an overall casual resort vibe.
My happiest memory when we moved west to the Arizona desert from Northern Virginia was poolside. I was so excited to have a pool, but mom would come outside each morning with a platter of fresh fruits, citrus, kiwi, mango, pineapple, and I would munch on the cool juicy fruit and dive into the pool and float. I remember thinking, "this is the life!"
3. I prefer light wood like white oak, bamboo, or birch, clean Scandinavian lines, and simplicity, a more modern style of home would better suit me. I am definitely not an antiques lady, nor am a collector or knick-knack clutter type.
Now, adding these things up, I can remove some styles from the possibiities. The modern immediately makes me think of mid century which is very popular now for good reason - as it's totally my vibe for light and furnishings and simplicity.
But, living in a desert I don't want a cheesy beach-themed home, although sea and sky with citrus are my very favorite colors.
I'm not a southwestern type with Native prints of Spanish influences. They are too earthy in the palette and sometimes a bit trite, given the location.
I think when you walk into a home and the theme is thrown at you, you sort of graze over and assume things without looking at details. When you arent' sure the message, you begin to examine the components.
So, as I investigate more, I ask what my interests are. I am a very passionate gardener and oil painting artist. I also have had a lifelong dream of being a surfer.
I found a vintage surfer painting on Etsy and totally imagined it over my white brick fireplace. It's a subtle reminder of that part of me, without making the whole house seashells and ships. I see it and it's a constant reminder of dreams. I envisioned that dream so fully as a skateboarder in the East Coast. This, Gidget, the Beach Boys, California all called to my soul. Any time I want to bring up the strongest dreams and desires, I glance at this and I know myself. Uniquely.
My signature color is turquoise.
To begin the project, I bought the paint I just had to use in the house to feel like it's mine. What colors to put with it? How about sand and white neutrals, maybe some light gray, and my other happy sunshine color used as a pop of color - yellow.
Once I imagined removing the ugly beige carpet and putting down wide planked white oak vinyl flooring, I could imagine even more light spilling into the home.
But the biggest question was, am I brave enough to use that paint color in a common area, not a hidden bedroom?
One day, when I was feeling timid, I thought to myself, "Sharon when you paint and photograph, you are all about capturing color as the very vibrational frequency of life. Be bold!"
So, I painted the entire dining room/kitchen (open concept) the turquoise and suddenly it felt like I pulled the sky into the home. The crossover with a bank of windows and an arcadia door was stunning. It felt like me. The me being brave enough to surround herself with happiness.
But, still, what was my style inspiration?
I recalled in my teen years when my family had a big home in Scottsdale that was a model home from the late 1950s. It was Palm Springs style with the lattice bricks out front and wide open indoor/outdoor vibe. Now, that was a big influence! The pool to house transition and outdoor cooking were just beautiful. It had huge picture windows and plenty of light.
So, I decided to research that Palm Springs style and found it was indoor/outdoor, modern furnishings, and the use of turquoise and yellow!
So, now I could put a name to the style and a guideline in general for continuity.
I thought I was Scandinavian (as I am 75% Scandinavian DNA), but I live in a very hot and sunny place and it seemed the Palm Springs vibe was so much more what I was going for with its outdoor focus.
I didn't want to live in a time capsule, so I wasn't going to run around finding authentic mid century items, but I was going to adhere to some concepts like - all things on legs. I couldn't stand the way light was blocked by sofas that sit on the floor and trunk coffee tables and the like. Getting things up off the floor lightened the space even more.
I shopped Ikea too as they had the sleek lines, but also some things that weren't repeats like the typical sputnik lighting most folks use for "mid century" in their homes. I didn't want to date the house, but I also didn't want it totally matchy matchy. It had to be me. So, I found at Ikea the Maskos light. It has the mid century vibe while being daisies - one of my very favorite flowers.
One thing I know about bohemians is that the artist's lifestyle has everything in their home pointing toward their artist's soul. It has to have meaning or travel sentiment, have their hand in it, their style in it.
I figured, as well, should I sell the house down the line, I have given a neutral lighting with fun impact without forcing a time period that dates the house, like the old brass ornamental lighting the 1979 house has presently.
When I started looking over Palm Springs style, I realized I was getting what I called the beachy vibe from the sunshine and colors and open spaces without being a "beach house" knockoff. One theme like beach can get old really quickly, but sunshine, plants, and wide spaces and bright colors never do. They can be anything from a beach resort to a palm springs getaway bungalow.
I then went on YouTube and started following Palm Springs tours, decor, and desert resorts, taking notes of things I liked.
I watched "Desert Flippers" on Discovery Plus, a series about a couple who flips houses in Palm Springs and their aesthetic embraced my vibe big time.
I also took it further. What would such a place smell like? Sound like? I wrote down scents and songs. I imagined how I would utilize large windows for plant groupings and potted trees.
lemon, green tea, ginger, suntan lotion, mint, sandalwood.
Sade, Beach Boys, handpan drum, steel drum, meditative flute, Sheryl Crow.
Once you know your style, your colors, your overall time period and focus, you can evolve a consistent home where the entire place feels like you and your energy, your motivation, and your zen.
There are traditional homes and then there are artist retreats.