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The Everyday Decorator
Guest Writer

Express Yourself @ Home

by Tobi Morris

When I was a little girl I spent days pouring over my nana's stacks of Better Home & Garden magazines. Now I'm creating my home. I want to express the real me in my home. That's the challenge. How do we make our homes express who we are, instead mimicking glossy magazine pictures? Here are seven steps for true expression of your passions, your heritage, and your true personality.

First, Get rid of what you hate. Now, you might not know what you love, but you KNOW what you hate. Survey the room you are in. Is there anything you wish would just disappear? Give it away. Trade it. Have a flea market or sell it on Ebay, then use the money to buy something you really want!

Consider this your first step in decor editing. Start with small items like, an old broom, a wobbly t.v. cart, fading curtains, or an overused inherited piece of furniture. Then move on to bigger things. You say, "But it's my couch." Well then, find a way to make it lovable until you can replace it. Cover it with a slipcover. Dye it. Replace the cushions. Add throw pillows. If you can't toss it, enhance it. If you can't enhance it, get it out of your sight and make a plan to replace it. Be ruthless; it will give you a fresh canvas to express yourself.

Learn what you do love! Ask yourself, what did I love as a child, a young woman, and now? What colors turn you on the most? What textures do you enjoy against your skin? What are your hobbies? Each question will help you determine what you adore. Make a list of ten things you love. Anything! Let each person in your household make a list. Fill their private spaces with things they love, enough if you don't care for them too much. Compromise in shared spaces.

Accept what you love. Some things you have loved for as long as you can remember. Some things are newer interests since you fell in love or had a baby. Either way, accept and embrace what you love. Make an "I love that look" file by collecting pictures of designs or rooms you would like to imitate. Include your lists of favorite things, favorite colors, hobbies, and inspirations. Never imitate exactly; it is too pretentious. Always put your own spin in the look.

Incorporate. Start adding those items into your decorating scheme. Paint a chair your favorite color. Write poetry on your bathroom walls. Add a soft mosquito net over your bed. Make a plywood window valance and cover it with playbills or sheet music. See your hobby items as design elements. Display items your cherish from your heritage; my favorite is an hand-carved African chair. Consider what items from your heritage you can incorporate in your décor.

I just redecorated my kitchen and I unintentionally included 8 out of the ten things on my love list. I painted the kitchen countertops three shades of plum. I've displayed copper, artwork, and cookbooks. I added texture with woven rugs, new hardware, and valances. I finished it off with pillar candles, fresh flowers, and a couple framed photos of my family. When I go in the kitchen I am inspired.

Set standards for purchasing and decorating. If you don't love it, don't buy it. Decide not to buy any more 'NICE' things in quality, design, or style. Buy the best quality you can afford. Take your time and plan your purchases. Don't buy on impulse or you may also quickly learn to dislike the item. Set standards of neatness and style. If you love knickknacks, be committed to dust them regularly; otherwise make the collection very small. If you love traditional furniture and delicate fabrics, but you have four children under the age of five, you may not be able to use the finest fabric in high traffic areas. Improvise, but don't skimp on quality. Select fabrics and furniture that fit your decorating style, but equally, fit your lifestyle; enjoying your family and friends is paramount. Besides, eclectic is tres chic!

Begin collecting or gathering these favorites. Most of what you need to decorate with is right under your nose. What household items you would take if you had one hour to pack? Unpack those sterling wedding gifts. Frame the antique napkins your nana owned. Place a teacup & saucer on every table in the house. Use your hubby's old fishing rod as a curtain rod. Turn your child's room into an African safari. Frame inspirational cards or sayings and hang them so everyone who reads them will be inspired. Be creative!

Show off the things you cherish! If you love something, you probably have more than one and more than three makes a collection. Stop saving them for when the kids are older, or you have the perfect whatever to match it. Put your new collection in an unexpected place like your powder room or foyer. Let others enjoy it. If you don't gave a collection, start one from the things on your "love" list.

You've got the seven steps. Now when your friends visit and say, "it's YOU"; you will know that IS a compliment because you have expressed the "real" you.

Tobi Morris is a freelance writer in Maryland. She is writing her first book. Tobi would love to hear examples of how you have "expressed yourself" within your own home.

Write her