The Nature of Decorating When You Have Little Money and Little Experience

As a creative person, I’ve always been interested in visual design, though I’ve felt like my creative talents might only be relegated to the written word. Interior design, particularly, interested me because it meant creating a space that felt like my own and that seemed important, especially because I hadn’t done much to create spaces in my childhood bedrooms that felt like my “own.” Now that I’m married, I’d imagined my husband’s Irishness and my poetness would really shine in every little detail of our home.

Sometimes, I’d get wistful and flip through design magazines. Design magazines sometimes inspire me to try unusual combinations, but more often than not, they remind me that I don’t have a lot of money (For much of our dating and marriage life, I was a full-time teacher and graduate student and my husband worked at a hotel) and make me feel like I need to have a “complete” vision before I even start.

I don’t believe “complete” design visions really exist to people other than interior decorators (and maybe not even to them). For me, the best advice I heard when decorating/designing our home was, “Pick things you like and they’ll eventually all go together.”

The other good advice we heard was “You’re never going to get it right the first time. I have changed the layout/arrangement, etc. of multiple design points in our home, and it gets easier to decide what I think goes together the more I practice. Yes, practice. Just like I might try an outfit on to see if it works, I often need to try things out and re-arrange, select different accessories to see what goes together.

Let’s start with a look at the TV area of our living room.

The important thing for me about setting up our home was that it would look like my husband lives here. I have gone to a friend’s absolutely amazingly decorated home only to look around and not see one piece that looked like it represented her husband. The TV area of our living room is a perfect example of our combined tastes.

For one, we both love antiques. The clock on the wall is a General Electric clock from the 1950s. The Coca-Cola wagon on the left side is from the same time period. The little cabinet on the left I also assume is an antique, though I couldn’t say (I picked this up from some friends who were moving across the country. I love having items I can connect to people I love. :))

The rest is all modern, though you’ll notice they still all have an antique-y look. For example, the Drive poster to the right of the television is a retro style print for the Ryan Gosling movie we purchased off of Etsy, and I talked about how I painted and distressed our TV stand here. None of these things were picked with a “design” in mind. They were all just things we liked together or individually.

So, let’s start with the right side:


You’ll notice as I show you more and more pictures of our home that my biggest decorating obsessions involve owls and books. This spot highlights that perfectly. For one, there’s the distressed-looking metal owl on top of a stack of literary journals (which my work appears in) in front of a book vase that was used as the centerpieces at our wedding (how to make a book vase here). Then there’s the candle and the top of a tin box. The tin box top is a hint of my husband who loves the classics, and it’s a nod to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; the rest is me.

Then there’s the left side:

Not super different from the right. Vintage Coca-Cola wagon my husband purchased off of eBay a while back for a steal, a larger book vase, and a white candle. The main thing I like to play around with is height. I specifically clump pieces together that vary in heights or put some things on top of books and others not.

The sides that flank our TV stand have gone through several incarnations. That clock above the television used to be a simple blue plastic one we had bought from Target. That Drive print used to be on another wall.

What I surmise is that our home will have very few pieces in our “permanent” collection. It will be grow and change as much as we do.

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