We All Start Out Somehere: My First Laboratory

Let me start out this post by saying that I am trusting you here. I'm letting you in on where design all started for me, and it's not pretty. :) As designers/ homeowners, we all have our labs in which we experiment, our homes. I attribute so much of what I've learned today from my frist apartment after college. I think I did pretty much everything one SHOULD NOT do in decorating. hahahah I really probably shoudn't have even been ALLOWED near a paint can. So, I thought it would be fun to share some photos with you, but be ready for some scary stuff!

To begin with, let me tell you that I was aware that a home should have flow with colors & a tone that relates to one another throughout the rooms, but I totally disregarded this because I knew I would only be living there for a short time & I wanted to go crazy with colors, to experiment. And experiment I did...


We painted the living room was a bright olivey green (a fun color actually) I had lots of things from my grandparents who have travelled extensively in the East and got really "themey" around that. (like the Temple Rubbing, above.) I found the table below for $64 at my favorite thrift shop and was in LOVE with it until we broke it doing SAKI BOMBS on it. :( The poor little legs just gave right out!



I ended up replacing it with this one below. I also can't tell you how proud I was of the arrangement of mirrors. Virtually everything in the space was a hand-me-down so it never really felt like "me."

We painted the kitchen in a terra cotta and (here's where it gets bad) the dining room in BLUE. hahaha oh well... talk about flow! The rooms were fairly closed off from one another but from one point in the entryway, if you looked just right you could see all 3 colors at once. I kid you not, I kind of loved it & would stand there to see all 3 colors at once, telling my roommate, "Oh look! If you stand here it's like a rainbow!!!" hahahahaha

In the end, over the course of one short year, I painted my bedroom twice, my bathroom twice and the dining room twice, and I repainted my roomate's bedroom in a crazy mustard when she moved out because I thought I was going to stay there with my husband when we got married. (Although we ended up buying our townhouse.) At this point in time, I had "themes" for my rooms. (Please check out my post on kitsch here.) This room was going to be "Tuscan." :)

This was one of the most educational paint jobs we ever did. (To be honest, at the time I LOVED the bright mustard) We learned about faux painting & glazing & were able tone it down a bit more in our next house.

We also knocked over an entire gallon of paint on the white carpet and had to rip it out to expose the hardwood parquet underneath. Now, this was an apartment and when this happened, I did not expect to get my deposit back, but they did give it back!! WOW love them!

My bedroom started out a robin's egg blue. The color below is what I was going for & when the robin's egg blue went up I learned how much darker & brighter paint appears on walls than it does on the swatch. Again, really educational. The 4 poster bed was my first "real" purchase ever. It was from Bombay Company & I loved it.



This purchase & room redo happened about 10-11 months into the 1 year, so I wasn't there for long! Below, I also learned from studying these pictures, how to style. At this point, I didn't even read design magazines or books & really had no clue how to go about doing it. I just photographed the spaces exactlty as they were, without paying attention to how pleasing it would look in a photo.
When I painted the bedroom & bathroom a pale blue & got the Bombay bed, I would say it was at this point that I started getting a sense of what was "me." I repainted my bathroom a pale blue to match the pretty toile shower curtain I got from Restoration Hardware at a wedding shower. (below)

I wish I had photos for you of the dining room & kitchen. All the pics above were one of the first times I'd ever taken photos of interiors & I also have to say, I learned a lot about styling & angles & lighting from taking these shots. I learned you should try never to use flash (as I did in lots of these!! :) as it makes the room look dark & cheap. (But here's another trick-- I TOTALLY use flash in my "befores'!!! this is twofold: 1) the afters look way better in comparison, haha but 2) You get lots of detail when you're using them for referencing on projects)

Anyway, I think it's so interesting to see how we all start out at the beginning and have the ability to educate ourselves. It was through my experimenting & eventual education & reading-reading-reading that I began to grasp what good design was. I'm not going to kid myself though, I'm sure I'll one day look back on where I am right now & feel the same way I do about this apartment!! Our tastes are constantly evolving & we're constantly honing our skills.


I had to laugh when I read an article about Darryl Carter experimenting in his first DC condo and calling it his "laboratory." Well, his experimenting led to a spread in Met Home!! Like I said, we all start out somewhere!!

xoxo,

lauren

23 comments:

Ada-Marie said...

Lauren, another fabulous post! I love the real life photos and lessons. Kudos for the bravery! Love the blog!

Eileen said...

I actually love your first apartment, and I really like your color choices! I wish you had gotten a photo of all three colors together!

And I'm still like that as I love everything from Shabby Chic, to Tuscany, and on to a modern edge. I'd need at least a dozen houses if I were to stick to one theme! I took a quiz once on what my 'style' was it came back 'Bohemian Eclectic', I think that just means 'you don't know how to decorate!'

Thanks for the tips on photographing, I am the WORST!! Maybe there's a little hope for me.

Morning T said...

I love your honesty Lauren. Your blog is fabulous and thanks for the tip on the camera flash, I had no idea!

LindsB said...

Too funny, this morning I was just putting together a photo slideshow of how my current apartment has evolved. It sure has come a long way, but I know I have much farther to go. It all just takes $$ right, even if it is 20 buck here and there, it all adds up haha.

Jennifer said...

I'm thinking there are much worse examples of first home out there! the mustard and bright green is so amusing though, because it does seem so far away from "you" now.

WHAT was with the asian influence -- I totally had that too. we redid my bedroom at home when I was a senior in high school, and my bed was all white and covered in mis-matched pillows with sari-looking silks and embroidery out the wazoo. I still had some of my wicker furniture from childhood and I spray painted it all different colors to match the pillows! What the?

Jennifer said...

okay, I'm back with more. my cousin/freshman roomate and I chose Ralph Lauren denim comforters for our dorm room. accented with red and yellow and green, for some reason. all of the other girls on our hall had rooms that were various shades of pink and purple, and our room looked like it belonged to a 9-year-old boy. WHY?

Lauren said...

hahahahha jennifer!!!! too funny!!!! xoxo

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

So much fun to read lauren. And we are all still learning and things change and we have to change with them. I like the green paint in your living room even today! lol

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

Fun read Lauren! We all do have to start somewhere and I have the same sort of pictures myself. I went through a huge tuscan theme at one, had a bright lime green room at another point that was actually callee slime. Ah, but I loved it and it all helps our taste evolve.

xoxo,

C

FROM THE RIGHT BANK said...

Lauren, I think this is my favorite post ever. I was nodding the whole time I was reading it, saying "Oh, yeah, did that, been there, . . ." The whole "theme" thing is the funniest because we've ALL done that, I'm sure!

I've done some of the craziest things in past homes. I just wish I had some pics! But back in those days I never thought to photograph my house. Too bad too because I'm sure it would be hysterical to see them now. (I've told you about my burgundy with purple with blue living room. Yikes!)

And you're so right - we will all probably look back in a few years and think the same thing about our current houses/labs!

Tracy Pardue Watier said...

Fun post! I wish I had photos of my teenage bedrooms and first apartment... I was so proud of them! You should be proud of yours too... and gald to have the pics to prove how brave you were\are with color!

Maria Killam said...

Loved the 'before' flash tip!

It was great to read the story of how all the magic started!

Kristi W. said...

I like your blog!
Do you have any more tips for shooting interior spaces? I am trying to take nice pics of my house and redesign projects. Some rooms are easy, but some are really hard. I'll take all the advice I can get! :)

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Oh, SO true! I look back at my old rooms in my old house and just cringe at some of the stuff I did. Ahh, the faux painting. I too got carried away with that and now I can hardly stand any fauxing at all! Always great to see the progress & growth.

Haven and Home said...

Too funny, I love it! I shudder to think of some of my first projects...

Terri said...

Lauren, thanks for sharing. You've become a wonderful decorator. It is so nice to feel settled in your style eventually and know it is really you, if even for a while. I can't beleve how much I've learned in the past 3 years in our own house. Before that, I had some neat things but never wanted to "waste" too much money decorating a rental place. Boy, my style has really evolved although I still see elements of "me" in some of my older things.

I am so glad you evolved out of the olive green walls phase. It's really amazing how it takes one thing to get you going in a new direction - like maybe that RH shower curtain? I will have to think about when I truly found my groove. But you know, I hate spending money, so there are so many things here I don't even like but I am slow to change!!

Hill Country House Girl said...

What a fun, honest post. Haven't we all been down that road, and you are right, continue to be, in a way. As we go along and hopefully learn from our mistakes, we grow - even the best designers have to re-do sometimes! Thanks for the flash tip - I struggled with one shot for way too long yesterday, just trying to get a clear picture.

HES said...

This post is really interesting--just saw a similar one recently on This Young House if you missed it--I am trying to train my eye about design by reading blogs like yours! So thank you so much for doing it--I love reading it. If you have a second, do you recommend any design books in particular? Some of those books in the photo? Best wishes and thanks!!

Things That Inspire said...

I love the spirit of this post! Designers need to have a lab of sorts to test things out, and to live and learn. I think that non-designers are sometimes so afraid of making mistakes, and think they need a designer's advice for each and every move they make. I bet that designers, when looking back over their careers, will probably say they learned just as much from their mistakes and their successes! I also think that experimenting and realizing that it is possible to fix most interior design 'mistakes' makes a designer more willing and able to go out on a limb about things.

Velvet and Linen said...

This post was great fun to read!
My home is definitely my laboratory. It's so much fun to experiment without the pressure of disappointing a client. I can definitely see little glimmers of your present style.
Thank you so much for sharing, Lauren.

xo
Brooke

Cristin said...

Thanks for letting us into your "lab".

Enjoying you blog!

xo,
cristin

Cote de Texas said...

loved this too - I just wrote about camera issues - your post is so much better than mine! I hate flash too - never use it ever except for pictures of my face - less wrinkles with a flash! remember that in 30 years!!!!!

mina said...

I love that four-poster bed - I have it too in a cherry wood... but since we're moving I have to part with it. Lament.