Creating an Authentic Home

When attempting to succesfully design a home, we all know that along with taking client's needs/ wants/ personal style into account, it's also important to examine the home itself and think of what type of interiors would be authentic.  Where is it located?  What style of architecture is it?  What's the age of the home?   How does the home fit within the land around it?  What's the level of quality?


{My old house that by Dad built when I was a kid}

The goal in creating a well-designed home should always be authenticity.   A home should feel appropriate and effortlessly fit into the world around it.  (I don't mean this in a rigid sense: the decor in a home doesn't need to "match" the architectural style of the home or be a historal reproduction frozen in time...  but it should take it into account everything around and work with it, carving its own personality that works within a greater patchwork "quilt" around it.)


{Design by Pheobe Howard and image via Cote de Texas}

A home should never feel like a staged set or forced.  For example, think of the person who loves Tuscany...  Does this mean that he/ she should now come home to Washington, DC and recreate a Tuscan villa in their Colonial?  Absolutely not.  Yes, she can bring things home from her travels and incorporate them into her her to remind her of her wonderful time there, but her home does not exist in Tuscany, so she needs to take its true location and architecture into account or it will feel contrived...  It's a very fine line and when done well, is incredbile.  (Now by all means, if you're someone who wants to completely pretend you live somewhere else and don't care about your home feeling authentic/ appropriate, then go ahead & do it.  All "rules" can be broken and if it really makes you happy, then go for it.  I would never recommend this, but above anything, people should be happy in their homes, so if you want to pretend you live in a vinyard, go ahead. ;)  And I can use this example because in our first home, I faux painted the walls in the basement a washed cream, exposed the beams and added wine and rustic items and I loved it!!  In a townhome in Northern Virginia, it was completely inappropriate. (total cheeseball, I might add) It was a good lesson for me.  Homes don't exist in bubbles.  Here's one of the real estate picture we used when we sold it and I can't believe I'm sharing this with you:


(I have to say, I still like the exposed I-beams but PLEASE remember this is before I did this for a living!!! ;)

Whenever possible, materials should be of the highest quality.  It makes a huge difference.  And notice I say, whenever possible...  In my own home, we still have the existing formica countertops in our kitchen.  I wish we could do soapstone, but for now this is what we've got:

{Our kitchen, photo by Helen Norman}


It's okay to know what you want to do and what the best course of action is and not be able to necessarily do it right away.  (or ever.)  I will tell you though in all honesty though, that these details make a huge difference.  Take the example of my kitchen above...  yes, I have the look I want and it fits my home & feels appropriate... BUT it doesn't feel as solid and as permanent as it would were the counters actual stone vs black formica immitating stone.  (I would rather they were solid black and not immitating stone or OF COURSE actual stone...   I'd take concrete too :)  The quality level is not as high as I'd like it to be.  This isn't anything I'm changing any time soon, and I am honestly happy with what I have, but I do know what could make it better.

One of the best books that deals with creating a home that is authentic & appropriate & that fits in with the land around it is Bobby McAlpine's The Home Within Us.  (As I've mentioned before, if you don't have this book buy it because you'll want to read it over & over):


{image via Lucindaville.blogspot.com}


So what do you do with the home you've got now?  Maybe the mistakes you've already made?  I truly believe it's a bad idea to throw good money after bad.  If there is something wrong with your home or decor, don't continue on a path based upon that wrong item.  (I've seen this happen countless times.. maybe it's a wrong paint color or a bad sofa or terrible countertops...  It's always a mistake to spend money to make things work with something you don't like or that isn't you or that isn't appropriate.)  So fix that wrong item and suck it up because in the end you will have a home you love versus one that works with the $2000 "mistake" sofa you purchased.  It's really not worth it in the end. 


(image from thisnext.com}


When you think about adding things to your home, make sure you love them and make sure they work within your home.  Are the materials appriopriate & authentic?  Weed out anything that doesn't work with what you're trying to create and slowly add in what is real and what you love.  Create an overall plan for your home & do it right.  It's okay if you can't do it all at once.   Patience is key when creating a home because it's truly a never-ending process.  Enjoy it and be true to yourself & your home and you'll love it. 



xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

45 comments:

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

SO many good points in this post. Especially the one about sucking it up if you've been living with a $2000 mistake sofa you hate. I came to that realization just a few weeks ago, and was so relieved when I made the change. (Not w/ a 2k sofa, but same idea)

I wish I'd read this years ago, when I spent too much money on cheap 50% solutions instead of saving and waiting to do it right the first time.

A Perfect Gray said...

awesome as always, lauren. just a few days ago, I made the decision to use the costly marble I truly love in my new master bath vs. settling for a less expensive marble that I didn't love. thanks for making me feel a little better about my decision...

donna

Catherine said...

Thanks for this great advice!

We're not home owners yet, but fingers crossed that we will be soon. Even though we haven't found a house yet, I worry about the "appropriate decorating" factor. I'm really drawn to Elle Decor/House Beautiful/etc. spaces, the ones with a little glamor that never look matchy-matchy. I get nervous, though, that the house we end up buying won't be "nice enough" to pull off some of the looks I'm dreaming about. The Tuscan example is really easy for me to understand; America's not Tuscany, so don't be too theme-y. But do you think the same is true for, say, a 70's/80's home in Raleigh: it's not an insanely gorgeous home in San Fran or LA, so don't try to make it one? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks for always having such awesome, informative posts!

Pretty Inspirational said...

Lauren - I couldn't agree with you more! I've made some mistakes over the years...all of them rush decisions to get "the look" now! I would like to think I've grown much wiser and now make much better decisions. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the DC Apartment Therapy Design Evening! - Melissa

tdclassicist said...

Bobby McAlpine recently presented examples of his work to Decorative Arts Trust to an audience of over 200 in Memphis. It was interesting to see his range of styling and his team's approach to interiors. __ The Devoted Classicist

Lynda @ Happenstance Home said...

Really great advice Lauren! We have been doing some updates on our 20 year old house. Time for new flooring, repainting. Our kitchen is 20 years old and we can't replace it right now so it's getting just a little facelift. We took out the builders cabinet that was sitting in the middle of the kitchen as an island and found a new "old" furniture piece to take it's place. My sneak peek is finally up! It's good to make even little changes when you can to help get a new look and feel. I just really enjoyed your post! Hope you enjoy a great day!

Katie @ covestreetblog said...

Thanks Lauren, you always have awesome advice! I needed to hear all of that:)

Jacci said...

Okay, Lauren - I agree. I do. *But* my house is a split level like yours but came with absolutely *zero* character from the previous owners. The trim was tiny and fake wood, the doors were plain and hollow and brown. In fact, authentically speaking, this entire neighborhood is brown, brown, brown. We're completely redoing the trim in a retrodated, classic style. I purposefully picked something simplistic, but in this house, it looks "fancy", lol. Soooo... all this to say, can you make big changes to the architectural details of a home and still remain authentic? I have a mental line I don't cross of what is "too much" for this house to handle - too far removed from what it actually is (like I won't put a clawfoot tub in, even though I *love* them - it would be bizarre here), but I'm sure changing the entire feel of the house - making it seem older, but fresher than it is. None of it goes with a "split level", but what does? Hmmm....

christine {bijouandboheme} said...

So many great points and I agree in investing in what you really love- you don't need to do it all at once but slowly and with thought, you can make things the way you really want. I've found that whenever I buy things I just utterly adore, they have a way of working out- the things I've bought because I think they might work, never really do. Great post!!

Lauren said...

My favorite pix...the sneak peek into your kitchen! I've always been inspired by you own home! And your childhood home pix...reminds me of the TV show DALLAS! :) Love it!

Courtney said...

Great post. A big part of me wishes I lived in mid-century era home so I could buy more mid-century modern furniture... another part of me wishes we lived in a beach house so I could go all out with an easy breezy look.. but the reality is we live in a late 1980's traditional brick. Blah, haha. Actually, I love our house, it just makes it hard to incorporate some of the styles I love without it looking too out of place. I actually did a post somewhat related to this the other day, but it was in regards to the landscaping you choose.. http://andthentherewashome.blogspot.com/2011/03/when-conforming-is-good-thing_05.html

southbel said...

So much truth in your post. For example, I want to live in a farmhouse. However, I live in a traditional neighborhood that sees more traditional/transitional decor than anything else.

Don't you hate it when you walk in a super traditional home and it's all modern glass and steel? Just doesn't fit. I don't think you have to abandon your own decorating preferences, simply keep the home itself in mind when decorating. Again, great post!

southbel said...

So much truth in your post. For example, I want to live in a farmhouse. However, I live in a traditional neighborhood that sees more traditional/transitional decor than anything else.

Don't you hate it when you walk in a super traditional home and it's all modern glass and steel? Just doesn't fit. I don't think you have to abandon your own decorating preferences, simply keep the home itself in mind when decorating. Again, great post!

hush said...

Great post! I agree with @Lauren's comment that the pic of Lauren's childhood home reminded me of "Dallas" - it just looks a lot like Southfork Ranch. LOVE IT!!! What a cool place to grow up.

thevintiqueobject said...

Another great Lesson from Lauren. I'm learning a great deal about design from reading your blog. And I also want to say that it is so refreshing to see a really great and tasteful designer post a picture that she's not proud of. We all start somewhere and make plenty of mistakes...

Cris said...

Excellent post! I've had clients trying to force one wrong element to work by continuing down the wrong path, and they are so miserable - each difficult step that's made in trying to make it right goes against their gut, but the financial/practical mind prevails over the creative. It's much more difficult when dealing with inherited furniture or items, there's a feeling of family betrayal if they do not. Sometimes they just need reassurance to let Mom's drapes go or permission to be used creatively in some other manner.
After 'Under the Tuscan Sun' came out, so many clients wanted their new Florida homes to look like Tuscany. It was a delicate dance to balance the Old World with new construction, but it can be done. And... I actually like your basement & think you should not apologize - personally I think basements can be completely removed from reality, a complete open book of possibilities from a Star Wars bar to a Tuscan Villa.

Bonnie said...

Well said....we do not live in a reality home makeover show and things take time. I expected my slate countertops to be done in a day...it was nearly a week because there are steps that must be done in order to make it last. My husband is a GC and custom home builder, and always says anything worth doing is worth doing right. You NEVER want to rush a good thing or waste time and money.

hannah fancher said...

i love love love your kitchen! we are in the process of remodeling and i am definitely using your kitchen as inspiration.

kayce hughes said...

Great words of wisdom!

Luciane at HomeBunch.com said...

Bravo to this post!

Have a great day!

xo

Luciane at HomeBunch.com

Danielle.freshquince said...

Just brilliantly said Lauren! I always cringe when I go into super dramatic homes that don't fit with the character of the home. Embrace what you own! My brother and his family have an uber modern home and they tried to go all country on it. My sister in law was never happy with it, until she started to work with it, instead of against. Now it's all bright white with touches of orange and teal...not exactly northern virginia, but it looks great in their home. Seriously great post! xx Daniell

Gaidig said...

I really appreciate the reiteration on the point that the way you decorate should be a combination of the things you like and the things that are appropriate to your home. My boyfriend really wants to live in Bilbo Baggins' hobbit hole at Bagend, but we live in a ranch house built in 1950. Incorporating some older pieces is one thing, but it looks better if there is a harmony with the architecture.

Natalie said...

Love this post!! It's so true! Your picture of your basement makes me think of my first apartment when I tried to give my bedroom a beach theme, while I live nearish to the water it isn't a beach and totally didn't work!

Babs Blog said...

Great post!
I just had a similar conversation with a friend who is also a client. She is in a rush to have "new things" in her home but she can't afford what she really wants right now. I am suggesting that she takes a year to save before spending a whole bunch of money on cheap things to fill the space up---and then not being able to afford what she really wants. I think people need to understand that patience is a part of getting the home you really love. Shows on HGTV are fun to watch, but it's not realistic that in one hour's time you can have a whole home redo! :)

My Many Moments said...

Wow, such great words! Thank you for sharring. I want my readers to read this since it is so important. I am going to post about your post and refer them to your blog today!
Take Care,
Heather
mymanymoments.blogspot.com

Carmella said...

Is it okay if I want to stand up and cheer every time you write a post like this? Good stuff, Lauren!

Jacci said...

OK - maybe I'm not thinking through the post correctly (?). Still, I'm wondering how do you change things like trim, doors, lighting, fixtures, *and* still stay true to a house that's from a horrible era design-wise? Staying authentic to this 1983 split-level would be disasterous in those areas.

My best answer right now is to make changes all across the board that are cohesive with one another and (generally) work with the overall structure. We chose a simple Arts & Crafts trim, for instance, because our roof is pitched wide and our ceilings are low. Eventually, the outside will take on a few more of the Arts & Crafts details without looking totally hoaky. It's not at all the way the house was built. It has nothing to do with 1983.

Can this kind of thing be done well????

Ashley said...

I'm sure you know this but one of the only, if not only, soapstone mine in the U.S. is in VA. We live in N. Arl. and used soapstone from the VA mine. You can actually go down there & pick your slab. I also have the name of a fabricator, if you decide to pull the trigger on it.
Love your blog! ashley callen
(ashleyhurt@yahoo.com)

Emma (Glitter and Gold) said...

Great advice!!! and wow I love that house your dad built and you KITCHEN!!!!!! . . . you ROCK!
xoxo
E

www.glitterandgoldblog.blogspot.com

Rebecca Gibbs @ gibbgabb said...

This was inspiring, Lauren. Thank you!

Heather Peterson said...

In addition to teh great advice to not "throw good money after bad," I love that you shared the photo of your old basement! Too many people are afraid to show something that wasn't perfect or doesn't reflect their current style, but we all make mistakes, right?

Heather
loveyourspace.blogspot.com

Michelle said...

I'll have to get the book...I agree...don't spend money on the "it's fine for now" stuff...if it's worth waiting for, then wait.

Your kitchen looks amazing!!!

Best,
Michelle

Lauren said...

I also have my degree in interior design, (though I am a SAHM now), and may have painted my office (in my first house before I did ID) a very interesting avacodo-lime green that my husband won't let me live down, and therefore poo-poos changes I suggest, like staining our existing oak banister and such in the house. But, I am not going to be selecting wood floor to match this oak junk, that's for sure. Thanks for supporting my case with your post.
www.houseofchicandpenoche.blogspot.com

Kathysue said...

Great advice Lauren!! It is so important to be in tune with what you realllly love not a passing fancy. So many homeowners never really get in touch with what their own personal style is and they go from one style to the next never being happy. You gave some wonderful points in this post, great job,Kathysue

Laura Trevey said...

Just wanted to pop over and wish you a very happy weekend!!

xoxo Laura

Kelly said...

As a former real estate agent, I would add that keeping your home true to itself is also important for resale - nothing is harder to sell than the super contemporary kitchen in a very traditional colonial style home! Also, on a personal note, we recently sold our home and then had a huge estate/moving sale - so we can downsize & move out of state. My criteria was "do I love it?" and everything that didn't fit was sold - totally eye-opening!!

Ashley Lauren said...

I agree with you completely that "creating a home is a never-ending process." That's the beauty of design, it's not stagnate. People, feelings, moods etc. are always evolving, you make a great point by adding "what is real and what you love" because those kind of pieces will leave an imprint on your home.

Market Decor said...

Hi Lauren, I have been reading your blog for a couple months now, found you via Skirted Roundtable - love your style! This blog reminded me - in the 80's, the "Southwest" look suddenly became popular (I'm in southern IL). This was not the lovely, rustic old style true to that area, but instead a horrid turquoise/peach, pickled wood cabinets with mauve countertops, strange resin looking dining sets - usually white or "sand"...all really bad. I was so shocked, at the time, how many homes in my area actually went with this look! Whole houses designed around this theme. Needless to say, it was short-lived - some probably still trying to recover! Your post is right on - thanks!

Diane said...

Well said. And I love your futon/tuscan look from the early days. Isnt it fun to look back and see how much we have learned? Love your blog and look forward to the final pics of the showcase house.

jennibell said...

THANK YOU! This is such an incredible post. . .so informative without being "preachy". As I sit in my dining room that I really, really want to change. . .you've given me "permission" to do what I can now to make it a room I *love*.

Jacklyn said...

I love your blog :)
www.jacklynsgarden.blogspot.com

The Marshes said...

I love your blog and your style. This post is SOOO true! We are tearing our house up(our only 7 year old home) room by room to get the looks that we love!

Kymberly Foster Seabolt said...

How are you in my head? I'd say "Get out!" but I want you to stay - and then make my kitchen look as good as yours.

Authentic home. Perfect topic. I live in a c. 1904 Victorian farmhouse. I am not a victorian person. I'm not sure WHAT my style is. Sort of graphic, modern, but rustic too? But not frou frou, but I do love soft touches. Aarrgh!

I will def be following your blog and hoping to find my style!

Nicole said...

Southern Shores Realty is an online resource which offers wide variety of affordable Outer Banks vacation rentals in Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. These OBX rentals offer the visitors with a number of options in terms of houses and facilities available in them. One can choose the best rental home as per the facilities needed, during the trip.

Emily said...

Your each and every blogs are unique and like very much. Awesome.
Association Voice