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Adding Your Personal Story to the Design of Your Home

Here’s our approach to designing a room that tells your life story and fits your style. Plus a downloadable worksheet you can use for your next project.

// September 13, 2016

This post is sponsored by West Elm and Rejuvenation. If you’d like to see all the posts about our living room makeover design, check them out here.

We’re starting with a pretty much blank canvas for our room. If you have a space you’re working on in your own home, clear it out. Only leave what you love. Let it breath. This is where you begin.

Here’s the questions we ask ourselves as we’re making design decisions and discovering how we want to tell our personal story in our space. These questions are not related to design style or anything aesthetic, but expressing your story through the objects you want to surround yourself with.

What kind of personal history do we want to share?

We all have a history which is manifested in objects. We have lots of hand me downs, like items from our grandparents, parents and family, plus friends. These objects are so important and should be included in our spaces. Even if they are a bit quirky and don’t necessarily ‘match’ everything else. It’s okay. That’s life and the design of our home should represent that.

We have a post coming up called ‘Shopping Your Own Home’ and you’ll see me going through boxes of items from my grandparents house, or thinking of ways to incorporate trinkets from our travels.

Even if you don’t have any objects your family or friends have given you, you create your own memories and past. When I was in high school, I went on a trip to Italy with our high school art teacher. I bought items that were exotic and seemed very European to me, you know, chic. Looking back, I bought tourist trinkets. A poorly made status of Venus, a fancy venetian glass vase, and a piece of fabric that was like nothing I’d ever seen. Exotic and beautiful to my inexperienced eyes. Just because I’ve learned better doesn’t mean these objects should be discarded – they are part of our history and will have a place in our home.

When I’m decorating a room, I go through my old boxes or look at objects that need a new purpose and include them in the room. It’s that simple. I hang on to items for years without using them, then one day I’ll look to accessorize a side table and the items reappear with a whole new life.

Does the space have a history?

Maybe your home or the place you live has a significant meaning to you. How can you include that or give a little nod to history? Stony Ford has many layers of history, from the interesting owners of the past, to the love of horses and that musical organ that lived on the second floor landing. Find something about your house or town that you love and celebrate it. Show it visually to remember purpose and past.

We’re going to make an extreme gallery wall in the living room. Back in the day Stony Ford was a house that had a lot of music. There was a full blown organ on the second floor landing. No kidding! When we bought the house we discovered all this old fashioned organ music upstairs. Piles of it. We want to frame many of the pieces and hang them on the wall. The organ and two baby grand pianos might be gone, but the sense of history can live on.

I’m also on the search for vintage horse statues or busts that we can include. In Charles Backman’s day, Stony Ford was the cream of the crop in the horse breeding world. Famous men would visit and purchase horses. I’d like to have some small show of history in the form of horses.

Or maybe your space has no history?

We’ve all been there. The dorm room. The temporary housing like military housing (which I grew up in). You can’t do much to the structure and you’re living there for a short amount of time. What do you do? You can still include personal history. I love thinking about fabric or soft goods, even one dramatic poster will make the space your own. What’s amazing? Taking that item to your next space. That’s when the history begins.

What we love.

You already know the answer to this. What do you get really excited about in life? What do you love? This is the part where I ask you to look for repeated themes and figure out how to incorporate them.

I love history. There is nothing that gets me more excited than turning on the TV and watching one of those Egyptian Pyramid shows, or even the shows where they dig up a Greek city. Did you see the one where they searched for a grave using ground radar to see under the earth? I could watch this stuff for hours. When I design our home I try to think of ways to show that off. You don’t need to have a reason for including what you love, simply do it because it makes you happy.  

Our lifestyle.

We have to think of the ways we use the room based on our lifestyle. How does this room function and how can we make those functions extra special. Little improvements and a bit of extra attention can make the everyday things that much more special.

Every evening Will has a bit of a cocktail or drink. He loves vintage bar wear, cocktails and bourbon. Having a nice bar area with extra special touches is critical to his evening ritual. We want to make it as beautiful and functional as possible. Can I add little trays, or an extra special shaker, maybe some beautiful glasses.

The TV, record player and a growing record collection. It’s a shocker but we watch TV. Maybe too much. I kinda hate a TV out in a historic home, but I gotta deal with it. We also need a TV cabinet that we can put the record player on. Any storage would be awesome. While the records might seem a bit tactical, they go back over 50 years at Stony Ford. We still have some of the previous owners records. Our neighbor and their nephew, found some! It’s kinda cool to think these records have been playing that long in the same house.

A space for the dogs. If you follow us on Insta Stories or SnapChat you’ll see our constantly rough-playing dogs. We’re pretty realistic that they will get on some furniture, but if we can have an ottoman or space for them, the likelihood of them getting places we don’t want them will be smaller. Yes, we are designing for dogs.

While these more tactical lifestyle design needs don’t seem as deep or emotional as the more personal story, they can be. We know we need them in the room for the room to function, meaning we’re on the look out for ideas on how to make this personal.

Worksheet time!

I made a downloadable worksheet just for y’all. It reviews some of the questions I asked in this post. You can download and print out as you begin thinking about the personal story you want to tell in your room. Even if you are working with an interior designer, I would suggest going through this work sheet. It will help you articulate your personal ideas, which will make for a more personal design in the end. 

DOWNLOAD

houseofbrinson_personalstoryhome

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