Who’s had this experience? You go someone’s home and maybe this person doesn’t follow design trends or spend much time rearranging things or reading decorating blogs…And maybe for this person, the word “domino’ refers to a game and maybe they wouldn’t know how to pronounce “ikat” if you paid them. But, there’s something about their home or maybe just that one room that is so comfortable and relaxing and maybe you can’t put your finger on it but you want to curl up with a cup of coffee and just stay a while. And even though it’s not your “style” or even very “stylish” by Elle Decor standards, you just love being in that room.
My grandparent’s library is just this sort of room. I don’t have a photo because my grandmother would think I was a kook if I wanted to take a picture of this cluttered room where they read their mail and lounge with the newspaper, but it’s that very word clutter that I think gives a room personality and appeal. My grandparent’s floor to ceiling bookshelves are quite literally stuffed with books and the walls are covered with paintings and collections from their travels. The round table in the center of the room is covered with books, magazines and plants and surrounded by chairs that don’t match in either size or scale. But this room is so darn cozy and most importantly, you can learn so much about my grandparents just by looking around the room.
As design enthusiasts, it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea of perfection that it’s easy to forget that room should represent the people who live there. Decorating is about beautiful colors and fabrics and shapes and textures but at it’s heart, it’s about people. Artful clutter, clutter that’s intentional and purposeful, can add life and warmth and personality and that “certain something” to a room that might otherwise be beautiful but somehow bland. Artful clutter sends the message that rooms are for living in and that “things” are meant to be enjoyed and touched and loved. Books, plants, collections of stones or shells, pottery, vintage perfume bottles, whatever you like to collect…all of these things say “welcome to my home, this is who I am and I’m sharing myself with you.”
So what’s the difference between “artful clutter” and just plain clutter? Here’s some takeaways.
- Clutter should be intentional. Dirty dishes in the sink are not a collection. A display of hand glazed pottery is.
- Clutter should be controlled. Mail thrown on the table is not controlled. Mail in a hand carved wooded bowl is.
- Clutter should be unique or special in some way. Although I have millions of Legos and Star Wars men all over the house, sadly they are not an artful collection.
- Elevate everyday objects. A collection of shells in a purple dollar store sand bucket is not an artful collection. Put them in a handmade pottery bowl and they become something special.