On Pinterest, “Home Decor” is one of my favorite categories to browse. I love seeing the perfectly put-together rooms and the features that no one would actually ever implement in their house, but they look fun to have (like a slide from your bedroom to the living room, or a trash chute that leads outside and puts the trash right into the garbage bin). I love dreaming about my own future house and imagining color-coordinated furniture or boldly painted walls. I picture myself, someday, having a home where things are new and perfect.
It’s fun to dream about this because right now, it is very difficult to actually accomplish. I suppose your first apartment is supposed to be crappy. It’s supposed to be a little run-down, a little worn around the edges, a little small and a little inconvenient. When I am older and living in a big house with a yard, I will remember this one bedroom apartment and I’ll appreciate everything that much more.
I’m okay with living here right now. I’ll accept that we have to wash every dish by hand and that the cupboards don’t have knobs and that the bathroom light switch is all the way over by the towel rack instead of right next to the door. It’s only two rooms, but it’s spacious enough and the carpets are surprisingly well-kept. It’s okay that all of our furniture either came from my parents or Jim’s parents, or Craigslist. But what I am struggling with is how to decorate.
When you move into an apartment, people don’t hand you picture frames and wall decor. They give you old frying pans or end tables. Practical things. That’s fine. But I now have wide expanses of blank wall. Luckily we have five windows and two fireplaces, but still. Walls are glaringly huge when there’s nothing on them.
How are you supposed to decorate your first place when all you’ve ever had is a bedroom full of posters featuring various music artists and sports trophies? You go through college and collect a few “Shot Recipes” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” posters which inevitably get torn to shreds. Then you graduate and suddenly you’re faced with a full kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and dining area, you have no money, and you’ve moved in with your boyfriend so you need to take his style and preferences into consideration as well. Not to mention, you live in the real world now, so people expect you to decorate your apartment with sophisticated taste. With all this against you, is it even possible to have the perfect decor in your first apartment?
The biggest issue is not having enough money. Why, oh why, are curtains so expensive? They are glorified pieces of fabric, really, cut to the size that society tells us is appropriate for a window. The DIY-‘er who is reading this is probably going to tell me how easy it is to make my own curtains for $3.11 each, I’m sure of it, but I don’t consider myself a crafty person.
Decorating an apartment feels like a commitment. What if I don’t like that painting in three years? What if those frames don’t match the style and decor of our next house? What if we have tons of wall space now but our next place has more windows and fewer walls? If I’m going to buy something for the walls or curtains for the windows, I want to love it. Like Pier 1 says, I want it to speak to me. But I want it to speak to me at a reasonable price.
Decorating is a frugal person’s nightmare. Before I buy something, I am always trying to ask myself, do I need this? And it is clear that I do not need picture frames on the walls or curtains on the windows. Will I die without them? Will my quality of life suffer? I have blinds to block the sunlight and peeping neighbors, I have furniture to sit, lamps to see and a table to set my coffee. Do I need this?
The nester, girlfriend and woman in me says that I want all of that. I want to live in a color coordinated home with window treatments and bookshelves and the perfect magazine-inspired decor. All of which spoke to me. Decorating makes me happy. Having a completed home makes me content and brings me peace when I come home from a hectic day of work. I’m sure other women would agree.
But then I think harder about it and the conundrum comes full circle–I wonder if I’ll still like that decor in a few years and – assuming I won’t – I proceed to ask if I really, truly need it.
We have a few pictures of city skylines in the bedroom and a clock above the mantle. But it took me eight months to finally commit to a picture collage for the living room over the couch. I kept telling myself that since our walls are sponge-painted a neutral taupe, it’s not as harsh as having stark white walls and I can deal with a blank slate for awhile. But the addition of seven small frames has made such a difference.
I’m still a far cry from my dream home, but this isn’t supposed to be the dream yet. This is supposed to be a wonderful work in progress.