Book Club, Interiors

Copycat Decorating and Living: Stepping Away from the Group

I had a conversation this week with a friend and colleague about “sameness”. The urge that affects some people to have the same entry tile as their neighbor, to duplicate the other neighbor’s wall colors and even to wear the same brand of shoes, drive a similar car and carry the same purse as other people around you. To me, this “copycat” style seems like a craving for a perceived “normalcy”. Or, maybe it’s simply an urge to fit in with the crowd and not draw attention to yourself. It also could be someone who sees something they like and has no problem copying it exactly.

I am not a raging non-conformist, but I don’t want to live in “sameness” with my neighbors.  As a designer, I don’t want all of my clients to do the same things either.  When you work with a lot of people, it is inevitable that a few finishes will be the same, but the end product will still look different.  Some clients want their rooms to look like a photo they’ve seen and it can be a struggle to help them break away from the photo.

I picked up this book from the library recently “How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century.”

how they decorated
How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century” by P. Gaye Tapp

The interiors in this book are striking for their uniqueness and strong points of view.  “I can’t bear anything that looks like it’s been decorated,” states Nancy Lancaster, famous for English-country decorating.  This book shows off interiors from sixteen big-personality women.  Their individualness is manifested in unique interiors and unique personal styles.  Charlotte Moss, who wrote the foreward, says “There is no single formula.  There is no single style.  Each had her own creative intensity, her joy for life…”

dominique de menil interiors
Dominique de Menil’s Houston home. It is quite bold and reminiscent of some Kelly Wearstler interiors. (Photo from How They Decorated)
bold colors hallway
Bold color choices by fashion designer Charles James in a hallway of de Menil’s Houston home (Photo from How They Decorated)

Most people aren’t born with an innate sense of style, but I think that most people can learn and develop their own personal sense of style that is unique to them.  Start with a muse or a design inspiration, but develop and change it over time.  I think that by studying restaurants you like, shops you fancy, movie interiors that speak to you, friends’ homes that feel good and childhood and travel memories you will develop an individual style.   As Gloria Vanderbilt once said and I completely agree with: “Decorating is autobiography.”

barn as a home
A fabulous barn from Fleur Cowles.  (Photo from How They Decorated)

“Surround oneself with the things you love and your house will make you happy…” Author Lesley Blanch.

living room slate floor
I love the low and colorful look of this living area by fashion designer Pauline Trigere.  (Photo from How They Decorated)
layered morrocan style
A warm, exotic room from author Lesley Blanch.  (Photo from How They Decorated)

“I found my style when I stopped listening to other people.” Gabrielle van Zuylen

I think anytime you do things differently than those around you, there is some risk.  Frederich Nietzsche wrote, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.  If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened.  But no price is to high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”  Clearly, Nietzsche wasn’t writing about decorating, but I think it applies on a basic level and it is interesting on a human level as well.  Speaking up for yourself, and speaking up in defense of others, is admirable and hard.  It is much easier to go along with the group.  I’ve had some personal struggles this past week with a strong personality dominating a group in an unhealthy manner and it does take courage to stick up for yourself.  I think it takes even more courage to stick up for someone else though.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything” ― Albert Einstein




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