I don’t think I fully understood the meaning of appropriateness until I started traveling to Europe and visiting very old cottages and homes with their peculiarly shaped spaces, curves, angles, and juts. I noticed how owners embraced their homes, just as they are. They might have modernized the kitchen and the baths, they could have added bay windows and central air conditioning, but most people decided to leave the house alone because, ultimately, the appropriate thing was to do nothing to alter the structure. They retained the personality of the house.
Ask yourself what is appropriate for your house, for you and your family, for your budget, and for the limits of your room dimensions. Limitations are liberating, and their solutions self-directing. Each room will then speak to you from a point of view that is naturally yours. You have to feel comfortable in the atmosphere you create.
Your rooms have to work not only for you but for the unique habits, customs, and patterns of your family. A family who creates rigidly formal rooms, while also raising young children in them, send out signals that pretty things or delicate fabrics are more important than small, growing people. So, the more appropriate your room choices are, the more happy and complete will be the life lived out in them—and they will have unshakable integrity.
Appropriateness, I want to emphasize, is not about money. Some people have a great deal of it and can afford to spend whatever it takes on whatever strikes their fancy. Still, in my experience, the clients who tend most often toward excess can overwhelm a room’s soul. Calculated sophistication, displays of conspicuous consumption, and rooms that are props—inanimate and impersonal—do not beckon to others and don’t necessarily make you feel good, either. An appropriate room in a home should tell of the character, interests, and spirit of the people who live in it.
Appropriateness is About Authenticity
Most people loathe pretension. But when we decorate, we often put on masks and create aliases in the form of decorations that are fake, stale, monotonous, and banal. Artificiality is a hoax, no matter how well executed. So the secret to appropriateness is always to be yourself. It takes time and patience to find your personal, original, and unique style. But once you are able to say, “That’s not me. That’s not right. That won’t fit in. I can’t afford it. I don’t like it,” then you will be much closer to defining and executing your very own decorating style.