Now that you’ve begun to define your personal decorating style, you will still have to make many hard design decisions; but you can begin to make them from a liberated perspective rather than feeling slavish about some unobtainable ideal. If you choose to create a charming atmosphere for yourself, your family, and friends, this opens you up and allows you to make mistakes.
Who Doesn’t Make Mistakes?
I’ve made so many, you’d be surprised. “Life is filled with brilliance, mystery, and mistake.” This motto applies to our decorating schemes too. The reason I don’t get overwhelmed by the mistakes I’ve made is that at least I tried. There are a lot of people who never goof up, but they never take chances either. Safe decorating is boring. And the last place in the world that should be boring is our home. If it is, we have only ourselves to blame.
The Zen of Mistakes
A lesson I learned many years ago from a wise, successful client concerned what I’ve come to call the Zen of mistakes. After completing a project, I received a phone call to meet with my client, Pauline. After we enjoyed polite conversation, she told me that she’s made a decorating mistake. She didn’t like the color of her library. She’d lived with it for a month, but found it wasn’t the right color for her. Listening to a client reject my color scheme of a freshly decorated room, I was devastated. I felt guilty. Pauline comforted me with a hug, “Kathleen, you have done nothing wrong. This is a beautiful library but it is not right for me. I made a mistake, you didn’t.”
In the years since, I’ve discovered over and over how something can be right for one person and all wrong for someone else. And so I’ve tried to look at mistakes differently—to understand them individually. A mistake is something that is off-target for you. On the positive side, when we make mistakes—and we always do—we learn a great deal about ourselves in the process. Pauline taught me an important lesson. If we make a mistake, I can always correct it. Most people who make a mistake try to pass the blame onto someone else. But whenever we try to do this, we never learn anything. My friends and clients continuously reinforce my attitude that it is often better to bite the bullet, cut your losses, and move on. This might seem easier said than done, especially when money is involved.
We’re All Trying to Paddle Upstream
Whatever you do, take pride in doing your own decorating, and don’t be too hard on yourself (or your decorator, if you use one). What we should remember is that we’re all human. Who likes to mess up? Who likes to admit the mistake? After all, we’re all trying to paddle upstream. We try, and we may err, but accepting that we’re far from perfect ultimately brings us insight and understanding about ourselves.
I find that whenever I get off my path and try to be too sophisticated or fancy, I mess up. I’m most useful to myself and others when I stick close to the bones of everyday life, and I would urge you to do the same. What we experience at home on a typical day is the best way to understand what real life is like.
Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes and surprises, but when we are honestly ourselves, the mistakes will be ones we will be more willing to admit and accept. Perfect people don’t make mistakes, but you and I do. It’s okay.