I’m excited to be participating in the My Home Style, Before and After Edition blog hop this week, with a whole bunch of fabulous bloggers. If you’re coming here from The DIY Mommy, welcome! And if you’re a regular reader who’s been around for awhile, you’ve seen my bathroom before, but we’ve made a few updates recently and I’m going to be talking about it in a whole new way today.
The idea behind this is to talk about my particular decorating style, as summed up in three key words, and then share some before and after photos of spaces in my house and walk through the process of infusing that style into those spaces. Which is a really interesting and challenging exercise for me. It’s been fascinating seeing how others in this very diverse group of bloggers have approached the subject (and of course, seeing all the befores and afters, because that’s always fun).
I settled on eclectic, collected, and quirky as my three words, and I’m going to use our master bathroom to take you through them and talk a little about each one. Here’s the scary “before” shot of our master bathroom:
Now. It should be noted that this before doesn’t represent some past incarnation of my decorating style. This is how it looked when we moved in. The “style” was the previous owner’s mishmash of 80’s fixtures with some half hearted 90’s updates, I guess. And carpet. But it does accurately represent my old decorating style if we refer to that style as “OMG, I have so many tiny children I have no time to do anything to my house, so I guess we’ll just have to live with it like this FORVER.” Nowadays I only have one tiny child left, so I’m over that phase, although house stuff still moves at a glacial pace around here.
Anyway, so that’s the before. Living with spaces as is instead of being intentional about how they look.
And here’s the bathroom today:
A little bit of an improvement, no?
Eclectic: This always feels like a bit of a cheat, because it’s such a catch-all term, but I still think I need it here. Our house is a very standard 80’s built colonial revival. When we first moved in, I remember having a conversation with a friend who had also just bought a boxy colonial, about how she was afraid it was going to be hard to know how to decorate the house because her style wasn’t traditional at all. I argued that you didn’t have to do traditional just because you have a traditional house, you could do…..eclectic.
I love mid-century style, but going full on mid-century would feel weird in this house, with its traditional exterior and interior finishes and lines. The same goes for any other style aside from straight up traditional. Traditional would work with the house, but not with my personality, so what we’re left with is a mix of styles, or good old eclectic.
In this room, I have some art deco inspired stuff going on, with all the gold and brass and other metallics, a little glam, the geometric patterns, and some ornate and stylized touches like this feathery gold mirror:
But then, speaking of that feathery gold mirror, it’s part of a gallery wall of mirrors with a mix of different styles:
At some stages of the planning, we considered carrying the art deco elements further. We thought about retro look black and white tile, but ultimately went with classic black slate because we didn’t want our hands to be tied by that 30’s look if we decided to go in a different direction with the room in the future. I also thought about an art deco, waterfall style dresser for the space across from the sink, but, again, I didn’t want to room to be art deco; I wanted it to be an eclectic mix of styles, with some standout art deco elements. So I again went with a more traditional piece, this campaign chest that I had been using elsewhere in the house (but the mahogany veneer still echoes woods that were popular in art deco pieces):
Aside from keeping myself from being tied down by my house’s architectural style, I like to embrace “eclectic” as my style because I don’t want to be tied down to one style either. I like all of them! Well. Most of them. Some people are very comfortable decorating in one style and are great at it. My mom’s house is all french country/cottage, and it works beautifully for her. If I tried to do all one style, I’d feel like a fraud. So to a certain extent, my house is eclectic because I don’t know how to do it any other way.
Collected: When I was getting ready to write this post, I looked up “collected style” to get an idea of what other people have to say about it, and I came across one article telling me that I should use “collected” as a fresher synonym for “eclectic.” But I maintain that the words can mean related but distinct things. I’m using eclectic here to talk specifically about mixing different styles and periods of design. I’m using collected to talk about the actual acquisition of pieces and the underlying philosophy of said acquisition. So I think “collected” and “eclectic” very often go hand in hand but need to be talked about separately. Or, anyway, I’m talking about them separately.
I thought about using “vintage” for this second word, because there’s certainly at least something vintage in every room in my house. Usually a lot of somethings. But I think that really naturally follows from the fact that I like to collect things from all different sources (I’m also drawn to vintage pieces, of course…it’s kind of a chicken or the egg question, I guess): thrift stores, garage sales, ebay, etsy, flea market and antique shops, hand me downs or gifts from family, diy projects, as well as go to sources for new pieces like Target and Ikea and Homegoods and….well, okay, our budget is mostly just Target and Ikea and Homegoods when it comes to new stuff ;).
So in our master bathroom, to give you an example from every category I just listed….
The campaign chest was a gift from my Dad, years and years and years ago when he went through a period of interest in antiques. It’s one of the few pieces I’ve hauled all over the country with me, from house to house to house, and I didn’t even realize it was called a campaign chest until I started reading design blogs several years ago and seeing so many others like it. It’s not in terrific shape, but I still love it and I can’t imagine this bathroom without it now.
The (eclectic!) gallery wall has pieces from all over: the Robert Doisneau poster is from a garage sale many years ago, the cat and zebra prints are both thrifted, and I found the vintage Scottie illustration on Etsy.
And on top of the chest, that zodiac jewelry box came from my mom’s shop, A Classy Flea. She gave it to me as a birthday gift years ago.
The little vintage rug was a gift from my wonderful blogging friend, Cassie Bustamante (who’s also participating in this blog hop; her post will be up tomorrow). The slate tile was our big DIY project for this room. I mean, we didn’t actually go get the stone out of the quarry, but we laid the tile ourselves, and it was an enormous job and NEVER AGAIN. Well, maybe someday. Writing this post motivated me to go out and get a few new plants to replace the ones that have died since the original room reveal last summer. Hoping for better things for this batch! The two plants in the foreground are fakes from Ikea. Because I’ll be doing well to keep just the three real plants alive. The vintage glass towel racks are from ebay, and the shower curtain and bathmat are from Target.
There are some potential pitfalls with a collected style. Sometimes “collected” can just mean….cluttered. There’s a fine line between collector and hoarder. Gathering pieces from so many different sources means rooms can take a very long time to come together and/or that they’re never really finished for good. And especially in the early days of having a new house or apartment, when you still have lots of space to fill, the temptation to bring home everything that catches your eye at the thrift store can be too great to overcome. It helps to have a big basement to help you manage this problem. Ask me how I know. But don’t ask to see my basement if you come over. It’s important to be able to distinguish between things you need and things you kind of want and between things you love and things you like.
But the reward for navigating those issues is that you can end up surrounded by things you love which often have wonderful stories attached to them.
Quirky: And, finally, a room doesn’t really feel like it’s mine until I make it just a little bit weird. When I was in the planning stages for this bathroom, I saw a lot of pictures of absolutely beautiful bathrooms that felt kind of…sterile. It seems like most people are comfortable infusing personality into bedrooms and living rooms and dining rooms, but so many of those same people play it safe when it comes to kitchens and especially bathrooms. Not everyone of course, but many people. I was determined not to let that happen to me. So we have a room that is almost entirely black and white except for the red in the rugs and…the very colorful vintage planter collection:
I love vintage planters, and they’re fairly easy to collect inexpensively. I see them often in flea markets and thrift shops locally, but there are also millions of them on ebay and etsy and many of them are very affordable. So that was my way of throwing in something a little unexpected (and some extra color; doing a room almost all in black and white took me way out of my color comfort zone) in an otherwise pretty grown-up looking bathroom.
Get the look: Well, I already told you that getting this look meant collecting furniture and accessories and art for literally decades, but here’s what I can offer for finding your own versions of some of the key elements I used in this room. And you can find the full source list here. (affiliate links ahead! Thanks for supporting Boxy Colonial)
artwork: I tried to keep the gallery wall as close to all black and white as possible and that meant some vintage illustrations and thrifted paintings and prints, but also some great black and white photography as well. The Robert Doisneau print is a classic:
rugs: the bigger rug in here is the discontinued Tollan rug from Home Decorators Collection. Honestly, I would prefer a actual antique rug in this space (and I’m thrilled to have a vintage rug courtesy of Cassie in front of the tub), but I haven’t found the right one at the right price yet, so I’m lucky to be living at a time when there are so many affordable vintage-look rugs out there. Rugs USA is usually the first place I look for new rugs. Overstock.com is also good. Or here’s one with good reviews that turned up on Amazon:
plants: I love the LOOK of tons of plants, but I don’t have that look anywhere else in my house because kids, cats, black thumb….reasons. But in here I went slightly crazy. All of my plants are from Home Depot, but Amazon will also send a snake plant right to your house. I hear they’re hard to kill. We’ll see.
lighting: I love the big geometric light fixture in the middle of the room, but I can’t tell you where to get your own because mine came from the thrift store. I’ve seen sort of similar ones new, but they’re usually crazy expensive (mine was $10). But I will say that I think the key is to keep your eyes and mind open when it comes to lighting. Look in places you wouldn’t think of like thrift stores and craigslist. Maybe DIY something. Maybe take something that wasn’t intended to be a light fixture and repurpose it.
vintage planters: there are SO MANY of these out there. Do a search for vintage planter on etsy or ebay and have fun scrolling.
mirrors: Our mirror gallery wall was the solution we came up with to the problem of having a really long vanity that we couldn’t afford to replace with a really big, not in great shape builder grade frameless mirror above it. I wasn’t sure I was going to love it, but now I do, and I wish I could get away with a mirror gallery wall in every bathroom. The mirrors came from all over. Some were thrifted, some were from my mom’s shop, a couple were new from Target. This was is cool and has a similar look to the one that hangs over my sink in our bathroom (I got that one at my mom’s shop):
Take some time this week to check out all of the posts! There’s so much great inspiration and interesting observations about finding your personal style. You can head over to The Happy Housie next (one of my favorites!) or start at the very beginning. And thanks so much to Stephanie at Casa Watkins Living for organizing this!
Boxy Colonial (that’s me!)