How To Design Your Home: Insights from “The Inspired Home”

Whether you are designing your home from the ground up or furnishing a home that has already been built, how do you make it your own?

The Inspired Home by Karen Lehrman Bloch is a fantastic resource and inspiration in this exploration. Her encouragement: Don’t worry about what your home says about you, just think about what your home says and does to you. How can you make a space that inspires you?

Below you’ll find a bunch of quotes from all across the book that string together her argument (though we recommend getting the book because there is even more goodness in it than we’re able to include here and the pictures are both inspiring and nourishing).

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“Our interiors, the thinking has been, need to be ‘decorated,’ most often by a specific recipe—Modern or traditional; English or French; sleek or bohemian. Unfortunately the decorated home doesn’t always feel particularly good to live in. In fact, pristine period rooms...can actually make us feel bad. When life throws us that inevitable curveball, living in these environments can make us more depressed: we can’t live up to their gloss, their sheen, their ‘perfection.’”

“We have been taught to see our homes as showpieces—to think that this sofa or that painting ‘says’ something about me. We need to be able to say, ‘This piece touches me, moves me, inspires me.’ Decorating for display…[is] a fleeting, superficial gratification—one that needs to be continually reinforced with newer, bigger, ‘better’ items. Seeing your home as a source of inspiration means filling it with pieces that you want to keep for a lifetime. And you don’t need a grand budget...The questions we need to keep asking ourselves is: How does this piece make me feel? Does it speak to me?”

“Sometimes, though, we enter a building—perhaps a museum, a house of worship, or even a grand hotel—and the effect is immediate and profound. The stresses of the day seep quickly from our consciousness. Our shoulders relax; they may even straighten a bit. We don’t just feel good; we feel inspired.”

“You are the artist of your home.”

So how do you do it? How do you design your home?

  1. Design detox: Strip your mind of any preset notions of what your home “should” look like.
  2. Integrate who you are with the with the physical realities of your home. “We must listen to the deep needs of your soul,” says architect Cavagnari.

Bloch speaks a lot about drawing from nature, authenticity, proportion, scale, tighten color palettes, balance, harmony, and all kinds of other great principles of design. Here are a few highlights:

Texture

“Babies starve emotionally from a lack of human touch, and as adults we starve on various levels from living in overly sleek environments: our minds and bodies are wired to require sensory experience.

Layering

“The key to mirroring the mystery of nature—to creating deep beauty in your home—is ‘layering’: integrating different cultures and periods and diverse shapes, textures, and colors to create highly individualized, multidimensional compositions. It’s not about finding the ‘right’ chair/coffee table/painting to ‘match’ the sofa. It’s about learning how to assimilate disparate pieces of timeless beauty with the understanding that while these pieces can—and should—stand on their own, they are often enhanced by sitting on top of, next to, or underneath other pieces of timeless beauty.”

Non-decoration

“Of course, a room can have all of these elements—pure colors, sensual materials, a layering of cultures and centuries—yet still feel too polished, too ‘decorated.’ Though deeply beautiful, nature does not feel or look decorated: it feels unified yet unstudied. As a result, the  more decorated a home looks the less authentic it feels.”

“This isn’t to say that your furnishings should feel random. What you want is a home that looks and feels as though you’ve always lived there—a home that looks ‘collected’ rather than decorated. How to do this? Hand-select pieces that speak to you—but do it slowly. “A rich tableau develops over time,’ says designer Jan Montoya. ‘Don’t fill your house with stuff. This space is empty—let’s fill it in. No, you need to wait until you find the right piece. Use a pillow instead of a chair until you find the right chair. Don’t rush it—a space has to unfold over time.’”

Simplicity

“We’ve been taught to feel nervous around too much emptiness but the truth is that our brains actually prefer it that way. The natural settings that we find most relaxing are those that resemble a savannah: low, open grassland, quiet water, scattered trees. It’s not a coincidence that meditation is based on the concept of negative mental space: gently removing all thoughts to create a mental stillness, a calmness. We can create the same atmosphere in our homes.”

And a favorite quote that sums up the intention of this perspective of home design, homeowner Alison Palesvsky said, “Spending time in this house is cathartic. Every time we leave Casa Tortuga we feel rejuvenated and focused.”

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How do you feel about this approach to designing your home? Does this resonate with you?