One of my favorite things about moving from Venice to Oregon is that there are actual seasons here. Leaves explode into orange and red in the Fall, and snowdrifts sometimes grace us for Christmas.
There are definite pros and cons to this. February generally marks the time that winter weather ceases to be the charming "lets catch a snowflake with our tongue!" and more "F&%$ this." Regardless, I try to appreciate the seasons for as long as my finicky nature will allow, and part of that is making my house match the seasons. Maybe this is just me, but just the smell of apple cider makes me long for hay rides and pumpkin patches, just as the fragrance of salted air and dead fish make me twitchy for Summer vacation and boardwalk taffy. Creating a seasonally influenced atmosphere not only makes guests feel instantly at home, but just makes you happier and less inclined to kick your car every time the window is frozen over. Plus, happy people just don't shoot their husbands. They just don't.
We tend to have three major parties a year - Halloween, Christmas, and some kind of summertime shindig, and every single time, people come up to me telling me that my house looks like a completely different home, which is because it does. I approach my living space like it's a movie set - I want it to be "Addams Family" around Halloween, "Little Women" at Christmas, and a mixture of "Something's Gotta Give" & "Pirates of the Caribbean" during the summer. Notice I left out the Spring, because, eh. However, if allergy season is your jam, it would be super easy. Pick flowers. Sneeze. Done.
So here are my tips in no particular order on decorating in general, and seasonal transformations with minimal investment and time. I mean, it will take some time. This blog post does not include an order form for a house elf. But, it doesn't take as long as you think, nor cost as much as you would expect, especially if you build up inventory over time. Now, I'm guessing there will be a few of you out there who are thinking, "Why would I do this? I like my house to look the same all the time." Well, why are you reading this then? Don't read this, you bore.
Step 1: Start with a neutral base. Whenever I advise on Interior decoration, I always try to steer people away from big furniture pieces with a pattern or a trendy color. Save the patterns and oxblood for pillows, painted walls, or easily replaceable items, and go neutral for couches and sofas, beds, rugs, dressers, and armoires. I bought some really nice white silk comforters for each bed that look great on their own, but can easily have a duvet thrown on them. Basically anything that you wouldn't purchase on a whim.
"But I want an ochre chaise!" you say. Me too, my friend, me too. How much fun is it hearing a song you like? So, so fun. How much fun is it to hear that song every goddamn day for years on end and changing the radio would cost you $1500+? The answer is not f%*&ing fun. Neutrals might be boring to some (I actually like them), but they won't make you want to claw your eyes out with regret in 2 years when you wonder how you ever liked a mod floral print. If you are still against it, take a snoop through your closet. You know that stash of items in the corner that you bought years (or decades) ago but can't get rid of because you only wore it 3 times and it was on Sex & The City which was a cultural icon for women and OMG you were totally a Samantha*? You're never wearing that again, and it was probably ugly. Yet, you probably still wear that classic LBD or boots that go with everything. However, just because you buy neutral big ticket items doesn't mean they need to be boring. Hold out for great pieces that encompass you as a person, not just how you view yourself at that point in your life.
*I was totally a Carrie. Until I saw the movies and I was like, ugh, I am a none of the above.
Step 2: Stock up seasonally. But not at the beginning. As much as you want to go out and rampage Pottery Barn the second they get reindeer decanters in, hold off until January, when they will be half the price. Unless money isn't an issue for you, in which case, go wild. The big benefit to this is that next year, when you break into your bins o' decor its like a brand new present for you, because you will definitely have forgotten that you bought it. The con is no immediate gratification, but if TIME Magazine is correct, then that's what's wrong with this generation anyway. I am a believer in quality, not quantity, I would rather have 4 gorgeous ornaments on a tree than 200 tacky ones. This way, I get 10-15 ornaments that I love each year to add on next year for the price of 5, or some coral pillowcases in September to dress up the guest bed. When it comes to candles, it's a hit or miss whether to stock up after the fact. You might think they lose some scent in storage for a year, but if you go high quality, I've found that they don't. I keep my Winter owl Anthropologie candle in the linen closet because it is my favorite thing ever and I don't want it to break in storage, and every time I take a towel out I am assaulted with the loveliest sugared pine smell ever, and it is 2 1/2 years old.
Step 3: Stock up seasonally, but the opposite of what I just said. You may want to change out your linen curtains for some heavier, richer fabrics, so might as well invest in some thermal curtains that will save you money all Winter, then change out for something lighter to let the sun in when you aren't clinging to every ounce of heat in your house. In this case it really wouldn't make sense to buy in February, because you won't get the benefits of them when you need it, and the selection in the warmer months would be dismal. Same goes for electric fireplaces (though those can and should be left up year-round) and any indoor plants or other functional items. (Yes, plants are functional. THEY PURIFY YOUR AIR. Do you want to breathe in rank, toxic air?) Also, pumpkins. Cable knit throws. There are a lot more but you get the gist, just use your judgment - can you possibly wait or is there a good reason to buy now?
Step 4: Don't go gimmicky. I know I'm one to speak as I pretty much buy anything with a skull on it from August - October, but for the most part, steer clear of holiday-ey stuff for stuff that need not be holiday. Want to decorate your front porch for the Winter? Great. Don't buy a "'Tis the Season" or "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel" doormat. Or a mistletoe laden wreath. Focus on Winter items that you can leave up. What about an antique sled? Or a pinecone collection? You can always accent it with Holiday accents. Same for Summer. No July 4th serving dishes. And don't get me started on Valentine's decor. You don't want stuff you can use for a month, you want stuff you can use over time that doesn't lose its charm after an event is over. There is nothing worse than cleaning up after a Holiday party, because not only are you likely hungover, and said Holiday is over, but then suddenly everything you thought was charming about the Holiday looks SO ANNOYING and you want it out right now, so this step helps eliminate some of that hassle.
Step 5: STORAGE. It's important. When you see a good deal on good rubber bins, stock up on more than you think you need and get some good labels. Do not just throw them all in a trash bag then stick them out by the shed and then when you open them next year there are spiders living in them. BIG spiders. Clearly this has happened to me. Learn from my mistake that resulted in me tossing out an entire bag of decorations and rocking maniacally in the closet for over an hour.
Step 6: Be interesting. Choose items that have a history or a story. If you abhor vintage, make something yourself. Go out of the box. In the Summer, I put away all my darker throws and make everything lighter. I break out the seashells, and put my antique model boats everywhere, but my favorite items are one of a kind, like my ships telegraph lamp and an old ships wheel mirror LOML found in my in-laws garage. These things aren't for everybody, but that's why they're not mass-marketed. I'm not saying you can't shop at an IKEA, just balance it with something that sets you apart from a model home. And obviously my idea of Summer is quite nautical. Yours might be completely different, so make it your own.
Step 7: Multitask. Sometimes, items that look really "Summery" or "Autumn-ey" can still be repurposed for other seasons. I have a miniature Christmas tree in my hallway each year decorated with shells with a starfish on top. Use the same color theme year round if you want. While deep reds and warm blues will always signify a cozy wintry fire and hot cocoa to me, there is no getting around the fact that the image to the right would be magnificent during the holidays.
Step 8 : Be independent. Which might mean disregarding everything I just said. If any of the above steps made you angry because you really love your heart shaped china or lime green etagere, or you really think your haphazard storage system is super effective, that means you have some passion for it which I can never hate on. One of my friends has a relative that owns over 200 light up Santas and proudly displays them on his roof every year, and I think that is badass, although I would never sleep in that house for fear they would come alive and graft reindeer antlers on me for some sick, arthouse statement against the killing of reindeer. Rock your own style because that is what will make you happiest. My enchanting mother has a collection of Kachina dolls that I hate with a passion, but she adores them, and despite how much she respects me as a designer, no amount of complaining or disgust on my part will make her move them from the premium focal point of the house. Now that is true love, my friends. For her Kachina dolls. It still really creeps me out that I have to look at a mutant half wolf half human who is on the attack every time I visit, but I respect her for not caving into my incessant demands. The point is, if you MUST have your turquoise and yellow chevron stripe sofa, then go for it, but please do let me know how you feel about it in 3 years, because, as the love of my life likes to remind me, I love to say "I told you so." Deal?