How To Use Design & Decluttering To Make Your Home Your Sanctuary

Not to brag or anything, but every single time I walk into my apartment I’m fucking STOKED. It’s my sanctuary. It feels like a haven specifically designed to make me happy and, well, it is. And it does.

This didn’t happen by accident and it def didn’t happen overnight; I designed my living space intentionally and methodically and it took a lot of time and work and love and care. I spent the first three months in my apartment living in an unfurnished space. I slept on a (mostly deflated) air mattress for a while, and my bed only arrived last week (the black velvet upholstery and brass modern legs were well worth the wait tho.)

brains over blonde home design

I may be a flower child trapped in an entrepreneur’s body, but living like a drifter in my own apartment wasn’t the dream. It was, however, the plan.

Sometimes even I have to remind myself that just FOUR SHORT MONTHS AGO I was engaged, living with my fiancé, and anticipating my wedding like a ticking time bomb. When I called off my wedding at the end of June, my entire life as I knew it exploded in my face. I was grieving, in shock, disoriented, and alone. Oh, and homeless.

It was SO tempting to move into the first apartment I saw and furnish it overnight so that my glass of rosé could be a LITTLE less full, but I knew that waiting to find the right place would set me up for success during an incredibly trying time. So instead of signing the first lease I laid hands on (for a studio in West Hollywood that was totally not me), I moved into a stranger’s guest room. I slept on a couch next to a life-sized Barbie doll and went to apartment viewings every day for a month. It was uncomfortable and exhausting. It would have been a huge relief to cross “have somewhere to live” off the list asap, but my apartment wasn’t something I was willing to settle on, because it’s my home. And how you feel in your home really matters.

How you feel in your home really matters

If you’re currently shopping around for a new place, be patient. Don’t force it. I stayed patient because I believed I had the power to walk into a place and just KNOW that it was “the one,” and that’s exactly what happened. The moment I walked through the front door of my now home, it was game over. This is so cheesy, but I literally twirled around and thought, “this is where I’m going to build my EMPIRE!” After I signed the lease I sat on the floor Facetiming family and friends for 2hrs bc I didn’t want to leave. It just felt RIGHT. Issa vibe, ya know?

brains over blonde home

This apartment had everything I was looking for on paper, but it also had an energy that felt perfect for me at this time in my life. Every space has an energy, and it’s essential that the vibe feels right to you.

If you’re already living in a place where the energy doesn’t feel quite right, don’t panic. You can shift the vibe of your place by making it your own with design and decluttering (but you’re also gonna wanna get some cleansing sage and crystals OBVIOUSLY.)

Donate before you decorate

Before you buy ANYTHING, it’s time to get rid of stuff. I hate excess and LOOOVE getting rid of things, so I can be pretty ruthless about this, but I guarantee cleaning out stuff you don’t need will IMMEDIATELY improve your life. In my experience, once you choose to get rid of something, you don’t miss it.

Here are my 3 tips for decluttering your nest:

  1. Take inventory every 3-6 months. I used to have a rule that every six months I’d get rid of anything I hadn’t used in the past six months. Now that I live in LA and the weather basically never changes, I get rid of anything I haven’t used in the past THREE months. I don’t worry about things I might need “one day.” I don’t hold onto ANYTHING that doesn’t fit. If I ever end up needing blue glitter again, I’ll just buy some.
  2. Let go of the past. When I called off my wedding, I left my old apartment (including all the furniture that I bought only a year ago) to my fiancé. I did this partly because it’s what he wanted, but mostly because I knew holding onto the past would only hold me back. I was evolving, and I wasn’t trying to replicate my old home; my home needed to evolve too. It’s time to get rid of anything you associate with negative past experiences or people. You are moving FORWARD.
  3. Less is more. We’re busy so stuff piles up everywhere, which stresses us out and makes us even busier. If you hold onto clutter, your life will FEEL cluttered. Every unnecessary possession is an unnecessary burden for you to bare. Give yourself FREEDOM from the things you don’t actually need. It feels good to be light and lean. Simplicity gives you space to BREATHE.

When we clear the excess from our lives, we literally make space for new beginnings. So pick a day, pick a time, put it on your calendar, and TASK BATCH THE SHIT out of decluttering your space. Personally, I prefer the big black trash bag method. I label bags “TRASH,” “SELL,” or “DONATE,” and never look back. Trust me, it will feel so good to unload and LET IT GO. You’ll not only make space for something new, but you’ll also make space for YOU.

brains over blonde home decor

Why does home decor even matter?

Because this is your H-O-M-E. It’s the place where you live, eat, sleep, bathe, cry, decompress, work, entertain, dream… basically some of the most important things you will ever do in life will be within those walls. Do you want to walk into them and feel dull and uninspired? Or do you want to feel happy and at home?

A well-designed home demonstrates care, well-being, personality, and ownership. The design process itself helps you discover and develop your own tastes. If you do it right, there will be no space better suited for you than your own home.

When I first stepped foot in my new apartment, it was like a blank canvas. I saw the story of my future, of my business, and of my life, just WAITING to be painted. And I got to be the artist (which was fantastic, bc I’m obviously OBSESSED w expressing myself…lol.)

I have very specific tastes so living alone for the first time and getting to design a space SPECIFICALLY FOR ME was the DREAM. I am a CONTROL. FREAK. (can u tell?) The idea of relinquishing even the slightest bit of control to a professional designer made me feel woozy (or maybe just drunk from all that rosé.) Then I realized, maybe an interior designer could take a couple sips of the rosé for me….

Interior design is more accessible than you think

I met Havenly‘s co-founder Emily Motayed in a Wharton class while I was deciding between business schools. We hit it off and she generously invited me to tag along to her entrepreneurship club meeting, where I learned all about her interior design startup, Havenly. Sitting on my living room floor surrounded by unpacked boxes (torture for my OCD), I decided to reach out to Emily.

Not gonna lie, I was skeptical that online interior design was any good, but I was desperate and drunk off rosé so I decided to give this Havenly thing a whirl. I was convinced whatever designer got stuck was me was going to HATE me. I’m picky and opinionated af. I browsed through Havenly’s stylist profiles (organized by aesthetic) and found an intriguing potential victim designer: COURTNEY.

brains over blonde havenly

Havenly is offering B/B readers 20% off design packages with code BRAINSOVERBLONDE!

I pulled up her profile, browsed her portfolio, and fully STALKED her Pinterest and Insta (duh). I thought, “HOLY SHIT, is this girl READING MY MIND?” She’d posted the EXACT same images I had on my Pinterest board. She had a serious aversion to color. And like me, it appeared she’d list “marble” as one of her sexual preferences. Maybe this could actually work.

I planned on releasing VERY LITTLE control to Courtney, obviously. I know what I like and she was there to assist with idk… measurements and budget tracking and stuff. Duh. I started filling out Havenly’s “My Room Profile” for my living room:

“BLACK&WHITE, neutrals, & metallics. I LOVE MARBLE. & hides, fur, leather. feminist, strong, neutrals, edgy, modern. Kardashian vibes but not too girly. I like modern, Scandinavian, & a hint of glam. Everything from CB2 is very much my vibe. I also live on the beach & like tropical plants.”

Obvi I included an excessive number of Pinterest boards, layouts, and details in my profile. I then spent hours making a wishlist of every single product I already knew I wanted, complete with my personal commentary on each one. God, I’m a psycho.

Courtney presented me with three initial designs, and I gave my (over-the-top explicit) feedback. She didn’t hate me after (at least she hid it well.) From that point on we were totally on the same page. Courtney just… got it. She got ME. She wasn’t there to impose her own preferences on me, she was there to help me bring my vision to life. Which wasn’t easy, by the way, bc I didn’t just want my place to look pretty* (*and by pretty obvi I mean my exact combination of masculine and feminine), it also had to have something to SAY. About me, about my mission, about my perspective on the world. (I don’t ask for much.)

We joked that I was one of the more “involved” clients that she’s ever had, but Courtney didn’t miss a beat. She picked up what I was putting down, and before long it was as if someone implanted a little nugget of my brain into Courtney’s. We’d be working on something, like picking out my living room rug, and literally both link to the SAME RUG AT THE SAME TIME. INCEPTION!!!

Anyway, I started to realize I could *gasp* trust Courtney with the creative aspects of bringing my vision to life. Again, THIS IS V HARD FOR ME. LIKE V V V HARD. But Courtney kept surprising me. Like when she found these Z Gallerie OMBRE. MONGOLIAN. PILLOWS. LIKE ARE U JOKING I HAD TO HAVE THEM OBVI. And if it weren’t for Courtney, the Fy star-eyed print above my Article leather couch would totes by in the middle instead of on the right (and like how boring would that have been?!)

One my fave things about Havenly is that you can chat with your designer all day every day AIM-style. Of course, it wasn’t long before Courtney and I were texting and calling each other like we’d been bffs for lyfe. Courtney was even in my dream one night (not a stalker I promise), and we’re actual IRL friends now. We’re working together beyond just my living room (she even helped me think through my tattoo placement!)

So ya, online interior design 100% exceeded my expectations. I’m THRILLED I used Havenly to help design my sanctuary. The design package costs are a DROP IN THE BUCKET (& they’re offering 20% to B/B readers with code BRAINSOVERBLONDE) – and the results speak for themselves. Courtney has the eye. Well, she has a similar eye as I do, which I obviously like. Or maybe she’s just really great at adopting the eye of all of her clients and I’m not special at all (TELL ME IT’S NOT TRUE COURTNEY!)

It’s been three months since I moved into a new apartment, and I can finally say I’m settled and it feels like home. It makes me feel motivated, energized, calm, and happy. The atmosphere sets the exact mood that I want at this time in my life. Sounds awesome, right? NOT GONNA LIE, IT IS. If you’re more of a DIY kinda gal, here are my 5 steps for designing your dream space.

Here are my 5 steps for designing your dream space:

1. Create a vision board

I’m obsessed with using Pinterest for creative brainstorming. (You can even use the Pinterest Chrome extension to pin any image on the Internet!) I gather everything that inspires me around a certain idea – be that images, graphics, quotes, whatevs – and pin it to a board. Then I started tightening it up until I have ~30 pins that really represent what I’m going for. Here’s my Pinterest board for my new apartment. I didn’t purchase any of these exact items, but the mood and atmosphere are represented perfectly. Of course, magazine cutouts and poster boards are fun too!

Before you start pinning, ask yourself:

  • How do you want the space to make you feel? (In terms of vibe, mood, & style.)
  • How do you want the space to function? (What’s the purpose of this room? What will you use it for? How will you spend time in it?)
  • What are you trying to express? (Your home design should represent who you are. It will communicate your personality and what matters to you to others too!)

2. Measure your space

I can’t emphasize the importance of measurement enough, especially if you’re ordering pieces online. Just because you love a piece doesn’t mean it will fit well in your space. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is overcrowd your space.

Measure EVERYTHING (floors, windows, ceiling heights, counters, etc.) and decide on a layout for how you want the space to function. Then select pieces that fit your space physically (always read the dimensions when ordering online!)

I used the free app Plan My Room to get a cursory feel for spacing. Then, I marked the dimensions of big furniture pieces on my floors with blue tape and walked around to get a sense for the feel and flow. And speaking of big pieces, you’ll want to pick those first.

3. Pick the big pieces first

The first two furniture pieces I picked were from Article. If you haven’t heard of Article before, it’s like the Glossier of furniture. Basically, Article cuts out all the middlewomen (wholesaler, retail, salespeople) and sells directly to the consumer, meaning you get a much lower price. I love efficiency so much.

I drool over Article’s leather pieces (and prices), so I obv had to have this charcoal leather couch. I mean.

OMGGGG that couch is so buttery & delicious like omg. I sink into it a lot. Like a lot. And it’s only going to get better w age. So that was settled.

The second piece I picked out was that dope floor lamp (also from Article) for a few (obvious) reasons: 1. it makes a statement 2. it’s my happy color 3. IT HAS A MARBLE BASE. Duh.

Article’s delivery is super fast and convenient (they deliver everything personally, and even assembled my lamp for me!) It couldn’t have been easier. For a while, I only had those two pieces. I started to envision the smaller pieces around them. My couch and lamp were black and pop beautifully against lighter colors – so everything around is white and blush (omg, I’m such a color deviant). Everything from the coffee table to the art print sizes was selected in reference to the size of the couch.

4. Set your focal points

Where does your eye drawn when you enter the room? That’s the main focal point. If you put your big pieces there (for me it was my couch and art prints), it will anchor the room and create balance.

But great design is entertaining enough that your eye never settles in just one place! I like to have focal points EVERYWHERE – and a lot of that is in the details.

brains over blonde home decor details

5. Add the details

It’s SO tempting to go walk into CB2 (my fave) and just go wild picking out every single accessory before your place is ready. DON’T DO IT!!! Accessories are accents that draw the eye where you want it to go – and they should be the LAST thing you pick out.

Like with furniture, it’s essential that your accessories be the right proportion. Don’t over-accessorize (we hate clutter); choose a few quality pieces over quantity. Not everything has to “match” (combine & layer textures, colors, etc. Have fun with it!)

 


Even the smallest details in this space were selected with great love and care. There’s literally not a single item in here that I don’t LOVE. If I don’t love it, I got rid of it. This is my sanctuary, and I don’t have space for anything I don’t love. I keep my life finely edited.

Having my place just the way I like it makes my life easier, better, happier. You know what doesn’t make your life easier? A randomly designed home (or even worse, a cluttered home.) You spend a lot of time at home, design it FOR YOU. I’ll leave you with one of my fave quotes:

“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love.”

-Nate Berkus

(Oh & BTW, this is just my living room area 😉 – there’s a lot more to come… stay tuned!)

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  • BrookeNovember 13, 2018 - 1:01 pm

    I’ve really been wanting to try out one of the (many) online interior design companies out there but I had no idea which one to choose! I’m definitely going to try Havenly now. Hopefully I get paired with someone I love as much as you love courtney!ReplyCancel

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