Home furnishing catalogs land in my mailbox everyday.
These glossy publications pack page after page with stylish sofas, side chairs, vases, lamps and knickknacks that mix and match to bring together the perfectly coordinated room.
It's great -- if you want your home to look like a catalog and not like your home.
Making a house a home is about bringing out personality and style. It's about living in it, not just looking at it. The problem is, not everyone knows how to tap into their style. That's why catalogs filled with every last item needed to pull a room together are so popular and why big-box stores are loaded with cookie-cutter kitchens. Everything's done for you. No need to stop and think about how your personality might play out in a room.
It's enough to send chills through Julie DeJardin.
After 15 years as an interior designer, DeJardin's philosophy has remained the same. She works with clients to find their style, harness it and use it to create rooms that reflect their lives.
"Everyone has it," she says of personal style. "They just need help to release it."
DeJardin, like many other designers I've spoken with through the years, has several tricks. She has clients go through magazines and tear out examples of what appeals to them -- everything from doorknobs to light fixtures. DeJardin says the process always ends the same way: Everything that catches her client's eye will have something in common, such as texture, styling or color.
It happens every time.
Another way she divines design is to ask what their "buzz item" is: a commercial stove, a particular countertop material or a certain style of cabinetry, for instance. Once that's established, the overall look begins to take shape.
Amanda Klash looks for treasures. It's her surefire way to bring unique personality to a room, she says. Klash, of Montgomery Klash Interior Design, asks her clients what they pick up when they travel or what sorts of collections they might have hiding in the basement or packed away in boxes. So many people don't give their things the attention or the prominence they deserve, she says.
Sprinkling a room with special pieces -- family photos framed just right or a collection of hand-painted pillows, masks or musical instruments -- adds vibrancy, says Klash.
Picture the catalog image again: matching sofa and loveseat; occasional rug under a wood-and-glass coffee table, holding some books and a couple of substantial candleholders.
Nice and safe.
Now picture a collection of colorful glass paperweights grouped on the table and African tribal masks at attention on the mantel. Immediately, the room takes on depth.
Sharing your belongings this way shows off another side of you that others may not be aware of, says Klash, who loves that stores such as Pottery Barn have brought good design to the masses.
"But I'm against people being safe," she says, "and worrying about what other people think. Our home is a sacred place where we should be able to be who we are."
Just recently, Klash was talking with a client who pulled out a tremendous silver collection. The client wasn't sure what to do with it.
For Klash, who suggested simply displaying it on a shelf, it was designer's gold.
Personal style may be elusive, but it's not impossible to find. Sometimes I think the magazines with their gorgeous rooms do more harm than good. They seduce us and hypnotize us. We become like so many lemmings marching in design lock step, thinking this is the only way.
The truth is, there are a million ways to do a room and a million ways to make it your own. There's a very clever print ad now running for Andersen windows and doors. It's a picture of a highly stylized room with the tagline that reads: "Is it possible to see yourself in a room without mirrors?"
Walk through your home. Do you see yourself?
Bridget A. Otto: 503-221-8527;
Add your personality to your home
Get those family photos out of the box and into frames. Gather them on tables or frame them identically and hang them in groups.
Have a bunch of candleholders gathering dust? Put the same color candle in all of them and gather them on a mirrored or silver tray. This works for lots of collections: crystal decanters, silver pieces, cut-glass bottles.
Are the throw pillows on your sofa made from the same fabric as the sofa? Try pillows that are brighter, richer or darker in color for a contrasting, yet complementary, change. Keep all your receipts and don't cut any tags off. Because if you get the pillows home and don't like them, you can take them back and try again.
Have something you'd like to display, but nowhere to display it? Take a look at the bookcase in the family room. It doesn't need to hold only books. Store some of the books and make room for a display shelf.
Julie DeJardin can be reached at
1500 SW 5th St. #1505
Portland, OR • 97201 • Tel: 503.768.4540
Amanda Klash can be reached at
Montgomery Klash Interiors
2600 SW Montgomery Dr.
Bev & Mike
Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery