HomeMade: Writing Your Home Recipe

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing posts with tips and questions to help you find your unique home style (and guidelines to shop accordingly.) The goal is not to go on a shopping spree when we’re finished. The goal is to make more thoughtful and resourceful decisions as you inevitably encounter opportunities to purchase “ingredients” for your home. We will work together to write our “home recipes”, and talk about how to go “grocery shopping” at thrift stores. We will talk about when to pay extra for a “restaurant” experience, and when to opt for the “grocery store”. We will explore examples of common “home style recipes” that can be tweaked to serve your family’s unique “dietary needs”.

This post is the second in a series about discovering your “home recipe”. If you missed the first post, I’d recommend reading it first before diving in to this one!

You can read the first post here.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s get started!


Your home has a recipe (whether you know it or not!)

The way your home looks and functions is a representation of your unique home recipe, which is made up of your unique list of ingredients. When you’re cooking a meal, it is important that you use the right ingredients. You wouldn’t try to make banana bread without bananas, but you shouldn’t try to put bananas in a pasta dish. It wouldn’t turn out the way it should, and it wouldn’t taste good. The way your home looks and functions is no different.

I think a lot of women struggle to “find their style” because they’re cooking with the wrong ingredients, and they don’t know how to make an intentional shopping list.

Your home already has a style.

You might not feel like you know what your style is, but I promise you have one. You might not fit into a specific category (I know I sure don’t!), but your style is probably more obvious than you think! Think about your absolute favorite spaces in your home. What do you love about them? Are they full of family heirlooms? Are they uncluttered and minimal? Are they decked out in knick knacks and special treasures? Are they colorful? Neutral? Modern? Vintage? All of the above?

I’m going to suggest two steps that will help you define your unique home style.

1.Take inventory of what’s in your “pantry”

By “pantry” I really mean “home”, but I’m trying to roll with the food analogy. 🙂 What ingredients do you already have in your home? Do you have a lot of vintage furniture with character? Or do you lean more towards minimal and modern style? (P.S. My goal is to help you clarify your style and be more content with your home. We’re not going to dream up a recipe that will result in you going out and replacing everything you already own. That wouldn’t be wise, and I am willing to bet that it is absolutely unnecessary. You are, however, allowed to sell and get rid of things that you do not love that are taking up space in your home.)

Make a list of the ingredients you already have and love. Later, this list will help us determine what other ingredients we need to add to complete your recipe.

Here’s my list to help you see what I’m talking about. My family consists of me, my husband, and our dog. If you live by yourself or have kids, your list might include different things than mine. For example, if you have kids, their toys should be on your list.

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Here’s a template for you to print and use if you’d like.

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That’s my list! Now that I can clearly see the elements that make up my home and decor, it will be easier down the road to see what I might need to add or take away.

2. Think about what purpose you want your home to serve.

Before we can write our home recipes, we have to figure out what we’re trying to cook. Look at your list of ingredients.

Which ones are non-negotiable?

The couch that you don’t love but can’t afford to replace? Your kid’s toys? Your husband’s board game collection and TV in the living room? Your giant, colorful rug? Your favorite chair? These ingredients may or may not be your favorite, but they are essential. They’re the bread and butter of your home’s pantry.

I believe that your home should serve your family. If it is doing a good job of serving your family, you probably have a clear idea of what should be physically taking up space. If your home is not serving your family, we have some work to do. Your home is the place where you live. It doesn’t need to be perfectly styled like a magazine cover, but on the flip side I don’t believe that your home should be a place where you hoard and allow your “stuff” to reign.

Maybe you need to be more okay with your kid’s toys being scattered across the floor and the throw pillows never being perfectly fluffed. Maybe you need to let go a little.

Or maybe, you need to declutter and eliminate the excess “stuff” that isn’t serving your family or reflecting your style. Maybe you need to be a little more intentional about the way your home functions and looks.

Ultimately, I believe that the way your home feels and functions is more important than how it looks. But if how your home looks is keeping it from feeling and functioning the way you want it to, that’s an easy fix.

Decide how you want your home to feel, and the way it should look will become obvious.

Now think about the ingredients you absolutely love.

Maybe its the vintage art or the minimal furnishings. Whatever you already own and truly love will help you uncover your personal style. Like I said, these things might not fit neatly into a “design category” like minimal or vintage or boho, but they will help you create your own category.

My list stayed pretty much the same, but maybe you need to add or subtract a few ingredients.

Cross off anything that isn’t essential or that you don’t love. Keep the things that you love and that are non-negotiable.

This is your home recipe. 

I’m willing to bet that your home doesn’t need extra stuff. If you’re like me, you’re probably the opposite.

Take another look at your list of necessary and favorite ingredients. This next step is going to involve a little “homework”. (Get it? Homework? Like you’re working on your home? Ok… I’m done…)

Here’s your “homework” to complete before we define your style and make our “grocery lists”. You might not feel like your style is clear yet, but I promise we will get there.

I want you to carve out an afternoon or an hour of time. This is an intimidating step, but I believe it is absolutely essential.

I want you to take your new home recipe, full of your non-negotiable ingredients and the ingredients that you love, and walk around your home. Now that you have a physical list of the ingredients that serve your home’s purpose and reflect what you love, you’ll be able to see what doesn’t belong on your list. You love neutral colors but you have a bunch of random brightly covered throw pillows? They don’t belong. You love simplicity and un-cluttered spaces, but you have a bunch of “decorative items” that you don’t love? They don’t belong.

The first step to figuring out your home style is not adding new things- but subtracting things that don’t belong.

Walk around your house and clear out the ingredients that don’t belong. Put them all on the dining room table or in a spare bedroom. This might be difficult if you’re not happy with a lot of big furniture items, but remember what we talked about earlier- some things are non-negotiables, and we can work with those things by being resourceful and intentional.

I want you to clear out the unnecessary decor and clutter that doesn’t serve your family or reflect what you love. 

When you can clearly see what doesn’t belong, it’s easier to make room for the things that do belong. You’ll ideally be left with spaces that more clearly represent your style, and it will be easier to define your style when you’re only left with decor you truly love.

The next step is to sell, donate, or repurpose the things that don’t belong. Maybe some things need a simple coat of paint or a new pillow cover. Maybe some things are completely unnecessary and can go to Goodwill. I can’t make those decisions for you, but try to be responsible about discarding your excess stuff. Unless it is actually trash, there is probably someone out there that could benefit from your excess! Have a yard sale or take a trip to your local thrift store. Getting the excess out of your house will help your space take a deep breath.


That’s it for this week. Next week we will work on naming our recipes and creating “grocery lists” of decor and elements to keep on your horizon. I’d love to see your home recipe! You can follow me on Instagram for daily snapshots of life and home. Send me your home recipe on Instagram or through my contact form so I can share them in my next post!

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HomeMade: Does Your Home Have A Recipe?

You walk into Target for toilet paper and mascara. You spend an hour and $15 in the home section but you get to your car and realize you forgot the toilet paper and mascara. (again? crap. maybe next time.) You get home and realize that the thing you bought for your home doesn’t really fit with your decor, but it was at Target so it must be trendy… right?

Does this sound like you? I know I’ve been there way too many times. My friend Briee and I both love Target, but we live in rural Iowa and the closest one is over an hour away. One time we drove there to just wander around. To walk through every aisle. To breathe the sweet Target air. (That last one was a joke… kind of). We don’t even really like Starbucks, but we bought drinks to walk around with while we shopped aimlessly. I don’t remember if I bought anything on that trip, but if I did it clearly wasn’t something I remember, and it probably cost more than $15.

$15 at a retail store can buy you a fraction of a pillow. (Or maybe something from an end cap, or the mascara you came for, but probably not both). Sure, you can guarantee these things will be trendy on some level, but your dollars won’t get you very far. This photo is what $15 at a thrift store looks like.

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A floral tablecloth that could be in an Anthropologie catalog ($2), an iconic framed “Grace” print ($3), an ORIGINAL framed oil portrait of a woman named Mary ($1), two vintage metal canisters ($5), and four coupe cocktail glasses ($4).

(Important Side Note: Did I need any of these items? No. This post isn’t about shopping for your home’s basic needs like food and toilet paper (and mascara 😉 ) You don’t need to decorate your home, but you probably do. I want to encourage thoughtfulness and resourcefulness in all areas of homemaking, including decorating. If we’re already going to be doing certain things (like decorating and meal planning and dressing ourselves), we might as well be doing them as thoughtfully, intentionally, and frugally as possible.)

$15 is on the higher end of what I would usually spend at a thrift store. I don’t go thrifting super regularly, but when I do I try not to spend more than $5-10.

I was a little hesitant at first to spend $15 at the thrift store, but then I thought about how easy it is to drop $15 at Target like it’s no big deal.

You put one pillow and some nail polish in your cart and suddenly you’re out $40. My husband, Ben, came up with a brilliant analogy as we discussed this strange phenomenon last night.

He said that retail stores are like restaurants. You go there and pay more for the convenience of a meal that is already prepared, when you could buy the ingredients for much less at the grocery store.

The struggle with grocery stores is that you have to know your ingredients beforehand (and how to combine them when you get home). A trip to the grocery store requires intentional planning and thoughtfulness in order to create the meal you want to make. You can’t go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a Caesar Salad and come home with M&M’s and bread.

I thought this was brilliant.

This might make restaurants look more appealing. There is a menu full of diverse options that are guaranteed to be prepared and presented with no effort on your part. Sure, it’s more expensive than a trip to the grocery store to make the same meal, but you’re paying for convenience. Someone else is doing the planning and the preparing for you.

Walk into any big-box store and you’ll get your home styling already prepared- for a price. You’ll find new, trendy, curated collections of home decor that are priced for convenience.

Walk into a thrift store and you’ll find aisles of “ingredients” that require discernment and thoughtfulness to put together, but for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for retail.

I think the convenience and trendiness of big-box stores are why some people struggle to find their style. “I wanted a Caesar salad, so why does my home look like M&M’s and bread?” It doesn’t go together. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t taste good.

This analogy gave me an idea for a new perspective on thoughtful homemaking and resourceful decorating. To get your wheels turning… if the way your home looks and functions is a unique recipe, what are your ingredients? And can you source your ingredients from thrift stores for a lower cost and the same result? Have you been buying meals instead of ingredients? And if so, do these meals belong in the same restaurant?

Decor trends change as quickly as retail stores can get new products on the shelves.

It’s how they keep you coming back for more, more more. Example A is the farmhouse trend. A year ago, you would find chippy white knick knacks and “simple farmhouse” decor on the shelves of any retail store. But now? Women that have entirely redecorated their homes in the “farmhouse” style are coming to me and asking how they can “get out”. The trend is over, and women are stuck with decor that isn’t their style.

The number one question I get from readers is, “How do I know what my style is? I like so many different styles. My house feels like a crazy mess.”

I’ve thought about how to answer this question so many times in so many different ways. This analogy of restaurants vs. grocery stores and retail vs. thrift stores has given me clarity in my answer.

I think that women don’t know “what their style is” because they depend on retail stores to have style for them, and retail trends are always changing.

This is why your home might feel like a crazy mess. Last year it was “farmhouse”. But the year before that it was “industrial”. Maybe the year before that it was “boho”, but this year everything is “minimal modern”. If you exclusively decorate your home with trendy big-box ingredients, it’s going to feel dated and crazy really fast.

Maybe you’re thinking, “There has to be a better way!”

I’d like to suggest that a better way exists, and is accessible to everyone.

The “better way” is filling your home with things that make you smile, instead of following pre-packaged trends.

I’m not suggesting you scrap everything in your house and start over. I never want to promote unhealthy consumerism or “buying” your way out of a design problem. I don’t think it’s wise. I don’t think it’s good stewardship of resources. And frankly, it’s just not as much fun. Your home is about so much more than “things” from stores.

How your home feels and functions is more important than how it looks, but how it looks is inevitably part of how it feels

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing posts with tips and questions to help you find your unique home style (and guidelines to shop accordingly.) The goal is not to go on a shopping spree when we’re finished. The goal is to make more thoughtful and resourceful decisions as you inevitably encounter opportunities to purchase “ingredients” for your home. We will work together to write our “home recipes”, and talk about how to go “grocery shopping” at thrift stores. We will talk about when to pay extra for a “restaurant” experience, and when to opt for the “grocery store”. We will explore examples of common “home style recipes” that can be tweaked to serve your family’s unique “dietary needs”.


Thanks for following along with me here on Holland Avenue Home. This blog is an invitation to thoughtful homemaking, and it is my goal to encourage resourcefulness and good stewardship in all areas of home life. I want to use my love for design as a way to serve others, and your support of this blog makes that possible. Thank you.

If you want to be notified when new posts go live, click the “follow” button on the sidebar under the “Brighten Your Inbox” header. You can also follow Holland Avenue Home on Instagram for post announcements and daily encouragement toward thoughtful homemaking. 

With so much love, 

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One Woman’s Trash… Is Another Woman’s Chair

“The Trash Chair” (as we are now calling it) found a home in our kitchen nook today.

It was lovingly named “The Trash Chair” because we picked it up off of the curb on our town’s junk day! My husband spotted it on his drive to work and then came back home to pick me up and go see it. (Our town is only one mile wide so turning around on a drive isn’t that big of a deal 😂). I saw it and immediately started reaching to put it in the car.

It is surprisingly comfy! This is the fourth mustard yellow armchair in our house, but as far as looks go, she might just be my favorite. Dainty, yet strong. The perfect shade of mustard yellow. Not too green, not too orange. Just pure mustard velvet goodness with a side of tufting.

I can’t believe someone was throwing it away!

I witnessed the garbage men coming around to collect furniture on my street yesterday. They pick up whatever is on your curb with a giant scoop, and dump it into the back of a giant trailer, then smoosh it down with the blade of the scoop. Large recliners and wooden furniture were coming apart like they were a house of cards! It was kind of amazing to watch, but also very sad to me. Sure, some of it is actually “trash” that can’t be rescued. But a lot of things I saw on the curb could either be used by someone in need or repurposed and given new life in another home. Barely any of our furniture is brand new, because I see the value in repurposing and restoring and adding value to things that are “pre-loved”. (Unless it smells funny. Always leave it behind if it smells funny).

I’m glad we rescued The Trash Chair from its impending fate of being smooshed.

It adds the perfect pop of color and vintage goodness to this corner of the kitchen. You know what they say… one woman’s trash is another woman’s new favorite chair! Er… something like that!

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve repurposed or rescued from a landfill?


Our Guest Room Has New Floors! (Kind of)

Yesterday, Ben and I took on a project we are now very familiar with. We removed the carpet from our large guest room! The process took about two hours from start to finish. (I’ve thought about writing a post with instructions and tips for removing carpet, but it is so simple and there are already tons of resources out there. My only tips are to wear thick soled tennis shoes (in case you step on a staple), and to remove any and all carpet anywhere (show no mercy).

I’ve already written a “Before and After” about this guest room, but the only things we did then were paint and install a new light fixture. We bought the white Ikea bedding and yellow curtains specifically for this room, but everything else was randomly collected.

I knew I wanted to take the carpet out of this room, which led to more design dreaming about what this room could look like. I had this vision in my head of a vintage bed and breakfast, but with modern flair. I didn’t know how to describe it well, but I could picture the vibe. Turns out, all we needed to do to achieve the modern b&b vibe was take out the carpet! The collection of vintage pieces in this room felt a little odd with the beige carpet and black wall. But now, the hardwood floors really tie the whole vintage vision together. I’m in love!

Here are some before photos and progress shots.

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The hardwoods in this room are in the best condition of the three rooms we have uncovered. The living room and office are also in good “condition” but will need to be refinished because of the dark spots in the middle of each room. I was relieved to see that the guest room didn’t have a dark spot! There is a little variation in color throughout the room, but I love the added character that shows they’re original to the house! We’re planning to refinish the living room, office, and stairs in the summer because of the dark spots. We might also refinish this room down the road for the sake of future people in this house, but it really doesn’t look like it needs it.

Now for some photos of the room after I re-styled it!

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(The Star Wars string art was a gift that Ben’s best friend, Tim, and Tim’s wife, Jenn, made for us!)

And now my favorite view…

THE FLOOOOOORS!!!!!

I need to buy some hardwood cleaner to get the floors and trim looking cleaner and overall better, but they look incredible for only sweeping a few times!

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I love how the vintage cane chair, Turkish kilim pillow, bird print, and shelf accessories are very vintage and muted. The black frame, sage shelf with clean lines, and white walls add the modern flair. The hardwood floors provide the combination vintage-yet-modern element that ties everything together.

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I bought this chair last week at Goodwill for $5! I knew it needed a home on top of hardwood floors and in front of a white wall so the cane detail could be clearly seen. (Very specific, I know, but when I get an idea I try to make it happen!). I loved the way the vintage kilim pillow looked with the chair, and thought that the pair would look even better next to something that sage color. The next logical step was to paint something sage! I love how this shelf turned out. It used to be a cherry laminate with a frosted glass door on the bottom half. It was in Ben’s childhood room. We decided to take off the door and paint it sage (using paint I already had). I love the clean contrast it provides to the muted, natural tones of the cane chair and kilim pillow. This shelf is stocked with guest room goods, like extra blankets, a fan, and a box of “just in case” toiletries.

(There used to be a yellow armchair where the peach stool is, but it took up a lot of floor space. I wanted to provide empty floor space that wasn’t right in front of the door where guests can keep suitcases. When you’re styling a guest room, just remember to leave a space for guests to keep their things!)

Here are some waaayyy “before” photos of what the room looked like when we moved in two years ago. (It used to be a kids room. The paint and fan were cute for kids, just not for our grown-up guest room! I had a fan just like that in my room at my grandparents’ house! You can’t see them very well in this photo, but there are glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Those are still there, because we think they’re really cool. 🙂 )

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So there it is! It is my new favorite room in the house. I love the vintage “Schoolhouse-esque” elements like the chalkboard, vintage fan, gold alarm clock, and gingham pillow. The vintage rug, art, and other vintage accessories bring in the bed and breakfast vibe I was hoping for. The black accent wall, white bedding, and clean lines of the frame and shelf provide the modern ingredient that keeps things feeling fresh. In every space that we have uncovered the original hardwood floors, I’m amazed that the room instantly feels like it has always been that way.

We don’t own this house, so we are very intentional about which projects we decide to do. My goal with projects in this house is to restore as much of the original charm of this 1910 craftsman, while also seeking to raise the value of the house with modern updates. We’ve painted every room a neutral color. We’ve updated a few light fixtures. We’ve uncovered a lot of hardwood, and plan to refinish it all ourselves. I’ve stripped painted trim and am working on restoring it. I’ve painted trim in rarely used areas of the house where the wood was damaged beyond repair and just needed to look better. None of those are difficult projects, and most can be done for the cost of a can of paint. (Or a can of paint stripper, in some cases 🙂 ) We aren’t planning to go anywhere anytime soon, but I recognize that we are not the last people that will ever live in this home. That’s why we only do projects that will add value to this house. If I owned this house, I might tastefully paint some of the trim. But, that would take away value from this house, so I’m not touching it! Instead, I’m taking paint away in spaces! Even if you own your home, keep that in mind as you work on home-improvement projects. Home-improvement projects are intended to add value to a house, not subtract from it. Do your absolute best work– if not for your standards, then for the people that will come behind you.


Thanks for reading! I’m going to go look at the guest room again, because I’m a little obsessed with that cane chair+bird print combo. Ben and I are about to leave for auditions for our community theater production of Annie. Then we get to see his grandparents, who are visiting Alta! What are you up to this weekend?

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Sources:

I can only source a few things in this room, because almost everything is vintage!

White bedding: Ikea

Striped bedding: Ikea

Black frame: Ikea

Nightstand Lamp: Target

Curtains: Target

White pitcher: Hobby Lobby

Tiny Turkish rug: Won in a giveaway from New England Loom

Everything else is vintage!


Three Things to Spring Clean That Aren’t Your House

If you’re anything like me, you have The Bug. I’m not talking about an actual insect or some kind of stomach bug (which my husband had last week). If you’re anything like me, you have the Spring Cleaning Bug. The only problem with this is that I live in Northern Iowa, so the word “Spring” must be used very loosely! We had a few warm days last week, but we have 2-6 inches of snow in the forecast for tomorrow. (It’s fine I’m only crying on the inside.)

If you have the desire to hit the reset button after a long winter, but you don’t get excited about the idea of deep cleaning your house, I thought of a few things that could probably benefit from a good “scrub”. You won’t find these things on any Spring Cleaning list on Pinterest, because they aren’t part of your house. However, I’ve found that getting these three things under control helps my everyday life feel less cluttered and dragged down by natural accumulation. Of course these tasks can be done at any point in the year, but accomplishing them now will help you hit the reset button as you eagerly wait for the refreshment of Spring.

Three Things to Spring Clean That Aren’t Your House

1.Your Cell Phone

I take pictures like it’s going out of style. Before we went to Paris in December, I had 10,000 pictures on my camera roll. Most of these were unimportant screenshots or photos that didn’t make the final cut for blog content. I have a 64gb iPhone SE, so running out of storage space isn’t a concern. (My husband knows me well and treated me to lots of storage after my 16gb iPhone constantly filled up.) The tedious task of cleaning out your camera roll of unwanted photos can help you resurface old photos you DO want to keep! I recommend doing it all at once. I did this before our Paris trip while sitting on the couch one evening. When I was finished, there were about 1,000 photos left. I haven’t done a large purge since then, so the number has crawled back up to 5,000. A few other places to clean out on your phone are your messages and email. If you send pictures back and forth a lot, they are stored in your messages app and can eat up your storage space.

2. Your Purse

My sister-in-law used to clean out her purse at the end of every day. I started doing this for a while, and then went back to my old habit of accumulating random crap and letting it live inside my purse for weeks. Dump your purse out on the dining room table and get to work. I usually discover old receipts, lots of hair ties, lipstick I forgot I owned, and the occasional random “how the heck did this get in my purse” object.

3. Social Media

A few weeks ago, I complained to my husband that the new Instagram algorithm keeps me from seeing posts from my friends. He asked, “Well what are you seeing?” I responded, “Posts from companies, blogs I don’t really read, people I don’t know.” He asked a simple question that contained the answer to my complaints.

“Why are you following them if you don’t want to see their posts?”

“Oh. Huh. Yeah I guess you’re right. I don’t know why. I guess I can unfollow them.”

I’ve recently discovered that daily life results in accumulation. There can be good accumulation, like the accumulation of skills and memories and experiences and useful possessions. But the other side of the coin is the daily accumulation of the things that weigh us down. Laundry. Garbage. Stuff. Worries. People You Followed On Instagram One Time And Now Don’t Know Why You’re Seeing Their Posts All The Time. Friends on Facebook That You Haven’t Talked to Since Middle School and All They Do is Share Videos You Don’t Want to See But They’re Always on Your News Feed. That kind of stuff. I realized I was following over 1,000 people on Instagram, while I only really cared about seeing posts from a handful of friends and my favorite blogs. I went through the list of people I followed, and if I didn’t recognize their username I unfollowed them. Like my camera roll, I went from following over 1,000 people to under 200. Now when I look at my Instagram feed, I only see posts from people I actually want to see. The app has become less annoying and more enjoyable. Of course, we don’t have to even use social media. It can be used as a tool to engage with friends and interests. If you do choose to use social media, you have to decide how to use it.

I’ve also gotten in the habit of immediately unfriending people on Facebook when I notice I don’t need to be connected to them anymore. That sounds harsh or “unfriendly” (hah) when you say it like that, but I know I forget that I get to decide how to engage with social media. It is your decision and only your decision. You must be your own keeper when it comes to social media engagement. There is no one to monitor the health of your social media consumption except for you. Most people would agree that it is healthy to give children and teenagers boundaries with the internet, but as adults we can forget that we need boundaries too. I need to keep a close eye on what I consume on the internet. If you’ve found that your social apps are more draining than life-giving, prioritize your health and start a purge. Clean out your friend list and your follow list so that social media can be a tool and an enjoyment instead of a burden on your heart and mind.


I know that Spring is coming. I hope that these ideas can help you push the reset button and be free from the daily accumulation of life. Have you started any Spring Cleaning? Are there any places or things you habitually purge to stay healthy? I’d love to hear your ideas in a comment!

With Love, 

Avery

P.S. I cleaned out my closet yesterday and will be having a closet sale on Instagram this Thursday. The clothes are mostly size small. I saved the best of the best for the sale and am donating the rest. You’ll be able to find Anthropologie, Madewell, Gap, and a few other nice brands for great prices! (I’m saving up for a pair of clogs!)

Follow @averymichaelscloset on Instagram and keep an eye out for posts starting on Thursday, April 5th, at noon Central time!


The Number One Question You Should Be Asking Before Decorating Your Home

Yesterday, I asked a question in an Instagram post. I asked, “What do you think is the number one question you should be asking before decorating your home?” I know what my answer is, but some of the responses are too good not to share before I get started. Some of the serious answers showed that people actually read my posts, and some of the funny answers made me laugh out loud.

My mom said, “Can I shop my house before I buy something?” That’s a good question to ask, but I think another question should come first! (Also hi, Mom!)

My friend Stephanie had a similar response. “How can I redecorate using what I already have?” Another important question, but I think it comes later in the process!

My friend, Briee, had some pretty good questions that really made me reconsider my number one.

“Will my husband move the furniture for me AGAIN?”

And my favorite…

“Do I even live here?!?!?!”

These questions are ALL good questions to ask before you design or tweak any space in your home. (Especially “Do I live here?” You should probably make sure you are in YOUR HOME before you start changing things around!)

But before you ask yourself WHAT you are going to change (or even HOW you’re going to do it) I think it is much more important to ask yourself WHY. 

Asking yourself WHY you want to create or change a space should be the first step in your design process. 

If you don’t know why you’re decorating, furnishing, or styling a space, you won’t have a clear vision for the finished product. Homes are never really finished, which is a good thing. Your home will evolve through different seasons and hopefully change when necessary to better serve you and your family. But before you begin redesigning a space or even adjusting it slightly, ask yourself why you care in the first place.

When you have a clear purpose behind your decorating, you will be able to achieve your vision for your home.

If you don’t have a reason for why you’re decorating, you’ll probably have to spend time and resources to re-do your space over and over and over because you’re not working towards a goal. So ask yourself, “Why am I decorating my home?”

I’ll tell you my “why”. I spend time and effort decorating our home because I want it to be a sanctuary. I try to keep it clean because I relax best when a space is free of clutter. I try to make our rooms cozy so that my husband and I can relax at home together, and so friends can feel at peace when they are here. I’m a homebody, so it’s important to me that my home is a peaceful and enjoyable place to be. Because my goal is to have a cozy and restful home, I make design decisions that align with goal. If it ain’t cozy, I don’t want it. I like things to be simple, but interesting. I like furniture and decor that has character, so I mostly shop at thrift stores. When you decorate different rooms in your home, be sure to keep your overall “why” at the forefront of your decision-making.

You can have a more specific “why” for each individual room of your home.

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For example, it is important to me that our bedroom is as clean and clutter free as possible. With the exception of Saturday morning chocolate croissants in bed, I don’t bring food into our room. I don’t have any plants in here, because they don’t feel clean to me (weird, I know. You do you and I’ll do me.) We have white bedding because it feels peaceful and cozy (and I can switch out the throw pillows when I’m antsy for a small change). I keep color and accessorizing to a minimum so my eyes and my brain aren’t overstimulated by lots of “stuff”.

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What’s your why? Why do you decorate your home?

Once you know your “why”, you can ask yourself how.

How do you want it to feel?

When you know how you want it to feel, you can start to ask how you want it to look.

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If you start with asking how it should look, you might find yourself wanting to redo a space when you find another look you like better. But when you have an overall vision for your home that can be translated to a feeling, deciding how it should look will come a lot easier.


What’s your why? I’ll share mine again in the comments below. I’d love to write a post sharing the responses from readers. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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Fresh Flower Tips and Tricks

If I lived near a Trader Joe’s, our home would never be without a vase of fresh flowers. We always make a stop when we visit Ben’s sister in Des Moines, and I always bring home a fresh bouquet (and a few bags of Orange chicken… and some Cookie Butter… and a box of wine). Their flowers are affordable and they have the best seasonal arrangements. I’ve slowly killed gotten rid of all of the plants in our home, but the minimal commitment and care required for fresh flowers is something I can get on board with, black thumb and all.

Sometimes I see women post pictures of a vase of flowers with the caption, “I hope I can keep these things alive!”. This usually makes me, the serial plant killer, laugh because a bouquet can survive with almost no care, and can last longer than you might expect with a few easy steps.

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Here are a some tips from Law and Michael Gaffney, founders of the New York School of Flower Design, that will keep your grocery store flowers lookin’ fresh. You probably already have everything you need!

Step 1: Add 1 quart warm water to a clean vase.

Step 2: Pour 2 Tbsp sugar into the water. The sugar will help nourish the flowers and promote opening of the blooms.

Step 3: Add 2 Tbsp white vinegar and stir well. The vinegar helps inhibit the growth of bacteria and keeps your flowers fresher longer. If you don’t have vinegar and/or sugar, lemon-lime soda mixed with the water will do the same thing.

Step 4: Remove all lower leaves from flowers so there won’t be any in the water.

Step 5: Cut 1 to 2 inches off the stems at an angle while they are under water.

Step 6: Arrange your flowers in the vase.

Step 7: Display your bouquet in a cool, draft-free area. Avoid direct sunlight, which causes the flowers to die more quickly.

Step 8: Change the water every other day and re-cut the stems each time.

Step 9: Enjoy your long-lasting flowers!

These steps are super easy and will extend the life of your blooms. If you’re not up for the extra work, just be sure to snip the ends and get the flowers in water as soon as you can. Hardy blooms like carnations and chrysanthemums can last three to four weeks when they’re tended to, and are often the cheapest option at the grocery store. Next time you make a grocery run, treat yo’ self to a small bouquet and try these tips for yourself!


A reader recently commented on my bouquet of tulips and suggested putting a penny in the bottom of the vase to keep them from flopping over! Tulips still grow while they’re in the vase, so they require more trimming, but I’m excited to see if the penny helps them stay strong! Do you have any tips for prolonging the life of a bouquet? Share in the comments below if you do! 

With love,

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My Best Kept Budget Decorating Secret

People ask me all the time about how to decorate on a budget. I love helping people create cozy and beautiful spaces without spending a lot of money. If you have a lot of wall space, it can seem overwhelming and impossible to fill without looking cluttered or costing a fortune. I think that Ben and I have found the “best kept secret” of affordable and beautiful wall art. After discovering this decorating loophole, we have filled our home with this unexpected item and you wouldn’t even know it until I let you in on our secret. Here are a few photos of rooms in our home (and my client’s homes) that all contain our favorite kind of art. See if you can figure it out!

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My friend, Stephanie’s kitchen.

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Our guest room.

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Our front porch.

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Our master bedroom.

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Our dining room.

Did you figure it out? Our favorite thing to use as wall art is wrapping paper! These pieces of wrapping paper don’t look like what you would find under your Christmas tree. And if you’re ever in a shop that sells this brand, you might think it’s silly to pay $4-5 for a single sheet of wrapping paper. But if you look at it with resourceful eyes, $5 for a large scale piece of wall art isn’t bad! We purchased a few large frames from Ikea (for $15 a piece). You can also attach small slats of wood or round dowels to the top and bottom, and hang them like vintage school charts. If you don’t want to DIY the charts, you can purchase a kit from Cavallini on Amazon.

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Horizontal Chart Kit + Vertical Chart Kit

These sheets of wrapping paper (Excluding the very last photo of the dining room) are all from Cavallini & Co. You can find their products in various small paper boutiques (like Paper Source). If you are lucky and live near a store that carries their products, you won’t have to pay for shipping. But, some of their wrapping paper sheets are available on Amazon Prime for $8-10 (which is about what you would pay for the product plus shipping anyways). Rifle Paper Co. also sells wrapping paper sheets.

Here are a few of my favorites that can be found on Amazon.

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Vintage Penmanship Chart

cacti

Cacti and Succulents

botany

Vintage Botany Chart

Minerals

Minerals

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Celestial Chart

world

World Map (pictured above in my friend Stephanie’s kitchen!)

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Hemispheres (Pictured above in our guest room. This one is my favorite! I love the colors)

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Birds

This last one is my favorite, and was my first wrapping paper purchase! I bought it while Ben and I were dating in college and hung it in my dorm room. Now it hangs in our bedroom! I love the vintage birds and their french labels.

The links I included above are affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission if you purchase any of the items through my link. No one is paying me to advertise these products- I only promote products that I recommend or use myself! I don’t like telling people to spend money, and try to avoid telling people to go buy things in order to decorate their homes. My approach to decorating is to first “shop your house” and freshen up a space using things that are already in your home. Instead of going shopping every time you’re wanting something different and fresh, look at your own home with resourceful eyes and repurpose things you already have! After that, if you’re still looking to spruce things up, look for creative ways to make affordable and sustainable purchases. These wrapping paper sheets are very affordable, and create a large scale visual impact! If you don’t want to pay for multiple frames, you can just purchase one and rotate the wrapping paper that you display inside.


My secret is out! I love finding affordable ways to decorate, and this is one of my favorite tricks. Do you have any decorating tricks for saving money without sacrificing style? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks for reading!

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Istanbul Apartment Makeover

Last month, Ben and I had the incredible opportunity to visit his parents in Istanbul, Turkey. Ben’s dad, Robert, works for the international division of a construction company based in Colorado Springs. He manages projects overseas on behalf of American contractors. Most of his projects are in Europe and the Middle East, so Robert and Sondra recently moved to Istanbul. We stayed with them in their apartment overlooking the Bosphorus, which is a body of water that separates the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. The city is spread out across both continents, and his parents live on the Asian side. This is the view from their 14th floor apartment and their building is only a few blocks from the coast. Istanbul is an incredibly dense city, so being next to the water was refreshing.

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Their apartment was pre-furnished by their landlord. Ben’s mom, Sondra, made the incredibly smart decision to ask for neutral furnishings. This gave us a blank canvas to work with, which made decorating less of a challenge and more of an adventure! We sourced items from IKEA, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and their own home. Their living room was our main focus. It receives tons of natural light from the wall of windows that overlook the sea. Here are some “before” shots.

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Since we had a great neutral palette as our background, I knew we needed to introduce color and texture. Turkey is known for their kilim rugs and pillows. “Kilim” is a term that refers to flatweave, no-pile rugs. Kilim rugs are typically woven exclusively with wool, but some kilims can be woven with wool+cotton blends, or wool+silk blends. The fibers used to weave kilims can be dyed with natural vegetable dyes or chemical dyes. The natural dyes are more durable, and less prone to fade over time. Their colors are more muted and earthy, and usually cost more because of the skill and materials required to make them.

We went to The Grand Bazaar to shop for kilim pillows. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a place unlike anything I’ve ever seen. After entering through a small gate and going through security, you are instantly surrounded by crowds of people and shops of every kind. Turkish shopkeepers sell carpets, pillows, scarves, spices, ceramics, and clothing. The tiny storefronts line a maze of hallways that are easy to get lost in even if you know where you’re going. Everywhere you turn, there are sights and sounds and smells that draw you in.

 

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

Ben’s mom, Sondra, picked out four beautiful kilim pillow covers. Kilim pillows are made from old kilim rugs. Kilim merchants may have a few pillows that came from the same rug, but each cover is one of a kind. We bought the pillow inserts during our trip to IKEA, where we also found some furniture and art. Before, there was a floor lamp next to the gray wingback chair. We replaced it with an end table and table lamp from IKEA to provide more table space.

 

Here is a reminder of what this space looked like before, and what it looks like now!

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What previously felt like a hotel room now feels like a cozy Turkish-inspired home. When sourcing our decorative pieces, we focused on adding color and layering textures. This helped to give the totally gray space some warmth, coziness, and layers of visual interest. The woven wicker end table brings in a contrasting texture between the two shades of gray velvet. The wicker texture is echoed by the jute placemat on the coffee table. If you look closely, the coffee table and TV stand are the exact same piece of furniture! These were provided by the landlord, but also came from IKEA. We put the placemat, a few books, and a fake plant on the table to set it apart from the TV stand and break up the all-white surface. Sondra and Robert travel for extended periods of time, so adding real plants to this space would not have been a wise move. We added two small fake plants that still bring warmth and an organic quality to the space (and will never die even when they leave!)

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The wicker table, gold lamp, and peachy tones of the pillow bring warmth to the gray chair and white walls. Because the room itself contained primarily cooler colors, I introduced warmer colors in the decorative pieces to bring balance.

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Robert and Sondra already owned the books that I used in this room. The tiny floral book is a wedding photo album from me and Ben!

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After adding the main pieces that we sourced from IKEA and the Grand Bazaar, I walked around their home looking for other ordinary pieces that could be used decoratively. Their many language books made a great base for this plant. Sondra bought the navy cream pitcher on a trip to Romania. We filled it with pink flowers from a flower stand down the street from their house.

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Sondra chose kilim covers that look beautiful on their own, but look even better together!

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The large blank wall over the couch needed a large scale piece of art. Putting a tiny canvas on that large wall would have looked odd. Robert and Sondra chose the wall art from IKEA. It is a large canvas with a photo of Amsterdam, which they have visited many times! Most people put photos of foreign cities in their homes because they like the way they look. But Ben’s parents have photos of foreign cities in their home because they have travelled to all of those places! Instead of looking at the photo and saying “Wow, that place looks neat!”, Ben’s parents can look at this photo and say, “Remember when we went there on our honeymoon and were robbed?!?” Sondra said that they “have always loved water and the canals of Amsterdam. Bicycles and The Netherlands go together so having the bicycle be the one point of color seems perfect. We were robbed in Amsterdam but obviously that hasn’t left us with bad memories of it!”

The small series of turquoise maps under the clock echo the turquoise pots for the plants. Instead of being “matchy matchy”, tying similar colors and textures across one room provides a sense of unity. Robert had the great idea to add two more identical clocks to this corner and set each time to the different time zones they live in (Istanbul, Des Moines, and Colorado Springs).

We also added the round mirror above the TV. They had a lot of wall space, and using a mirror was a great way to fill the blank space without being overwhelming.

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(Ben’s cute parents!)

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What previously felt like a hotel room now feels like a cozy Turkish-inspired home. We also brought in some new pieces for the connected dining room. Sondra picked out simple and minimal white dishes. We added more jute placemats and a minimal gray tablecloth.

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The trivet under the flower vase and the bowl full of candy are both Turkish ceramics from The Grand Bazaar! When decorating a space, I love to source the client’s own home and surrounding areas. Decorating is an opportunity to reflect the family that lives in the home and the environment in which they live. Instead of just looking to what is trendy, I love to look for what is personal and unique to the family. For Robert and Sondra’s Istanbul apartment, this meant Turkish textiles and unique pieces from their adventures around the world.

Nothing beats shopping the Grand Bazaar, but if you would like to introduce some Cozy Turkish Mod to your home, here is a round-up of kilim pillows you can purchase without buying a plane ticket first.

cozy turkish mod

1. $52 + 2. $30

3. $40  + 4. $40 + 5. $20

6. $18 +  7. $46 + 8. $44


Thanks for reading! This is my favorite design I’ve ever helped with, and I’ve loved including Turkish textiles in my own home! Thank you, Robert and Sondra, for allowing me to help you make your Turkish home a little more homey! I’ll include more photos from our trip at the very end of this post.

If you would like help styling a room in your home, I would love to assist you! You can send me a message through this contact form. We can decide which design package would best fit your needs. (I offer e-styling packages if a home visit isn’t feasible!) Thank you for reading and supporting Holland Avenue Home. Until next time, Güle Güle! (Goodbye!)

With love, 

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Here is a slideshow of more pictures from our trip!

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