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.


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.

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With so much love, 

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