Do you ever shop your house? Or I should say home, because not every home comes in house shape. With all the time we’re spending at home, I’ve been increasingly aware that we’ve lived here for two years now and some rooms are not decorated yet (I’m looking at you, dining room, TV room, guest bedroom, master bedroom – yikes listing it makes it worse), and all this time indoors has given me a major push to try to make real progress. I’m tired of looking at the same old same old now that I’ve been able to use a more critical eye twenty.four.seven. So I have started to shop our house and decorate using only what we have. Because it’s already filled with stuff we love and doesn’t cost anything, and we can’t go to stores anyway!
Under normal circumstances, I pay the house attention as I’m able, but my decorating strategy with young kids has been less intentional and more seizing the moment, moving stuff around on the fly when I can get away with it without endangering them or waking them up (they’re still just 2 and 4 years old). It’s coming together, but with the ins and outs of every day life I don’t usually have a clear vision top of mind. Decorating and shopping really just becomes that thing I get to do when the opportunity presents itself, so I do a lot of rearranging what I have to keep making progress.
Now that life has a lot more ins than outs, I’m revisiting the mood boards I created before we moved in and getting serious about using what we already have to decorate those rooms we haven’t gotten to yet.
If you’re new to the shopping your house premise, your life is about to get so much more fun. Today I’ll share the basics of shopping your house, and how to use mood boards on Pinterest to take it a step further to do what I call window shopping your house, to beautifully decorate a room in your own style – all with what you already have! Above is a sneak peek at the changes I’ve made in my first round of shopping, you can scroll to see the details at the end, after we cover the process.
How to Shop Your House: The Basic Concept
So you live somewhere and you bought some things and you want to switch up your décor without spending any money. The solution is so simple. Instead of going to a store, you’re going to “shop” what you already have at home and find ways to use it to freshen up your décor. In essence, you’re going to do is look for things that you can move into different rooms and/or use in new arrangements. I suggest picking one room to start with that you’d like to improve. Let’s call it the focal room for clarity. Before you know it, you’ll have a domino effect that has you making improvements throughout your whole home. Without further ado (did you hear the trumpet?): the steps of shopping your house.
Rearrange the Furniture
Start in your focal room. I’m shopping our house for our TV/living room, which we are spending more time in than ever before. Rotate a sofa. Move some chairs. Play around with the layout of at least one large piece of furniture if you can. Move around other furniture accordingly, and if something doesn’t fit anymore, you’ll be moving it to another room. If your large furniture only works in one layout (like our sectional relative to our TV), play with the surrounding furniture. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Here’s our honking (aka what I say when I mean HUGE) sectional that can’t be moved. Its comfort levels make up for the fact that half the time I’m all to aware it’s essentially the embodiment of a huge bar of dark chocolate with nailhead trim. We bought it in our last house specific to the dimensions of our old TV room, with the vision of many family movie nights and snuggles, and this is the only way it works in this room. If we rotate it, we have to put our TV above the mantel (too high) or to the right of the fireplace, in the corner, which we tried when we moved in but it didn’t work either (too corner). So it stays put, and I’m rearranging what’s around it.
The rest of the angles in the room need more help anyway. How about this TV wall? This is the what you see if you turn right from the angle above. Looks pretty well decorated for having lived here for 2 years, no?
It’s hard to tell what’s making this crooked. The mirror? The cabinet? The old house? I tried to shore it up I promise.
Sidebar: I’m going to be showing you some very un-editorial shots of our home in progress. If I waited for everything to be picture perfect, I’d never have a blog or get to live life really. I hope the action shots of a real home in progress are helpful and encouraging to you. You’re about to see that amidst the more picture-perfect things and moments, we also have a lot of toys and pillows strewn about, uncompleted projects and thrifted pieces that I just had to have and need work but I haven’t gotten to them yet. Like these chairs!
We had this equestrian toile chair next to our fireplace for a long time, but our TV was just dangling on that undersized antique cabinet on the adjacent, bare, very long wall (24 feet), so I decided to move this chair over to try to give to help the TV look a little less lonely.
Is that a pillow in Motif Motif velvet in onyx?!? Yes, it is, good eye! I’m always thinking about selling pillows again, but logistics are a problem.
On the opposite side of the room, in the corner to the left of the TV, I had started setting up a reading area, but decided to pull the red chair over to help moor the TV as well. I did the like what we had going with the red in the Melissa & Doug broom stand tying everything together. And that blanket that fell behind the chair, artfully bunched in case someone wanted to lounge back there. But, sacrifices had to be made for the greater good.
With the furniture rearranged in your focal room, it’s time to start shopping.
Walk Around Your House, Shopping Your Belongings
Now you’re going to move into the next room, assessing your décor and furnishings for anything that might have a place to go in your focal room. I want you to look at everything you own. Let your eye pass over every possession you have. It’s your lucky day because wall art, candlesticks, floral arrangements, books, vases, plants, accent tables, chairs, throw pillows, curtains are ALL for sale, and they’ve all been curated by you. Bonus points if you want to start a donation pile if this makes you realize there are things you’ve just lost that loving feeling for, but don’t get sidetracked from your mission. Move from room to room throughout your home, leaving nothing unnoticed.
Collect items as you go, and bring them back to your focal room.
Here you can see our chairs next to the TV cabinet, and a table I brought in from the sunroom.
Tip: Don’t forget basements, closets, kitchen cabinets and storage areas
Pull out boxes and bins and peek inside. See those picture frames stacked on the red chair above? Sean discovered an old box of picture frames that we completely forgot we had at some point (I don’t think I’ve opened it since our first house, possibly our apartment!). I love the feeling of rediscovering something months or years later that you packed away because you didn’t have a plan for it at the time. Also don’t forget to look in that guest room that became a storage area when you had insulation redone and you just never moved everything back into storage. (Just us?)
Check your dining area and kitchen cabinets for vases and pitchers and little bowls for catchalls too.
Return to Your Focal Room & Decorate
Rejoice in your bounty and get to decorating. Play with where you want to hang pictures, and restyle your mantle and accent tables. Go you! If you’re feeling like you’ve got a pile of stuff stacked up and now you’re stuck, or it’s just not quite good enough, no worries. That’s where creating mood boards on Pinterest comes in.
Window Shopping Your House with Pinterest
I have an inspiration and room design system I’ve perfected as we moved between our homes – sort of a framework to define your style and shop your house more effectively, and decorate each room in your home with the guidance of professionally decorated rooms. It’s all with the help of my personal virtual design assistant: Pinterest. If you know what you’re doing (and you will after you read this), Pinterest can help you define your style, and see how to use what you have in new ways.
It’s like window shopping (does anyone remember window shopping?!?) from your couch, except instead of store windows they’re browser windows of rooms you find inspiring that have been put together by professional interior designers and decorators. The goal of this process is to learn from these inspiration photos to create well-decorated spaces that are you – not just carbon copies of the rooms you see.
Pinterest’s algorithm is SMART, and its photo stores and indexing are unparalleled. It doesn’t take long for Pinterest to hone in your style, and start making really helpful suggestions. The more you tell it about what you like, the more it can suggest from the millions of images it has stockpiled. I’ll teach you how to turn Pinterest into a brilliant assistant you can put to work.
I’ll walk you through my process, continuing with our TV room/living room as a practical example. I’m starting with the basics here, so if you’re already set up on Pinterest, move on to step 2.
First up, make a Pinterest account and get a browser button so you can save images from just about any site you visit. If you have an old account you haven’t used in a while, don’t worry: Pinterest favors newer content in your feed, and will be informed by new images you’re going to pin. Feel free to dust off the cobwebs though and delete your old boards if you’re ready to accept you’re not going to be making patio furniture out of recycled palettes or decorate with painted wine bottles.
Good to go? Excellent.
1. Begin Coaching Your Design Assistant With Quality Sources
Start out with an easy search: what you know you like. Think of any publications, designers, blogs or even TV shows you’re a fan of, search for them and follow them on Pinterest.
Well done. This can create a narrow focus though, and to window shop your home effectively you need to broaden your sources to really get the most out of Pinterest. You need to follow more accounts, and the best way to find ones you like is to click pins to find where they came from, and follow those sources.
The key to a tailored-to-you Pinterest assistan is to keep repeating these steps throughout this process as you find new images: click a pin, find source, follow.
The source section is highlighted in the above example of a pin from none other than Motif Motif! I’m blushing.
Seriously though, if you need a jumping off point, feel free to check out my accounts (see Motif Motif and Bark & Burrow). Follow them if you like what you see, but what’s really important is to look through a few boards, and follow those sources too (or instead! I won’t be offended. Okay maybe just a little.)
2. Create A Whole Home Mood Board
Create a mood board for your entire house, pinning only what evokes a feeling of “home” to you. This is a jumping off point that helps you focus on what you instinctively gravitate toward, and puts you in tune with what draws you in and makes you want to stay a while. What feels welcoming to you? Relaxing? Restful? At peace?
What feels welcoming to you? Relaxing? Restful? At peace? Don’t overthink this, or consciously try to make it a certain style. Go with your gut and pin what captures an ideal of home, that inviting feeling.
It needs to be instinctive, but don’t just start impulsively pinning what you like in general. Remember, what you feed to Pinterest will help it give you more similar results, and it helps to give it a good foundation. Don’t forget to follow new sources as you go.
My mood board for our house includes everything from rooms I love to outdoor living areas to detail shots of vignettes. Many of them have nothing to do with what our actual house and yard look like. It’s okay for this board to be aspirational and it absolutely should be you’re trying to capture the essence of your ideal home. We’ll get to the practical application in step 5. For now, just discover what gives you that feeling of home.
3. Create Mood Boards for Each Room
Once you’ve pinned a handful of homey mood images, go ahead and move on to creating a board for each room in your home. Yes, even your powder room. You’ll revisit your whole house mood board as needed, and can add to it as you see fit.
If I find rooms that speak to me as far as overall vibe or color scheme but I don’t have a spot in our house that they directly correlate with, I add them to my whole house mood board from step 2.
TIP: Keep an eye out for links to home tours as you go – these will help you envision how to tie your own house together.
Now, you’re getting some concrete ideas and can start to make the shift to plan to decorate a room, or as many rooms as you need help with. Start pinning pictures of rooms you like accordingly, from both around the web with your widget from step 1, and within your home feed on Pinterest. This is an anything you like situation, again not overthinking anything. Read some blogs or decorating publications you’ve discovered in your new sources and let yourself get carried away in the frivolity.
Occasionally, pause and look back at your boards. What trends are starting to emerge? What’s jumping out at you that you know you want to figure out how to recreate in your home? Pick images that stand out to you that you want to capture the mood of in your home.
4. Learn from the Professional Interior Designers & Decorators Behind Your Inspiration Images
This isn’t just about finding rooms you love to imitate exactly, it’s about finding professionals who have your tastes, and learning from them to create a home that’s beautifully decorated but also uniquely yours.
Ideally you’ll have two or three key inspiration images that stand out to you. Here are the two rooms really stuck with me in planning our TV/living room. Yes, they’re very different. Don’t worry, I’ll show to I used elements of each in our TV room. But first, I want to see more pictures of these rooms.
From these initial inspiration images, I started to search for credit given to the homeowners (Robert Kime & Amanda Brooks respectively), to find info on any professional interior designers and decorators involved in creating the room. No extra designer info on these rooms, actually – Robert Kime is a renowned fabric designer and interior decorator, and Amanda Brooks is a former fashion insider turned inspired English décor author and shop owner.
Tip: Once you find a new designer or homeowner and follow them on Pinterest, search on Pinterest for their name to find older images from projects featured in past publications that may no longer be in their professional portfolios. This will also uncover entire home tours and more photos of the same rooms, showing you more angles and how they’ve been changed over time – showing you how the pros shop their own homes.
With some digging, I was able to find my inspiration rooms from other angles, and decorated at different points in time. I’ll show you those in a moment.
Bonus Tip: You may find your inspiration images are from houses with their own names, and you can find even more pictures with that information in hand. Kime’s living room is in Docker Nook House, which you unfortunately just missed the sale of earlier this year.
Sometimes it’s harder to find information on a room. If I can’t find much, I use the image search tool. Click on a pin to enlarge, and then click on the little magnifying glass in the bottom right corner of the image to search within Pinterest for more copies and hunt down extra articles that may lead to more images or details.
5. Notice the Details & Window Shop
Now it’s time to analyze your inspiration rooms and move from the aspirational to practical application. So far we’ve been laying the groundwork for this, and you now have what you need to get your window shop on, then shop your home and actually decorate a room.
Tip: Window shopping your house is the key to creating unique-to-you spaces instead of copycats of your inspiration rooms. Start pinning rooms that have architectural features and/or furniture as close to what you already have as you can find, in any and all types of rooms, and any and all combinations.
To window shop your house, you’re going to look for rooms to pin with features that match your home and belongings. Chances are you’ve done a bit of this already, but now we’re getting really specific. Your inspiration images that you’ve done more research on already likely includes furnishings or features similar to your own belongings and home. The important word here is similar.
This may sound nit-picky or even daunting, but trust me. It’s amazing how many features and pieces of furniture will jump out at you from what you’ve saved now that you’re looking.
You’re going to pin images with specific arrangements that have your furniture or tchotchkes in them you want to re-create. These will be additional inspiration to your key inspiration images for specific vignettes to help you get the details right in your home.
Let me show you how I pulled elements from different inspiration images in our TV room to help you see what I mean.
This room helped in our TV room because of its similarity to what we already have. Its wall color is similar to our current TV room – darker, but still gray, which I struggle with. Let’s zoom in on the back right corner. I like the idea of a gallery, and I also have a round table that I can never decide where to use. The knobs on the drawer unit against the far wall echo the simplicity and straight lines of our TV cabinet.
I swapped our table with our bookcase to imitate this arrangement. See how the rooms are evidently not identical, but the sofa shape and height, and position relative to the table in the corner are what’s important. Spoiler alert: I swapped the rug. Remember the domino effect I mentioned? The striped one will be moved up to our guest room.
Look for those moments that you can recreate and draw from in your own home. Sometimes it’s a stretch, and it can take a bit of imagination. If you look closely, you may notice that our 60s cape cod revival is ever so slightly different than Brooks’ Cotswolds cottage. Here’s another iteration of it I uncovered. Her living room has a fireplace on a wall with a slight projection like ours, and is centered to the room. We don’t have a built-ins surrounding ours (though I have considered adding some someday), but she too has a window to close to the corner on the wall to the right of this viewing angle, like we do relative to our fireplace.
Aside from the similarities between our actual room’s layouts, I see inspiration from the bones and her styling of the space, spying things I already have, and things I can do eventually to help achieve the mood here in our TV room. There is a lot of texture in the beams, and the dried wood built-ins, and the stone fireplace mantel. The main source of color here are the books and textiles. Things I have: baskets, books, framed pictures. I have faux-sheepskin rugs – not sure I’ll pull those in. Pick and choose what you want to include to make it yours.
Sometimes you have pieces that are inspiration rooms, but don’t work with other pieces you are planning to incorporate. For example, I have a little ottoman with a hot pink suzani-esque embroidered design, which could imitate the pop of Brooks’ upholstered ottoman, but I don’t want that to clash with the red I have in our chairs, so I skipped bringing that in.
The use of color lends to the warmth of the room. Here behind her sofa, we see a gallery wall to one side of double doors, with a mix of metallic and black frames, and including photography, paintings and drawings. Lots of color throughout, and a variety of subject matter.
We don’t get enough natural light for real plants in our TV room, so faux or cut branches will have to do. I played with different faux florals from different rooms on our mantel.
Here’s the red chair again, below you’ll see it’s one of a pair – and the ottoman is no longer slipcovered in pink fabric when the red chairs are involved.
It’s another similar but different window shop for me to apply. I may not have this English roll arm piece (maybe in linen?), but I do have red velvet and cane. When you’re looking to use what you have to decorate, you need to focus on the main features from your inspiration images to find what you have in common in your own furnishings and accents.
This next image has given me a new idea of where to hang artwork – I haven’t hung any over on our window wall. I hadn’t considered it before seeing this. Love the rattan pendant shade! I shopped our house to bring in these textures with baskets. And we see a hint of a sisal area rug in some photos – I’m going to take a lighter rug from our daughter’s room to try.
As well as using these images, I window shopped by pinning fireplaces in general, particularly with surrounding art arrangements and mantel styling that I found inspiring. But I also pinned rooms that not only have a fireplace, but have a doorway to one side of it and a wall on the other like we do. I also looked for rooms with dark leather chairs and couches, both with and without ottomans, slate inset fireplaces, white wood mantels, flat stone hearths, two windows on a wall, French doors, and French doors behind sofas. You can see another inspiration image down further when I reveal our progress, but here’s another angle of Kime’s dark sofa décor scheme first.
My dark sofa image search actually led me to the initial discovery of Robert Kime’s Docker Nook living room. The room’s lower natural lighting level is more similar to our TV room than Amanda’s. This shot is from its recent listing photos, where we get to see more choices surrounding it. It’s helpful to see how he has balanced the dark furnishings. He has dark, patterned William Morris curtains (authentic, not a modern reprint, of course). We have a few rubbermaid bins of old curtains (I never throw curtains away) – I never thought I’d want to reuse a set of gray floral panels again for actual curtains, but I think I’ll try them out – they’ll be far less stark than our current off-white panels behind the dark leather. He also lightened up the sofa with striped upholstery and accent pillows. I do have similarly colored striped pillows, with a much narrower stripe, so I brought those in to the TV room. I need to sew more pillows though.
Robert has a red and black rug that helps ground the dark furniture, not a sisal like in Brooks’ room. I think I’ll go for middle tones in other colors in our rug when we finally buy one, but I do plan to order red and black fabric I’ve had my eye on that I’ll either use on pillows or a throw. And here’s another example of a feature I can pull from to imitate in our room that’s admittedly a bit of a stretch: I don’t have kiln-dried beams with iron staples like Robert, but I do have a tray with iron handles. The stars, they’re just like us! Who needs authentic milled beams when you have Home Goods, amiright??
Get started on your window shopping, making sure to pause to take a moment and pat yourself on the back – you’ve got good taste! Look at those designers putting things you own in their clients’ homes. Reflect on your decorating prowess as you refill that coffee. Go ahead and steal that kitchen table arrangement for your focal room on the way back to your computer.
Go ahead and move on to step 5.5 (6 sounded like too many and let’s be honest you’ve stopped reading anyway)…
5.5. Stop Window Shopping and Decorate
…And go head and decorate! But like I said, I’m sure you stopped reading this ages ago and have already been driving your family crazy, spontaneously moving furniture and bits and baubles around.
I know you’re on a roll, but do refer back to your whole house mood board when you take a break. You know how it became a catch-all for rooms and accents you liked but didn’t know where to apply them in your home? Chances are you’ve moved enough things around or bought something new and can see ways to apply those additional finds practically now.
Our TV/Living Room Progress
I tried to take a lot of progress shots as I window shopped our house so you can see the process and what my line of thinking was.
Here’s the fireplace wall before I started to shop our house. (Note to self: please think ahead and take before shots before moving everything. Thanks!) As you can see, we were going with a trés contemporary look, with TV remotes conveniently displayed one side on the mantel as our only décor. This mirror was in our entry hallway before I brought it in, and so it sat with just the remotes for longer than I can recall or care to admit. I had hung artwork to either side of the fireplace within the last six months or so, and the equestrian toile chair is just out of the frame on the left. We had a wicker chest to the right of the fireplace – here it’s covered with a rug that we move when we run our Roomba. You couldn’t see the chest from most angles when you were sitting in the room anyway because it was the same height as the arm of our sectional, so it was a waste of the corner.
Below, you can see the chair has been moved (over next to the TV, on the wall to the left). I had already started playing with the mantel styling, and you can see the edge of an antique burlwood cabinet I rolled in from our entry hallway to replace the chest to the right of the fireplace.
Here’s another picture I found window shopping for inspiration. Remember this living room from my post on room dividing with floor screens? It’s also in a home of Robert Kime, this time his London flat. Note the entry to the left of the fireplace, with artwork surrounding it? A similar layout that helped me visualize our TV room fireplace wall. His display of a collection on the mantel, as well as the styling of his table to the right of his fireplace helped me shop our house.
Also the bird above the archway inspired me to try hanging a little leather visage of Jesus we have above the doorway, but its taken some getting used to. It’s mostly unsettling out of the corner of our eye as we enter the dining room since there’s nothing else hanging that close to our ceiling. He stays for now, but I’ll probably relocate Him. Or hang more artwork. We’ll see.
Ah, much brighter with the rug swapped in the next photo. Full disclosure, I did cheat a little and order a new rug for our daughter’s room to free this one up – I’ll have to tell you my favorite tip to find affordable large rugs one of these days. Here it’s looking a little too farmhouse-y with the ceramic house collection, gray walls and dark sofa. Also two of the houses are too deep to set in front of our mirror, and I’m not thrilled with its blank expanse right now. Needs work.
This one is way too small for the room – so was the old one. They’re only 5×7 or 5×8. But I wanted to see what coloring I like before committing and buying a real grown-up sized rug for this room. I definitely prefer the softening effect this has compared to the black and white stripes, but this confirms I’ll be shopping for a rug with medium tones to help ground the dark sofa.
Notice the items I started playing with on the table under our Dégas print on the right of the fireplace…
I grabbed a blue lamp previously in our library, and a cut glass green vase I spotted window shopping Robert’s table to the right of his fireplace (he has great taste!). The proportions of ours don’t quite work though…
So I moved one of the houses over onto it, and added books under the lamp. A beaded basket tht provides a place to shelter snacks whipped up by the kids for their stuffed animals for a quick cleanup. Better! The basket’s a little big, but I didn’t find a better option yet.
Moving the house on the end over to the burl wood cabinet helps Hans have his moment to shine on the mantel. (Grammar police: is burl wood supposed to be one word or two? autocorrect says two, and google’s not helping.) He’s an antique book passed down through family that I propped up instead of framed artwork.
Remember the tray I mentioned, that echoes the beams in Docker Nook? Here it is on the ottoman. I also added more fake flowers to the mantel.
And here it is with another basket for throws and pillows to add more color to that side of the fireplace, balancing the Dégas print and adding more of the variation I liked from Amanda’s living room. This wall definitely took priority since it’s the room’s main focal point, scroll on for a look at the rest of the room. PS I added some GIFs at the end so you can see the changes in the room in quicker succession.
This is the last corner of the room you haven’t seen, back behind the sectional to the left of the French doors. Before I shopped our house, we had another undersized chest under this print, again, too small to be seen hidden behind the sofa.
And here it is now, after I pulled in this accent table I adore that’s been floating to room to room for a while now in the corner behind the sectional. You can see more of the chest that used to be where the table was. Remember that domino effect? He needs a new room to live in.
The TV wall is still unfinished, as is the gallery corner. I need to pick artwork for the frames and hang it around the TV and mirror…
…and in the corner.
The Domino Effect
Remember how I said once you got started it would create a domino effect and you’d soon be redecorating your whole house? Now that you’ve shopped your house, and pulled things into your focal room, you probably have some rearranging to do. It’s time to go ahead and switch to a new focal room, and use what you have to keep on decorating, armed with your virtual mood boards and what you’ve learned. Be sure to fill any gaps you’ve created in shopping the other rooms in your house as you go.
I’d love to see your how you shop your house! Share with me on instagram @motifmotifstudio, email them to me or send links in the comments.
What’s Next for the TV Room
The curtain switch! And breaking up the mantel mirror with some more accent pieces. And wall art around the TV and over that round table, which also needs to be styled. So you know, a ton.
Here’s some before and after GIFs so you can see the changes with pictures one after the other:
The TV wall before and after:
Styling the accent table before and after:
And the fireplace wall before and after:
I’ll keep window shopping and finish hanging those pictures, and get it all set to reveal to you.
So there you have it. My tips and tricks to shop your house and decorate a room using what you have laying around your house already.
And now you have a stockpile of inspiration in your mood boards that you can refer back to when things are feeling stale, or you’re looking for seasonal updates.
Don’t forget to share your progress! Remember, show me on instagram @motifmotifstudio.