Tips for Creating a Home that Feels Like Yours

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and thought to yourself, “This is so THEM!”

Something about the space they’ve created feels like an accurate and tangible expression of who they are as a person, and from the minute you walk in, it’s unmistakable whose home you’re in. As I write about this idea, a few different homes (& the people who live in them) come to mind…

I think of my friends Matt and Adrianna...their home is a beautiful one and is decorated to their tastes, but the longer you’re there, the more you notice what makes their home unique. In the corner, you’ll see Reebok trainers or a kettlebell, ready for on-the-go or at home workouts. On their chalk wall, Bible verses and worship lyrics are written and pictures of past generations are framed on the hutch. Mementos from her career in softball and their life together in SoCal are strung about the house, making it clear they’re the sentimental type. Everything is warm and cozy, and you might notice a paw print or set of blocks on the floor, indicators of both a golden retriever and newly mobile toddler. Walking through their door, there’s just no guessing — this is Matt and Adrianna’s house!

One of my first examples of this was the house I grew up in.

My parents are deeply hospitable people, and due to their lifestyle in ministry, we always had people over for dinner, or a Bible study happening in the living room. Over the years, I’ve heard countless guests remark on how homey, welcoming, and beautiful they thought our home to be. So many would talk about how inspired they felt, and how they wished my Mom would come over to decorate their space too! Our home was usually clean but also felt lived in, never like a museum or a place children couldn’t be. Over the years, the banister has worn and the pictures on the walls are a mix of old and new. Life continues with adult children in and out, but home it will always be.

Recently, Reed and I were invited over to dinner at our friends Matt and Elina’s apartment, and every time we come over, I take a minute to look around and notice the details. Elina is probably the biggest fan of Halloween you (or I) will ever meet, and year round, she keeps up a little decorative ghost they’ve nicknamed Ghosty. He’s always plugged in and Elina will add seasonal additions like a Santa hat in December or a St. Patrick’s Day hat in March to keep Ghosty “up-to-date.” It’s hilarious and so indicative of who they are — playful people who don’t take themselves too seriously. I noticed some of their photos were being displayed on recycled Cholula caps, held up by paper clips...which is absolutely genius and a subtle nod to their deep love for hot sauce. These personal elements, mixed with their great taste and laid back nature, make any guest feel like family.

It’s these kinds of homes...the ones you walk into and feel like you belong, the ones that give you a window into the people who live inside, and the ones that aren’t too “perfect” — these are the ones I love the most.

Of course, everyone’s approach of home is personal and unique to them. Perhaps you want to evoke a different emotion with your space, like “open” or “free”, so having very little in your home accomplishes that goal, and makes you feel at peace. Maybe what you’re after is basically a replica of something you liked on Pinterest because the idea of decorating your home without any direction or preexisting inspiration feels like too intimidating. This is certainly a judgement free zone...and I am by no means an expert. You do YOU! But I am of the preference and opinion that no matter what your design approach shouldn’t lose yourself in the attempt to achieve a particular “look.” Even if your style is minimal, I think people should walk in and feel like your home still feels like you!

Here are my tips for making a home that feels like yours…

4 Tips for Making a Home that Feels Like Yours

1) Take your time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the home of your dreams! Sure, you could go to Target or Ikea and duplicate what you see there, buying everything you think you need at once to “fill up the space.” But I think the most beautiful homes take their time. Investing in antique touches, waiting on buying your dream armchair, and putting up framed photos from your travels will personalize the space over time, leaving you with things that will last, instead of trendy or cheap pieces you’ll only enjoy for a season! (Though I’m not opposed to adding seasonal napkins to your coffee area, or adding a new throw pillow into the mix every now and then!) You might have a blank space on that wall for now, and that corner may look a little bare today...but that doesn’t mean you’re behind, it just means your home is in process! Take your time customizing your home and only add things you really love and think to be the right fit.

2) Print and frame photos.

It may seem simple, but in a time when most of our pictures remain in our camera rolls, very few of us have pictures printed anymore! Take the time to do this — you won’t regret it. Framing and hanging up recent pictures, ones from your childhood, and/or old family photos will immediately add a personal touch. Before Reed and I moved into our current home, I had this vision of creating a “legacy wall” in our entry area. I wanted to frame old pictures and mementos from both sides of our families to represent the rich, spiritual, and pastoral legacies we come from. I asked family members to send in anything they were willing to part with and to my surprise, they quickly responded! I gathered some frames together and the wall and my vision became a reality! The legacy wall, along with framed photos from our wedding throughout the house, are the things we get the most compliments on. They’re my favorite part too, and I’m excited to add baby photos soon!

3) Don’t be too precious about it.

Though I completely believe we should take care of our spaces, and keeping things clean is important (of all the friends, I am Monica!), if we become too precious about our homes and our things, we’ll forfeit a sense of true hospitality. This also applies to the people who LIVE in your home! I’ve often heard husbands “joke” about the many rules placed on them by their wives, making home the last place they want to be. I definitely don’t want this to be said of me — I want friends, family, and my husband alike to LOVE walking through my front door! So it’s all about finding a balance. It is your home, so you can ask people to honor your requests in a friendly way, but we need to remain open-handed and flexible, because people will always matter more than things. Reed and I have a “no shoes inside” preference, but we don’t police people if they want to leave their shoes on or didn’t notice the shoe rack when they walked in. Having the rack there and modelling it ourselves has been the easiest way to get our message across, but we rarely hunt people down about it.

Since adding our dog Chloe to the family, I’ve really learned the importance of placing value on things that matter! She doesn’t shed much, but having her on our throw blankets or around the house does mean more lint-rolling and vacuuming than ever! This might mean our house has a faint dog smell every now and then, or my black pants might get some hair on them. I never thought I’d say this, but the trade off is completely worth it. I may not have a completely spotless home, but I do have the most precious dog! The joy she brings us far outweighs the work she requires.

4) Trust your instincts.

I’ve preached this before, but I’ll say it again here: do what YOU like and don’t worry about what other people will think! Subconsciously, we measure the decisions we make, big and small, against the decisions and tastes of others. We second-guess ourselves, wonder what other people’s opinions will be, and stress over if we are impressive or cool enough. This applies to so many areas, but sadly it has also crept into how we approach our homes. Proof of this is in how many homes are decorated exactly the same! We have bought into the lie that there is a right and wrong in home design — when that just couldn’t be further from the truth! So what if you have different taste than your Mom, Joanna Gaines, or that hip blogger in Sweden?!

There’s no use in trying to be something you’re trust your instincts. Surround yourself with what YOU like, mix patterns, give something new a try, and care as little or as much as you want! Walking into my home, you wouldn’t have an easy time describing my style in one word. The closest I’ve gotten is eclectic, which is basically saying — a lot of different things at once! Reed and I have found so much freedom in doing what feels right for us, and creating a home that represents both of our personalities and tastes. The result? Home becoming our very favorite place to be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone felt that way?

The most important thing to remember is there are no rules! Get inspired, combine style influences, don’t ask for permission or apologize, and if you’re not having a great time doing it...revisit what’s motivating you in the first place. Creating the spaces we spend so much time in should be fun!

Decorating certainly isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do...but I think a lot of that has to do with people thinking they aren’t “good at it.” That’s where I want to cut in and say, it’s not about being good, it’s about making a home that feels like YOURS, and only YOU can do that. So let go of the pressure, start having fun with it again, don’t worry about any standard, and watch your space come together. Here’s the compliment I hope you get along the way, “Wow, this is so YOU!”

To me, that’s all a home should be.

Happy “homemaking,”