BY BETSY CRIBB // 01.27.23
Whenever I’m tempted to make a rash design decision in my home, a little voice in my head (that sounds suspiciously like my interior designer cousin) will remind me, “Don’t rush it! Decorating a house takes time.” Typically, I listen to this voice of reason, waiting for the fabric I want for the dining room chairs rather than settling for a quick fix, or holding off on artwork until I find just the right piece for the space. And while I’m promised this approach will eventually yield a house that’s 100% true to my taste, it often feels like a never-ending process. Aiming to set reasonable expectations, I asked a few respected Southern design pros, “Are you ever actually done decorating your house?” The short answer? No.
The more spirited answer? "Absolutely not," declares Birmingham decorator Nicole Roby. "Homes are an extension of people and families, and therefore homes evolve just like we do. The function, purpose, trends, and the life that's lived in a home are constantly changing, so there's no way you can ever truly be done decorating your home."
Chelsea Handegan, a Charleston, South Carolina, decorator, agrees, but she says there are smart ways to make an impact without a major lift. “A home’s design is ever evolving to suit the changing needs of its inhabitants,” she says. “In my case, it’s constant reupholstery to suit a four year old, a cat, and a dog. I always preach to clients (and anyone who will listen, really) to spend on quality furniture with good lines and to save on upholstery fabric; you’ll have those pieces forever and can recover them many times over!”
For Dallas designer Javier Burkle, those moments of reinvention are part of the fun. “While a young family's playroom might be center stage for a few years, I love helping my clients turn the same space into a casual family room for everyone to enjoy when the children are older," he notes. "I also believe that a home's design should tell a cohesive story, resulting in the opportunity to switch pieces around the house. Try moving an accent chair from the sitting room to the bedroom, for example, for a fresh take on a favorite piece."
Similarly, Birmingham, Alabama, stylist, designer, and former editor Lindsey Ellis Beatty is constantly reimagining her own home. "The decorating is never really done—how sad would that be?!" she says. "Once the furnishings and window treatments are in, it’s time for the most fun (and most often overlooked) part: accessorizing! At my own house, I get bored quickly and am constantly acquiring and swapping out lighting, art, and objects. The real finish line for me is always a photo shoot. Once that’s done, I’m usually ready to start over again."
One decorator, however, loves a finished project. “As an interior designer, I am constantly finding beautiful, new things, whether on my travels or at industry market events. It is tempting to want to change things up at home, but I am a creature of habit,” says Houston-based Paloma Contreras. “Once my home is done, it is done, until I am ready to move or completely redo it from top to toe as we did in our last house." She'll concede, though, that little changes can scratch the occasional itch to redecorate—until a new canvas presents itself. "These days, I tend to save the big, exciting finds for clients and continue making smaller changes at home such as layering in art and accessories. That said, we just bought a new house and I am very excited to decorate it!”
Like Contreras, Myranda Randle Grulke, a Little Rock, Arkansas, real estate agent and Airbnb Ambassador and Superhost, has also found that new surroundings inspire new design ideas. “When we moved from our 2,000-square-foot Tudor cottage to our 5,000-square-foot mid-century home, my whole decorating perspective transitioned," says Grulke. Her one constant? House plants.
Ultimately, though, the designers say that the fluid decorating process is about creating a house that feels like home—and that's always worth the wait.
"We love a collected look—an approach that takes time, thought, and reflection," adds Burkle. "I advise my clients to pick up a fun accessory on their travels and buy art if they love it because the result is a space filled with memories and stories you'll love coming home to...which is what we all want!”