Walking into an empty home that is yours to decorate is both incredibly exciting and incredibly overwhelming. At least, that was certainly the case for me. For the months leading up to our possession date, I had a mirage of ideas running through my mind that I was committed to executing. Several Pinterest boards floated around, all embodying what I thought was realistic for our space. I had a wide variety of styles I wanted to incorporate, from bohemian to industrial to mid-century modern to Spanish rustic to Parisian to eclectic. While it’s possible to combine a few types (Studio McGee does this well), it was not working in our space. So, what does one do when met with a design or decor issue? One goes back to the drawing board, which in my world, is Pinterest. I started a new board where I narrowed down what my partner and I both liked. In the end, it turned out to be somewhere between mid-century modern meets industrial, with some bohemian flares scattered throughout. This meant we were looking for pieces with gold or black hardware, vintage-inspired statements, and neutral yet eye-catching decor. For us, it was not financially friendly to go wild at Urban Barn or CB2, so we chose which items we wanted to spend a little extra on and what we were okay getting second hand or fixing up ourselves. Let’s take a look at three of our favourite spaces.
Walking into our main floor for the first time, I felt it was very dark. The hardwood is oak coloured, and the walls have a grey undertone. The brick around the fireplace is a deep grey, and the kitchen cabinets are black. I wanted to focus on some lighter furnishings to achieve a natural balance. We went with a light brown leather couch to compliment the oak floor and threw two soft cowhide print pillows to breathe some life into the room. I LOVE these pillows, and I think the print adds such a fun vibe. Don’t be afraid to add some texture to your space!
A loved one refinished an old mustard yellow ottoman and gifted it to us, which is really special. We loved it so much we chose to use it as our coffee table! We placed a wooden tray on top for drinks, and I added some books and a small, clear vase with dried lagurus for a very simple statement.
In the corner, you can see a two-toned wooden blanket ladder that we found at HomeSense. Beside it, we have a vintage, re-homed brass cart where our beloved record player and our vinyl records live. Shout out to my co-worker Andrew for finding this gem at one of our listings and keeping it!
The sizable arched mirror with black trim helped achieve a more mid-century modern feel that we were looking for. I had been looking for an arched mirror for a long time, but all the ones I came across online were hundreds and hundreds of dollars, if not in the thousands. One day I was strolling through HomeSense in Kingsway Mall, and I found this mirror for $100 (!!!!) and bought it instantly. It’s one of my favourite pieces in our house. A nearly identical mirror on WestElm is $800, so if you take anything from this article, let it be this: Stalk every HomeSense store in your city; you are bound to find something you’ve been looking for at an exceptionally better price.
As I mentioned, the fireplace has grey brick scattered around the base and white tile that goes up to the ceiling. There was ample room on the mantle, so we decided to find a print with darker tones but in a neutral frame. We added taper candles, pillar candles, and some simple floral pieces to make sure nothing fell too flat. We wanted some height on the mantle to draw your eye up! I was committed to keeping the mantle super minimal, and I love the way it turned out. Our media stand ended up turning into a bit of a catch-all. I’ve decorated it with stacks of books and miscellaneous statements. I feel like it brings a more relaxed look to the room!
Our print above the bar cart is Ansel Adams’ black-and-white Saguaro print. I found it at a second-hand store called LoSeCa in St. Albert; it is without a doubt my favourite photo in our home! I’ve linked an Etsy shop you can purchase his work from if you are a fan of his style!
Our bar cart is filled with an eclectic mix of drinkware, some thrifted and some new. You can see a stack of books on top of the cart to fill space. Books are a great way to add flare and height to any area that needs some attention.
Decor tip: Bigger books make great statement pieces! Go to thrift stores + buy large-print books, take off the covers, + use them as decor pieces. It’s a cost-effective way to fill a space.
Our dining room and living room have a bit of a meeting point. The room is big but connected, so we wanted to make sure the dining area felt as separate as possible from the living room area. Our dining room table has thick block legs and features a few different tones of wood. When Zach and I were looking at options for a table, we wanted something that felt welcoming. Something that could host family and friends without any problem at all. I loved the look of the chunky matte-black criss-cross legs with the lighter wood tabletop. If you are looking to mix a few different styles in your home, I encourage you to find a few pieces that do the job for you. The top of the table gave me the bohemian element I was after, while the stocky, black base complimented the industrial look we committed to. We decided to go with vibrant green chairs to give a bit of colour. While I tend to gravitate toward a more neutral, beige palette, I admit it’s fun to add some obnoxious colour here and there.
We found a heavy, round wooden dish to place in the center of the table. As I said about our dining table intersecting the boho meets mid-century style, the wooden base of the dish with black metal handles does the work for me! I added a few different textured elements to put inside to make it less dull.
Things like an organic linen cloth with a ceramic candle and a black terracotta vase with green eucalyptus. It’s a minimalist focal point, definitely inspired by some of Kesha Franklin’s Halden Interiors projects. Their Harlem Duplex project lives rent-free in my head – so inspiring!
We found a bench on Structube that we were drawn to and wanted to find a place for. We added it to the table to break up what would have been too much of a collated look.
I’ve always appreciated and loved Scandinavian art; there is something very engaging and yet not overwhelming about their technique. So, I did what any millennial would do: I took to Etsy to find some prints inspired by Nordic simplicity, and I was pleased to support a small business in the process! I found black frames at Michaels for $15 each, which is a pretty good price for 16×20 prints!
Filling a large wall tip: Instead of looking for a giant painting to fill your wall, try looking for a few small things! Gallery walls behind tables are popular, and basket walls are a big trend right now too. I liked the simplicity of three semi-similar prints, and it cost me 1/4 of the price of what a big enough print to fill the wall would have cost.
It was important to carry over styles from the rest of the house into our bedroom. Zach made our bed from scratch, having built and stained it to fit our favourite look. We didn’t want the bed too dark, so we went with a stain called Golden Oak by Varathane, and it turned out to be the perfect shade. One quart did the trick – we even had extra to stain a few other wooden pieces we had.
After sleeping on a higher bed for a few years, Zach and I decided to go with a bed that was lower to the ground. We found black metal legs on Amazon, which adds the industrial element that we like. I was initially against a headboard because I wanted to have our bed against the window. I had dreams of the curtains giving an airy, earthy feel that I thought a headboard would get in the way of. Think: a bohemian oasis. Well, after going without a headboard for a few weeks, it quickly became incredibly annoying! The curtains kept getting pulled in our sleep because they would find their way under our pillows. Zach ended up building a gorgeous headboard with wood we previously had, and now I cannot imagine the room without one. It breaks up the bed from the window, and it turned out to be perfect.
Saving tip: If you can, build your bed! Zach has almost no carpentry experience, but he made a beautiful bed for us with some help from the ever-trusty Google. For a king-size bed frame and headboard, all in, it cost us about $400.
The room was mauve, to begin with, and quite frankly, we hated it. The colour was not going with the vision for the rest of the room, and it was taking away from the beautiful bed.
Naturally, we (and by we, I mean Zach) got to work and got painting! After two days, our boring mauve walls became white, making the room feel bigger and, of course, brighter. Our decor fit in so much better with the white walls. We added a vintage trunk to the end of our bed and placed a wicker basket with some blankets beside it. We have a cozy reading nook corner by the T.V., I wanted to keep the furnishings light and bohemian-esque. The chair, table, and vase are all from (surprise, surprise) HomeSense.
If you’re struggling to decorate an empty space, there are a few things that I would encourage you to keep in mind. First, nothing happens overnight. We have been in our home since late January, and it is still very much a work-in-progress. Second, be patient. Don’t jump at the first thing you find just to fill space. Take some time, look around, and trust you’ll find the perfect fit. And last, enjoy finding your vibe! It’s so easy to fall into trends, so continue to check in with what decor you like and what you find joy in. You might be surprised at how your home ends up being decorated, but if YOU love it, that’s all that matters.