I don’t presume to call myself an authority on interior design, but I’ve lived indoors for almost my entire life. And over the years spent inside various buildings, I’ve picked up a trick or two in the ol’ decor game. So if you need design help but don’t know where to start, here’s a little cheat sheet.
I recognize that everybody has different taste, but my personal interior design philosophy is based on deception. I recommend you install lots of mirrors and paint your walls with trompe-l’oeil murals. On the door to a closet, hang a sign that says, “Grotto, Wine Cellar and Bowling Alley This Way.” (Make sure it’s locked.) Buy photo frames at Target, and then just leave in the stock photos that came with the frames. Realistically, those people are probably better looking than your family.
Whatever your budget, you’ll want to designate a sizable chunk to the kitchen. In terms of materials, you definitely want granite and stainless, by which I mean granite cabinets and stainless walls. The professional kitchen setup is hot, so have a walk-in fridge stocked with 50 pounds of sea bass for tonight’s special. What, you’re storing the fish underneath the chicken? You’re gonna kill someone, you donkey!
Don’t forget to order a dinette set with chairs that are replicas of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones. I just looked that up, and you can buy such a thing right at the HBO online store. They’re $30,000 apiece, though, so you might have to trim your budget in other areas, like indoor plumbing and having a roof.
If you’re decorating on a tighter budget, try an accent wall—one with a funny accent, like Balki from the 1980s TV sitcom Perfect Strangers. He was from the island of Mypos and said hilarious things like “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.” Underneath all the lighthearted joking, that show offered serious commentary about how hard it is to have a foreign roommate.
Closets are an oft-overlooked but crucial element of smart design. If you don’t have enough closet space, here’s a neat life hack: Use your clothes as curtains. Now every window is a closet and every curtain is a pair of pants, thus freeing up the actual closets for your pottery equipment. I’m just assuming that, if you like this idea, you probably own pottery equipment.
Lighting is important. The darker it is in your house, the less money you have to spend on fancy decor. Hey, is that a Design Within Reach sofa that you just bumped into? Or is it something I found out on the sidewalk after the BU kids moved out for the summer? It’s hard to say in the dusky light filtering in through my pants-curtains.
If I’m decorating a room and I reach a creative impasse, I like to read a magazine. (And look, so do you!) The New York Times Style Magazine’s interior design issue tells us that there’s a woman in Milan who makes parchment roses, each of which can take a week to finish. According to the magazine, “Local musicians use them to embellish their harpsichords.” I hope she has an IPO, because that sounds like a very lucrative business, what with the big harpsichord craze these days.
I also read Coastal Living, so if you have a place near the water, I can offer a tip or two about beachy decor. For instance, give your walls a bit of nautical flair by hanging a painted oar or a row of colorful buoys. Then bolt some lobster traps to the ceiling. Now glue barnacles all over your coffee table and toss a bunch of seaweed on your TV. Commission a sculpture that can act as a visual anchor in your sunken living room, which is literally underwater. Put ropes everywhere. If houseguests ask what’s up with all the ropes, reply, “Arrr, they’re called lines.” Finally, throw sand in all your sheets, replace your couch with a 13-foot Boston Whaler and wear a bikini top made of horseshoe crabs. Can you smell the bilge on the Nantucket ferry? You will when you light one of my designer bilge candles.
I know I’m just scratching the surface, but the takeaway is that your home should be a physical reflection of your own self-image, a deeply considered expression of your aesthetic sensibility—past, present and, yes, future. Or you can just walk around IKEA and then make it look like that.