6 mistakes

UPDATED: I started out with 4 Mistakes, but then I added two more, carry on..

I’ve been creating a home for 20 years in 14 different homes–mostly rentals, three we owned.

I love home making so much that I wrote a book about it and even taught a class. So imagine my shock when it wasn’t until AFTER I taught my class, that I was finally convinced to make some much-needed changes in our fixer-upper.


We have spent so much time and money on really big projects in our home in the past few years (kitchen, bathroom, barn renovation, structural stuff) that even though I preach the power of a few smart choices, I somehow lost my belief that making a few better decisions was worth the time, money and trouble.

I was wrong.

Here’s how I made it right…

1. Ceiling and Trim

We knew when we bought this fixer-upper that we were signing up for more than painting walls. The trim in the house was small, old and mismatched, especially so after we tore down walls to re-do the kitchen. The ceilings were sprayed on, and the new kitchen ceiling had never even been painted. It sat undone for two years.


We knew how fresh and clean they would feel once we scraped them. But for some reason it was really hard for me to invest the money or elbow grease on tackling these projects.

Re-doing a kitchen is obvious–you have new counters and bigger counter space, it was becoming difficult for me to believe redoing the ceilings and trim was worth it.

Until I decided to believe it.


The canvas you start with in a space makes or breaks a room.

And this is the part I was so excited about after eight years of renting–we finally got to choose our ceilings! I had been unable to make changes to my home’s canvas for so long, I wasn’t confident it was truly worth it. But after coaching others in the Cozy Minimalist class that their canvas mattered, I decided to take my own advice.

planked ceilings

We did our ceilings exactly the way we wanted. Imperfectly planked ceilings that worked great with our flooring and all new fresh trim. It was the BEST money we spent on the house, it made me finally fall in love with our home because it fit with the vision I had for it when we purchased it.

bead chandelier

2. Switch Out a Wimpy Chandelier

When we bought the house I knew it needed a wood chandelier. Wood is rustic, soft (as opposed to something stark and shiny metal) and I love lighting that seconds as art/style. Sadly, even though I already know most of America makes this mistake–I bought a chandelier that I loved, but it was too small.

But I spent hard-earned money and I didn’t want to admit that I made a mistake.

So I kept it for two years.

Until I didn’t.

wood chandelier

I finally gave myself permission to admit I bought a chandy that was too small for the space. And I allowed myself to buy a new one.

What happens when you get the right sized things for a room? You don’t have to compensate with a lot of extra stuff. Finally getting a better scaled chandelier was so worth the money, now my table doesn’t look forgotten if it’s cleared off–it just looks right because the chandelier commands so much attention that I don’t need much else.

bead chandelier


3. Don’t Force A Gallery Wall

Having a corner sofa is so comfy! And so hard to decorate the walls above. In our last house I had a beautifully curated, meaningful gallery wall that made its way into all sorts of magazines. I was sure I needed a gallery wall over the sofa in this house.

I tweaked it for two years…

sad gallery wall


how to make a gallery wall

wrong gallery wall

Now I can see how I was placing things all wrong (here’s a tip, start with the visually heaviest things in the middle/bottom). But also, I was convinced I’d only be happy if I had a gallery wall here. The truth is, gallery walls are one of the most difficult walls to get right.

Until I tried something else…

non-gallery wall

Finally, I tried the simple route. And loved it.

4. Stop Compensating with Smalls

This sickness is something I can hardly shake. I love smalls, tchotckees, geegaw and the like. If I’m out shopping I’m always drawn to small things, but I’ve learned, you get much more impact, style and voice by using just a few large objects. Plus, you get more space back and ultimate save money. It really is a win, win, win.

If I don’t watch it, my surfaces start to look like this—a parade of cute smalls!

individually, they don’t cost much, and I like each item but…


I find I’m happier when I spend my money on one or two larger items that are more like signature pieces. The relax canvas has much more power in the room than the 12 things combined on my mantle in the photo above, don’t you agree?

It’s riskier to invest in one large piece instead of 20 smaller pieces, but I’ve learned it’s a better way to get the style I’m after without needing to use a million little things. Amen.

no smalls

5. Invest in the right size rug

Here’s the thing. When you move, your old stuff just might not work as well in the next house.

I held out for two years with our rug from our last house…even writing a post about how I layered rugs to make it all work.


When we moved here we didn’t have the money to buy a new rug, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted yet, so we used what we had and I really liked it!

Until the old rug started to wear out.


And that’s when I bought a new rug that cost a lot less than the previous one, and it was large enough for all of our furniture to have legs on the rug! That’s the goal in a family room–the rug isn’t supposed to be an island in the middle of the room, it’s the friend that brings all the other pieces together and units a space. So ideally, you and I want a large rug.

6. Change A Paint Color That’s All Wrong, Even if You Just Painted it (UGH!)

rain paint

I had painted one wall in our bedroom a beautiful dark color (peppercorn) and I added white dashes–I LOVE this look! So simple, so inexpensive, and it only took a few hours!

BUT. It was the wrong color for a room on the side of the house that gets no sun. This room became depressing, even though I still love the idea of the wall and its lighthearted dashes.

It was hard to decide to paint over something I loved but wasn’t right for the room, but I knew it was the best choice and once it was done, our room no longer felt depressing–that’s always a plus!



Home is a work in progress and imperfect and a collection of things we love and need–things that reflect our style as a family and the season of life we are living. It’s there to serve us, and I like knowing that I have the confidence to know how to get the style I’m after without breaking the family budget.

cozy minimalist

If you want to make some changes in your home, won’t you consider joining me in the Cozy Minimalist Decorating Class? The class is currently closed but we re-open a few times a year, sign up for the waiting list and we’ll email you when we are open again!

It’s all about how to get the style you love, using just the right amount of stuff. Teaching this class prompted me to make all these changes in my home–I already knew all this stuff, but I needed to be re-convinced that it was worth the time and trouble and the money.

how to decorate

Whether you rent or own, have a big decorating budget or need to rely on shopping the house, this friendly self-study program will guide you step by step, on exactly how to take one room in your house and make changes that will serve you and your family.

We’ll talk about rugs, drapes, wall art (& gallery wall best practices) signature pieces, furniture arrangement, TV tips, lighting, accessories, plants, and your rooms canvas along with finding your personal style & inspiration.) It’s gonna be SO FUN! And your room is gonna look so good!

We’ve have had over 2000 happy Cozy Minimalists take this course, they all have different styles, budgets, homes, and life stages.


The class is designed to last 4 weeks (a one hour lesson each week with beautiful photos and me guiding you through it all, and a weekly assignment for you to complete in your home) but you can of course complete it at your own pace.

Check out the class now to find out more, and sign up for the waiting list and we’ll email you when we re-open!

how to decorate