“Slow Deco” Just Might Be the Answer to Your Decorating Woes

“Slow Deco” Just Might Be the Answer to Your Decorating Woes

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Many a homeowner suffers from Cinderella syndrome. Who hasn’t fantasized about awakening to a whole new landscape extending from the kitchen counters to the bedroom closet, at the wave of a fairy godmother’s wand — or a professional designer’s whim? Everything new and coordinated, everything in its place.

The coziest and most comfortable homes though are often the ones that evolve organically, over time. Maybe they began with hand-me-down furniture or with a few vintage pieces picked up at a flea market. Store-bought items soon join in. In time old pieces learn to live with new finds, like a well-blended family. 

Assuming each room is periodically subject to a close edit, gradually they become greater than the sum of their various parts. Call it “Slow Deco.”

A friend with a good eye likes to improve on this scenario through a regular ritual she calls switch-swap-and-swipe. “Think wall art, throw pillows, vases, bowls, and objects,” she says.

Never content to sit still, my friend, Meredith, regularly roams around her Midtown New York apartment, moving things around. Furniture, sure, to the surprise of her nonplused husband, whose feet keep reaching for his favorite ottoman. But often it’s smaller, more mobile items, things like fruit bowls, vases, African fabrics, and artwork. 

Meredith began her life as a rearranger with two marble-topped tables gleaned from her grandmother’s Pennsylvania homestead. It was hard to tell what flattered them most: Standing together under a vintage mirror on an antique decorative carpet, or separated and set off by wildly contemporary accessories.

More recently, it was the question of a blank wall in the kitchen, visible from the front door. Leave it a calm white — most of this sky-high apartment is a crisp mix of black and white — or give it a little visual kick with a wallpaper panel featuring a tiger?

It takes time to allow such things to develop and an ability to see old haunts with a fresh eye. I’d been in my own apartment for a long time when Meredith asked if she could “try something.” Next thing I know she’s manhandling a chunky glass-front cabinet I had backed up against a living room wall, wiggling it onto a bath mat and dragging it off down the hall. Bingo: The living room opened up, along with a new sightline. As interior designer Craig Kellogg commented when once contemplating a bulky blond-wood dressing table I like to keep around, “Empty space can be a good thing.”

My style is decorating by default, to borrow a phrase from Natalie Walton, a stylist and the author of a trio of books on home decor. “By default” helps explain my husbanding of a burnished black leather sofa — purchased secondhand in Paris nearly 30 years ago and now oddly hard to let go of — when everyone, Walton especially, would be much happier if I had a low-slung sectional in bone-colored linen. 

Walton makes the case for slow and thoughtful decorating in “Still: The Slow Home,” (pictured below) a travelogue of pared-down homes with carefully chosen furnishings in a chaste mix of white, off-white, unstained birch, and unbleached muslin. (And she has four kids.) 

Walton sees slow decor as akin to the the SLOW (sustainable local organic) food movement, which shuns Big Macs in favor of a barely bubbling pot of locally raised, organic beef. “We can embrace the slow movement in our homes by being more intentional about how we live,” she says, speaking from her casual-gorgeous home in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. A slow home should be a showcase for “objects that help us connect to our spaces meaningfully,” she says. 

“I am a big proponent of having only what you really love and you really need and use,” says Walton, who unsurprisingly teaches a master class in decluttering.

So step back from speed shopping. “In our culture we are constantly adding things,” Walton notes. “It’s never been easier, with online [retailers] and sales. But things used to be added slowly to our homes, and we need to go back to that.”

Walton isn’t the only decorator who favors a leisurely pace. For one thing, “you save time and money,” says Jennifer Riley, an interior designer who specializes in blending old and new. “People can get to the crux of who they are stylistically,” she says, speaking from her home office in San Diego. You figure out what you really like, which is huge.”

Riley has been redoing her own 1909 Craftsman for nearly three years, layering in antiques with a new sofa from Roger + Chris — her one investment piece — and an end table unearthed at Wayfair. “I encourage people to get out there and see what you like and start experimenting a bit,” she says. In other words: Take your time.

Even among designers in more of a hurry, there’s talk of creating “timeless” spaces, a variation on the slow home theme that is clearly on trend. (I remember when this look was called eclectic.) In an email, Stephani Stein, who runs an interior design practice in Los Angles, defined timeless as “personal and authentic.” “We rely heavily on vintage and custom and strive to incorporate heirloom pieces [clients may] already have,” she says. 

Phew! Hope this means I can keep my grandmother’s dinged-up white-wicker sewing stand, which Meredith has been trying to walk to the curb for years. 

Then again, Meredith has a striking ability to stay tuned to her surroundings, as if in a lifelong quest to tweak them to perfection. She and her forbearing husband may have moved into their apartment four years ago, but it took until this April for her to disassemble their vintage rosewood dining table and call Goodwill. In came a sleek lacquered number — white, of course. 

The last time I dropped by I noticed the white table had already migrated to a new location, her husband’s home office: Seems it was the perfect height for his paperwork.

The rosewood table slid back into its old spot, brightened by a swath of mud cloth that happened to be on hand.

This piece is part of Go Slow Month, where we’re celebrating taking your time, taking a deep breath, and taking a step back from it all. From deliberate design ideas to tips for truly embracing rest, head over here to see it all.

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Coastal Grandmother Trend

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Coastal Grandmother Trend

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

I call it my “cottage by the sea” — a dreamlike place I’ve long imagined in my mind ever since I was little. Everyone has a “someday home” that they envision. Mine just happens to be directly located next to the ocean and festooned with climbing flower vines. Seashells sit in the window ledges, and the white Adirondack chairs out front present a relaxed, breezy vibe to all who may come to visit. 

Scenes of Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton walking around their idyllic movie homes may be coming to mind for you — bright white walls, blue-and-white striped rugs, vases of freshly picked flowers — but make no mistake about it: The coastal grandmother style is beachy and rustic but warm and without an ounce of kitsch, and you certainly don’t have to be an actual grandmother to get in on this trend. To further pinpoint the look and feel of the coastal grandmother aesthetic and identify how can you bring this traditional style into your space, I spoke to some experts. Here’s everything you need to know about the coastal grandmother trend.

Coastal Grandmother By Definition 

“Coastal grandmother embraces a polished coastal aesthetic, blending classic influences with a fresh, relaxed yet refined style,” says Carla Rummo, the chief marketing officer of Serena & Lily, a brand that brims with coastal grandmother style furniture and decor. Rummo says she and her colleagues define the look as “nostalgic yet fresh.” According to her, this trend “speaks to a laid-back, luxurious, coastal way of life” that you can achieve whether you live next to the sea or not.

In other words? If you’re drawn to traditional style that’s relaxed with some seaside flair mixed in for good measure, you’re golden with this timeless trend. In fact, Rummo goes so far as to say that coastal grandmother isn’t just a design approach: It’s a way of life. “[Coastal grandmother] embodies a lifestyle that’s elegant yet comfortable and inspired by summertime nostalgia, a sense of optimism, and a connection to nature,” she says. “The style brings to mind cashmere sweaters, leisurely walks on the beach, and cocktails on the porch with family and friends.” 

While this style is perfectly suited for homes by the sea, you can absolutely embrace the look even if you live thousands of miles away from the nearest ocean. Designer Claire Zinnecker praises the aspects of the coastal grandmother motif that aren’t necessarily coastal. “My own interpretation of it is ‘comfort meets style,’” she says. “Mixing and matching is easy with coastal grandmother pieces— [think] textures, cozy, softness, warmth, and quality — not quantity.” 

Coastal Grandmother Vs. Grandmillennial

By now, you’re likely familiar with the grandmillennial trend, which caught fire in 2020 after also gaining steam on social media. While aspects of grandmillennial style sound similar to the coastal grandmother approach — descriptors like traditional, heirloom, floral could work for both — these aesthetics actually do differ in key ways. 

“Both styles are rooted in tradition with a reimagined twist,” Rummo says. “Coastal grandmother draws inspiration from natural elements like the ocean, sand, and sky to create a bright, inviting space — think soft neutrals and coastal blue color palettes, breezy linen fabrics, natural materials like rattan and jute, and classic furniture silhouettes. Grandmillenial style is more indicative of mixed patterns, floral chintz, and a bolder color palette paired with darker, heirloom furniture pieces.” 

Zinnecker herself describes grandmillennial style as “more French country sophistication” with ruffles and ornate furniture. No matter the brand of grandmillennial style you encounter out in the wild in interiors though, the coastal grandmother aesthetic is undoubtedly a breezier, lighter and brighter close cousin. Both styles have vintage charm and classic silhouettes in spades, but the materials, color palettes, and hero design features aren’t exactly the same.

How to Get the Coastal Grandmother Look

Want to life your best coastal gran life at home, as though you were on a Nancy Myers movie set? Here ‘s how to get the coastal grandmother look at home: 

Shelby Deering

Contributor

Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer who specializes in decor, wellness topics, and home tours. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her shopping flea markets, running on local trails, or snuggling up to her sweet corgi.

10 Comfy, (Mostly) Colorful Outdoor Lounge Chairs for Under $100

10 Comfy, (Mostly) Colorful Outdoor Lounge Chairs for Under $100

Summer is almost here and that means one thing: it’s time to get outside. From heading out to your favorite hiking spot to picnicking with friends and family, there’s nothing better than enjoying some nice weather after a dreary winter. For those lucky enough to have an outdoor space of their own to bask in, it’s also time to break out (or update) your setup. The easiest way to start? With a good lounge chair, of course! A cute and comfy lounge chair can turn a sliver of yard space into an outdoor oasis in no time. If you have room for one (or more), my only question is, what are you waiting for? From colorful woven loungers to classic folding styles that are perfect for small spaces, we rounded up 10 of the comfiest outdoor lounge chairs that won’t break the bank — they’re all under $100! Even better, some of these are portable and can be taken on the road for a day at the beach, park, or wherever else you end up. So I say again, what are you waiting for?

This $7 Amazon Find Literally Leveled Up My Gallery Wall

This $7 Amazon Find Literally Leveled Up My Gallery Wall

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Whenever I look at the gallery wall in my living room, I’m constantly reminded of how much artwork brings me joy. I took studio art throughout high school and majored in art history in college (along with media studies), and I’ve slowly been collecting pieces to fill my walls with over the past ten years or so. To that end, I loved the above shot of my salon-style arrangement from my apartment house tour last year, but I’d be lying if I said the inner perfectionist in me wasn’t a little annoyed over the fact that the frames are most definitely askew. It’s more noticeable on the right side, and I swore I straightened them before the shot. This is a real home — not a staged one — and, I guess, things just sometimes have a mind of their own and shift.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes hanging art; when you get in up close on this wall, you can see a few holes that didn’t quite work, and I’m still searching for the right anchor piece to replace those two geometric textiles in the middle of the arrangement. Perpetually crooked frames, though? That has to be fixable, I thought after seeing this photo. Turns out the answer is yes, and had I not been doing a million other things to my apartment for its close up last summer, I would have discovered — and implemented! — the solution sooner: The Museum Putty, which costs less than $7 a package and is available on Amazon Prime.

Maybe you remember putting up posters or magazine tear sheets on your walls as a teenager or in your dorm room with Fun-Tak, that blue sticky stuff? Museum Putty’s basically the adult version of that; it functions the same way, securely anchoring a picture or canvas in place. Generally, Museum Putty is a little bit stronger and promises not to damage walls or chip nicer frames. Even better, this putty comes in a neutral white-gray color, so I won’t spot it out of the corner of my eye when I enter my living room and am looking at the pieces from their sides.

To activate the putty, which can also be used to hold collectibles or vases in place on a shelf or table (and is utilized in earthquake zones for this exact protection), all you have to do is pull a piece off the block, mold it into a ball, and press that evenly into a corner on the back of your frame. That ball then makes contact with the wall, and voila, no more shifting once you’ve gotten your piece level and pressed it in. I used four pieces on each frame total (one in each corner), but you could probably get away with just reinforcing two opposite diagonal corners. Removal is as simple as gently twisting the putty off of the surface you put it on, and it can even be reused on another piece after this.

Now that I have this wonder product, I feel like it’s something everyone should get to keep in their toolbox. That way, you can straighten pieces as you’re hanging them and never have to worry about wonky frames again!

Danielle Blundell

Home Editor

Danielle Blundell is AT’s Home Director and covers decorating and design. She loves homes, heels, the history of art, and hockey—but not necessarily always in that order.

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Before & After: A Designer Mom Gives Her Sons a Stylish, Eclectic Playroom

Before & After: A Designer Mom Gives Her Sons a Stylish, Eclectic Playroom

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

As a professional designer, Sarah Storms of Styled by Storms may have a leg up on pulling rooms together. But that doesn’t mean she had the bandwidth to decorate every last space in her own New Jersey home right away, back when her family moved into it in November 2019. Almost twice as large as her previous residence and “in need of a lot of love,” the house had plenty of projects to tackle. The non-essential, more decorative ones, like her sons’ playroom, fell to the bottom of the list.

Motivated by the One Room Challenge makeover franchise that took place last fall, Storms decided to join in the renovating fun with this area. “I was tired of hiding the playroom behind closed doors and decided to focus on giving the playroom the personality it deserved,” she says. “The goal for this renovation was to create a moody, creative space that could be functional and grow with our family.  I didn’t want to infantilize any of the design elements just because they were children.”

Storms began her design plan by commissioning custom built-ins painted in Benjamin Moore’s Tarrytown Green (HC-134) for storing boards games, puzzles, art supplies, legos, magnet tiles, and everything in between. Because the adjacent living room also has a set of built-ins flanking the fireplace, Storms wanted to maintain that same height and design across both rooms’ cabinetry for balance and symmetry.  So she went the custom route. Sure, IKEA would have been cheaper (and that’s what was in her last home’s play area), but these built-ins would match the others and standup to wear and tear better over time, which justified the investment.

Prior to their installation, painters worked on readying the walls for Schumacher’s Giove wallpaper, a bold pattern that features intertwined snakes in shades of emerald and sapphire. This whimsical backdrop sets the tone for the rest of the colorful accents and spirited touches that unfold in the space’s design (not to mention all the fun the boys have within the rooms’ four walls).

“The largest part of the job was also the most time-consuming, which was smoothing all of the thick texture from the ceiling and walls,” Storms says on the scope of the prep work for the wall coverings. “It took the painter nine five-gallon buckets of joint compound to do. It was extremely messy, smelly, and did not dry quickly due to the humidity.”

The closet doors, ceiling, and trim work — with moldings original to the 100-year-old house! — also got a fresh coat of paint, and Storms and her husband added new brass replacement screens to the room’s radiator box before it received its own paint job, too.

Once the bones of the space were set, Storms turned her attention to assembling a mix of kid-friendly pieces of furniture that also jibe with the rest of her home’s eclectic decor. “The table and chairs were about function first,” says Storms. She painted the IKEA table Benjamin Moore’s Bordéaux Red (1365), turning it into a focal point as it contrasts with the bespoke green cabinetry, then added brass casters for mobility.

“This would allow the table to be easily moved around the room so it could be used for puzzles and games, but could also be pushed against the wall for fort building or obstacle courses,” she says. Constructed of heavy-duty acrylic, the table’s chairs can be wiped cleaned of any messes and stacked up to save floor space when not in use.

For a sustainable element, and to add some extra soul to the space, Storms deliberately sought out secondhand furnishings for pretty much everything else in the room, save the textiles and a few small prints hanging on the walls.

“The petite club chairs are my grandmother’s that were refinished and reupholstered in Schumacher cut velvet, and the 1950s Persian wool rug is durable and beautiful,” she says. “I love incorporating vintage antiques, even in more modern spaces. They add a layer of warmth that can’t be achieved with ‘new’ items.” 

Sourced from Facebook Marketplace, the ship paintings are also vintage, and the large, “Gucci inspired” tiger is from Etsy and framed in vintage older frame.  “I wanted some kind of David Bowie gentleman art and this tiger fit the bill,” says Storms. “A little bit of whimsy makes the room feel fun and not stuffy.” 

From start to finish, the playroom took about nine weeks to complete. The end result made it totally worth it, especially now that the children have a space to truly call their own. “The boys want to invite everyone they know for playdates,” says Storms. “They think the snakes are really cool and like that they can easily find their toys without digging through bins.”

Storms herself also has now a room that she’s proud of, as both a mom and a designer. I love that the playroom is an extension of our home,” she says. “It is a beautiful and happy room that could be used even for an adult gathering.  Good design is forever, and it’s something to really think about when making thematic decisions.”

Danielle Blundell

Home Editor

Danielle Blundell is AT’s Home Director and covers decorating and design. She loves homes, heels, the history of art, and hockey—but not necessarily always in that order.

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