Style vs. Practicality in Home Decorating

I had this gorgeous blue and white living room photo sent to me the other day by Serena & Lily showcasing their new product line available starting on Friday, and I immediately knew it would inspire some of the changes we’re going to make to our main floor. As mentioned on Monday, we are starting at the front of the house (laundry room, powder room and entryway), but our attention will then turn to the adjoining living room and kitchen.

Blue and White Living Room  Serena & Lily

I’ve always been drawn to light and airy interiors, but practicality always seems to win. White walls don’t mix well with the constant stream of hockey bags and backpacks in and out of the house. Teenage boys (and their friends) have a tendency to make messes and break things (it’s just their nature). Dogs, as lovable as they are, aren’t aware that laying in the same spot of an area rug, drooling and shedding like crazy, and sneezing on the nearby silk drapery is not the best idea. (That’s why they were taken down and we’ve lived with just drapery rods and, eventually, just holes.) Reegan couldn’t help it, she just loved looking out that window waiting for everyone to come home (barking at everyone else!).

Years pass by so quickly and things change. Now it’s just the two of us most of the time. Hayden is off at college and Reegan is… well, I like to think she’s off running in a meadow somewhere feeling the warm sun on her face. She is (was) a warm weather kind of girl, just like me!

As much as I miss Hayden, his friends and the sound of Reegan snoring all morning, it dawned on me not so long ago that, moving forward, our decorating decisions don’t need to be all about practicality. Perhaps style can move to the forefront, or at least play a bigger role. Of course we can’t throw caution to the wind as my husband has a tendency to spill his coffee on a monthly basis, and I eat my lunch in front of the TV when I’m by myself (there may or may not be some crumbs on the couch).

As a compromise, perhaps we’ll forgo white upholstered sofas and choose it for the walls or drapery or occasional chairs instead. It will take some time to wrap my head around all the possibilities now that our household is different.

Tell me, does style or practicality win when making home decorating decisions at your place? Any choices where you’ve been able to find the perfect balance? Any regrets?

xo,

Shauna Oberg

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Comments

  1. says

    I think you can have both style and practicality, but it does require compromise! For investment pieces, I lean more towards the practical, and inject style with accents or less expensive items that I won’t mind replacing when the dog’s nap spot becomes obvious. You’ve made me a little scared for when my tween boy becomes a full fledged teen, though…. ;)

    • says

      I totally agree with your approach. Don’t be too worried about your boy. For the most part my son has been careful, but a whole group of them is another story. Oh well, it’s worth all the happy memories :)

  2. says

    Always practical for me!  but I’m now using shabby chic and industrial items so that I can get away with the dings and scratches that come with everyday life, and it just blends in!  :)

  3. says

    I am in the practical boat for the next 12 years!  I can’t wait to see what will win out over the next phase of your decor… I am sure you will balance it beautifully! 

  4. says

    That space does look so balanced, love it! What about taking baby steps? I like the idea of having an end goal and adjusting as the time goes and the household dynamics change. Here at my house it’s more practical with younger kiddies running around. I have plans though.. one day! 

  5. says

    Practicality always seems to trump style in this household. Whenever I’ve tried to put style ahead of practical it’s just turned into disjointed cluttered chaos. My office is the space I wish for style to prevail, but old admin habits die hard, and I just can’t seem to lose that. I do try to pick spot where I can have moment of style leading the way! Love the space you featured – it’s loaded with inspiration!!

  6. says

    Oh, for the most part, practicality wins. I love love LOVE that picture of the blue and white room, Shauna – but white sofas wouldn’t last more than a year in our house. Puke and spills would probably bring me to tears… 

    I am slowly getting bolder, though. We have a cream coloured ottoman. I bought a white and yellow rug for the kitchen. But I’m also realizing that if it gets wrecked, I have nobody to blame but myself. 

    I can’t live in a brown and green home forever, though! It would drive me batty! 

    • says

      Just the other day I brought home a natural sisal rug for in between our island and kitchen sink. It’s the hardest wearing area of our house and sisal can’t be thrown in the washing machine. I returned it the next day! Looked great, but I’m not sure what I was thinking! It was an attempt…

  7. says

    I’m excited to see what you get up to! I love the white and blue look (I always covet white and blue dishes!) but am also scared that it would look gorgeous for all of 30 seconds before becoming smeared with lord knows what.

    • says

      I’ve heard of new blue jeans rubbing off on white upholstery and that did it for me. Blue and white dishes- that would work. I think I will be choosing the lighter elements in the easy to clean and less used areas of our home.

  8. says

    I have to say that I never really compromised much on decorating decisions because of the kids. Now, I never really wanted things that were too fancy or fragile, and I tend to like simple and “rougher” things. But I do have a lot of hand made objects and special mementos from my travels, and i have been a little heart-broken to watch them break over the years. Because my peeps break EVERYTHING! But I’d rather use it, and I keep telling myself that you can’t take it with you. I don’t have hockey playing boys, but my youngest plays with her volleyball in the dining room. It’s usually ok, but once in a while I hear a crash. Sigh.

  9. says

    I think there is a happy medium. I am thrilled with the “old is new again” or the shabby chic look because the older some of these pieces get, the more beautiful they are..AND kids work with them too. ;)  

    My highest value is for people to feel comfortable in my home – it feels amazing to know people are safe and happy in their skin…within your home. I used to keep everything perfect in my house…now I prefer knowing it is lived in and loved in. 

    Great post, Shauna.

    • says

      Yes, there’s going too far with style meaning a space is cold, uncomfortable and unwelcoming. That is definitely not what I’d be going for. My philosophy is that when we put life into our homes, our homes will give us life. Seems to align with your values too!

  10. says

    I appreciate all design, but in our home practical wins hands down. My, bull in a china shop, AKA Hubs, spills, leaves crumbs and well all of his family is the same way. All boys. Thankfully my tastes lean towards rustic, warm, comfy and industrial. We paid big $$ to have the basement carpet cleaned (beige), I wanted it out but we finally mutually agreed to clean it. Yep, long story short, almost a full cup of coffee was spilled on the stairs. So, practical and function are my #1 musts…

  11. says

    I try to have both. I was so unhappy with my practical leather sofas. They were nice, but just not me. I wanted light furniture and I got it, but in bleachable slipcovers. I wanted wood floors, but with kids, a puppy and a pool I knew they wouldn’t last. I got tile that looks like wood instead. It is more difficult to make decisions, but it can happen!

  12. says

    For the big pieces, it’s practicality all the way (although I try to pick something that looks nice too!). I will sometimes pick out a statement piece that is less practical if I think it’ll add a great visual impact, and doesn’t break the bank!

  13. Angela Price says

    Today Practicality won! Went into Birchwood and the sofa and chairs I have been eyeing for a month were on sale. I have considered the decision for a year and had thought about different chairs instead of the matching ones. However with a 10 year old, 22 month old and another on the way, along with the area being so close to my dining area Leather all around won. I couldn’t stand the thought of oreo finger prints on a fabric chair. This means I need your help picking out a rug, tables and throw pillows. 
    I did buy an amazing piece for my office though, one that was not practical but just the opposite. It is oh so beautiful and for a kid free Zone! 

  14. says

    I always recommend a balance of the two.  Everybody is at a different stage in life with different options available.  I tend to be a high heels kind of girl even if they are killing me (so kind of the same for decor) but when making recommendations to clients I definitely listen for what they really want and desire.

  15. says

    You are definitely in a new era for design and it’s fabulous!  I can’t wait to see what you do – I love your style – I too love airy and bright (that living room in the photo is SO dreamy!).

  16. says

    I’m love white and airy interiors too!  My last sofa was dark, but our new very light greige sofa just arrives this week! I went with an indoor/outdoor perennial fabric slipcovered sofa (which could apparently withstand bleach) since we have two boys and a dog.  This time style won out!  Now we will see how well it holds up.  :). Happy New Year and I look forward to see me about your upcoming home projects.  

  17. says

    oooh, I too struggle with this. I have dreams of having an all white living room with a gorg furry white rug. Ha! Not with three pairs of sticky hands. However, I agree, sometimes style has to win out. You’ve waited long enough not to choose style over practicality this time. Do it girl.

  18. says

    A great question! With a very hairy dog, and a relaxed lifestyle, we are very practical in our decorating choices. A dark rug or sofa? Nope. Our dog is blonde. Even if it were beautiful, it would detract more from my life more than it would add because it would always look filthy. :)

    • says

      I think it boils down to whether or not it bothers you. Me- yes! I used to vacuum all the time, yet my cousin who is the biggest dog lover I know would say, “what hair?” It’s very individual.

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