The Heart Wants What It Wants

Sometimes it’s fun for us to scroll through the photos on our House Tour page and try to pick out decorating similarities or patterns that we’ve never noticed before. Obviously there are blatant themes that we knowingly gravitate towards, like a light and airy look, neutral colors with some hits of soft blue and grass green, white curtains, dark wood furnishings mixed with white painted pieces and white ceramic animals (which I admit I like a little too much). But it’s also interesting to notice that we seem to have subliminal attractions that even we’re not privy to until waaay after the fact when we’re looking at the photos as a whole.

For example, in each of our three bedrooms we’ve chosen patterned bedding. We’re not huge on big graphic textiles in our home for the most part (although we love using them in mood boards for our color-loving clients, a lot of our house is decorated with subtle textures that have been layered, not bold prints and patterns around every turn). So of course we find this little graphic patterned bedding similarity quite interesting. Whatever it is about fluffy white bedding- which you’d think we’d be drawn to for all three rooms given our love of all things airy and white- was somehow rejected in exchange for a fun high-contrast geometric look in the guest bedroom…

… a softer graphic pattern in the master bedroom…

…and a detailed modern floral look in the third bedroom.

Heck, even the daybed in the sunroom is accented by graphic little geometrically patterned pillows, so clearly there’s some sort of attraction to bedding that’s a bit beyond basic. Go figure! I guess it’s possible to even surprise yourself.

Another more obvious pattern is our proclivity towards natural materials. We always knew we loved bamboo blinds (which we have in the living room, the laundry nook and the den) and jute rugs (as seen in the kitchen, the den, the third bedroom, and the master bedroom)…

… but it was funny to notice that even the tiny finishing touches and accessories that we introduce are often natural objects like woven baskets in the bathroom, corks as vase filler, planters made from natural fibers, even woven pillows in the den and the third bedroom. Interesting…

But looking closer what other patterns can we find? Obviously we like light slipcovered sofas and mocha floors (which we have throughout the house) along with lots of white frames (found in every single room- they’re handy for switching out since they all match each other) and white pedestal tables (we have one in the den and one in the sunroom). And we can’t forget leather storage ottomans for stashing everything from files and folders to paint decks (we have three in the den, two in the living room and one in the dining area). But we also noticed that we actually have a subtle animal theme going on. Not only are there the aforementioned ceramic animals living it up around the house, we also have a cow print pillow in the den along with curved ceramic horns on the mantel:

… a zebra pillow in the mini mudroom area:

… and various portraits and pictures of Burger throughout the house (including a formal little silhouette John had made for me based on Burger’s actual profile):

Then piggybacking off the natural theme (and overlapping a bit into the animal theme as well) we definitely have some sea-life patterns going on. From our bedroom and office botanical prints….

… to our clam shell in the kitchen and various starfish and faux-coral pieces that we have peppered throughout the house, they all work well with our airy and open theme. And I guess we’re just suckers for things that remind us of fun in the sun.

We also have a definite mirror fetish. Guess how many we have in the house? Let’s see, we have one in the sunroom, one in the half bathroom, one in the den, one in the living room, one in the bathroom, one little one layered over a giant one in the guest bedroom and an even bigger one in the master bedroom. So that’s seven mirrors in a house that only has nine rooms. Yeah, we like mirrors.

And speaking of those oversized mirrors, it seems as though we often select one noticeably large object to place in nearly every one of our rooms, maybe subliminally to add interest since we don’t use a ton of bold colors and patterns to keep things exciting. For example, there’s the giant clock in the sunroom, the huge hurricane next to the fireplace in den, two oversized jars on the coffee table and the console table in the living room, the giant greyhound next to the fireplace and a life-sized ceramic dog in the sunroom, two oversized frames in the laundry nook, a huge P monogram that we made for above the console table, and even the aforementioned giant clam shell in the kitchen.

Then we noticed the glass lamp thing. Would you believe that we have a glass pendant lamp in the kitchen above the sink, two glass-based lamps in the living room and one giant oversized glass gourd lamp in the guest bedroom? And if that doesn’t sound like much of a pattern to you, consider than we only own one additional table lamp in the entire house (the metal task lamp on our desk in the den). That’s three out of four table lamps that are glass! And you might say that we had to notice that trend, but we’re usually just attracted to something and we buy it. There’s not much thought other than “where will it go?” and “how much does it cost”- so we rarely think “do we have something else like this already?” because for some reason every time we fall in love with something we’re convinced that it’s different than anything else that has ever existed and we must have it. Especially if it’s on the clearance rack…

And on the subject of lighting, we just realized we’re a bit biased when it comes to lamp shades. We knew we preferred clean-lined drum shades, but we didn’t realize there was hardly a different shape in our entire house (the floor lamps in the den and master bedroom along with the two glass lamps in the living room and the glass lamp in the guest bedroom all have modern non-tapered shades- well, the one in the guest bedroom is a smidge tapered, but not by very much). Who knew we were such drill sergeants when it came to that?

Oh and we can’t forget about our fondness of subtle tone on tone stripes. We painted them on our porch floor, the walls of our half bath, and even snapped up two identical jute rugs with them for the third bedroom and the kitchen.

So are we lame-o losers for consciously and subconsciously stocking up on patterned bedding, jute rugs, natural objects, animal-related paraphernalia, beachy items, mirrors of all sizes, glass lamps, drum shades, and stuff with subtle stripes? We guess it could be considered a bit boring to some, but we just think that we like what we like, and sometimes repeated attractions to things indicates that you’re finally pinning down a signature style of sorts- so people will see something and immediately say “that’s so you”- which is always flattering (unless it’s some tacky Dolly-Parton-looking outfit or something). Take the amazing Nate Berkus and his love of latch-like hardware, textured linen, beat up old chairs, and black window sashes. Or the unparalleled Candice Olson and her love of luxe creams, soft blues, gleaming crystal chandeliers and opulent fabrics.

Plus sometimes similar materials, colors, textures, and styles peppered in many rooms throughout a home can actually keep things cohesive and help with the flow- especially in a modestly sized casa with modestly sized rooms like ours. That way it doesn’t feel like you’re living in a house made up of totally unrelated spaces that feel jarring when you exit one room and enter another.

Of course we also like switching things up with interesting elements that don’t occur anywhere else (a bright green quilted headboard here, a patterned yellow rug there, a painted green bookcase here, a capiz chandelier there) so we’re by no means suggesting that people get all matchy-matchy and formulaic (in fact here’s one of our favorite posts of all time about how NOT to do that). We just thought it was an interesting little study in our strange subconscious psyche (were we oversized sea-loving animals who liked looking in the mirror in a past life?). And we’d love to know what patterns you guys pick up when you look around your space. From purple velvet to oil-rubbed bronze, what can’t you guys get enough of in your house?

Psst- You don’t wanna miss this. Burger has selected his top semifinalists for his little online version of The Bachelor. And it’s turning out to be strangely entertaining.


  1. Amy Y. says

    – Loved this post! You and John have what many people struggle for in their decorating lives- inspired cohesiveness. Sure, the rooms may seem to run on a theme to you, but honestly the entire package is just beautifully pulled together and seamless. Everything flows!

  2. says

    Haha! That’s so interesting! I’ve never analyzed our apartment that way, but after reading this, I looked around and saw things totally different. My husband and I are drawn to earthy-colors, like dark reds, chocolate browns, creams, greens and burnt oranges. They’re everywhere and I NEVER noticed that!

    I LOVE your blog by the way, very inspiring :)

    • says

      Oh yeah we love the DwellStudio Target stuff. Even their baby stuff is adorable (we used some of it for Emily’s nursery). And you can’t beat the price!


  3. says

    Oh man- I just looked around and realized my decor sense kinda screams “hand-me-downs” and “dorm room stuff” and “left behind by old roommates”. I love a lot of the pieces I have, but it’s hard for me to put them all together in a way that looks funky yet polished, instead of like a storage unit.

  4. Rachel says

    I love the clam shell in your kitchen! I’ve been looking all over for one. Did it come from Z Gallerie? If so, is it the large or extra large one?

    Thanks, Rachel

  5. Leigh says

    Love this! I actually noticed the same thing in our house over the weekend. We have dark red in every room in our house; all the curtains in our house are red. We’ve been thinking about changing out the curtains in our master bedroom, but now I think maybe they should stay so the whole house stays cohesive!

  6. says

    That’s an interesting way to take a look at your house! I’m sure I could find similar patterns in our apartment as well, though they probably wouldn’t be as well developed (it’s only been decorated for several months).

    But on a slight tangent – you take awesome photographs! You make them look cozy and cheerful without washing out the colors. Can you do a post on how to take photographs of your home?? I took some for my blog (post will be up tomorrow), but they are very poor quality in comparison (for some reason I just don’t get how to take pictures that make it look cozy, but still accurate). Help please!!

    • says

      Hey Jenny,

      We’re by no means experts on the subject, but here are our photography tips:

      1. We use a Canon Powershot. It has great features like “image stability” for clarity and a macro lens for detail shots (plus it’s still totally affordable)

      2. We never ever use the flash. Wait for a sunny day, turn on all the lights and snap away (keep the camera still to fight blur)

      3. Take a mazillion pictures. We take them from all angles, different heights, at different times of the day, etc. Then we pick our favorites.

      4. Don’t forget the little extras. We turn on the gas fireplace, light some candles, fluff the pillows, etc. It all makes a subtle difference in the end.

      5. Photoshop is your friend. We occasionally use it to crop photos, lighten things and correct colors so it’s a great little perk if you have it.

      Hope it helps!


  7. Jason says

    Great post!

    I love how you say – we see it, we like it, we get it. At the same time I’m renovating my house, I’m trying to get furnishing and accessories, etc. ready for move in day. Everyone says – what is the style going to be? It’s going to be what I like – that’s it.

    So far that seems to be a mid-century/traditional/modern look. But, I also have pieces of Americana, Country, some Antiques – lots of glassware for the china closet, all sorts of things I have a place for it all in my mind.

    I hope it looks half as good as your place – every pic on your house tour looks inviting and that’s what I want my house to feel like for me and my family and friends. And as you say – what you like becomes your style and hopefully it will be uniquely mine, but appealing to others.

    Delaware – J

  8. Kate says

    Your mention of slip covered sofas jumped right off the screen for me. My husband and I are in the market for a new slipcover, any recommendations on where to find good quality, affordable slipcovers that fit well? We inherited our current one with the couch and it’s never fit very snugly. Also, any tips on figuring out what size and style works best? Thanks! Love the blog and am a fellow Richmond-er, go RVA!!

  9. says

    That was very helpful, thanks! I’ll have to try it out in the next couple days. Do you have any tips for photographing at night, or just during the day? I love the cozy feeling our apartment gets after dark, but can’t capture it the same way on camera.

  10. Lesley says

    Wow, there’s a decorating epiphany here. I have several little themes going on too and maybe need to weed out what no longer fits into those for the cohesive look your lovely home has. LOVE the Burger silhouette – any tips on where to get or how to make them??

    • says

      Lesley- John actually ordered that silhouette on etsy for me as a gift, but you could probably blow up a photo of your pet and trace it and then transfer it onto black construction paper and cut it out for a super similar look. Hope it helps!

      Jenny- Hmm, good question. We have yet to master evening photography as we hate the harshness that the flash brings to a space and there’s less likelihood of photos coming out clearly without using one in the evening when there’s less light. Perhaps using a tripod will keep the camera still enough (or setting it on a table with the timer on) to get a clean shot of the evening ambiance? Good luck!

      Alaina- We love Rowe sofas and actually got our living room sofa for around $500 less than our Pottery Barn one in the den. We love it a million times more and it was much cheaper- can’t beat that. It was still around $900 or so, but it’ll last for decades so it seems like a good investment piece (especially with the washable slipcover and classic clean lines). Just google or check out your yellow pages for any Rowe retailers in your area and visit the showroom to see what they have. In our experience they had a ton more fabric options to choose from than PB and of course the price was a lot better. Hope it helps!

      Kate- We actually purchased both of our sofas as slipcovered models, so we didn’t get the covers separately. One is from Pottery Barn (the den one) and the living room one (which we like a loooooot more) is from Rowe (just find a local retailer on google and save $500 or more over Pottery Barn- such a deal). We have heard good things about the Surefit slipcovers carried by Bed Bath & Beyond but you might have to purchase a few different options and try each one on your couch to find the best fit (then just return the rest). Hope it helps!

      Jennifer S- Does it comfort you to know that all those leather storage ottomans and baskets that you see everywhere are stuffed with games, paint chips, dog toys and more? We just try to stash that stuff in eye-pleasing ways so no one’s the wiser!


  11. says

    I wanted to let you know your beautiful home is such an inspiration!! I just picked up two of the IKEA sheepskin throws/rugs after seeing how great they look thrown over the dining room bench and family room chair in your house. And the best part is the price!

    Thanks for the great design tips!


    Q: In the market for a couch – ideally one that looks like either of yours. Any suggestions for affordability (but better quality than IKEA)?? I’ve been searching CraigsList every day, but have you ever looked for couches on craiglist? Eeek.

  12. Jennifer S. says

    Sometimes I can’t see beyond the toys scattered across the floor and the laundry waiting to be folded and put away. Really. They are everywhere. That’s why I read your blog! Not a toy or laundry basket anywhere.

  13. jennifer F says

    I love how you are able to have a few little themes that all flow together, and they are not noticable to the naked eye where it appears to be all “matchy matchy” as you put it. How are you able to do that? I go into stores, find things I love, buy them and then my house looks like a collection of random things I found and loved in stores. LOL. It’s not cohesive at all. Im curious…should I make a mental note of themes and what I like and try to stick to those when I go shopping? So I don’t buy something on a whim? Thanks…lovely home!

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