One thing I have learned through years of poring over design magazines and blogs is how big a role styling plays in the feel of a home. You can style pretty much any little nook and cranny and instantly make it look more appealing: a coffee table, dresser, kitchen counter, bedside table, desk. Today I am going to share some of the styling tips and takeaways I have learned along my quest to improve my own styling abilities.

Let’s start with a few examples of some very well styled spaces so you can see some styling done right.

All these gorgeous spaces did not come together by accident. And although the structure of the room may be nice, and the furniture beautiful, it is the styling that gives each their “wow” factor.

Basic Styling Elements

After “studying” styling for a while now, I have been able to identify a few elements that keep popping up. Shelves and built-ins are a good place to start because they can make such a difference when done well. Here are some basic elements to consider before tackling your shelves or built-ins.

  • Breathing room
  • Greenery
  • Leaned art
  • Sculptural objects
  • Stacked books
  • Varying heights

Let’s take a look at a few bookshelves and built-ins so you can see how these different elements keep popping up:

You can also carry over the same elements to a freestanding shelving unit. Here’s an example from Ballard Designs. Everything’s there except for the leaning art which would fall 🙂

Those examples are all for shelving situations. There are definitely tweaks and slightly different approaches if you take on a different surfaces, like a bedroom dresser or a bathroom counter, for example. But I guarantee you if you start here, everything else will start to fall into place.

Here are a few other pieces of advice if you would like to tackle a styling project in your home.

Styling Tips & Takeaways:

  • Take everything off and start with a clean slate. Don’t try rearranging what you have while it is still on the shelf. You’ll be able to make much better judgements, plus identify which pieces are not working.
  • Do not feel like you need to use and display all your stuff. Just because you have it, don’t force it. You will most likely need to leave some of your items off the shelf. Remember that breathing room is important.
  • On the other hand, if you do not have one of the elements, you may want to pick some up. Most of us tend to buy and accumulate the same type of stuff. Maybe you have too many picture frames. Or a bunch of small figurines. If that is the case, you may need to pick up some key elements and drop some of your existing things.
  • Keep an eye out for good, hardcover coffee table books. As we’ve seen in the sample photos, books are great for adding interest and especially for stacking. Old paperback novels won’t do the trick. So keep an eye out for nice, large coffee table books.

Speaking of good hardcover books, you might as well order this one. It is by the master of styling, Emily Henderson. I have been reading her blog which is an incredible resource for learning how to style for years now. So when she came out with this book last year, I bought it right away. If you want a more in-depth look at the “how to” behind styling your spaces, this is the book you want. Plus, don’t think she didn’t go with that beautiful gold spine so that it would look good “stacked”.

Design Lesson: How to Start Styling Your Home - The Outside and In

I hope seeing the common threads in a few well styled spaces was helpful to you. Now it’s time to choose a little styling project in your home!

If you liked this little design lesson, you might also like my posts on Mixing Styles, Adding Black and White and Finding Balance.

Do you watch any shows on YouTube? Since we got rid of cable several years ago, I rarely watch any television. We have Apple TV and Netflix, which allows us to rent movies for family movie nights. But when it comes to spontaneous TV watching, it just doesn’t happen much any more. Until recently, when I started picking up the iPad for some YouTube viewing. I know I’m late to the party (what’s new?), but I have really been enjoying some of the great content I’ve been finding on YouTube. Today I thought I would share what I’m watching lately.

Current YouTube Favorites
Watching on YouTube Lately - The Outside & In

TED-Ed

The TED-Ed YouTube channel is our night-time go-to with the kids when we are in the mood for something other than a book. They have short, animated videos on any subject you could possibly imagine or be curious about. Because they are animated and no longer than 5 minutes long, it keeps our attention and we learn something new with each video. We each get a turn to choose one that is interesting to us. The subjects are limitless! Just yesterday (I promise with no prompting), Ben busted out with, “I love TED Ed. We learn stuff and it’s not boring!” If I was a teacher, I would totally have my students pick one to watch every day. The fact is, kids learn when they are engaged and interested. And I will take a few minutes of engaged learning any way I can get it. Here are a few we have liked:

Watching on YouTube Lately - The Outside & In

30 Days of Genius with Chase Jarvis

Chase Jarvis is a professional photographer and the creator of Creative LIVE, an online education website I wrote about HERE. I stumbled upon the “30 Days of Genius” series on the Chase Jarvis LIVE channel when I searched “Tim Ferriss” on YouTube one day. I value Tim’s podcast so much that when I was looking for something interesting to watch, I knew anything with Tim on it would be good. That’s when I came across Tim’s interview with Chase on the “30 Days” series. The series is the equivalent of having 30 in-depth mentorship sessions. If you have a young adult in your life, I cannot tell you how invaluable it would be for them to watch these. I have not finished all of them yet, but I am savoring them slowly. Here are a few I recommend you start with:

Watching on YouTube Lately - The Outside & In

Jess Lively VLOG

Jess Lively may sound familiar to you because I’ve mentioned her in the past as the hosts one of my favorite podcasts, “The Lively Show”. She has had some incredible guests and interviews. Jess is also the creator of the “Life With Intention” course I took a while back.  She has recently dipped her toe into the vlogging world on YouTube. In case you’re wondering, vlogging is basically blogging in video form. Since I know I enjoy her content and view on the world, I was curious to check out her YouTube channel. Here are some of the vlogs I’ve enjoyed and you might too:

Watching on YouTube Lately - The Outside & In

Vivianna Does Makeup

If you know me, this is probably the most surprising YouTube series I am into. It surprises me too. First, I barely ever wear makeup or do my hair. I do not spend much on anything beauty or fashion related because I would way rather spend it on stuff for the home. YET, I can’t get enough of this girl. Which goes to show that quality content is good no matter the topic. Anna, the girl behind the Vivianna Does Makeup channel, is incredibly charming, likable and down-to-earth. She is British, so perhaps the accent has something to do with it. Anna has a gift for sharing interesting tidbits about her daily life shot in a beautiful, well-lit way. Maybe I will pick up a few good beauty habits along the way 😉 Here are a couple episodes to get you started:

Watching on YouTube Lately - The Outside & In

Studio McGee House to Home Series

Studio McGee is one of the most buzzed about design studios in the country right now. I am a huge fan of their work. Apparently, they had been in talks with a well-known home and garden TV network to create a new show. According to the McGees, it didn’t work out due to conflicts around the vision. But instead of putting the idea to rest, they decided to try producing a few episodes themselves. Gotta love the freedom that the Internet provides. No longer do you need permission from a big TV network to get your work out into the world. So that is what Shea and Sid did. The first two episodes of the House to Home series were very good. Especially the “Before and After” featured on episode 2. I have a feeling each episode will just keep getting better as they start to improve the production. If you are into home design and good before and afters, check out their first two episodes:

Do you have any favorite channels or content on YouTube? Please pass along any fun recommendations!

The best podcast I listened to this week was Episode 202 of Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. In fact, this particular podcast episode is probably my favorite in a long time. Friend, you have to listen to this episode as soon as possible. It was that good.

Brandon Stanton on Magic Lessons Podcast

The Magic Lessons podcast is an extension of Elizabeth Gilbert’s phenomenal book, Big Magic, which I reviewed HERE. I also declared it one of my favorite books of 2015.

In each Magic Lessons episode, Liz Gilbert has a one-on-one phone call with a person who is struggling with a creative pursuit. After diving into the person’s history and more details, Liz then reaches out to a successful creative in that field to help give this person advice & homework. The episode closes out with Liz checking back in to see how things are working out for the struggling creative.

On this particular episode, Liz talks to Anne, a photographer in Pennsylvania. Anne is struggling to decide whether she should pursue a personal and painful photo project. It’s a subject she has been photographing for years (her brother). She is unsure as to where to go next with it. Liz and Anne quickly come to the conclusion that Anne is lacking the confidence to continue this project.

After speaking to Anne, Liz calls Brandon Stanton for insight that might help Anne push through her barriers. This is where it gets GOOD. Real good. Brandon Stanton is the creator of the life-affirming, mind-opening experiment called Humans of New York (HONY). Among a sea of content on the internet, HONY continues to make me stop in my tracks every single day. Seeing him speak at the University of Florida last December was one of the highlights of my year. As you might imagine, my ears perked up big-time when one of my favorite authors calls one of my biggest heroes.

Brandon’s words of wisdom for Anne did not disappoint. If you are not interested in hearing about Anne’s journey, you can fast forward to the 25:00 minute mark of the episode to jump right into his advice. Which, in case you were wondering, is 100% applicable to everyone, not just Anne.

Magic Lessons from Brandon Stanton:

Confidence is a learned skill. Brandon starts out by pointing out that people feel like confidence is something that you either have or you don’t. That you need to have confidence before you can do something brave. But that’s not the right mindset. Brandon shares, “The way to learn confidence is to be afraid of something. And do it anyway…You have to begin before you are ready.” It’s by doing the hard things that you gain the confidence you seek.

Time is the most important commodity we have. Brandon uses his own life as a perfect example for this point. He always knew he wanted to do something where he would use his creativity. But he thought he needed to get a “real” job and make money first. Then, once he had enough money, he could pursue what he really wanted to do. He spent two years stressed out and trading bonds in this pursuit. And then he lost his job. He had zero money to show for it, and had lost two years of his life. That was the moment when he decided to pick up his camera and make just enough money to control his own time moving forward.

Make plans that you can control. If you are in pursuit of a creative project or path, the key is to focus on what you can control. Not what is out of your control. If your goal is to make X amount of dollars, get a certain number of followers, etc., then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, Brandon recommends taking your HUGE dreams and narrowing them down into bite-size attainable actions. In Anne’s case, that was spending one hour a day on her project. Could she do that? Yes. Once you are accomplishing what you set out to do, the final product will start to be dictated by the work. Genius.

I honestly thought my head would explode listening to this episode. Brandon’s advice is so spot-on. If you have any inclination to do any creative work (not necessarily professionally), do yourself a huge favor and listen to this episode. If you are a parent, I would also recommend listening to it to help giving you perspective on encouraging your children.

Listen to this episode HERE. To see more favorite podcast episode recommendations HERE.

You are in for a treat today with today’s home tour. Do you remember Tracy’s home that we featured in June? Well, when Tracy told me that she had a friend who’s home she loved, I was all ears. With that recommendation in hand, I reached out to Susie and she graciously agreed to let me come for a visit.

As soon as I stepped inside Susie’s welcoming home, I knew it was a fantastic choice. She blends modern with traditional to create a look that is very personal to her family. I am in disbelief that they moved in only a little over a year ago. The house already feels so layered and welcoming. What really popped out at me during my visits was the artwork in Susie’s home. There were interesting pieces everywhere I looked. The effect is a well-curated space with endless nooks to explore and appreciate.

As I peppered Susie with all kinds of questions about where she got this piece or that piece, it became clear that she has a true passion for collecting meaningful work and bringing it into her home. And when she can’t find just the right artwork for a spot? She just paints it herself! Or she commissions a piece from one of her daughters who also is a gifted artist. Obviously the eye for design runs in the family.

I hope you enjoy this home tour and getting to know Susie!

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Who lives in this home and how did you come to live here? How did you know it was the right choice for your family? I live here with my husband, Randy, our youngest daughter Julia, and our three dogs. When our older two daughters left for college it became apparent that we needed to live in a space that brought the three of us a bit closer together. We still have rooms for our daughters that live away. But a more compact space feels better. Also, I love a new project!

Tell us about the process of renovating your home. When I first saw this house I knew that the layout would be great for our transitioning family. The house already had great bones so we just made cosmetic changes that suit our style. The house was built in the 80’s so there were quite a few simple updates, like removing an obsolete intercom system, that helped modernize it a bit. The previous owners had installed some really nice mouldings so paint was our most utilized tool. An updated master bath, a breakfast room and a large porch were the biggest projects.

Klein Home-6

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

What is your approach to decorating? Where do you like to start? When I approach a new decorating project I think it’s most important to let the space and function dictate where to go. Decorating has to evolve for me. I don’t have the vision to see the finished project. So after I get an idea of color and a general layout, I start filling in the gaps.

Where do you find home inspiration and ideas? I am a design magazine addict. I pour over every issue and some ideas speak to me and I keep them with me (in my head). I stop by the library sometimes to peruse their copies. Also, I spend way too much time on Houzz and Pinterest.

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Which room in your home do you enjoy the most? The “room” I enjoy most is the large porch we added. When the weather is comfortable (and even when it’s not) we spend lots of time out there. We have meals or watch the evening news. It’s a great place to make a phone call or hang out while the dogs get some outdoor time. I especially enjoy the porch swing.

You have an incredible art collection. What is your approach to buying art? I love all kinds of art and have for a long time. I started collecting art before I started buying furniture. The pieces I have come from a number of places. And each one has a story. Some are hand-me-downs, some are thrift bargains, some I’ve done myself, but most come from art shows. I’ve been a part of FAFO (Fine Arts For Ocala) for a long time. I love the chance to participate in events that bring joy to the community. I also think it’s great to give people the chance to add beautiful pieces to their homes, and artists have a platform for getting their work to the public.

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Klein Home-32

What are some of your favorite places to shop for your home? I shop at the usual haunts. I like West Elm and Restoration Hardware. Anyone that knows me knows I love a bargain. I’m always on the hunt or looking for a way to achieve a look for less. I love thrift shops, Homegoods, and various on-line sites. There’s no limit to my bargain shopping. My breakfast room table is from the Salvation Army Thrift Store and I got a large mango wood console in my living room from Sam’s. My one dumpster dive reaped a depression era, home crafted cedar chest that still looks great. It’s all about the hunt.

Do you have any tips for someone that would like to paint a piece of furniture? If someone is considering painting a piece of furniture, I’d say go for it! Sometime it’s better to give new life to a piece that you might not be too crazy about, or maybe received from a family member. I try not to be too sentimental about possessions. Do your homework. So many of the paint products on the market are idiot-proof and I’m here to prove it. Also, don’t be afraid to paint stained trim in your home. Often, it can really bring a space a new, fresh look.

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Klein Home-33

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and InWhat is one piece of advice you would give someone who feels stuck in a rut with home decor?  If you’re looking for a boost to make changes to your home, design magazines are the place to start. Tear out pictures of rooms you like and try to identify what part of it appeals to you. Keep a scrapbook and hone the look you’re trying to achieve. Houzz.com is a great resource for collecting ideas as well.

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Klein Home-50

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Curated Home Tour - The Outside and In

Isn’t it inspiring?!? Thank you, Susie, for sharing your insight, talent and letting us “step inside”!

If you enjoyed this “Step Inside” home tour series, check out more HERE.

Photography: Ale Cretul

Today marks my 100th blog post. I can’t believe when I typed my first post back in September 2014 that I would make it to 100 posts. As I mentioned in that post, I am very slow to make change. Overthinking and perfectionism tend to slow me down. Eventually, and after much procrastination, I knew that if I wanted to learn and grow creatively, I needed something to hold me accountable.

Up until that point, I was taking classes online in everything from Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Typography, Web Design, Branding and much more. All classes I wish I could have gone to school for to be honest. I could tell that even though I enjoyed the classes so so much, I wasn’t going to retain the skills unless I was applying them somewhere on a regular basis. That’s where blogging came in. Preparing graphics and taking photos for the posts keeps me comfortable with the Adobe Creative Suite and my camera.

Having just completed 100 posts, I want to reflect on what I have learned about blogging and myself since post #1.  Special thanks to the talented Caroline from Made Vibrant whose daily affirmations inspire me daily for sharing her images with me for today’s post.

  1. Identifying your “why” is important. Whenever I lose my focus, I try to remember that the purpose of my blog is to provide a place to stretch and grow my skill set. By sharing my content with others, I hope that it can also help anyone who reads it. If I focus too much on how many people are reading, it can take me down a path that is not productive. Keeping my “why” front and center is a sure way to keep the joy in blogging.

  2. Consistency is key. I have so much admiration for those bloggers who post every day. I have learned the hard way that momentum works both ways. Creating a habit or a goal around the amount of posts per week has been helpful for me. My initial goal was to write one time per week. Having this as my target helped me find the time to make it happen. It kept me accountable. As this process has become a bit easier, I am ready to do more. My new target is two times per week.

  3. Creating a post takes much longer than I ever imagined. As an avid blog reader, I had no idea how long each post would take when I first started. I follow so many people who post daily and make it seem so easy. I assumed I would just sit down and type for a half hour each morning. In reality, each post takes me between 8-10 hours.  Finding 10 hours in my week is a challenge for sure, but one that is worth it. My admiration for those professional daily bloggers is through the roof!

  4. Growth & learning happens…slowly. Plugging away week by week, I never really felt like I was getting better or things were getting easier. Maybe it’s because as I improved in one area, I started tackling another. Once I felt like I had the writing down, I started paying attention to things like tags, categories and prepping the post for SEO (search engine optimization). When I take a moment to look back I can see the incremental growth and improvement. Makes everything worth it.

  5. Mistakes will happen and they won’t kill you. Ironically, in writing this post, I hit “Publish” instead of “Save” when I only had written about 30% of the post. I could delete the post from the blog, but could not save it from being emailed to anyone subscribed. For about 3 minutes, I wanted to die. It is the first time that has happened in 100 posts. But it did.  After letting the panic and embarrassment sink in, I came to the conclusion that the world probably would not end.

  6. Sharing what you know helps to learn it better. Blogging has been a learning tool beyond the creative skills. It also helps me to learn what I share. In Charles Duhigg’s book, “Smarter Faster Better”, he spends a good portion of a chapter about the concept of disfluency. It’s basically a fancy term that refers to doing something with new information for it to stick. Blogging is my way of creating disfluency for myself. When I read a book and just go on to the next, I can barely tell you what it was about a week later. But when I review it for a post, it forces me to dive into the content in a way that helps me as much as anyone who reads it. When I post about my favorite podcast episode from the week, I usually end up listening to it twice so I can dissect what made it so great.

  7. Blogging is a great connector. My introverted nature makes small talk and chit chat painful. Oftentimes that results in me saying awkward things or not saying much at all. If you are an introvert you may relate. Blogging has allowed me to share my voice and interests with others which in turn has fueled connections and a great conversation starter.

  8. Challenging yourself is a good confidence booster. Part of the reason it took me so long to write my first post is the daunting nature of not knowing anything about blogging and looking like a fool. Perfectionist tendencies, for sure. I knew I needed to do it for that challenge though. With each little step I’ve taken, I’ve felt a sense of pride for doing the work and pushing through insecurities about the work. It’s a similar concept to giving your kids challenges as well. If they only stay within the bounds of what they are good at, they will grow to fear the challenges more and more.

  9. Accepting praise is difficult. I mentioned above how I enjoy talking to people about specific topics or posts. What is much more of a challenge for me is getting straight up praise for the blog as a whole. My mind immediately goes to all the high-quality blogs that are ten times better. My first instinct is to tell people that they are mistaken or have low standards. Is that horrible? Kind of. The logical part of my brain tells me to accept the compliment, but it is much harder in practice.

  10. Finding your authentic blogging voice is important. Blogging voice refers to your tone and style of writing. It goes a long way with authentically conveying who you are, which is very important to me. Bloggers like Emily Henderson, Joanna Goddard and Kendi Skeen are my idols when it comes to writing with a voice that makes me feel like I know them. I feel like I am still finding my way here. I did read a good post that is helping me navigate in this area. The tip is to write as if you are writing to ONE specific person versus an audience.

I feel like the first 100 posts truly helped me learn and grow so much. There are still so many things I don’t know, and so much left to improve upon. But I will have faith that the next 100 posts will surely bring me closer to my vision. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.