Want some non-beige ideas for your interior design? Look no further!

Real-life home decor tips from a real-life creative person

Beige and on-trend? Not for this poet. Paula Harris gives some real-life, applicable decor advice.

Last night I was procrastinating and avoiding working on some poem revisions, because being a poet means that when you have other things to do, you write a poem, and when you have a poem to work on, you do other things. Which is how I ended up reading this story, because I do love design.

Holy chocolate, this list is so beige and boring! I mean, it’s just… blancmange. And so I started to look around my house and contemplate all the things I love – which probably all indicate why I’d never be considered an influencer, let alone a style influencer – as well as the realities of living life, let alone living life as a depressed poet, when my key goal every day is to be dressed by 5pm.

My creds in writing this: I’m the daughter of a display artist and started working as his assistant when I was in primary school (if you haven’t obsessed over the exact placement of fake snow for two hours, have you really lived?). I’ve got a certificate in interior design and yes, I know, this would shock anyone who’s seen my house. I’m delightfully opinionated and have watched far too many seasons of The Block (the Australian one, not the NZ one, of course). I hate beige. I’m a depressed poet.

Much loved art (Photo: Richard Love)

Art I choose because I actually love the piece, not because it’s on-trend

I mean, it’s cool if you really like continuous line art, which seems to be everywhere. I struggle to think that that many people have honesty looked at a piece of line art and thought “oh, that moves me!” and bought it for that, rather than because it’s the thing that seems to be everywhere in design media.

I knew a poet whose aunt frequently bollocks-ed her out for foolishly spending any money buying art for her walls. Poet: “But I like it and it makes me happy when I look at it.”

And that’s my requirement for what goes on my walls. That it makes me happy when I look at it. Fuck trends.

The big bits of art (photos and prints, mainly) are mainly in my hallway. In the living room I have a wall of smaller pieces, which requires me to rearrange (and swear quite a bit) whenever I add a new piece.

There’s currently a stack of things that need to be hung, but I get tired thinking about it.

Recycling bin, art (Photo: Richard Love)

Recycling bin directly outside the back door

Why hide it behind some picket fence by the garage? It’s convenient – open the back door, reach over to lift the lid, recycling in bin.

Also note: cat door. I don’t own a cat. Now that’s a design statement. (The cat door is locked; I don’t want my non-existent cat to get inside.)

The glass recycling crate is in the garage. Wildly inconvenient and sometimes leads to a massive collection of glass bottles on the kitchen bench, because I don’t want to leave the house and walk the 14 steps out to the garage.

Stools, functional and stylistic (Photo: Richard Love)

A multi-purpose stool – function and style

This isn’t the latest on-trend stool that everyone else is buying. This is a vintage stool from a Singer factory in France. It’s used as a side table, next to the couch. It has dents in the seat. It has the exact right number of dents in the seat. I have, at times, sat for hours looking at the beauty of the curves of the screw thread mechanism. Well, OK, not for hours, but definitely many minutes, and I think about it a lot.

It can be photographed and styled as super stylish, but the reality is that it’s usually the home to a box of tissues (crying can strike at any time), a stack of CDs I can’t be bothered putting back on the shelves, and random notes to myself which usually includes at least one old shopping list and one poem idea I’ve forgotten about.

Additional note in support of selective purchasing of knock offs: I’ve got a stack of the Ikea Frosta stool, which is a total knock off of Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60. I painted the legs because I thought it was a bit (read: really) boring otherwise. It’s a great stool (although since I don’t have people around anymore, mainly the stools sit around in the garage gathering dust).

Is it art? Or is it wardrobe management? (Photo: Richard Love)

The wardrobe management skills of a teenage girl

I call my bedroom teenage girl chic. I do sleep in charcoal-coloured linen sheets. I also only get my shit together enough every two or three years to manage putting my clothes away.

This is the pile of clothes that lives on top of my dresser. On the floor there’s a pile that peaks at about 30 centimetres deep.

Also on my bedroom floor? Books and scrap bits of paper with poem ideas scribbled on them at 2am.

Lamp art (Photo: Richard Love)

The lamp that I bought not because of trends but because I love it

OK, at the risk of sounding like a complete tosser, I bought this in New York six years ago. It’s called a Stola lamp.

It was a flat pack. I’d seen it online. I loved it as soon as I saw it. I loved it even more when I got it home and unfurled it. It’s made from 100% recycled PET felt. It’s so incredibly not on-trend that the company doesn’t even make it anymore (they’re now making felt bags).

I think it’s sexy. It’s fabulous to have on as the only light while watching a movie. If there was ever someone here watching movies with me, I’m pretty sure I could seduce them simply by having this light on.

Weeds, natural art (Photo: Richard Love)

Weeds, en masse

If your garden isn’t out of control and full of weeds, do you even have depression??

Also, looking at all the weeds will cause you to feel like a terrible person and make your depression even worse. The circle of life/depression, etc etc. Also, I love my blue fence. My blue fence makes me happy. I feel like I’m living in the sea (no, not near the sea, in the sea – but as a human, in a house, not as a mermaid).

My neighbours are varied in their feelings about my blue fence.

Tiny art! Photo: Richard Love.

The tiny thing that delights me but which wouldn’t be visible in any stylish vignette

This. Is. My. World.

Inside this tiny vintage pill box is a tiny little paper forest. Complete with grass and shrubs. The artist – an Italian woman named Sabina, who works restoring frescos – cut out the paper with a surgeon’s scalpel.

I was having a really shitty week when I bought this, because it delighted me. I couldn’t afford it, but it delighted me. I needed the delight. Now I spend chunks of time looking at all the little details inside the pill box and awe at her skill in making this tiny little world. Sometimes I only make it through the day because I have this little wonder to look at.

A plant! Indoors (Photo: Richard Love)

Indoor plants

Look, I’ve got one thing in common with the original Instagrammer style list!!

I mean, I’ve got two plants and they’re both struggling and been struggling for a long time. And isn’t that a metaphor for me?

I’ve had other indoor plants. None of them survived my ‘care’.

The orchid was meant to start flowering over six months ago. It’s not even close. The money plant is… not thriving. It is surviving on its own inner resilience, rather than my attention. It looks surprisingly good in this photo. It’s just a trick of the light.

Frida! On a fridge (Photo: Richard Love)

Frida Kahlo (and her monkey) have a nice life on my fridge

One of my clients gave me this set of Frida Kahlo dress up magnets as a present to cheer me up after my last surgery. Dressing Frida is a delightful distraction on a rough day. Or on a good day.

Frida is surrounded by the highly desirable patina of “what happens when my father decides the smart way to move the fridge between houses is to duct tape it closed, and even when I say that I don’t think that’s a good idea and so no, don’t do that, he does it anyway.”

There are also two hedgehog magnets I got because my psychologist refers to me as being a bit hedgehog-like (less about snuffling around outside in the dark, more about being a bit prickly when I feel threatened). There used to be three hedgehog magnets. I’m pretty sure Frida’s monkey is responsible for the missing hedgehog. What have you done with the third hedgehog, Frida’s monkey!?!?

The writer’s desk

Oh yeah, that beautiful minimalist desk, with a single flower in a bud vase, a laptop awaiting the beautiful flow of words. Perhaps a view out to the ocean. Perhaps a faithful cat or dog who sleeps on next to the writer’s desk while the writer… writes.

Or… this. Poem ideas and essay notes and literary journals I brought over to my computer for some long forgotten reason and So Many To Do Lists and receipts I’m trying to scan for my health insurance and books and flash drives and poem prompts and hard drives and a stapler and cellotape and cables that I can never actually dig out when needed without disrupting the entire ecosystem of my desk and So Many Pens.

In the book Living With A Creative Mind, the authors talk about how creatives tend to function at the extremes of nine qualities. The eighth quality (which they call dimensions) is space. Chaos or order, those are the extremes. My desk – and my floor-based system of wardrobe management – clearly show I’m at the chaos end of things. The chaos is deeply exacerbated by how bad my depression is – things used to be chaotic, but not this chaotic.

What I realised, in walking around my house and figuring out this list, is that as much as my own chaos drives me crazy at times (and, seriously, the chaos weighs me down a lot), I think that my writing comes from somewhere in the mix of beautiful things and chaos. Maybe if I had an organised life and on-trend surroundings – rather than knowing where I was when I found each thing, rather than having back stories for my bookshelves (made from joists from the Farmers’ Santa Cave) and bowls and, well, most things around my home – maybe I’d write a bit blancmange.

And now I need to go work on my manuscript. Which means what I’m actually going to do is lie down for a while and watch some TV and feel bad for not working on my manuscript…


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