Two weeks ago, after seven days away from my place, I woke up full of anxiety and crying — literally crying — because I couldn’t figure out how to improve my living room design. To say the least, I am (heavily) emotionally involved with my apartment.
Maybe this is because I am trying to become someone else, someone I imagine I want to, or could be, through my apartment, like the kind of girl that has a cool apartment. Wait, no, that is exactly what it is: I am trying to become the kind of girl who has a cool apartment. (And, by the way, I’d really like to wake up as that girl tomorrow, please). Despite caring a lot, I haven’t had a real education on how to shop for my space, source vintage, choose paint colors, or understand what my style really even is — at least 14 year old me had Michelle Pham.
Then, when I drill down what it will take to be the girl with the cool apartment, I am met with big challenges: time, money, logistics, and taste. These kinds of obstacles do seem big enough to elicit a Saturday morning sob, as they stand in my way of the person I (supposedly) really think I should be.
Where does this leave me? Lusting after a space that feels cohesive, cool, and reflective of me but without the real tools to figure out what I like and how to make it happen.
The feeling is visceral, inexplicable and completely real, like a one-shot-one-kill solution to my desperate pleas for a really great space
Scrolling through Pinterest, Instagram or flipping through design magazines offers a cheap refuge from my anxieties, especially when I land on that one idea, object, or trend that inspires a spark that says: yes…yes…that! That (!) is the thing that I need to make my space come together. The feeling is visceral, inexplicable and completely real, like a one-shot-one-kill solution to my desperate pleas for an a really great space. Some examples: a checkered rug, lime wash paint, low tile table, DIY abstract art, spray foam bench, togo couch, everything bouclé.
The trap lies in the truth that the feeling only exists long enough for me to forget about it a week later or to have it swiftly replaced by another copycat revelation. Why? Because these objects and aesthetics don’t reflect the sense of style and self that I have developed internally, critically, and privately.
Take Emma Krab’s dining room, featured on popular IG account (and friends of Dendwell) @homedreaming. We can look at this dining room and see that is it is part of the contemporary design discussion: bright colors are favored over minimalism of five years past, the block colors could be a nod to Memphis or Bauhaus-inspired Post-Modernism; the Cesca chairs are a decidedly popular choice among interior and style enthusiasts.
Upon further internet sleuthing, we find that Krab is the owner of a Gingham-devoted clothing brand, Studio Onyva — giving place to the red-checkered light fixture. While contemporary, this room is self-assured and timeless in that it seems to truly represent Krab’s personal style.
I am hesitant to include more examples of spaces I might perceive as having fallen into this trend trap, because it’s just not for me to say. But I will say that I bet there are fewer people for whom Memphis-kitsch — termed in the above tweet “Avant Basic” by Emma Hope Allwood in fashion and Otegha K. Uwagba for interiors — represents their personal style than there are living rooms that bleed Memphis-Kitsch.
I admit that, just two days ago, I fell into the trap myself. In an effort to improve my aforementioned living room, I went searching for a rug. I wanted something big (like huge), bold. And what did I find but a dark blue, checkered, berber rug. Fitting all of my requirements and irrefutably seen on the Instagram feeds of other women who, in my opinion, were the kind of girls with cool apartments I was more then tempted; I added to cart, until my most self-aware friend flat-out said “It’s too trendy.” And she was right.
The stress that has historically surrounded decorating my apartment likely stems from some form of childhood trauma, a longing for my world to be comprised of cleanliness, control, and beauty, as a salve for a more shapeless longing living inside myself. The internet touts an accelerated path to this, through emulating influencers, celebrities, and buying more things, but the truth is that style can only be derived from ourselves and this takes time.
I don’t know that I will ever know how to be the cool girl with the cool apartment. I’ll have to be me with my space, and my style that’s changing all of the time, learning to embrace this as more than enough.