HOW TO DECORATE YOUR HOUSE FOR MAXIMUM CHILL, WITH MINIMUM CASH

Welcome to my home in Portland, OR! I'm missing it now that I'm in the middle of a two month travel stint. So I'm digging into my drafts to provide a primer on how I keep the chi flowing and the vibes low-key, without spending a fortune.✌🏼️😎
  1. •
    General Philosophy
    Home is important. It's the one place in the world where you can exercise a modicum of control over your environment. Take care to ensure that it supports your sense of well-being (that will mean something different to everyone). I'm not an interior designer, I'm a photographer, but I am the person all my friends call to help them rearrange the furniture. Above all, do what works for you!
  2. •
    Living Room: A Room for Living
    How do you like to spend your free time? I read a lot, sit and think, listen to podcasts, dance around, have friends over...I created this space to support those activities by keeping it clutter-free; comfortable; full of natural materials, family heirlooms, and books to peruse; and arranged in a way that is inviting from the moment you walk in the door. I keep the furniture neutral so I can mix and match, and added color to the walls to keep things interesting.
  3. •
    Plants: Man's best friend
    Plants are like 🙏🏼 They bring lively energy into a space, clean the air, and connect you to the natural world visually and mentally. Decorating with plants means years of enjoyment you may not get from inanimate objects, and the plant & pot combos are near endless. Shop a local purveyor to find fun, healthy varietals. If you're in Portland, Solabee Botanicals is the place.
  4. •
    Pretty, Cozy
    I love good-looking furniture but won't compromise on comfort. I found this matching couch and chair set at a vintage shop and talked the guy down to $600 for the set. That's a steal when considering the cost of even IKEA sofas. Shop Craigslist and vintage spots frequently, with a good sense of what you want but not too specific a vision, so you remain open to the unexpected find. Pounce on a good deal; if it's quality but turns out not to be quite right, you can always resell (profit!).
  5. •
    Simple Details
    Because I'm vigilant about not having a bunch of bullshit around, it's easy to keep things looking tidy. A stack of photo books looks super pretty on a little rattan table ($4 at Goodwill) with a geode I bought from a guy on the side of the road somewhere for $3. Fewer objects also means it's easier to coordinate your color palette. I stick to neutrals so everything looks cohesive even though they're all random finds. Footstool was a $12 thrift score.
  6. •
    More on vintage furniture
    The great thing about vintage is that you get time-tested pieces for a fraction of the cost of new. Or SHOULD. Don't be tricked into thinking it needs to be expensive. Figure out what style you're drawn to, and find the best-priced version. You might be surprised! I found this shelving unit for $189, and it's a $2500 Paul McCobb piece. Not that it matters if you love it: NEVER buy something just for a name, and don't NOT buy something bc it lacks one.
  7. •
    One Man's Trash...
    I found this wall-hanging at a thrift shop for $7. It reminded me of water flowing through a landscape, and I liked its tactile quality. I'm sure I could have gone on Etsy and spent like $60+ on a similar piece, but the point is I wasn't looking for anything other than "long tall wall thing." I had a space to fill and just kept it open until the right thing came along. You know it when you see it. Be cheap! Tastes evolve. And buying second-hand means keeping that stuff out of landfills.
  8. •
    DIY or Die
    It's really important to me to be able to have friends over for meals, so I need a dining room table, but haven't found anything I really want to invest in. So I made this one out of Ikea trestle legs and old barn siding, $30 total. The hand-knotted Afghan wool rug was found dirty at a vintage shop. I paid $100 to buy it and $200 to have it cleaned. Not cheap, but I love it, and it's such a statement that everything else can stay simple. Breuer-style chairs from Craigslist, $20/each.
  9. •
    Let There Be Light
    You've gotta consider this before you even move in to a place, but I always require lots of natural light. Do your best to increase the light you have: use sheer curtains, paint in recessive colors (the dining room I did in "Manhattan Mist" grey, so it's still light but looks more finished than white). The previous owners of my house knocked out the wall between the kitchen and dining, a *relatively* inexpensive project to improve light flow if u own.
  10. •
    The Kitchen: Where less is more
    The first thing I did in my kitchen was pull down the upper cabinets on either side of the sink. They felt oppressive hanging over me with all their bulk. I replaced them with open shelving from Ikea that can be cut to length. Even tho you see all of my kitchenware, it still feels more open, airy, and organized. I keep appliances stored under the counter until I need them, and corral my daily staples in clusters so they're handy but well-managed. I cook every day, so having things handy is 👌🏼
  11. •
    Visual Organization: When limits give you freedom
    About this open shelving: it works best with a system. Years ago when I started collecting dishware I came up w one that works for me. I buy almost everything second-hand, and I stick to a few simple rules: white ceramic; clear glass; wood or stainless everything else. This way, no matter what shapes or styles I find, they all go together. You could do this with any palette or group of materials, it's all about consistency. Be vigilant about getting rid of what you don't like or don't use.
  12. •
    Catch My Drift?
    There a few motifs repeated over and over throughout my home: natural materials, yin/yang complements (dark+light, hard+soft, feminine+masculine...), and a neutral palette with pops of color. There isn't a space that doesn't operate within this framework, but rather than feeling limited the "rules" allow me the flexibility to mix whatever forms I like—without things feeling cluttered or messy or haphazard, which drives me crazy. Consistency is a value to me, so that's reflected in my home.
  13. •
    Use What You've Got and Make It Work for You
    At the top of the stairs in the renovated attic is a 10x10 room I made into my office. It has no closet, but it did have these strange empty wall nooks that I fitted with custom floating shelves, made with inexpensive pine boards from Home Depot. One nook was the perfect size for an Ikea drawer unit, so I worked around that. The desk faces out, which is a thousand times better than facing a wall. The faces painting is by my friend E*Rock.
  14. •
    Objects With Meaning
    This little gallery corner in my office is a concentration of art made by friends at various stages in my life (except for the Zappa poster, which I reprinted from an old ad in National Lampoon). It means a lot to me to be surrounded by personal histories, so pretty much all art and objects in my house have a story to tell about someone or some time in my life.
  15. •
    TELL you some stories about meaningful objects? OK!
    This shelf in my office contains the Red Sox cap I got at Fenway w my brother on the day of my Uncle Jimmy's funeral in Boston (lifelong lover of the Sox); screenprinted Deerhoof poster from my first Portland show, April '05; dad's old Polaroid SX-70 I've shot with hundreds of times; Papa's old still and movie cameras; 'Killing It' towel my sister sent me when I landed my first major photo campaign. There's also my old Kodak slide projector and an old portable radio I found back in Austin.
  16. •
    Bedroom: The Zen Cocoon
    The world is full of stuff vying for your attention, your bedroom shouldn't be. I think the bedroom should be a soft, blank space where your mind is free from visual input and stimulation. A few simple guidelines: don't have any images on the walls visible from the bed, don't have a mirror placed where you can see yourself from the bed and, if possible, no electronic devices in the room. Keep clutter contained in baskets or drawers, and get rid of anything you don't use, wear, or need.
  17. •
    Principles In Practice
    The mix of metal and wood in the furnishing is an extension of the Yin/Yang duality featured throughout the house. The lidded basket contains scarves and seasonal items I need but don't use often. The only artwork in the room is visible from the entrance, but not from the bed. The bed is Ikea's basic pine frame, stained walnut, with a rug hung over the headboard to soften the look and cover the slats.
  18. •
    Nice doesn't have to mean "designer" and Ikea doesn't have to mean "shitty."
    My room is long and narrow so I decided to divide off a seating area where I can read or watch TV (this breaks the no electronics rule but is an acceptable compromise to me since it's separated from the bed area). The chair and natural wool rug are both nicer picks from Ikea's offerings that feel modern but mix well with vintage items like the foot stool. Forget those trendy $300 HBC or Pendleton blankets and grab a grey wool Army surplus one for around $25.
  19. •
    Make Minimal Work
    Another pine board from Home Depot, also stained walnut and supported by $2 Ikea metal shelf brackets. This shelf is a place to drop my phone, wallet, and spare change when I come into the room, and holds a low-profile LED TV that's slim, unobtrusive, and doesn't emit a buzz when it's off. The shelf runs the length of the seating area, which further helps visually separate the bed zone from the TV zone. Subtle visual cues like this are key to making odd spaces work.
  20. •
    Bedside Manner
    Listen: don't keep a bunch of crap right by your head while you sleep. I can't emphasize this enough. It WILL affect your rest. I remind myself of this by using a nice decorative tray which can only hold so much junk. If I want to see the contrasting inlay, I have to keep it clear. It's like a simple little mind trick, but it works. Organization is really just about making it easier to do the right thing, like putting stuff away.
  21. •
    Basket Case
    The reason there are so many trays and baskets in my house has to do with the fact that there are SO MANY for like $3 at Goodwill and they're extremely useful. I use them wherever I want to turn a pile of stuff into what stylists call "a vignette." You can find them for almost any decor. Use open trays for what's pretty and keep the unsightly stuff in baskets with lids. Thrift stores are also packed with little bowls and boxes, same purpose.
  22. •
    Come As You Are
    The guest room in my house is listed on AirBnB. I keep it fresh and modern to appeal to savvy travelers, but with comfort and warmth to help it feel like home. I found this early mid-century wood bed on Craigslist ($150), and combined it with this 40's metal medicine cabinet ($8), 60's woven circle chair (free pile), and 50's foot stool ($12). The rug was clearance at West Elm: I offered $30, they said OK. It never hurts to ask! Lamp is from a Texas flea market; I Franken-wired it to function.
  23. •
    We CAN all get along
    This Ikea metal shelving unit with drawers (at $200 new, one of the priciest things in my house) isn't out of place with the vintage items because its clean lines echo their forms. It seems like a natural progression of an idea rather than a new, separate thought. The bed and shelf were the only things I bought just for the room, everything else was plucked from elsewhere in the house. Another benefit of sticking to a theme: your whole house becomes modular, limitlessly rearrangeable.
  24. •
    Say it with an accent
    The closet and entry doors are both on the same wall in this room, which seemed a little busy to me. I painted the doors, trim and all, in the same color (Nova) as the wall to help them recede visually. The dark color helps make the room cozier for sleeping, and absorbs extraneous light from the neighbor's house that used to bounce around when all the walls were white. The mirror is framed in wood and reflects only the small, wood-framed Chris Johansen painting above the bed.
  25. •
    Parting Thoughts
    Forget the lifestyle blogs and their Where to Buy lists. You don't need all that. You just need restraint, a little creativity, a few clear guidelines, and patience. I never sat down and said "OK I want to have a 70's zen vibe that mixes masculine and feminine, old and new, ETC..." I DID spend years shopping casually for beautiful bargains, buying only what spoke to me on some level. Eventually, my home began to reflect my inner self and personal needs: to live simply, socially, and peacefully.
  26. •
    HAPPY NESTING!