have rented my dwellings for the last seven years, but only last year did it start to feel like my home reflected me. When you walk into it, a red wall with columns of stacked elephants and palm trees greet you. There is a table under the wall, over which sit four white ceramic vases and a set of open hands. On the dining table, there’s a wooden bowl with marble fruit in it. My couches have been updated by brightly colored, cashmere animals. They belong to my daughters, but I like them for decor. A large white shelving wall carries color-coded books, both read and not, and if I had to describe it a certain way, I’d call it, I don’t know, chaotic.
When I set out to create the mood board for my living quarters, I called it “Scandinavian minimalist.” What I actually meant, it seems, was eclectic. Clutterful, but neat. What I got was eclectic, too: intentional and organized, but still slightly deranged. It’s kind of like the way I dress, and definitely the way I think. Some days, I wish I’d meant it when I said, “Scandinavian minimalist.” I wish my apartment looked less like the way I dress and more like a timeless black dress, which sits in my closet and comforts me, but which I rarely actually wear.
Lately, I’ve been looking at the apartment. As I grow up and my taste changes and I recognize that I am impulsive as hell–that I have packaged the noncommital parts of me as a sort of deliberate refusal to put myself in a box, I also realize that if you are not nuanced about the way you approach experimentation, you might end up with velvet armchairs, and a huge red wall, and gold legs under a love seat but nary a single black dress to relieve you. I could have done it differently. Perhaps less expensively. How was I to know! Isn’t home style just like fashion style? A game of trial and error?
To this, Matilda Goad, the interiors wiz who is best-known for the scallop trim lampshades she began selling by word of mouth in 2017, would say, “Be true to who you are.” As a matter of fact, she did say it. Followed by, uh, the truth. “If you are a messy person (like me) with lots of stuff, a minimalist home with little storage is never going to be your friend. It’s hard nowadays when we are plied with imagery on Pinterest and IG to know what is you but I think the more time you take to think about taste, more financial commitments pay off.”
I started following her on Instagram about a year ago; her taste struck me as whimsical and joyful. It didn’t take itself seriously, but it wasn’t a joke either. Her photos showed off delicate, deliberate placements; pieces pulled together over time–lovingly, but laboriously, like any good personal style. “When it comes to clothing, I am far less interested in the shell, but have countless coats, boots, and accessories. It’s about how my belt is knotted or how the layers of chains around my neck sit and this is very much how I style a room; I tend to push the boundaries with balance.”
And — I wondered. Goad, thankfully, answered.
A sofa is something you should have for life, says Goad. So first: Invest in good furniture
This does not mean expensive furniture, but good quality. “I scour the internet for sales of display pieces and use eBay to search for recognizable design house names. Sofas are usually easy to pick up for nothing–I found a Conran sofa for 150£. I upholstered it in cherry red clothing corduroy. Mid-market sofas that are still expensive aren’t comfortable and you’ll end up paying more to get it taken away.”
Personal touches transform your home, so add layers
“I love buying pieces on holiday—lengths of fabric that can be turned into cushions or draped over the back of a sofa. I bought a huge crochet throw at a flea market in Rome for 30£ that lives on my bed and totally elevates the room. In fact, I think beds are often very overlooked – you spend money on the surrounding areas and then you have a huge white rectangle in the middle of the room! Splash out on the two exposed pillowcases as the priority.”
An easy way to transform a room? Inexpensive wall coverings
“I frame all sorts of exhibition posters to vintage color swatches and pressed flowers from special occasions. Go for the cheap, colored glossy school style, they can be great and even better when mounted en masse! I seem to buy a lot of mirrors not because I want to look at myself, but because they help bounce light around a room and add character. I love the little porthole style, and an ornate style mirror in a bathroom makes it feel less stark and clinical.”
Most unexpectedly, Goad recommends good lighting.
“I don’t think anything can alter the atmosphere of a room more than switching up the lighting; think about positioning lighting at various heights and having different options to switch in for day and night. I love little table lamps—you can find so many quirky ones at flea markets or on eBay and they look great paired with one of our raffia scalloped shades for warm, cozy light. There are great options for wall lights that don’t require being drilled into the wall, that you can simply plug-in and hook up. And of course, candles! Great in the evening.”
If you can spend a bit of money, Goad says, spend it on bedding
“You spend half your life in your bed.”
There are more ways to spice up your space—little, clever hacks that Goad files under the banner:
Make the Dull Things Fun
“Decanter your fairy liquid into an old poison or medicine bottle, paint the inside of your cupboard doors a bright color you’d be apprehensive to use elsewhere, use scraps of wallpaper or wrapping paper to line your drawers, there’s something about a having a living plant in your home that is special. I love geraniums and jasmine that work well on a bathroom window ledge.”
As we are talking, it becomes clear that actual furniture is kind of like a body. It is critical that it’s in good health, but it’s what you put on or around it that makes the greatest impact. So say you opt for the most the innocuous-looking couch and armchairs and coffee table—what then do you do to give it more character?
“Sort out the lighting—perhaps a 1950s Italian style floor lamp and a more glamorous colored glass table lamp. I love to treat my coffee table as an evolving surface—add little stems of flowers in bud vases, shells, and trinkets from your travels, colorful, inspiring books and candles. Depending on the time of year, I like a sheepskin rug or wool blanket to drape over the back of your chairs. At the moment, I am loving old chintzy, frilly cushions. I’d add a small wooden bench or bobbin chair to break up the upholstered furnishings, which can double up as a way to store books when you don’t have guests.”
Which, you know, I never do. In the end, it seems that this advice, which has resonated with me so wholeheartedly indicates that dressing your apartment is not, in fact, so different from dressing your person. And just as a leopard can’t change its spots, I sure as shit won’t be wearing a black dress.
Photos provided by Matilda Goad.