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I am a shelter magazine junkie. There, I said it. I, Cece Kellie, am a magazine addict. No mere collector, mind you. Basically, I’m three Elle Decors and a Vogue Living away from a bona fied Collyer’s Mansion. I think it’s because I love the stories the pictures tell. Stories of cool, creative, beautiful people and tales of dinner parties and gatherings. I can paw endlessly through glossy images of cooking and conversations and other people’s kids running under foot. What invariably happens, pouring over these tomes in my semi-inebriated state, is that I become utterly fixated on certain piece that I must possess or die.
This not only applies to magazines — coffee table books also cast their spell, as I’m sure many of you can relate. I will never forget the moment I came across a copy of Tracy Porter’s Home Style. There was Tracy Porter, blonde and cool in white jeans, sprawled across a little white settee. My life would never be the same from that day on. This was the moment where my aforementioned fixation manifested in the shape of a settee. A settee that set my heart aflame.
It was like my brain was taken over by aliens with a singular mission: Get the couch now or forever live a hollow and meaningless life filled with shadows and regret. But that’s not where this drama of turning inspiration into style ended. The love I felt for this couch was as real as the love I’ve had for any human or animal—which I guess says a lot about my personal relationships, but that’s another story for my therapist. I spent hours staring at it as though if I looked at it long enough, I could will it into existence with the power of my mind. That is, until I turned to page four of the book.
Page four, as you see above, is awash with the most beautiful fabric I ever saw. Tealy-blueish damask with gold touches on a small french side chair. Glory hallelujah! Now this is what I had to have or die. So I decided that if I could have this fabric upholstered on the settee from the cover of the book then I would be finally happy forever and ever. Only trouble is, I don’t have a settee. I don’t have the fabric or even know where to get it—if it indeed actually exists. And to make matters even more impossible, I had no money. What was I thinking that I could make this dream come true?
For the next two months, I spent every waking moment scouring every single flea market, thrift store, yard sale and dumpster in the New York City tri-state area for anything that looked remotely like this settee with the fabric. A glimmer of gold, turn of a leg or hint of blue had me leaping across aisles or dashing around town in pursuit of the proverbial holy grail. There was the gray and white ticking stripe upholstered settee for about $3k. There were pillows covered in a similar fabric for $400 each. (Really, $400 for a freakin’ pillow.) All clearly out of my reach and far from my dream.
About three months into this odyssey, I decided to take a trip to the Bronx to visit the ABC Carpet and Home outlet store. I saw pictures of it online — with thousands of square feet of every kind of furniture and decoration possible. Surely, my settee would be there. The sales person who was helping me thought I was absolutely mad. I described my vision of the piece I was searching for and he had no recollection of seeing anything like it. I mean, how could he. Chances were that it didn’t even exist. Why would it? This was a total fabrication of my mind. Being a total shot in the dark looking for a needle in a haystack was an understatement. Still, I paced every single square foot of that cavernous place, looking up and down, under and over, oblivious to how this was so completely ridiculous and probably a colossal waste of time.
And then, perched on top of a table on top of another table—there it was. My settee. Was it the power of my mind or the power of a miracle? Whatever it was, it was my imagination come to life. Inspiration turned into style. Here are three things I have learned along the way that I hope will help you turn inspiration into your own style:
1. Identify Desired Feelings You Want in the Space.
While it seems that I was purely fixated on a particular piece in the story above, I’ve realized over time that I was really fixated on how that piece made me feel. Seeing Tracy Porter lounging on the settee looked like something I wanted to do, just like the way I wanted to live. Figure out the core essence of the inspiration room and look for pieces that achieve those desired feelings but not necessarily copies of the pieces themselves.
2. Don’t Buy Anything. Reuse and Renew.
Does your dream decor feature something you already own? You have a sofa just like the one in the picture. Or your room is the same size with the same windows and weird angles but the room in the picture looks so much better. I love when this happens. Again, I don’t try to copy the room. This is about allowing yourself to be shown new ways to see your own space. Start moving the furniture around and see what happens. How does a new configuration surprise and delight you without even having to purchase anything? This is a great way to turn inspiration into a whole new style.
3. Screw Perfection.
Sometimes we get caught up in attaining a so-called perfect style when in fact the very idea of perfection is actually a limitation we’ve imposed on ourselves based on what you’ve already seen. Sometimes the thing that works, the piece that pulls it all together, the feeling that represents who you truly are will be found in an unexpected place or form that you couldn’t have pre-determined. Just remember, perfection is so much smaller than what’s possible so dream big!