Do Americans care about decorating?

If you are reading this blog, then chances are that you give more than just a crap about what your house looks like. But as Erica and all the design peeps and Lavish discussed, so many Americans don’t.

{You dont have to write the word home to remind yourself that you are indeed home, do you?}

Erica and I got to wondering (Go read her thoughts HERE!) …. What percentage of Americans live in houses that look like they just graduated college/and or took all their furniture from their parents’ basement? And Im not talking about twenty somethings either. Or poor people. Just a whole collection of Americans that could not care less about home decor.

If you need evidence of this, watch HGTV. How infuriating is it when someone DOESNT BUY A HOUSE because they “dont like the blue walls” or “I hate that carpet in the bedroom.” IT NEVER EVEN OCCURS TO THEM THAT THEY CAN PAINT OR BUY A NEW RUG?!? (If you dont want to repaint from the painter’s/renter’s beige that is on the walls when you move in, then I dont even know what to say.)  Then you see the house they do buy and they move in their furniture and it just looks so eh. Or try looking at Rate My Space. People post photos of their houses and the readers rate the spaces.

{This place isnt an example of bad design- its an example of NO design. Its not the worst LR I have ever seen… but obviously, it hasn’t gotten much love.}

Im also wondering: Why are some people fashion people and some people decor people? I  think about this a lot – every time my friends and I split up at Bergdorf’s and I hit the home floor and they hit the shoes. I know some people who are good at both, but lets be honest here: You cant really be OBSESSED with both- now can you? Not really. (You know where I stand dont you? I like fashion, but my fashion motto is “just dont look bad” which is I’m sure how so many people approach the interior design thing!)

So here are my questions:

1. What percentage of your friends/family live in houses that looked like someone actually gave a thought to the furniture and design?

2. What percent of your friends/family bought all their furniture at one store? This is one step up from the people that really dont give a shit. These folks want their houses to look good, but accomplish this by hitting up one store, getting a salespersons advice and buying everything all at once. (Is that store Raymore & Flannigan and do people really buy Cindy Crawford’s denim couches?)

3. What percentage of people you know hire an interior designer? They want their houses to look really good, but know they cant handle it themselves?

4. How many people do you know that have hired a local designer and got a pretty mediocre house anyway?Just talk to Kyle Richards! In fact- ALL the housewives homes are up for discussion here… These girls have money, and yet most of their homes have no style at all! Not that they arent decorated- just that they arent stylish. (RE: Bethany Frankel, Taylor, Kim… They carry 10K Hermes purses but their homes look just SO/SO. Shouldnt there be a ratio? Like if your house cost x: Your couch should cost x/500, your purse should cost y and your car should cost y?)

{ Nick Lachey’s house.}

5. How many people do you know that are OBSESSED with interior design to the point that they want to do it themselves and do a good job? I saw photos of a house this week that was built from scratch by the owner and my JAW dropped because it was so gorgeous!

So obviously, my idea of what goes on in other cities of the world comes from reality TV, tabloids and heresay.  In NYC things are really skewed. A lot of people have short term rentals and consider their spaces temporary and dont do much to em, or they are well off and hire one of the  billion interior designers living in this city and plenty live in places so small and awful that they just dont give a shit. Others of course, are stylish people who manage to slap together something with style no matter what.

So tell us everything you know about how the people around you live and decorate… Even the folks from HGTV that I spoke with at Lavish were wondering! I spent a while trying to figure out what the average American home looks like- and other than around 2000 SFT I came up empty handed!

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  1. I rent, and the landlady does not keep the place up, so even though I try to decorate within my modest budget, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Also, I don’t have a trained professional’s sense of balance and proportion, so alot of my projects don’t end up looking quite right.

  2. Its so true so many people dont bother decorating their homes. I have always found it a little strange, but I think you were right comparing it to fashion. Some people are just happy to have their homes looking ok rather than amazing. I know heaps of people that dont bother.

  3. Since only 2% of the population makes over $50,000.00 a year, then it is safe to say that that the percentage of people who A. Care how their house is designed and B. Have the money to do it is very small. Most people think my passion is crazy. I think they are crazy not to want their crib to look great. I think I am right :)

  4. Lauren says:

    “How many people do you know that have hired a local designer and got a pretty mediocre house anyway?” – 100% agree. I know some people who have done this and their houses look great but not “I just paid a designer a lot money to do this” great. It ends up looking like they did it themselves.

  5. I’ve only known one person to ever hire an interior designer and their house looked just ok. I’m not sure why she even did it because I think she was capable enough to do it herself. But the style was very traditional and matchy matchy so not my taste anyways. Most people in my family care and have houses that look nice and like they tried. But my friends, some seem like they just went to pottery barn or pier 1 and just bought everything in the store. Then they come to my house and are all impressed and I just think, “you could do this too if you cared!”

  6. When I hear of people who did hire someone and I finally get a chance to get over there and see it, my mouth just hangs open in horror. I can’t believe they spent money on it. Too many people I know have furniture up against the walls and buy that one painting and hang it over the fireplace and keep it there forever. Builder beige is their favorite color and they feel like they decorated if they go to Pottery Barn and buy the room. I have nothing against PB, I just wish people would not think it is the end all be all of decorating!


  7. I have a few friends that are passionate about design and how their homes look, more that do the Pottery Barn/Crate & Barrel look and then most that just don’t care. One couple lived in a condo for over a year with just primer on the walls. It hurt my eyes. I finally got them to paint by volunteering to help. My house isn’t perfect and will probably always be a work in progress but at least it is comfortable, there is enough lighting (a 18 x10 room needs more than one lamp!) and the art is personal and beautiful (at least to me!).

  8. I’m so glad someone is addressing this… I’m 25, but some of my friends always comment (snidely or otherwise) on how “adult” my apartment looks. Newsflash, friends: Time to grow up, and claim your space. I rent, I have cream walls and wall-to-wall carpet, formica countertops and questionable tile in the kitchen. But I make it my own in any way I can: with books, some carefully chosen hand-me-down furniture, the occasional Ikea/Target gems, artwork from friends, and some elbow grease. It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a space your own. Maybe it’s a control issue, but I just can’t live in a space that doesn’t feel like I made it my own.

  9. Rachel says:

    Most of my friends care about their homes and it is evident in the decor. Even if it is not my style or taste, it still looks good. Then there are those like me…whatever I have I put thought into but I have such a difficult time making expensive decisions that my house is still pretty bare. My parents, in laws, grandparents all have beautifully decorated homes, and most did hire a decorator. My mom doesn’t like to be bothered with furnishing and decorating her home, so she just trusts the designer to go shopping alone and make all decisions. The most atrocious decor that I’ve seen in person was when I was house hunting, I could not believe people really live this way.

  10. Along with your thoughts on people who don’t purchase homes on HGTV because of the walll colors, there are just as many who seem to buy a home because the kitchen countertops have granite. You can pretty much anticipate the line”oh wow I like the granite countertops” regardless of it’s the most hideous granite on the planet, well it’s granite they are sold!

    I think a lot of people think that they care, but don’t know how to implement their idea, or have a very strange view of what looks good. Looking at real estate in two states for over two years while house hunting,I am amazed at how tacky most of the homes are. A lot of people spent an exorbitant amount on upgrades and they have barely anything to show for it because of their poor choices (or spent that money in the 80s or 90s and have not changed a thing). The best interiors I see (besides of course magazines online or in print) are here in people’s blogs, but I never see those types of homes on the market.

  11. Most of my friends have amazing style and their homes reflect this.
    xo xo

  12. i think from where we all sit (design obsessed) we can’t compare ourselves to other people. i don’ think it’s a lack of style or taste. it’s just knowing how to put it all together that’s the hardest part. before i became a design junkie i had great taste…i just wasn’t sure how to put it all together, or even a fraction of it. immersing myself in it day in and day out has made me somewhat of an expert comparatively speaking. i mean, i am no designer and still have a ton to learn but i am pretty sure i could put together a kick ass space for just about anyone.

  13. not that i missed your points entirely…but i agree with you that you are obsessed with one or the other (fashion vs. decor).

  14. Many care. Few conquer.

  15. I think that no one can be interested in fashion and not interested in design. I mean, if you’re talking OBSESSED, than probably YES, you cannot be obsessed with both. But honestly, if someone cares about proportion, scale and colour in what they wear, you cannot tell me that they don’t care what their house looks like.
    Personally I go through stages. This month I’m not happy with how something in the house looks, so I’m working to fix that. Next month its December and I’m hitting up sales to update the whole family’s wardrobe and get some Christmas decorations.

    I think the problem with most of my friends is that they don’t care enough to educate themselves about interior design. Majority think that spending $200 on a designer to come in and help me choose paint colours for the new house is crazy. Granted we’re in our late 20’s, but after a certain level of financial stability, we all face choices on what to spend our hard earned $$$. They prefer to do it all themselves. Many have OK homes, some have honestly ugly homes.

    I just think that when I wanted to work on my house I WENT OUT AND FOUND THE WORLD OF BLOGS. I’ve been reading design blogs for over a year and I’m loving every second of it. I’m committing time to this OBSESSION. And its making me happy.

    Maybe interior design doesn’t make other ppl happy and that’s why they are not obsessed with it. There are a lot of things that I don’t do because they just don’t make me happy. So I think to each their own.

  16. room service ~ decorating 101 says:

    I loved this post! I am on the obsessed side. I think, eat and dream interior design. But I am very lonely around here… my family prefers I just tell them what to buy and where to put it. My friends that care, do the same. I have one friend that cares about how her house is decorated and does a good job. I think that is why I enjoy blogs so much. I get to talk with like minded people. I don’t have alot of $$$$, but everything I can pull together goes to making my home better. I think that is why I don’t care anything about spending for vacations ect. I like being home! I think the people that love to travel, most of the time, have the worst homes.

  17. I totally think very few Americans have nice looking homes. If you throw in the “Im a guy and this is my bachleor pad” it gets lower AND worst!

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  18. Great post! I care how my home looks, but Im far from obsessed. Also, I dont have that flair that some others (especially Nicole!) has, so I always ask for help, and tons of advice! Everyone is good or great at something, and mine isn’t design, but I know enough to solicit help from the design obsessives!

  19. The photos you posted were tres depressing! It totally illustrated your point. Nothing is more gross to me than one stop shopping. Design takes time. I recently found photos of my house from when we moved in five years ago and it was truly shocking. It has come a LONG way since then and I’m glad I didn’t try to decorate in a millisecond. Fantastic Post!

  20. Nicole Cohen says:

    Hey Everyone,

    Normally I like to get majorly involved in the comments, but if you follow me on twitter you know that i had a colossal case of food poisoning since monday night and I now feel like I have been to battle with some spartans- and lost.

    So lets chat- anyone who has been real estate hunting can attest to this… Even when you are looking at really upscale and expensive apartments- its sometimes astonishing at how terrible the decor is. And its not just the decor- its like crap piled everywhere, kids toys all over the place, people who live in a 3 million dollar penthouse, but bought ever single piece of furniture at The Door Store!

    And like I said- some of these folks CARE about fashion. They buy expensive clothes and oh- some REALLY care about what kind of car they drive… but when it comes to their homes, they just dont put any effort at all.

    Most of my childhood friends have great personal style… in that they know how to put things together in a way that makes them look cool. I think that comes from growing up with moms who taught us the importance of being good hostesses and keeping a beautiful home. (Seriously- it was lesson #1).
    Even how you arrange something on a table shows your taste…and that skill has nothing to do with money. I honestly think its just a matter of caring vs not caring. (And they love fashion, so their personal style does carry over…)

    But like I said- when I watch these design shows, prowl the internet and when I have gone real estate hunting(first for a 1 br then the apt I live in now) I was shocked at the state of these apts.

    I think a lot of people are really intimidated by design(more so than fashion or cooking)because these are the types of decisions you only really get to make once in a while. People generally buy a couch once every 10-15 years or longer… while fashion mistakes can just be tucked in the closet and you get a new chance to perfect that roast beef every night- decorating projects seem MUCH BIGGER and are much more expensive. So people get intimidated and dont even try. And they dont even seem to care about the fact that they havent tried.

    I think if you fill your home with things you love, and edit by only allowing things you love through the front door, plus keep things clean and organized, you can make a home that you love and thats more than enough. That is all I ever tried to do.

    What I was trying to say- is that so many people dont live in homes they love, because they dont seem to even care enough to try to make it someplace like that.

    As for the fashion vs decor obsessions… I know so many girls that check the shopbop and intermix sites every morning for new arrivals the same way I check the decor blogs… Dont know ANYONE who does both religiously.

    Soooo…. any more thoughts on the matter? I loved reading all your comments!

  21. Nicole Cohen says:

    I also want to add- that the fact that I care about this stuff comes as a huge shock to me and to most people who know me from my youth… fashion and home decor were NOT my thing. (I majored in philosophy and was kind of a book worm.) But once I got my own place, all I wanted to do was make it comfortable and a place that felt like home to me.

    (As a kid and teen I was NEVER allowed to do ANYTHING in terms of the decor of my bedroom. Not a poster, not a painting… nothing. I must post those pics one day- hilarious 80’s room still in tact! Sweet though.)

  22. I’m a little late on this, but I agree that the biggest issue is the intimidation. Decorating a house is so much more expensive than dressing well. Relatedly, since people shop for furniture so infrequently, I think many get major sticker shock. My husband always WAY underestimates what home stuff is going to cost (new, that is). Sticker shock can stop people dead in their tracks, or stop them from ever finishing a project (“I just spent so much money on this sofa! How could I justify buying accessories??”). If you start looking expecting dining room chairs to be $50-100 a pop, it’s going to hard to get your head around paying $200+ a piece. And you’ll put that much more pressure on yourself to find the perfect ones. Perfectionism always impedes decision making.

    Another issue is that for people who aren’t single, home decor decisions typically involve another’s opinion, whether it be a spouse, a significant other, or even just a roommate. Chances are high that the two occupants’ styles AND financial priorities don’t line up exactly, which stymies decision making even further. My husband might not love all of my fashion choices, but he’s certainly not going to fight me on them. On the other hand, if I want to get a gorgeous chair from Oly, he might only see it as a crazy expensive uncomfortable chair and push for something more “practical” like La-Z-Boy (ew. and I have to give my husband credit; he’s never mentioned lzb).

    On top of all that, people that aren’t obsessed probably don’t even see that much great design. If they’re not reading shelter magazines or decor blogs, what are their inspirations? The homes of friends and family that don’t care much either? HGTV? Every time I look at that channel it’s about selling a house, which apparently equates to making it as bland and personality-free as possible. It’s a lot easier to find fashion inspiration though. Who doesn’t have a friend or co-worker with really great style?

    K, I’m rambling. Interesting topic! And I’d love to see your 80’s bedroom!

  23. i run in a decor obsessed circle, so every one i know personally has a (somewhat) pulled together place, but in answer to your question, i think most americans have NO idea what a home should look like, nor do they care- an ugly sofa and a big screen tv and they are good to go. it boggles my freakin’ mind…

  24. I am a little late to this post but my mother in law spent a large amount of money to have her front room done by a decorator and I was shocked at how awful it was. The woman had the nerve to put up a plaid “curtain” that was just on the side of the window but couldn’t actually cover the windows, as in, it couldn’t move. It was just a short rod to the side of these windows. It was the most pointless thing I have ever seen.

  25. Oh and I forgot to add one of my best friends has something like that “Home” decal on her walls in her living room as well. I cracked up when I saw your picture!

  26. Love watching this convo evolve!

    I agree with the notion that most people are afraid to do anything, but I have to say: I know tons of people with horrible spaces who have NO idea that their spaces even look horrible!

    Like they’re not even evolved enough (in an interior design sense) to even have the self-awareness that their space *doesn’t* look great cause they have no idea what a great space even looks like, much less how to create one.

  27. It’s so great to see this topic being discussed both here and on Design Blahg – not necessarily because I think everyone who doesn’t care about design *should*, just because I think it’s healthy for those of us who do love it to recognize that most people just don’t think about it. (And cause I could never write about this on my own blog because I would instantly offend 95% of my friends, who are currently my only readers.)
    This is (part of) what I think: Some people are very visual; some people simply aren’t. Why do those of us who are design-obsessed obsess over making our homes look fabulous? Because it makes us feel good every time we walk into them.
    There are many people who just don’t get that pleasure out of it. As a young twenty-something recently out of college, I’m reminded very, very often that I’m a crazy person for spending money on making my place look good at this point in my life. My friends’ apartments absolutely look like the dorm rooms we moved out of a couple years ago, just slightly larger and with less furniture. I don’t think it’s a money issue at all, considering that I am making much less than they are and manage to make my place look ten times better than theirs by buying everything secondhand. The difference? It just isn’t a priority for them because living in that sort of environment doesn’t make them feel any worse than living somewhere more beautiful and well-designed.
    And then there are people who care but don’t have taste / don’t know how to create the sort of space they’re going for (I have a theory that this type of person is what my aforementioned friends will become in ten years or so). The living room above that you said “hasn’t gotten much love” – actually, it probably has. They matched the pillows to the chair, to the flowers in the rug, to the lamp. They painted a freaking accent wall. I mean, the fact that they even *have* throw pillows indicates that they actually tried to make this room look like a nice, “decorated” room, in whatever way they knew how. And it probably makes them actively happy when they walk in, to see all that matchiness. Yeah, that’s not good taste as we define it, but who are we to tell them that their happiness is misguided?
    P.S. Unfortunately for my wallet and my boyfriend, I am both a fashion person and a decor person.

  28. Nicole Cohen says:

    I also love how this convo is evolving… Just to explain a little bit more what I am talking about. I was watching Selling NY a few nights ago. A dude painstakingly searched for 1 bedroom apts all over manhattan. He was willing to spend up to 2 million $. He cared A LOT about the finishes, quality of the apt etc etc… He ended up at the brompton, a very high end UES building.

    His realtor went to crack open some bubbly(and maybe sex?) at his place after he moved in and the state of the apt was pathetic. Decor was AWFUL. But bottom line, he took a 2 million dollar apt and made it look like a dorm. And this was someone who was willing to walk away from a 300k deposit on an apt!

    Which leads me to believe… I dont know what… This dude obviously cares about quality but not style? Why wouldnt he just hire a designer to come do the place for him? This is really common in nyc.

  29. The same way many people have no clue how to dress, people have no clue what to do with their living spaces. Some people don’t care about clothes or furniture, so they put no time and no effort into either. Your clothes and your home are a reflection of who you are people! Think about it, seriously.

  30. Lisa says:

    Since only 25% of Americans graduate from college, I’d say very few live in “post-college” style apartments. :-)

  31. Rebecca says:

    I think the biggest issue is often money. I think the average American thinks more about finding an affordable house, and then there’s not much left over in the budget for design, let alone hiring a decorator. Sometimes it’s also about deciding whether to splurge on an expensive bed or putting that same amount of money into a child’s college fund. I realize this post is old, but I’m getting weary of the whiny 20 and 30 somethings who think they have it all figured out. You don’t.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      I appreciate your comment. I definitely do not think I know it all, although it may come off that way.

      As to average Americans and their budgets- I think I was speaking more to the fact that people want nice clothes, a nice car, the newest electronics, and BUY the best house, but then dont seem to care what they put in it. In that case its not about money, its about the fact that most people just dont care that much.

      I know when my husband and I bought our place, we bought the best place we could afford. We moved in with 0 furniture, and quickly bought Ikea just to have something to sit on. It took a number of years to get the home together, but I cared enough to work on it. Lastly, Ive seen people do amazing things with very little budget, so I guess I was just wondering why most people dont seem to care that much what their surroundings look like. I’m curious, because I dont understand it.

  32. jenny says:

    Self righteous much? Maybe, most people are too busy working or trying to make a contribution to society , or just out enjoying life to spend hours shopping and decorating. As you can tell I represent the non-decorating masses of which you speak. I’m way too busy enjoying life, traveling, raising a family, working, pursuing a doctorate degree, volunteering to help others that spending time and money on crap to be put on display so people think I’m oh so fashionable is the least of my cares. If you can spend a whole day/mulitple days shopping and putting together outfits and decorating than you have too much time on your hands. Seriously put the pottery barn catalog down, get off your @ss and do something exciting… There’s more to life than furniture and decorative pillows, get your priorities straight.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      Nice job judging me. You obviously haven’t spent a lot of time on this blog if you think my life revolves around “putting together outfits” and pottery barn.

      Your comment would be hurtful, if it weren’t so damn misinformed.