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The Problem With Home Decorating Magazines

Why Your Home Will Probably Never Look Like a Decorating Magazine

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The Problem With Home Decorating Magazines

So your family and your home doesn't always look like this? Mine either.

© Digital Vision

Home decorating magazines, or what the trade commonly knows as “shelter magazines,” are absolutely beautiful. And their popularity has reached an all-time high. In the United States alone, Elle Decor and Veranda top more than half-a-million readers per month. Better Homes & Gardens falls within the top five magazines read in the nation and boast a readership that tops 7 million per year.

The problem arises when we don’t recognize them for what they are. Decorating magazines should be inspiring and great resources for those who are planning to build or remodel, or for those of us who simply love all things regarding decorating.

However, they are never to be taken seriously.

Shelter magazines sell a dream. Yes, walking through one is like entering a dream that most of us would never want to awaken from, but awaken we must. Contentment and a love for our homes will never be a reality until we accept that we live in the real world and not within the pages of a magazine.

As a gentle reminder to you all - and to myself - below are the reasons your home will never look like a decorating magazine. And why that is totally okay.

1) You live there.
You eat (and sometimes sleep) on your sofa. Your dog licks your floor and has a thing for that right table leg. Your children play with more than two handcrafted artisan toys. Your closet is filled with more than four neutral-toned shirts displayed on hand-carved pegs. In other words, you live there.

2) Your home’s design and decor makes sense.
Next time you look through a decorating magazine, pay careful attention to the placement of furniture and decor in the photo. Notice anything weirdly out of place, like that plant in the middle of the floor or those wicker balls strewn across the bed? Your room – and your home – is not staged for a photo. Your room is staged for life. (See Fact #1.)

Here’s a bit of encouraging news: The minute that photo shoot is over, that house in the magazine won’t be staged for a photo either. Before a professional photo shoot, many of the homeowner’s personal belongings, furnishings, art, photos - oftentimes everything they own – is removed from the home. A professional stager then comes in and recreates the home to make it look like… well, a magazine spread.

It makes the home look good, it makes you buy the magazine, and it is also makes a wonderful marketing tool for their advertisers. (Ever noticed those where-to-buy guides in the back of magazines? Yep, that’s why!)

3) You don’t have an unlimited budget.
Which is probably why you are reading a budget decorating site. (But hey, I’m glad you are!) Seriously though, no one - not even the Kardashians - has an unlimited budget. (Okay, maybe the Kardashians do, but still…)

Decorating a home takes money. If you have ever tried to decorate a home on a bare-bones budget, I’m sure you realize this. Even if you do it all yourself, even if you dig through dumpsters and snag fabulous furnishings off of street corners, it still takes money. It doesn’t always take a lot of money, but things cost in more ways than one.

Those “free” furnishings usually need some help, which will require paint, sandpaper, hardware, drop cloths, etc, etc, etc. Plus a trip to the store to get another quart of paint after you decide you don’t like the color of the first… The (shopping) list can easily go on and on.

Another thing that magazines have that you don’t are these wonderful little things called samples and to-the-trade pricing. Magazines get loads of freebies to stage and decorate a home with because they oftentimes have huge readerships, which equal huge freebie advertising for companies who donate items.

Yes, it is a cold, cold world, isn’t it?

4) You buy what is readily available.
Let’s face it: Most of us don’t have 12 hours a day to spend decorating our homes. I doubt you want to spend all your weekends for the next 6 months scouring out deals on a sofa or looking for the perfect lamp for the bedside table. When we need something, we buy it. We settle. It’s not a bad thing. It’s called living your life.

5) You don’t have the time.
This is directly related to Fact #4. Rare is the person who has time to wrap all of their books in neutral paper, perfectly arrange and coordinate the frames of all of their family photos, and spit shine every surface in their home daily. At some point, most of us have to go to work (see Fact #3), or at least eat (see Fact #1).

6) You are not a professional.
Please don’t get offended. I’m sure you are a fabulous DIY decorator, but most professional designers go through 5-10 years of schooling to gain the knowledge to do what they do. Plus, since they daily live in the land of design and decorating, they have resources, tips, ideas and colors available to them that you have never heard of. This is okay. If you wanted to be a fulltime decorator, you would have been.

To encourage you further, remember this: You may have an amazing talent and eye for decorating, but even most pros don’t live in magazine-spread-worthy houses. (See Fact #1.)

And since we are back to Fact #1, let’s look at it this way: Thankfully, you live there. There is comfort in that overflowing stack of decorating magazines and in that pile of mass-produced toys. No, our homes don’t look like those shelter magazines. They look like us. Weathered a bit but well-loved, taken care of but lived in, busy but still worthy of a retreat. So we love them anyway. They are ours. They reflect us. And they are beautiful.

Someone should make a decorating magazine about that.

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