Below is a question from a FB friend….

Dear Vicente,

My fiancé and I recently bought our first home and I couldn’t wait to get in and start decorating. I am not formally trained and I don’t have a ton of experience, but I’m an artist who studied fine art in France and I’ve always been told I am a natural when it comes to interiors. I thought I would finally be able to show my true vision to the world using our new home.

For the last six months I have obsessed over every detail, lived and breathed design, arranged and rearranged floor plans, and scoured every possible resource. After all that work, I don’t feel like my vision is coming together at all. In fact, I think that I have put so much pressure on myself to make my home perfect that I have lost my vision entirely. I’ve also been hindered by my fiancé’s contrasting ideas for our space as well as price and time constraints.

I follow your blog and your vision is so clear and apparent in all that you do. Your spaces always possess that “thing without a name” or that certain something that can’t be articulated, but it makes a space great and whole. As an experienced designer, do you have any suggestions for finding my vision and keeping it at the front of my mind?

With admiration,


Dear Visionless,

Great space is not about being perfect, it is not about every item being a ten and it’s not just about the objects in the room. It is about the concept or vision of the overall space.

To me obsessing translates to insecurity and being unsure of what you want.  I always tell people to go with their gut, trust yourself and try not to second guess every decision you need to make.

I would first start by doing a floor plan and furniture plan to scale on paper, go into your mind and pull out what is important to you and your fiancé and what are your needs.  Then you can start balancing it out in the plan.  You should be aware of scale, the ying and yang and try to have a sense of humor.

 If this doesn’t bring you joy or a sense of well being, maybe you should hire a professional that can translate your wishes into reality.

Who out there has had similar problems?

Is it harder to do it for yourself than for other people?


  • SUCH great advice, and so true. I’m a designer myself and my own space feels a million times harder to design than other people’s spaces. I totalyl understand the pressure and loosing a vision due to time and money and (husband-opinion) constraints!


    September 28, 2010
  • mandy

    I’m a designer and I’m working on my house right now. It has taken forever for every little decision. I am definetly obsessing but it’s not out of insecurity. It’s wading through the options and carefully considering the budget and what I can do with it. With a client you give three options and generally move on. For yourself you know there are many more options.
    On one level it’s easier for yourself because you can visualize the end result, you have all the resources at your finger tips and you likely have a certain design point of view to begin with. But the options…

    September 28, 2010
  • mimi

    I am a designing dabbler as well, although I would consider it an all consuming interest. I, too, am decorating a new house and find it very hard to capture that elusive something that Vincente’s design exemplifies. I guess I always work with it until I just feel it. Sometimes it calls for a lot of rearranging and rethinking of ideas; but do be sure to keep it fun. That is what it should be all about.

    September 28, 2010
  • Matthew Andras

    It is extremely difficult to design for your self because you are aware of the many options available, have ideas that are constantly changing, and probably have a back file of designs that no one will let you do because they lack your vision but you know would be fantastic if executed. But design isn’t always about you, but rather the ability to translate; needs, wants, constraints, they all play a part in it and help to shape the finished result that you hope will reflect on your design abilities and personality. When it is right you will know it, you will walk into the room and just know that it “feels” right, and in the end that is all that matters, because it is your home, regardless of whether this chair matches that or that isn’t the exact fabric you really wanted.

    September 28, 2010
  • cammie

    go back to your childhood. what colors made you happy? do you remember favorite art projects or crafts? what did you love about your childhood bedroom–hate about it? my mother allowed me to choose my wallpaper and carpet when i was 6! she was artistic and had tremendous faith in me. i chose green shag carpet because it looked like grass (this was 1969 afterall) and pink wallpaper with lots of daisies. my bedspread was the same fabric as the curtains (anyone remember nettle creek?). i chose it because it made me smile. it was a fabulous room. what makes you smile? it is YOUR room. imperfect is charming. imperfect is true. imperfect communicates who we really are. i’d rather live in an imperfect room that shows a life well lived–a happy life with family, pets, and brothers-in-law who throw their feet up on my coffee table and fall asleep on my sofa. we keep the boys’ soccer balls and a skate board under the sofa table by our side door (the sofa table that sits on an oriental rug that my husband bought me for our 6th wedding anniversary) and i love it–i have boys and i love that they live in this house!

    i was in a house once–a perfect house–and their were riding boots next to the door. being a former equestrian myself until the age of 15, i asked, “who rides?” the hostess said, “nobody. that’s just decoration.”

    leave room for time to make its indelible mark on your home. then you will have an interesting, personal and, yes, imperfect but much loved place.

    September 29, 2010
  • Impressive advice!Positive and cheerful attitude towards life that is YOU,Great inspiration! One thing to consider in every decision was made is that go with your own guts and trust yourself! by then it shows just how easily and inexpensively you can get a fresh new look,I completely understand working with simple changes until a bigger renovation can take place!Thank You so Much Vicente, You are truly inspirational and Good Adviser as well.Wonderful Post.

    September 29, 2010
  • Gary Nelling

    Vicente – As a collector of Navajo rugs and Indian baskets (albeit not the brightest colored ones!), this is one of my favorite of your projects, because it is such a refreshing take on the Taos/Santa Fe aesthetic.

    I do plotz over our home more than any client building or interior. I accept the owners’ time, budget and taste opportunities and constraints with much more equanimity than my own. I think with one’s own home, we feel that any mistakes would reveal an underlying weakness of our conceptual skills to our peers. But at some point I took a page from your playbook, specifically the interchangeable pictures on a picture rail, as a message that no decision was forever, and that you could use your own home as an on-going experiment. And that helped me relax a bit. There is also nice sort of peacefulness that begins to appear with age where everything is a little less of a big deal. It’s just starting. I’m not there yet! I’m still wound pretty tight. But now sometimes I can say: It is what it is! – Gary

    September 29, 2010
  • cammie made some great points and it sounds like you love to decorate and now it has become painful in some way???? find out where that is in you and if you can move that energy by finding the source i think you will be able to do all the cammie has said….


    September 29, 2010
  • lindajane

    Everything is created twice–first as an idea, and then tangibly, so what are your 5-7 adjectives that describe the vision you have for your room? And what are your husband’s adjectives? Do they intersect, combine? If not, I tell my husband he can do the landscaping, pick our cars, buy our computer equipment. I get to decorate but won’t use anything he hates. Then what you select for the room should support those adjectives. My adjectives for my living room which doubles as our family/media room are warm, inviting, comfortable, historic, stylish, colorful and romantic. I have french chairs for romantic and historic, a ruby colored sectional sofa that is warm and comfortable, two armchairs in a quilted ruby and cream check that are inviting, antique accessories like old books, cranberry and cream china for historic etc.–had a floor plan but not drawn to scale and the arm chairs are bigger than I might have chosen as they look bigger in your home than in store so Vicente’s idea of drawing room to scale first is important. Get your adjectives, how you’re going to use room and draw floor plan to scale of what you want in the room, then you can adjust things along the way….it should be fun!

    September 29, 2010
  • Kristin

    Vicente — This doesn’t address the question, but: that room! I can’t stop looking at it. Perfect application of your style to a southwestern house.

    September 29, 2010
  • I think the crux of your worries is in the phrase “to make my home perfect”. The essence of planning home decor is not in the perfection of the space, but in the living character of it. Think of your paintings-are any of them perfect? I’ll bet not. Most artists say that a work is never finished; one just stops working on it. Your home, your rooms, are the same way. Bring in pieces as you are inspired, and only bring in pieces of joy. You know that you already have an eye, so trust that everything you bring in will work with everything else. If it doesn’t, take it to another room and/or rearrange. Allow your rooms to become living pieces of art.

    Forget perfect. As a matter of fact, tuck those plans away. Without the constraints of paper, your imagination will once again be free.

    One side note: The fact that you and your fiance clash on style is a good thing. Instead of trying to compromise, decide between you who gets to decorate which rooms. Or, figure out a different sort of compromise–he makes the food decisions while you make the decor ones. Think creatively here too and this decor hiccup will disappear.

    Best of luck! AMY

    September 29, 2010
  • gary i just re-read your post and love what you say about ” a peacefulness that begins to appear with age” how true and one just starts to feel very comfortable with what is!!!! One also, changes and evolves and ones likes and dislikes change and evolve… i use to have an english tudor home and now a very modern one….


    September 30, 2010
  • I used to worry so much about making choices in my own home! Okay, I still do. I am constantly inspired by beautiful spaces and wish I could integrate some of it into my own (teeny) home. I think a home is “perfect” if it meets your needs and is a reflection of who you are. My living room has tones of tan, olive green and brick red, a simple slipcovered sofa and lots baseball memorabilia. I like to think people who visit feel like they leave with a good sense of who I am and what I value.

    October 04, 2010
  • Gary Nelling

    Melissa – Yes, age brings some gifts to compensate for what it takes away: ”I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”- Bob Dylan

    It’s become a little easier to laugh at myself (a necessity when I look in the mirror!). And the more I accept myself, the easier it is to accept others. For instance: Our daughter is a fashionista with a penchant for bright colors and clashing patterns which I reacted to as if she had an unresolved internal conflict. So I tried to steer her toward my somber minimalist pallet. Recently I remembered that I was the same way at her age and was into raging unrepentant color too! (How could I have forgotten?) So a bit of cosmic grace fell on my head and a conflict melted away.

    I’m not where I had planned to be, but I’m where I belong. And if I had planned better, then I wouldn’t be me, would I? It sounds like you have had a pretty amazing journey too. – Gary

    October 05, 2010
  • […] Once a design professional has committed to a project, that project becomes an extension of their thoughts and focus. The creative switch has been turned ‘ON’, and the vision begins to take shape. The designer (interior stylist, redesigner, stager…) is now absorbed in the details, the vision seldom far from thought. No matter where they go, or what they are doing, they are constantly keeping an eye out for that perfect piece to bring in, researching options to execute the plan, sourcing materials, and finally overseeing the implementation of the plan. This is what you are paying for: the knowledge and expertise of an interior specialist to transform your space. See what Design Great, Vincente Wolf says! […]

    October 15, 2010

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