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How To Make Your Style A Reality :: An Interview with Margo Stewart

Does anybody else find it hard to translate the amazing decorating ideas you have in your head to your home? Sometimes it feels like I have great taste on Pinterest when in fact my own home is just kind of…blah. But then there are some women who seem to not only have a vision for their home, but a supernatural ability to make those ideas come to life. I have a couple friends like that and this month they’ve agreed to tell their secrets. Last week Erin Stover shared her thoughts on the topic, and this week we’re talking to Margo Stewart, a Texan with the perfect combination of sassy and sweet, who now lives in Wisconsin with two charming redheads - her husband Tyler and daughter Charlotte. I’ve always admired Margo’s ability to make any space feel…I don’t know…on purpose. Even her college dorm room had gallery style framed black and white photographs, and when she and Tyler bought a ranch-style home in Illinois, her first move was to bleach it white, hang black shutters and paint the door firehouse red. Instant charm. These brilliant decorating choices are a few of the many reasons I wanted to pick Margo’s brain about bringing her style to life ::

You have such a distinct taste. How do you think you developed and honed your style over the years?

I think my style has developed in a number of ways over the years. I have several do-it-yourself blogs saved to my google reader that I enjoy reading each day. I love social media, like Instagram, that enables me to see snap shots of my friends’ beautiful homes. I look forward to visiting my in-laws to see what new thrift store junk my mother-in-law has refurbished to be one of the loveliest pieces in her home. 

Style takes form by seeing something you like and thinking, “Oooo, that’s so pretty” and then thinking up creative ways to achieve that same look in your own home.  

Even if I have ideas of what I’d like, I often feel frustrated when I can’t pull it off in my own home. What are some ways you bring your vision for your home to life?

The best way to bring your vision to life is to just do it! Browsing Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy and DIY blogs is great, but after a while, you’ve got to stop just “pinning” and start doing

Instead of wishing your house would look a certain way, start working towards it. Gather your inspiration photos, sketch a picture, make a list, and figure out your budget. It takes work and a lot of patience to make your vision come to life. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t come out the way you’d hoped. You can always repaint it, sell it on Craigslist or readjust your initial plan to better fit your space. Or you could watch an entire season of Parks & Rec on Netflix while you eat cookies and cream ice cream to help you recover from your décor shortcomings.

In your opinion, what’s the key to designing a living space that reflects your style?

Fill your home with things that you like. 

I have a lot of botanical and bird prints in my home, because they remind me of being outside (which is important, because I live in Wisconsin where the average temperature is too dadgum cold). There are several pieces of white furniture in my house, because I think white is clean and crisp and easily interchangeable between rooms. There is a fluffy pillow or cozy throw every five footsteps in my house, because I like my guests to feel warm and cozy. I have several wire and woven baskets throughout my home, because they’re great for organizing toys and corralling household items without sacrificing style. 

You’re not a professional stylist, but I think your house makes you look like one! What is some of the best advice you’ve found for making your home look put together?

A few things come to mind:

Window Treatments – I always feel like a room really comes together after I hang curtains. Curtain panels are a bit on the expensive side (even if you sew your own), but they add so much to a room. They offer texture and softness to walls. And there are so many options – patterned, linen, blackout, ruffle, burlap…

Hang Photos and Artwork – this seriously takes one hour to do and some people wait months after moving before hanging things on the wall. C’mon people! Grab that hammer! Or use some 3M strips if holes scare you. If you’re wondering how to arrange your frames, there are like five bazillion pins on Pinterest that can lead you in the right direction.

Declutter – this applies to lots of things – your closet, the kitchen counter, the bathroom cabinet. How many appliances are on your kitchen counter and how many of those do you use on a daily basis? We have a small countertop, so the only things that permanently reside there are the coffee maker and the toaster, because we use them every day. Tuck away the mixer and the blender and give yourself some more space. This helps things look clean and allows for more space for fun stuff, like a stack of cookbooks with a plant on top or a picture frame housing your grandma’s peach cobbler recipe.

Paint – hands down, one of my favorite parts of home decorating. It has huge impact and is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to transform any space. And if you get tired of it, change it! I’m a huge fan of Lowe’s Valspar paint and primer in one. 

Pick Up – at the end of the day, I walk through my house and fluff the pillows back to their spot on the couch. I pick up the few toys Charlotte missed as she was “clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere-ing.” I put away the dishes from the drying mat and wipe down the kitchen counter with my citrus smelling cleaner. I close the shower curtain and situate the towels on the rack. There is just something SO satisfying to wake up the next morning to a tidy house. It makes me happy and helps me get a good nights sleep.

What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to decorate?

Not listening to their spouse’s opinions and ideas. It’s their house too, y’all! He or she will feel a sense of pride and satisfaction with your home if they’ve been included in the design process. 

I once started hanging a series of botanical flower prints on the wall of Tyler’s home office, because it doubled as a guest room (like, the two times a year people came all the way to central Illinois to see us). I was so offended when he came home and said, “ugh, what’s that garbage all over my wall?” (hyperbole added for dramatic effect). Of course my husband didn’t want flowers on the wall where he’d be spending a lot of time studying and working hard on his thesis. So we talked about it and ended up handing some cool map prints and brown curtain panels. He even let me style a couple of his bookshelves with a few photos of friends and family. It looked really great! It fit him perfectly and we were both so pleased! 

What resources do you use for decorating? Pinterest? Magazines? Inspiration boards?

YES to all of those things! Pinterest is so great. I feel like people knock it a lot, but, WOW, what a great (and free) resource! Get on board, people! It’s like having all of your favorite home décor magazines available right there with the ability to categorize each article.

I read Young House Love faithfully. They are great writers with really helpful tutorials and a reasonable budget.

My favorite stores to shop at are Target, TJ Maxx, IKEA and HomeGoods. I also frequent stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. These are all great resources for finding some cool pieces of furniture on the cheap!

Who’s your greatest design inspiration?

Me in ten years.

Hahaha! Who does Matthew McConaughey think he is?!?

Okay, but seriously, my parents are my greatest inspirations! They don’t have a blog, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

My mom and dad raised me in the most beautiful home. They have lived in the same house since I was in kindergarten and have put so much time and energy into making it their own. The walls in much of the living space are painted a warm and buttery yellow that makes you want to sit and visit all afternoon while you eat some phenomenal baked good my mom just made. The kitchen cabinets have all been restored and refurbished by my dad (more than once). Almost all of the curtains are hand-sewn by my mom – with gorgeous pleats and billows and ruffles. My dad has an incredible gift for gardening – there are sprawling flowers and plants year round and the grass looks better than Wrigley’s outfield. My mom arranges furniture like a boss and she hangs pictures to showcase all of the meaningful art she and my dad have collected over the years.

Their home is full of unique furniture pieces that they’d spend weekends in the hill country searching for. I have several fond memories of riding in the back of my dad’s pickup truck on a Saturday morning to Fredericksburg, Comfort, Pipe Creek or Boerne (all lovely little towns in the Texas hill country) to hunt for one-of-a-kind antiques. Sometimes we’d come home with something really cool and sometimes we’d just come home with a small brick of homemade fudge to share on the drive home. I think it’s so special that this is one of the things that both my parents enjoy doing as a couple. I’m so thankful that they included me in these special adventures! I really think that this is why I love searching for a good bargain and find great satisfaction in do-it-yourself projects. 

Thanks so much, Margo! I especially loved the five things that make a house feel pulled together. So smart! (I think it’s so interesting that both Erin and Margo mentioned the importance of hanging meaningful photos and prints up on the wall.) Also, you’ll want to check out Margo’s insanely cute Etsy shop…I have my eye on this for Valentine’s birthday.

What about you? Did anything stand out to you? Anything you’ve found particularly helpful when bringing your own style to life? 


Posted by Aanna on Monday, April 21st, 2014


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