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Author and Design Expert Meghan Carter takes time from her busy national book tour to discuss her design method.
What separates your new book, The Meghan Method (Gem Multimedia; May 2011), from the stacks of home makeover tomes written by interior design experts? When you flip through the majority of decorating books, almost every page is devoted to a room photo, and the only instruction you get is from a few scattered tips and tricks that when boiled down are simply someone else's opinion of what looks good. Those types of books are great for finding inspiration or if you want to copy someone else's style. But if you want to find your own style or discover how to actually decorate a room from start to finish, they won't help you out much. That's why I wrote my book. It literally walks you step-by-step through the decorating process, showing you how to make every, single decorating decision and helping you to find your true style. So by the time you're finished with the book, you'll have created the perfect room for you — a room based on what you love, want and need.
Your Internet fan base is more than 6 million. Based on the hundreds of emails from your followers, why are people insecure with their own sense of style? It's hard not to be insecure about what you like when everyone's so quick to throw in their opinion — especially if it's disapproving. Just think of how many times you've heard comments like: "What were they thinking?" "Hello. The 70s are calling. They want that back." "Could that be any more hideous?" And when we hear harsh criticism like that, it's only natural to pull back in our shell and think we're crazy for liking the wallpaper border, brass chandelier or other item deemed "outdated" or "unhip." Yet those things that we love beyond reason are the very things we should run toward, because they make us happy. And that is the number one goal of decorating. To create a space that makes you happy and enables all those things you've been dreaming of. So if there was only one piece of decorating advice I could give, it would be to own your style — whatever it may be. And above all, learn to trust your gut. If you walk by something and it feels right, go for it. Your gut instinct will never lead you wrong. It leads you to your true style.
What is the most common decorating mistake people make? Not making a plan. Most people go shopping first and pick things out piecemeal. Then, when they get home, they realize it doesn't all work together. The lamps look too small on the end tables. The wingback chairs block the view of the TV. The drapes clash with the sofa. And that rug! What was I thinking? Whereas, if you create a plan and picture board that details the layout, colors, textures and patterns you plan to use in your room, you'll know before you step foot in a single store that you not only love your to-be room, but also that everything in your room will work beautifully together. Plus, you'll never, ever have to agonize in a store again over which color or size will work best, because you'll already know. Your plan will tell you. And I promise, creating a plan and picture board is incredibly simple, painless and totally worth it.
In The Meghan Method, you advocate home decorating as a major building block for personal happiness. Why? Our home is one of the three essential things we need for survival — food, shelter & clothing. So we spend a lot of time there, and most of that time is spent doing our most intimate, private acts — sleeping, catching up with loved ones, dancing in our underwear. So if you don't enjoy being in your home, those intimate moments won't be as enjoyable — or may not even happen at all — which will ultimately lead to a far lower level of happiness. Whereas, if you love your home — if it enables all those special moments you so desperately want to happen — your happiness level will be through the roof, because your home will not only provide an enjoyable place to pass time, but also enable your dreams to come true. And that's what everyone secretly wants — to live their dream life.
Not everyone is artistic or even creative, as you acknowledge in your book. Does everyone have style? Everyone — and I do mean everyone — has style. And a fantastic one at that. Style is simply the visual representation of our core beliefs — the things we hold to be true no matter what. If you look back at historical styles, you'll see exactly what I mean. Each one is a snapshot of what the people at that time held nearest and dearest. In my book, The Meghan Method, I use the Victorian and Craftsman period as an example. The Victorian period was all about the man-made and mass produced, which is why you'll find such elaborate details and faux items, such as faux-stone fireplaces. The Craftsman period was all about the handmade and natural, which is why you'll find such high-quality craftsmanship — hence the name — as well as tons of natural materials. So when it comes down to it, your personal style is simply an expression of what you believe. And because we all believe wildly different things, we have wildly different styles. But that doesn't mean there are good or bad, right or wrong styles. Despite what others may claim, just as there are no right or wrong beliefs, there are no right or wrong styles. There are simply different styles. So don't let anyone tell you your style is bad or wrong or terrible. It's not. Your style is you, and that alone makes it wonderful. So own it and be proud.
As you emphasize, The Meghan Method isn’t about following any expert’s decorating rules. So, would you share a few tips for choosing and using color in a room? Would you enlighten us on why color isn’t primarily about how a room looks? When we see color, we instantly feel an emotion. Numerous studies have been done on this. Red tends to get us excited. Yellow agitates us. Blue calms us and can even make us feel physically chilly. So when you use color in a room, forget about the way it looks. Instead, ask yourself how you feel. What does that color communicate to you? Of course, answering that question can be a bit difficult — especially if you're standing in the paint aisle with hundreds of colors staring back at you. That's why we all need a muse — a physical representation of the emotions we want to feel in our room — and that muse can be anything. A city. A landscape. A flower. A dessert. A knick-knack. An animal. Whatever makes you feel those emotions you want, should be your muse. Once you have your muse, find a picture of it. That picture will tell you exactly what colors will make you feel those emotions. Why? Because part of the reason you feel what you do for that item is because of how it looks — color included. Think of the beach. Would you feel as relaxed there if the ocean looked like lava? Probably not. So when it comes to choosing the colors for your room, don't waste your time in the paint aisle. Instead, find a muse. It's got a built-in color scheme waiting for you.
You’ve pursued your passion for decorating and accomplished your dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur, a web sensation, and a published author. What’s next for Meghan Carter? Online how-to videos with step-by-step photo instructions that tackle different parts of the decorating process giving you insider tips and tricks for how to get things done faster, better and cheaper. Each week a new one will be posted on my website, MeghanCarter.com, and if you want to have them sent directly to you, you can sign up for my newsletter, which also features fun giveaways, tips and the latest news.
Now is your chance to meet Meghan. She will appear at the Lamps Plus lighting store in Chatsworth, California, on Tuesday, August 9th, and at the Lamps Plus Huntington Beach store on Wednesday, August 10th. Both events begin at 6:30pm. This is her first appearance in Southern California. During both appearances, Meghan will be signing copies of her new book and will be available to review house plans and photos after her talk. More information about the lighting store appearances and online registration for the events can be found on the Lamps Plus Workshops page.
Images courtesy of Meghan Carter and Gem Multimedia