Expert Advice on How Not to Decorate Like a Walking Fashion Cliché

Beth Stebner

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For the record, it’s not a bad thing to be into peonies or that Prada Marfa sign or cow-hide rugs, but think of your home like you’d approach street style. Just because you saw someone else wearing it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should style the piece exactly the same way. Same goes for home decor: The name of the game is injecting personality and unique elements to your space to make it your own.

Designer and photographer Jenny Norris of Jenny J. Norris Interiors says it’s easy to fall into decorating clichés, but it’s just as easy to get out of them. “At the end of the day, your personal style through fashion has to come out in your home,” she says.

The most important rule of thumb? “Love everything you buy, even if it’s a coaster,” she says. “When you’ve hand-selected everything that’s in your home, how could you not love being there?”

Below, Norris outlines tired clichés, and how to assert your own personal touches into every last square inch of your apartment.

decorating mistakes not to make

Photo: Old Brand New

The cliché: An army of (white or pink) peonies

The solution: An unusual cactus, ranunculus, fig tree, or other green plant; locally-sourced flowers

First things first—peonies are lovely flowers, but they’re also expensive and hard to keep alive unless you happen to have a particularly green thumb. Norris suggests that you should invest in some low-maintenance plants instead. Plants like fig trees add height and dimension to the room, while rubber trees also add a breath of fresh air to a room. If you must have flowers, it’s best to shop seasonal—and local. “Check out a farmer’s market and see what they have,” she recommends. “A lot of times, you can find something really special and unique.”

MORE: 35 Gorgeous Scandinavian Rooms That Prove Less Is More

decorating mistakes not to make

Photo: Kate Marker Interiors

The cliché: Cowhide or white sheepskin rugs

 The solution: A distressed Persian rug

“Adding something antique in your home tells more of a story,” Norris says. While she’s particular to neutral-colored Persian rugs, you can also add depth and dimension with a more contemporary print.

home design mistakes not to make

Photo: Derek Swalwell

The cliché: Fashion-inspired art

The solution: Under-the-radar prints, affordable art

Norris likes to find artists who aren’t a household name, meaning no Warhol prints or Prada Marfa signs for her clients. “A little secret?” she says. “I just google ‘obscure artists’ and research them—the internet’s an amazing resource for inspiration.” Or, look around your local art museum for inspiration and order your favorite print online. “It doesn’t have to be Van Gogh, you can find something affordable that you like and find a print,” she says.

MORE: How You’ll Be Decorating This Year, According to Pinterestdecorating mistakes not to make

Photo: Emilia Jane Photography

The cliché: The usual lineup of coffee table books

The solution: A personalized stack

We all know the books every fashion girl has, like “Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style,” “Tom Ford,” and Vogue’s “World in People, Parties, Places.” But instead of getting books that you may not ever read, Norris suggests going to a bookstore and picking out ones that pique your interest. “It could be a beautiful cookbook or a lesser-known book looking at fashion history,” she says. “Don’t just get the Tom Ford book because everyone else has it—let your books speak to your interests.”

decorating mistakes not to makePhoto: Dustin Halleck for Homepolish

The cliché: Everything Lucite, brass, gold, and glam

The solution: Look to mid-century modern or even antique for a timeless touch

Sure, brass and gold are having a major moment now, but instead of trying to leap after every trend, treat your home like you would your wardrobe and pick out well-made pieces that will serve you for years to come. “My focus is always keep it personal—you don’t want a catalogue home.” If you do pick out something trendy, like Lucite, make sure to keep it grounded with natural materials like a wooden table or an ornate-looking mirror.

MORE: 13 Big Ideas to Upgrade Your Tiny Kitchen

minimal home design white sheets cozy rug

Photo: JJ Norris Interiors 

The cliché: Anything leopard

The solution: Absolute minimalism

Swap out your animal prints for clean, crisp whites, soothing grays, and muted neutrals for an instant Scandinavian-chic look.