Absolute Beginners: Building a Home From Scratch

Since the news broke that David Bowie passed away, I've been listening to his songs and watching his videos on YouTube. I first fell in love with the music in the mid-90s during the era of Tin Machine and his collaborations with Trent Reznor, even though I was aware of his earlier work. Nobody stands in the back of the concert hall screaming "Play the new stuff!" (which I did at one of Bowie's shows) but then again I was always a bit backwards. More recently I've discovered a new appreciation for how he changed the music scene in the 70s, particularly after watching the Showtime documentary Five Years, which is definitely worth a watch.

During my musical memory tour, I came across a title I was not familiar with: Absolute Beginners, released in 1984, which was used in a film he appeared in of the same name. Neither the song nor the movie can be considered to be his best work, but the title stuck with me.

I work with a lot of young couples and families who are making their home together with not much to start with save some furniture hand me downs that may or may not reflect their personal style. They find the home of their dreams and have no idea where to begin in order to make it their own. In that sense they feel as much like absolute beginners as the song suggests.

To this I suggest to clients that they pick the room that they will likely spend the most time with and create a design plan for that room. I also suggest doing each room one at a time, since often the rooms used less often tend to define themselves better after some time has passed.

More often then not, the living or family room is the one chosen. All of the members of the family use that room in order to unwind and spend time together so to have that space feel complete tends to remove a large portion of the burden they feel regarding decorating their new home. The living room that appeared in my entry "Folie à Deux" involved one such family that wanted their new living room completed so that they could enjoy working on the rest of their home, and another that I met early in my career had a living room that was a complete blank space. Completely blank. No furniture, nothing.

First they told me that they really wanted greige walls. For those not in the know, greige is the combination of grey and beige. At the same time, they wanted something fun and whimsical with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern elements. I selected a paint based on that discussion, knowing that it was neutral enough that it would work well with a variety of design directions (I usually choose paint last, but that's a blog post on its own). Then I found them the perfect curtain fabric. They loved it.

Fabric by Thomas Paul

The room had a fantastic focal point, a wall with high windows and even higher ceilings, so the floor to ceiling custom drapes would make a huge impact. Therefore, we kept the furniture in the neutral family with browns, creams, and greys with accent colors taken from the fabric.

Working together with these homeowners was a joy and afterwards I collaborated on several other rooms in the house for them. Completing this room gave this couple the confidence to explore other creative color schemes and furniture options for their home. Sometimes a bit of outside help can create the motivation for true expression. I think David Bowie would approve.