The Little Details

By this point I’ve read a couple books on minimalism and a few of them have suggested an interesting exercise: If you could start over again, what would your ideal house look like?

The truth is, I have no idea.

So far my movement toward minimalism has been about taking what I have and paring it down to the essentials. I start with an accumulation of stuff and try to end with only those things that I truly love. I haven’t really thought much about what I’d want if I could start all over and recreate my surroundings with only things that bring me joy.

I like my house well enough. It’s nothing special but it’s home. Over the years I have purchased a few things that bring me joy, in an attempt to make my own home the kind of place I’d want to go to if I could get away. We have a memory foam mattress that I cover in sinfully soft sheets. Sinking down into bed each night is one of my favorite moments of the day.

There have been a few pieces around the house that I’ve had to replace since my minimalism project began and I’ve thought long and hard about the question posed above. If I could start all over in this room, what would I want it to look like?

When it became clear that my son was not going tolerate being changed on his table, I delighted in the prospect of getting rid of it. It had been falling apart for years and the drawers were constantly falling off their runners. I knew I wanted a chest of that matched the blue and brown motif in his room, but after extensive searches online I hadn’t found anything I loved that also fit in our budget.

I ended up making it myself.

I bought a simple five-drawer pine chest from IKEA and two shades of blue paint. The whole project took way longer than I anticipated and in the end I felt I had gotten in over my head, but thankfully I was thrilled with the results.

Now I have one piece in my son’s room that is exactly what I want. It absolutely answers the question above and brings me immense joy.

chest of drawersThis project was completed months ago and I’ve had a couple other opportunities to add details to a room that bring my joy. When we replaced our TV stand and added another shelving unit I chose some turquoise highlights in our living room, which had been dominated by black. Now a shelving unit, the storage bins below the TV and the throw on the old glider add some great color to the space.

A couple of weeks ago the cold water handle on our bathroom sink faucet just broke off in my hand. The plumber informed me I’d have to get a whole new faucet. I was annoyed by the cost of the whole project and went to Home Depot hoping to spend as little money as possible. At first I grabbed the lowest priced faucet, but then couple of models in a darker “burnt bronze” caught my eye and I suddenly realized how much the silver faucet in our bathroom had bothered me: it didn’t sit well with the dark accents in the marble counter top or the wood of the mirror above and cabinet below.

The minute I saw the faucet I eventually got I knew I was going to splurge a bit on this purchase. Sure it was an extra $70, but I use the bathroom sink so many times a day, isn’t it worth it for washing my hands to bring me a little extra joy?

IMG_4388 It’s not much–I still hate the cheap vanity in there–but I’ve always wanted a faucet like this and it brings a little joy to a room that I spend a lot of time in and that I’ve never loved much. I’m also so glad we got rid of the silver–it did nothing for the small space. The color of this faucet works much better.

IMG_4391There is still much about my house that I don’t love, but as I change these small details I find I take so much more joy in my home. I am constantly asking myself what I would do with a room if I could start all over, and while I rarely have any moments of true inspiration, it’s fun to wonder.

Of course this line of thinking can be extended to the rest of my life. If I could build my life from the ground up, what would I fill my days with? My uncertainty in answering this is paralyzing, but I keep asking myself the question just the same. I know I can’t overhaul everything in my life, but maybe I can change some of the small details to bring more joy to my days.

What would your dream house look like? What small details in your space bring you joy?


  1. Whoa. Your last paragraph is really making me think! What an interesting thought experiment. Our house is more functional than beautiful, I like simple, clean lines anyways, so it works aesthetically, too, I guess.
    Your dresser looks awesome! I’m really impressed by your DYI skills!

    1. Our house is also very functional. There is very little added just for aesthetics–I didn’t put anything on the walls until a couple of months ago! We’ve been in the house for 2.5 years! I like simple though, so I’m okay with how most of our house looks.

      As for the last paragraph, yeah, that has been a head trip for me. I honestly can’t fathom what I’d want if I could have my “perfect life.” It is interesting to think about though.

  2. I love it!! Whenever I change/organize/get something just how I want it I spend the next week wandering in to stare at it, basking in how well it came together, hahaha! It doesn’t take much to thrill me I guess.

    We actually just bought a pedestal for our bed a couple months ago, I HATE our bedroom furniture, it’s pretty much the opposite of my taste in furniture, my husband had it before we got together, but it’s in damn good shape, it wasn’t cheap, and provides excellent storage, so really getting new stuff won’t be happening in a good amount of years. So we get this pedestal, that matches the other stuff, and it’s like it just brought the room together, it made the bed the perfect height, added MARVELOUS extra storage, and closed up the dust bunny field that was what had been under our bed since we moved in. (We did vacuum first.) Every time I walk in the room I’m just delighted!

    1. I have wandered into my bathroom a million times since we got the new faucet. I am washing my hands WAY MORE than I did before. 😉

      I’m so glad you got something that brings the room together. Our bedroom furniture is boring IKEA stuff, but it works well enough for us right now. When we move downstairs (in 5-10 years) I am most looking forward to an actual closet. I haven’t had a real closet since I moved out of my parents house and I would do just about anything for space to hang my clothes where they don’t get caught in the hangers of the clothes below them. Some day…

  3. I find this interesting because we just had this conversation as we were looking to move to a different city. While looking at real estate, we kept asking each other, “of we could pick out current house again, would we? If we were to build this house but change specifics, what would we change?”. We would change the yard/ lot in a heart beat. We had no idea how important the yard would be and when we bought the house, the yard/lot was the main issue. We have solid wood doors and we’re not willing to ever have hollow doors again. This was a main issue looking at houses in the new city. We would paint all rooms their own color before moving in, because it’s too daunting after move-in and paint is the#1 thing to adjust mood in a room. We would attach the laundry room to put master closet. And the kitchen sink would change. We hate our sink but we’re stuck with it.

    Needless to say, we’re not moving. Our price range buys us shitty lots and hollow doors. Nope… Can’t do it!

    I love that cheesy of drawers! So fun!

    1. Someone was just telling me how they recently changed all their doors to solid wood doors and how they love it so much! I had never even though about that before. Ours are not solid wood–I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place with solid wood doors–but I suppose we could save and replace them all at some point (though my friend assures me it’s VERY EXPENSIVE). There is A LOT about my house I would change, but honestly, having a garage to park my car and an in-unit washer and dryer still feels so amazing to me… I really can’t ask for much else at this point. 😉

  4. I understand the idea of picturing a clean slate but, honestly, I think it’s a pretty limited exercise. We are not clean slates. In reality, we have histories and limits that can’t be put aside. I think it’s even more useful to understand the motivations behind the things we do/have. I could flip through a catalog and choose my ideal interior style and that would be great but I doubt it would be in any way compatible with my lifestyle choices, not to mention our home economics (that are a consequence of those choices). I guess I see it more as a matter of finding the RIGHT compromises and recognizing those that you don’t feel good about having made.

    1. I think the purpose of the exercise is not to covet your dream life but to see if you can incorporate parts of it into your actual life. If you could create your life from the ground up, and living near the ocean were a part of that, can you actually have that in your life? Or maybe just live closer to the ocean? And if you can’t, what about living near the ocean would you want? Can you fresh air or be close to nature in some other way? If you want to meditate every morning is there a way you can fit that in, even if at first it feels impossible? And if you can’t now, could you change things so that in the future it would be a possibility? I think that is the point of the exercise, just to recognize what you think will make you happy and try to incorporate those things, or even parts of those things, as best you can.

  5. You know we started with a clean slate with the move but I still find myself drawn to the same things! I have probably grown a little bit more in what I like but I still am essentially buying the same type of things or doing the same things around the house that I have done in the past!

    I don’t think there is anything really I would change about my life. Sometimes maybe my job, I still miss the city but other than that. No. Oh yes my infertility – YES but the rest no 🙂

    1. That is really interesting that you feel you still gravitate to the same things, even when you did have a clean slate. I was thinking of you when I was doing this exercise, thinking it must have been so amazing to build a house from the foundation up, making it exactly the way you wanted, but also what a lot of pressure to have all those decisions to make.

  6. Well done on the chest of drawers. It looks great.

    My dream house would be a lot more minimalist than it is now. Or perhaps I would say, my dream office would be a lot more minimalist than it is now! The house itself isn’t too cluttered – I do tend to live by the principle of displaying only what I love.

    I’ve lived in my house for over 20 years now. Since there’s been no need to move for extra space, or to get a lawn for non-existent kids to run around on, we’ve been very happy staying here. I love the architecture of my house – the different angles and light at different times of day. (Our house has five different levels staggered up the side of a hill.)

    I also have photographs of our travels on the wall, and some paintings and other things we’ve bought overseas, and I look at those and the memories bring me joy. And the views out the window are lovely, especially now that we finally finished our deck a year ago and I don’t look outside and cringe anymore.

    I would modernise our house a little if we could afford it, but much of what we have I would buy again.

    1. Your house sounds absolutely lovely. I’m glad you like it so much that would probably make it look that way again. I understand the desire to modernize, my house is VERY old and I am always wishing we could do more to modernize it but I don’t think it’s infrastructure can handle what we want to do. Oh well. It is what it is and we certainly can’t afford anything else in this city.

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