WHIMSICAL /’hwimzikəl/: THE QUALITY OF BEING SLIGHTLY ODD OR PLAYFULLY HUMOROUS,
ESPECIALLY IN AN ENDEARING WAY.
S. and I have lived in our current home for just over two years now, and though there is still work to do including a major kitchen over-haul, I am happy with the decorating choices I have made so far. I really should say “we” here because S. has offered just the right amount of discreet input one could expect from any hubby, while also being the arm power behind the many room re-arrangements with minimal grumbling. This is our first house as a couple, and transitioning from dorm rooms and small apartments to a full sized house has been challenging, liberating, and instructional.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on creating that layered, collected look so many interior decorators discuss at length. For me this means incorporating personal mementos and objects collected over the years with more adult furniture and a less frills more gender neutral style. Sometimes this combination creates odd juxtapositions, but I am learning to embrace these quirks as a way of adding personality and whimsy to our home.
WHIMSY, now there is a word we don’t use much beyond descriptions of playrooms and references to children’s literature. But I think incorporating playful, slightly odd elements into your home décor is the perfect way to brighten your house and reflect your personality. Plus this décor has major conversation starting potential. More and more I find myself using childhood mementos and items inherited from the family to add a sense of humor to my interior style. Yes, I want my home to look pulled together and chic, but I also want it to echo my love of witty words and the absurdities of life.
Tips for Adding Whimsy to Your Home
- INCORPORATE ANIMALS– It is hard to deny that the animal kingdom is full of funny, cute, and whimsical inspiration. The annuals of interior decoration are littered with animal tchotchkes not to mention the myriad of patterns out there that mimic animal skin, fur, or feathers. Just take my retriever bookends above that I inherited/confiscated from my mother; there is something elegant about them certainly, but when it comes down to it they are gilded dog heads. When I look at them I can’t help but smile and enjoy the quaint absurdity of them holding up my Austen and Fitzgerald.
- PLAY WITH FUNKY PATTERNS AND UNCOMMON TEXTURES– There is something so arresting about entering a home where unusual patterns and textures are used and mixed together; they add visual and sensual complexity to a home. Stripes and florals are classic, but don’t be afraid to experiment with a bright ikat, charming toile, or sequins. Branch out from fabrics as well; patterned wallpaper is all the rage. Two words: polka dots.
- USE RE-PURPOSED OBJECTS– I always get a chuckle from seeing an object put to an entirely unintended purpose. Not only does it show creativity and ingenuity, but it also affords an opportunity to make a witty pun, save some money, and/or up-cycle something that otherwise might just get thrown away. Try the industrial made domestic, the antique made new, or the utilitarian made object d’art.
- ADD JUST A HINT OF AN OUTRAGEOUS COLOR– Not many people enjoy starring at neon walls or a room doused in bubblegum pink, but bright, unexpected colors like this in small doses often make a space. They seem daring and playful in a chic way when used sparingly.
- FRAME IT: Take that witticism and try your hand at calligraphy then mat and frame it for a whimsical art piece. If you are not into DIY, there are tons of prints out there. Check out: Stephanie Creekmur, Amanda Catherine Designs, Pearls and Pastries, and Paperchat.
- HIGHLIGHT ANOMALIES– Often the anomalies in our homes happen by mistake. We don’t know what to do with that ceramic churn our great grandmother left us, so it ends up as an umbrella stand. Deviate from the norm intentionally: bring an outdoor sculpture inside, pair a streamlined Lucite table with a curvaceous Victorian mirror, showcase a distinctive collection like the pineapples below, or create a bouquet out of unusual materials (cotton, feathers…).
- EXPERIMENT WITH ODD SHAPES– An oversized chandelier or amorphous foot stool will definitely add visual interest and humor.
- GO OVERBOARD– An excess of whimsy in one room looks careless. In the end, these elements will overpower the room and either neutralize the charmingly witty effect you intended or give the impression of eccentricity.
- USE ON EXPENSIVE, PERMANENT FIXTURES– Chances are you won’t be able to change these elements easily, and then re-decorating or seasonal transformations become more difficult.
- FORGET THAT THE HUMOR IN WHIMSICAL SHOULD BE ENDEARING– Vulgarity, cuss words, rudeness, and slurs are not endearing. Jokes are not universally funny; something you find hilarious may in fact give offensive to others, which could cause some significant hiccups when entertaining. No one wants to break the cardinal rule of hospitality and make a guest feel unwelcome.
It takes time to develop whimsical touches in your home décor, so don’t try to rush the process. Most importantly, go with your gut and trust your sense of humor. If you pick something that makes you giggle, the space you create will be more enjoyable and a better reflection of you and your family.