Decorating After Divorce

Decorating pros discuss nesting, the second time around.

Posted by Linda Merrill | Feb 24, 2011
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bouts/stock.xchngSeveral years ago, I attended a talk given by Dominique Browning, then editor-in-chief of the now defunct “House and Garden Magazine.” Ms. Browning openly discussed her life after the end of her marriage. This major player in the home design industry spent so long in a period of stasis (pajamas, mattress on the floor of an empty bedroom) that her home was nearly falling apart around her.

In her 2003 book, “Around the House and Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing and Home Improvement” (Scribner), Ms. Browning writes, “Houses are patient with grief, I’ve noticed. They become careworn effortlessly. I knew I wouldn’t let the old house fall down around my ears. But for a long time all was still. Even if we’re not flapping about with mates and chicks and all the little wormy things of life, we are still nesting. We give ourselves shelter. Our work may be harder, but it is no less loving for being done alone”. 

Interior designer Rebecca Wilson of RW Interiors recently designed a condo for a newly divorced professional father.  Says Wilson, “My client wanted a home that was comfortable for him alone but also for his daughters, who spent part of every week with him; masculine but not overly so.  He wanted to be able to invite his friends over, but also for his girls to hang out with him instead of always heading for their bedrooms.  He was looking for a casual, comfortable elegance overall and a home where he could relax and regenerate after his busy work life.”

Rebecca offers these tips for single men, based on her experience working with this client and several others:

  • Make your home warm and hospitable to friends and family by thinking about what will make them feel at home.
  • Create conversation areas with your furniture and pay attention to balance in the room when placing your furniture.
  • Hang a mirror in your entryway so people can check their appearance going in and out.
  • Do some exploring of galleries and artists' open studios to find art that you love and hang it on your walls.  It's details like this that make a house a home.
  • Even in the TV room, if there's a fireplace or other area of particular architectural or artistic interest, don't ignore it when arranging your furniture.
  • While you don't want clutter, a few pillows on the sofa and family photos on a table and maybe some books you love add personality to the space and bring it to life.

This is all great advice for men and women alike. I would add that it’s important to remember that when you are embarking on a new life (whether or not it was your idea), making substantive changes will ultimately help the transition.

Change is Good

If you’re still using furnishings from the married home, and especially if you’re still in the house itself, change things up by moving around the furniture or even changing the room configurations. You might turn the old formal dining room into a home office, art studio or game room. A new coat of paint will really freshen up the space, and provides a use for old sheets: use as drop cloths and buy yourself a new set of linens. If you inherited the marital bed, replace it with a new one of a different size and style.    

Furnishing When You’re Short on Cash

If you’re starting from scratch in a new house or apartment, make it a point to create a functional and comfortable space in each room. Even if you cannot afford to fully outfit the new house right away, you can focus on completing the important areas of each room: a decent kitchen table and chairs, a comfortable and attractive sofa and coffee table, and a well-made bed with two bedside tables and lamps are a great first step. And who knows, while you’re re-making your house, you may just find the home of your dreams.

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