I get a lot of home design books to review. They flutter into my mailbox like homing pigeons to roost. Most are beautiful how-to books, which is what I expected when I got an advance copy of “Love Coming Home: Transform Your Environment Transform Your Life” coming out this week (Beyond Words, Aug. 21, 2018).
But Jennifer Adams’s new book is not a how-to. It is a how-come. And the book isn’t filled with aspirational photos, but rather with inspirational reasons.
“I’m so glad you said that,” said Adams, an interior designer, former TV home-show personality, and the force behind Home by Jennifer Adams, a successful bedding line. “I didn’t want to write a how-to. Putting together a room isn’t magic. You can follow a formula. I wanted to add the mindfulness piece.”
Her book does makes you think. The big takeaways: Looks aren’t everything, and love your home now — don’t wait.
Perhaps most inspiring is Adams’s own bootstraps story, which she shared when I caught up with her on the phone last month. Adams, 44, grew up in a tiny rural home in Oregon, where any furniture the family had either was given to them or they made. To earn money, she picked strawberries and cleaned houses. From there, she went on to launch a multimillion-dollar design and lifestyle business.
But the humble beginnings weren’t all that drove her. “I had a time when I didn’t want to go home,” said Adams. “I grew up in a strict, isolated, religious environment, where I didn’t fit in.”
Folks, I have written about this before, and I’m sorry to get all squishy and sentimental here, or to bring up a sore point, but your home should be a place that makes you feel better than anywhere else you could be.
If the people you live with don’t make you feel appreciated, loved, nurtured and secure, or if they drag you down instead of lift you up, you need to fix that first. You’ll never get that yummy, love-coming-home feeling just by getting the wall color right, or finding an area rug that falls into place — wonderful as those moments are.
Adams agrees: “You have to listen to your gut. If you don’t want to come home, figure out why. Otherwise, you miss out on a crucial part of life.”
Once she got married, she and her husband moved to Phoenix, where she still has a small office. Now, however, she calls San Diego home: “It’s where I always dreamed of living.”
Realizing your dream of what home should look and feel like is the overriding theme of “Love Coming Home,” where Adams spends the first 60 pages debunking the common excuses that stand between you and a home you love to come home to: Fear (I might fail), insecurity (others may not like it), guilt (I don’t deserve it), and other lies we tell ourselves. Then she hands you her Superwoman cape to get you through.
Adams’s book stands as an important reminder of a premise I hope I have demonstrated over the years: Any halfwit can make a home look good. Our higher calling is to also make our homes feel good. That takes real work. Here’s how Adams suggest we get there:
• Ditch the excuses. She’s heard them all: When I have more time, when I have more money, when I get my next real home. Look at what’s holding you back, then push through the roadblocks, says Adams.
“Don’t put off creating a home you love coming home to by telling yourself that the next home is the one where you’ll put in the effort.” Create your best home now.
• Forget the money. “No one has to hire a designer to get a dream look,” Adams says.
“Regardless of how modest or expensive your home, the principles are the same.”
• Look with soft eyes. When sizing up their homes, most people look with “intense eyes,” Adams says. They analyze the objects and whether they go together, rather than experience the interior. Let the room wash over you, and you’ll discover how someone else experiences your home, and get a better sense of what’s not working.
• Play to all your senses. When decorating, most people focus on the visual. But we’ve all been in visually beautiful spaces that feel unwelcoming. Touch, sound and smell all contribute to that love-coming-home feeling, she says. And these elements are not expensive to get right. When assessing a room, take it all in, the smell, sounds, textures and temperature, and work to make them harmonize.
• Practice intentional design. Ask of everything you own why you have it, and should you keep it. If the answer is “just because,” rethink it. To quote organizing phenom Marie Kondo, everything you have should spark joy. Default decorating — using something just because it’s there — fails. You should love everything in your home.
• Dream, visualize, realize. “Whether I’m working on a vision for my home, my business, my life, or my client, a vision board always plays a role,” Adams says. A board can consist of torn-out photos, sayings, fashion items, or lyrics. “As I look back on my journey, and at the transition points, I see that what got me beyond limiting beliefs and behaviors was a having a clear picture,” she says.
• Get the feelings right. Adams and I both know from experience that to have a home you love coming back to requires that you do the personal housekeeping, too.