Joanna Gaines’ philosophy in Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave is that we shouldn’t decorate just to fit everything within a certain style. Rather, our homes should be reflections of the needs and personalities of those who live there.
Throughout this book, you’ll notice a theme of “telling your story” within your home. What I mean is that I want you to approach the design of your home with intention, to surround yourself with items that mean something to you, and choose furnishings and details that make you happy or inspired or content (p. 8).
Intentionality with a dose of creativity goes much further than money and flawless taste when it comes to making a house a home (p. 9).
The book is laid out simply and practically. First Joanna discusses some introductory thoughts. Then she gives a brief description of several styles: farmhouse, modern, rustic, industrial, traditional, and boho. In a sense these are all modern styles, or modern interpretations.
Then Joanna gives even more brief summaries of each of the homes she’ll be sharing pictures of. I noticed that all of them are a blend of two or three styles: no one decorated everywhere in a house within any one style. Of that eclectic tendency, Joanna says, “I believe that a gathered approach is essential to creating spaces that are a true representation of you and the people who share your home” (p. 13).
Then a chapter is devoted to each room in the house. First Joanna shares thoughts on how her philosophy of design for each room developed over the years. Then she lists what to consider in each room (how it will be used, special considerations, etc.), shows several pictures from a various homes and comments on salient points, and finishes with a couple of pages about troubleshooting the particular design issues in each room. In addition to the usual rooms (living room, kitchen, etc.), she has a chapter devoted to entryways, kid spaces, “rooms to retreat,” and utility spaces.
She mentions that utility spaces (laundry, pantry, etc.) are often neglected, but since we spend so much time in them, it pays to brighten them up a bit. I can testify to that. This is the first house we’ve lived in where there was a nice laundry room, and the first time I’ve put a bit of art on the walls (nothing expensive: a cross-stitched picture my sister made, a framed calendar page, a Hobby Lobby clearance piece, etc.). It makes a lot of difference to have that area pleasant to be in.
I also liked her thought that in kids’ rooms, “Rather than focusing on literal interpretations of a theme, decor and furnishings are incorporated in a way that will age with the children” (p. 249). In one example, a little girl loved rainbows. But instead of painting an actual rainbow on the wall, a rainbow effect was suggested by a gradation of soft colors on the walls and a wall hanging. (My own personal thought here: there’s nothing wrong with painting an actual rainbow or whatever if a child wants that. It’s likely the room will need to be painted again or her tastes will change sometime before she moves out, anyway. But I did like this idea of the effect of something rather than a literal interpretation.)
A few other quotes:
[Though] what’s on the inside matters most…tending to the outside has a pretty profound effect on how we feel on the inside (p. 33).
Functionality doesn’t need to be sacrificed to make a space feel inviting (p. 35).
I realized that I had let the pursuit of perfection inform how I designed this space instead of the people who were actually supposed to be enjoying life in it (p. 55).
The book ends with a design template and suggestions for the process of how to design a particular room.
We don’t watch too many HGTV shows as we don’t get that channel, and watching it online can be a little wonky (sometimes we’re limited in what we can see). But of the few shows we have watched, I like Joanna’s style and touch the best. Yet, her style is not my style. What seems clean and minimal to her seems a little barren to me. I don’t like the horizontal lines of shiplap and subway tiles. I cringe at the thought of open shelving (I fight dust even in closed cabinets: I can’t fathom adding dusting open shelving to my regular tasks). I got tired of the mostly black and white palette in the book’s illustrations. But that’s ok, because she’s not advocating that everyone follow her style. Her main point is that every home will look different as it’s adapted to its occupants. I love her philosophy and many of the practical tips she shared. All in all, I enjoyed the book very much.