Oops! My Décor Mistake, Fixed

Photos by Sarah Elliott

design mistake_athena calderone bookshelf

Even as a designer, mistakes are made. Call it poor judgment or simply being swooned by a current trend. This has never been more apparent than when I look back to how I styled the shelving in my Amagansett beach house years ago. Yes, the reclaimed movement was in full force (and I did find a multitude of salvaged oddities everywhere from the Brooklyn Flea to Brimfield) but while many of these items were indeed treasures, it is true that too much of one thing is never a good idea. Reclaimed shelving on top of salvaged industrial items on top of rustic findings from the natural world on top of patina—it was just too much. A design mistake I’m willing to admit.

I did not follow two cardinal rules of design—less is more and contrast and juxtaposition are far more interesting than anything one-note.

The image featured above is the most recent styling of my Amagansett bookshelves. See below for the original look (left) with a refresh mid-way (right).

Oops! My Decor Mistake, Fixed {The Before}| EyeSwoon
Oops! My Decor Mistake, Fixed | EyeSwoon | Photo by Sarah Elliott

The before and after photos above show the big difference a little rearranging can make. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary for me to simply do away with what I had in order to fix the problem. In fact, you will see that many of the items on display all those years ago are not that much different from the ones featured now. Instead, they’re incorporated in an updated way. The composition is streamlined and natural items are paired with something a touch more elegant to draw the eye in. Metals and natural materials are mixed with handmade ceramics and the look is slightly offset by the character and time-worn patina of the vintage pieces.

There are a couple of lessons here:

One is to continue to collect objects over time but to play around and rotate them in your home. Your story changes over time, so let your home be a reflection of that. I can spend hours upon hours restyling my home—just like fashion, it is a place of self-expression. It will continue to change and grow. I will always be adding and editing.

And that brings us to the second lesson—the look is all in the edit. Coco Chanel said it best: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The same can be said for your home—and clearly, my shelving!

What’s a design mistake you’ve made and learned from? Share it with us on Instagram and tag @eyeswoon

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