Letting Go with Normcore Decorating

Most everyone has heard of normcore by now – the new, minimal fashion movement that has hip art history majors dressing like Mid-western dads, prioritizing comfort and simplicity over brand and style. Under the rules of normcore, comfortable sneakers, mom-jeans and Hanes t-shirts are fair game for a night out. New York Magazine describes the essence of this new fashion trend like this:

“Normcore isn’t about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it’s about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new.”

For a long time (the past three weeks), the word “normcore” was nothing to me but a fun buzz word to throw around every time I saw someone’s pants ride up revealing chunky, white tube socks or my baby niece wearing a non-descript onesie. Then, I went to Staples for printer ink… and left with a new computer desk and chair. That was the day I realized that normcore isn’t just a joke about clothing; it can also be a cost-effective mentality for decorating an apartment when all the houzz.com browsing in the world can’t make you an interior designer.

You see, late last year, I bought my first new couch and it made me start to wonder if I should be a design person. Sure, I’d owned couches before – but I’d only owned them about as much as you can own, say, a piece of gum your college roommate borrowed from their parent’s basement, chewed up, put back in the wrapper and then left at your apartment when they moved out. This was my first brand new couch. I was the first person to sit on it while eating guacamole and watching Law and Order and that was pretty special to me. This couch quickly became my new baby and I felt pressure, as any mother would, to decorate its nursery (my apartment) in a way that would optimize its potential over the years.

The only problem was that I have never had that coveted “eye for design.” It’s just never been my thing. I like looking at well-decorated apartments and I like to imagine wrapping myself in a robe within those apartments while reading the Sunday paper and drinking a cup of fresh coffee. But for some reason, the gap between my appreciation for nice décor and my ability to achieve it is just too wide. After I got my couch, I did everything I could to close that gap. I signed up for Pinterest and Houzz. I scanned design blogs in one browser while scrolling through the store catalogs, where the featured furniture and accessories had come from, in another. I picked the brains of naturally design-savvy friends endlessly. In the interest of my budget, I even tried to hunt down finds at thrift shops and said things like, “If I just reupholster that, it could work!”

I bought a few things but they never quite looked the way I’d imagined once I got them home, mostly because I was optimistically imagining my apartment was a few key pieces away from being featured in the pages of Dwell magazine. I was frustrated. When you become a mother (of a couch), isn’t a maternal instinct (an eye for throw pillows) supposed to automatically kick in?! I tried to paint, but after 3 coats of primer I got bored and wanted to do other things with my time. I promised my walls I’d come back with a beautiful shade of eggshell but never did. Little did my walls know, I’d peaked around the corner into a room of my apartment that someone had haphazardly painted two different shades of dark blue, including the ceiling, and said to myself, “oh hell no, I am not fixing that.” Overwhelmed, I abandoned painting all together. Sometimes renters just have to play the hand they are dealt, you know?

It turns out, I wasn’t just sub-par at achieving the designer “look,” I also didn’t have the dedication.

And that brings me to my trip to Staples. As I said, at the time I was on the market for printer ink, but not a desk or chair – at least not from Staples. My brand new couch had gone right to my head. I had started to search for a beautiful wood desk a few weeks prior, well away from the fluorescent lights of Staples – one I hoped would capture my personality and illicit the envy of Dwell readers from the coast to coast. It was the Staples price tag that first caught my eye – an affordable “L” shaped desk that could actually fit in my tiny home office. It wasn’t a super chic looking desk, more like something you’d see in an office during the ‘90s with a guy in pleated khaki’s leaning against it, but it was affordable, sturdy and just my size. I then spotted a well-priced desk chair that the man in pleated khakis would have been over the moon for! It was chunky and comfortable and hey – why not? I pulled the trigger on both items at Staples that day and went home to engage in the one phase of decorating that seems to suit me – assembly. Something about decoding those directions and cranking those L wrenches makes my heart sing!

Once the desk was set up and my new chair was in place, I took a step back and examined my new office. I could see my couch winking at me from the living room, knowing that mommy had found her happy place. In my apartment, there are spots on my walls where the primer isn’t completely covering the paint beneath it. All the “wood” furniture in my apartment does not match, as it has been willed to me from former residents, and there are plastic bins stacked in a few corners due to my lack of closet space. Sure, my apartment doesn’t look like a magazine spread – but it does look comfortable, clean and functional. Labeling my style “normcore” allowed me to let go, close my home décor browsers and finally spend my time doing things I actually enjoy – like putting together fun, leopard-print centric outfits for a night out with my friends. And isn’t that what normcore is truly about?

Featured image via ShutterStock

Filed Under