Aspen Princess: Bringing home a personal sense of design | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: Bringing home a personal sense of design

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

I thought I was going to be so good at interior design, but it turns out I totally suck at it.

I'm almost as obsessed with home improvement shows as I am with cooking shows. We watch it all, from "Property Brothers" and "Treehouse Masters" to "Tiny Home, Big Living." If there was an equivalent term for home design lovers as there is for "foodies" (homies?) I would be it.

I love to pour over home design magazines, donning red framed reading glasses to get me in the creative mood. I'll curl up in the corner of my modern faux suede sectional (another bad design choice, come to think of it) in my pajamas and shearling slippers with leopard print, sipping tea and drooling over luxury kitchens and the kind of yummy, custom made furniture I could never afford or even have access to.

Sometimes I get to write about design for my assignments with local magazines. Just yesterday I was in one of Aspen's showcase homes where I told the owner (no joke) that her chocolate brown leather sofa looked good enough to eat. "It looks like a huge piece of cake," is what I said. She laughed politely and let the comment go.

I can spend hours looking at design photos on Pinterest and Houzz.com, and follow @Dwell on Instagram, trying to discern what I would do if I had a couple hundred thousand dollars to kill, like if I lived on the edge of a cliff in Australia or deep in a forest outside of Amsterdam. I have idea books up the wazoo and have gone so far as to fill up shopping carts at sites like Joybird and Joss & Main that I never actually go so far as to pay for, so I'm literally stalked by these companies who send me emails that say, "Wait! You forgot something" and appear all over my social media newsfeed like splattered blood on a crime scene.

So now that I actually have a real, live house in a valley so stunningly beautiful that I often catch my breath. Every morning when I drove down the valley as the sun sparkles off the river and the narrow valley feels like it folds onto itself, red rock spires and steep mountainsides and big bushy purple lilac in bloom, making the air smell delicious and sweet, I wonder how I got here.

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I always dreamed I would live in a round house in Aspen and instead ended up in a triangular house in Basalt, but it's still in the same vein of those childhood fantasies: there's nothing square about it, all funky angles and interesting spaces. Still, it's an older house that has been modified over the decades and desperately needs updating. The kitchen has these formica countertops that are supposed to look like granite — bad enough because granite is so out — but they also are green. Since the day we moved in I've been fantasizing about how to make it my own, but so far all we've done is paint.

Finally, we got some money (that's not really ours and scary as hell to tap into just because of the burden of debt that could ensue if we don't make our decisions very, very carefully). The first thing I decided to do was invest in our rental apartment, since that is the one thing that actually generates revenue.

I got paint and new light fixtures and tile backsplash. I picked out new pulls for all the cabinets and doors. I went bonkers ordering furniture and bedding and rugs and mirrors on a slew of websites that are all essentially the same: everything is marked down but it means having to assemble everything yourself from maddening instructions that mean you'll put at least one piece on backward or upside down and have to take the whole thing apart only to start all over again. It's an insult to your intelligence and feels like some kind of demented psychological profiling considering you're provided with big pictures and clear, step by step instructions and the only tool required is an Allen key.

"Remind us never to let you two put anything together ever again," Ryan said to me and his mother after our attempt to assemble an outdoor furniture set. Like, how did we start with a chair and end up with a unicorn?

But as we started putting everything into the apartment, I could see I'd made so many mistakes. I'd measured the width and height of the bathroom vanity but not the depth, so unless you wanted to use a climbing rope to get into the shower, it didn't work. The bed was too big and a little ornate, and beyond a general color scheme, what the hell was my style? Shouldn't I have stuck with something that referenced our area, like rustic modern or farmhouse industrial? Or should I have gone with the spirit of an A-Frame, midcentury modern being the obvious choice? Was the mishmash of styles I'd chosen eclectic? Transitional?

As I lay awake at night, thinking about night tables and bathroom mirrors, I had to wonder. Maybe I have no clue what I'm doing. Maybe this is why people with money spend thousands of dollars on interior designers, people who have that left-brain/right brain thing where they can look at the bigger picture and the smaller details at the same time.

I'm sure our guests won't care if the '50s style cafe table and red chairs in the kitchen don't really match the gray upholstered platform bed in the bedroom or that the clunky sectional couch is way too big for the space.

An old friend of mine once said, "Stick with what you know, Alison." I guess at the very least, I know that even if I flail trying something new, I'll always have something to write about.

The Princess has not been getting enough sleep or exercise. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

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