I absolutely love Marian Parsons’ new decorating book, Feels Like Home. Read on for the rest of my review, and to find out why this is a must-read for anyone looking to make their house feel more like home.
My Love of Decorating
I’ve been in love with the idea of decorating since I was young. My mom created a wonderful example as I was growing up since she was always painting or DIYing something. And my dad still refinishes furniture better than anyone I know.
I grew up spending ages trailing after my parents in fabric stores, lumber yards, paint stores, and craft shops. While I may have complained as a child, clearly all that exposure soaked in. And so by the time I was a teenager, I was spending hours mentally planning out a dorm room from the IKEA catalogue. I also took an interior design class as a high school elective. It was so much fun playing with all sorts of samples and floor plans and designing my imaginary future house.
Then when my husband and I were starting out, we were new graduates with our first jobs. We didn’t have a lot of money to decorate the succession of apartments we lived in. Much of our furniture was from IKEA, but we quickly started investing in antique furniture. Not only was it built to last, but it provided much needed charm.
I brushed up on my sewing skills and have enjoyed being able to sew custom curtains, pillows, etc. for each of our homes. As renters, paint was an easy way to transform a space, and we added personality and function with art, hooks, shelves, etc. No matter what our budget was, I always tried to make a space feel like our own.
Settling for a House
A couple of our apartments were in older buildings with beautiful wood floors, tall ceilings, and other charming details such as pocket doors. We appreciated those details, and our love of purchasing vintage and antique pieces grew. And as we were approaching the time when we could look for a home of our own, we very much hoped that we could find a house with character.
Unfortunately, location constraints and the soaring cost of property meant that we had to greatly reduce our wish list. We ended up settling for a small suburban house that had some great features we liked, but was definitely lacking in charm. Regardless, I am so grateful for our house and the safe haven it has been for us during the pandemic. It has served as both a home and a workplace for both of us.
We definitely have a never ending list of projects we’d like to do to make the house our own. But we have already made many upgrades and improvements ranging from large (new hardwood flooring upstairs) to small (swapping out outlet covers). And I’m forever dreaming up new ideas, researching possibilities, or searching for inspiration.
You might also like: 7 Best Reasons to Buy Vintage Decor or Teal, Turquoise and Aqua: Decorating with Blue-Green
Finding Decor Inspiration That’s Not Relatable
There is a lot of decorating inspiration to find if you’re looking for it. When we were starting out, I relied heavily on books and magazines from the library. I bought many decorating magazines and I still have a file of pages and clippings I’ve saved from years ago. We also watched a steady stream of design and reno shows on HGTV.
A few years later, Pinterest really exploded and it was so exciting to be able to virtually “pin” and save images to come back to for inspiration. And now we have social media such as the carefully curated images on Instagram.
But lately I’ve been frustrated with almost all of those sources of design inspiration. Most decorating books that I’ve read are full of all sorts of rules: decorate in 3s, don’t mix woods, make sure your curtains touch the floor! They can make decorating feel intimidating and rather like a complex math problem that needs to be solved. While there is value in these rules (such as what’s the proper height to hang a sconce?), they’re not the only important thing.
As well, most books, magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram are full of images that are aspirational. But they’re not very relatable to the average person living in an ordinary 1980s or new construction home. They are often grand spaces, decorated with even grander budgets by professional designers. It can be quite discouraging when you’re home doesn’t compare and you don’t know where to begin. Or when you know you’re unlikely to have – or even want to have – a home like that.
That’s why I’ve always avoided investing in home decor books, and I have stopped purchasing magazines for the most part. I occasionally check them out from the library and give them a quick flip through, photograph the odd page for inspiration, and return them. I don’t know if I’ve ever read one cover to cover.
Miss Mustard Seed – Blog Inspiration
Then one day, I was researching something, and I stumbled across the blog, Miss Mustard Seed, written by Marian Parsons. That led me to her free oil painting classes that she had been teaching online during the pandemic. I fell in love with her painting style and set out to learn how to paint from her classes.
Since then, I’ve been following Marian on her blog and on Instagram. While Marian’s personal style is not completely the same as my own, there are many similarities, including incorporating antiques and handmade items. I also admire Marian as a successful female entrepreneur, and how she’s game for trying new creative pursuits.
On her blog, she offers many tutorials and helpful tips. And while she’s clearly at a different stage in her decorating and business journey than I am, her style and situation feel relatable.
As I followed along, Marian began to share that she was working on a book, and it launched this past fall. Knowing that Marian’s style and approach feels attainable to me, I asked for her book as a Christmas gift, sight unseen. For someone who’s never bought a home decor book, or read one cover to cover before, it felt like a risk. But this book is different, as I was pleased to discover when I excitedly starting reading it on Christmas afternoon.
Then last week, our power went out for several hours and our house got very chilly. Since I couldn’t work on blog posts on my computer, I sat down to finish reading Feels Like Home in preparation for this review. After a while, the temperature had dropped so much that we turned on our gas fireplace. Oliver and I ended up huddled directly in front of the fire. My husband snapped a photo of us while I was reading.
Feels Like Home Gives Achievable Advice
Feels Like Home: Transforming Your Space from Uninspiring to Uniquely Yours, by Marian Parsons, is not just another decor book full of rules, or rooms in mansions decorated with overly large budgets. It’s not written by a magazine editor, or a famous designer, or someone who’s studied interior design.
It’s written by Marian: a mother, wife, entrepreneur, artist, antiques lover, and decorator of her own suburban home on a budget. Marian is like so many of us in that her charmless house was not exactly the house of her dreams. But she’s managed to transform it into a charming space nonetheless. And that space feels homey, and personalized to her tastes and for her family.
Marian infuses warmth and humour into her writing, often in a very conversational way. She shares her own thoughts, feelings, and doubts which are absolutely relatable. And then she goes on to encourage, guide, inspire, and provide advice from her own experience.
Almost everything in the book feels totally attainable, achievable, and actionable, while also feeling like something to aspire to. There are even before photos included in the back of the book to illustrate that her home was previously very beige, basic, and boxy. Just like my own, and probably yours too!
Not Just Restricted to Marian’s Personal Style
Marian has a very distinctive decorating style with French blues, greens, and lots of warm white. She also incorporates many warm-wood antiques, as well as collected and handmade items. She features her own home extensively, as well as a few other homes with a similar vintage feel. Readers who appreciate this particular style will undoubtedly get more from the inspiration photos. However, the photos serve to illustrate the important points Marian makes in the writing.
When you delve into the text, you’ll find solid advice and tips to help you transform your space with your own personal style. The goal is never to recreate the style of Marian’s home. And if you don’t yet know what your style is, or what “home” looks or feels like to you, Marian holds your hand and guides you toward finding it.
In Feels Like Home, you won’t find examples and definitions of different types of decorating styles. Nor are you encouraged to style your home to fit any particular style label. Rather, you are taught how to find a style all your own, and to choose things that you love and will work for your needs and with your house.
Home is a Feeling, Decorating Takes Practice
Throughout the book, Marian introduces many thinking and observing “assignments”. These include examining your own home, what it has going for it, how to work with your home, and how to determine what home feels like to you. That feeling of home is not just about aesthetics though. It’s also about feelings and how you want to live and create memories in your house.
The “assignments” progress throughout the book to lead a nervous beginner through playing with and selecting colours, fabrics, furniture layouts, trim, etc. And Marian believes that learning to decorate is a skill we can practice and improve at over time. I so appreciate that concept, as well as the list of ways to “practice” that Marian also shares.
Helpful Tutorials, and Customizing Rooms
You’ll also find full tutorials for several projects in Feels Like Home, including things such as painting a wall mural, installing paneling, or painting furniture. While many of these projects lend themselves well to Marian’s personal style, they are useful skills that you can translate and incorporate into many styles and spaces.
A large portion of the book walks through each type of room and includes ideas for how to customize them. It’s not just the main living spaces that get all the glory. You’ll also find tips to add your own style to foyers, stairways, laundry rooms, etc. Marian even teaches about the importance of doorways as a view to other rooms.
The book is just loaded with useful information such how to create a personalized style. Marian teaches how to play with colour, layer fabrics and patterns, choose furniture and decorative objects for a room, and so much more. It is helpful to read it from beginning to end because the information builds from learning about design concepts all the way through adding finishing touches to a room. But it’s also a useful manual to return to again and again as you need it.
Defining My Own Definition of What Feels Like Home
One of the most useful assignments in the book is to create a living mood board. Essentially, it goes beyond just pictures or 2D things such as paint chips and incorporates tactile and 3D objects.
Marian uses examples of her own living mood boards throughout the book. I was very inspired by them, and I grabbed some things and start playing around.
I do like to play with objects, fabrics, and paint swatches to get a sense of how a room will come together. Often when I get home with a new purchase, I will gather several items together. Then I can quickly see if the new vintage item or fabric will be a good fit for my room.
I decided to try one or two living mood boards pulled together just for fun. One is not for a whole room. Rather, it’s for a peg rail/shelf that I want to build above my office/art desk. I pulled a variety of objects I want to display on the shelf or hanging from the oversized knobs.
The other is a grouping of items I grabbed from our bedroom to demonstrate the vibe I am going for in there. I definitely want a mix of neutral and colour.
I would say that if I was asked to define what feels like home to me, it would be cozy neutrals with lots of colour (especially blue-greens and warmer pops of colour). It would also include collected vintage items, lots of books, many quilts, and of course include my family.
Feels Like Home is a Must-Read
Feels Like Home by Marian Parsons is a must-read for anyone trying to turn their less-than-inspiring house into a home with personalized style. And Marian is your slightly-more-experienced friend – who is still relatable – that’s helping to guide you, and cheering you on. You will finish reading this book full of inspiration, brimming with newfound confidence, and armed with activities and tools to get started.
As an added bonus, the book is beautiful and feels wonderful. The cover has a great texture to it, and the pages feel nice. It’s packed with gorgeous photographs, and easy to read text.
This is one home decor book that I’m happy to own, read cover to cover, and refer back to. But I don’t know where to shelve it since I don’t own any other home decor books. So for now I put it on the shelf with my art books.
Where to Find Feels Like Home
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Read my disclosure for more information.
Feels Like Home should be widely available in bookstores everywhere. Do check to see if your local bookstores carry it. You can also find it at Amazon.
Feels Like Home for Home Decor Inspiration
I want to hear from you. What’s one of your favourite resources for home decor advice or inspiration? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
This book has been on my list for a while. Do you think it would be useful for the process of building a house, too?
That’s a great question Holly! Hmm . . . The main idea of the book is taking a house that’s maybe not your ideal house and turning it into something that feels like home, and discovering what that is. However, there’s a lot of great advice about discovering your style and what feels like home to you, and learning how to decorate and create that feeling. And I think that you could apply a lot of it to decorating a house that you build as well, even if you’re already starting from a more custom starting point. Hope that helps 🙂
I’ve always been a bit confused by mood boards. It looks like this book has a great explanation! Thank you for the book review! 🙂
Meggie Farmer says
Oh wow! This is definitely going on my purchase list! Thank you for your thoughtful overview! I can’t wait to read it myself! 🙂
You’re welcome Meggie! You will definitely enjoy it!!