Secrets of Long Distance Decorating

When I first moved to New York, my roommates and I “decorated” our apartment with a red Overstock couch, IKEA tables, and mattresses on the floor. We didn’t have money to spare on the fun stuff (we were starving artists), so we took care of the basics and said “good enough.”

As I’ve mentioned many times before my mom lives in North Carolina and I live in New York City.

When she first came to visit me, I think the decorator (and parent) in her realized how dire our circumstances were and she kindly took pity on us by helping me to acquire a few key pieces that filled some gaping holes in our living room, and expertly DIY-ing some artwork for our desperately bare walls.

She’d always helped me decorate my homes away from home before, but this was the first time the home wasn’t entirely temporary and I was on a tight budget.

Due to a combination of restraints: renting, limited space, no car, low cash flow, and a desperate desire to nest; my Mom and I were forced to creatively invent our process of long distance decorating and NYC DIY. I really have her to thank for getting me started in my decorating adventures. I’ve learned so much from her. We make a great team.

As Mom and I begin our next big project (the nursery!) the number of texts and phone calls regarding fabrics, furniture, and design ideas have me giggling. Poor Dad! Whenever he answers the phone he just hands it straight over to Mom because he knows we are continuing an ongoing conversation about our projects.

I’m getting ready to head home to NC for a week-long visit and although I won’t be blogging while I’m away, I will be working hard on DIY projects that I can’t wait to share with you when I get back!

I realized that the prep work for my trip to North Carolina is pretty interesting and you might be interested to hear the details of how Mom and I “Long Distance Decorate” together.

There are four main components to our process:

  1. Smartphone Shopping Buddy
  2. Photo Sharing – for purchases, ideas, successes, and answering tough questions when only a photo will do.
  3. Pinterest (shared boards)
  4. (MOST IMPORTANTLY!!) Paint Chip Color Matching

1. Smartphone Shopping Buddy

How did we ever survive without being able to share photos in an instant?!

Mom has saved me from many an impulse buy, with the help of sending a photo her way. Does this fit? Do you like this color on me? Is this jacket classic enough to last the number of seasons necessary to justify its enormous price tag? (You know that I mean!)

We end up shopping for home decor “together” in exactly the same way.

Our text messages are filled with photos like these:

  • Accompanied by:
    • “Do you like this?”
    • “See the price…”
    • “Is this cute?”
    • “Can we make something like this?”
    • “What about these together?”


IMG_1695a IMG_1435a IMG_1431a IMG_1868a IMG_5017a





2. Photo Sharing: for purchases, ideas, successes, and answering tough questions when only a photo will do.

A photo gets shared for a few reasons:

  • Mom or I are never really sure if our NC projects are going to work/match as well as we hoped until I get it back to my apartment.
  • Online purchases arrive after we consulted about it, and we want to share the excitement.
  • Asking and answering questions that require a photo…you’ll see.

For instance:

Since we both own this blue votive. I used it to help Mom understand the color of my new rug. IMG_0142a

A photo to celebrate our Long Distance Color Matching success.

Asking Mom if she thinks sliding doors like these would work for my closets.


Mom, this is how much fabric I have left. (See laptop for size reference).


It arrived! Isn’t it pretty? Now that it’s a boy…It was expensive, should I return it?


This is a preview of how the two rugs will look next to each other.


Our greens match!


And last (but certainly not least):

See, I turned off the power before touching the wires for the light fixture. Now may I proceed in replacing my light fixture?


Some of these are really silly, but they are all part of our process.

3. Pinterest Shared Boards

This one shouldn’t come as a shock, since I mention using Pinterest as inspiration regularly. Mom and I have a few shared boards (some private, some public). Here we can share a common vision and understanding of the overall feel of the room, as well as bookmark our favorite ideas as we compile a huge collection of inspiration for a teeny tiny room.

4. Paint Chip Color Matching

This is BY FAR, the most useful technique that we use in our Long Distance Decorating.

The moment my husband and I picked out the paint colors for our apartment, my mom headed out to Home Depot to get matching paint chips to keep in her purse. These paint swatches have come in handy time and time again!

Not only are they FREE, they are also lightweight, and an excellent decision-making tool when contemplating a piece of art, fabric, or accent piece for your home.

By referencing the original 3 paint colors for our home every time we consider adding a new fabric or painting a new piece of furniture, we have been able to give the apartment a cohesive feeling with a natural flow from room to room. This is especially important in a small NYC apartment. It keeps the space from feeling too busy or broken up.

As the apartment grew from its original 3 wall colors, Mom and I used our Paint Chip Color Matching technique to add to our palette.


Behr Rocky Mountain Sky

Behr Rocky Mountain Sky

Behr English Channel

Behr English Channel

Behr Palm Breeze

Behr Palm Breeze

GREY CHAIR UPHOLSTERY: (a combo – no perfect paint chip)


Behr – Silver Screen

Behr - Gentle Rain

Behr – Gentle Rain

When objects are too large to bring to the store to match a paint chip, we either grab as many paint chips as we think might cover the possibilities or try to find matching smaller objects to bring to the store. We all know how colors can change depending on lighting and cameras, it’s much safer to have a tangible object or two for in-store reference.

The oddity of this task (that had me standing with the weirdest collection of objects at Home Depot at 9:30am), ended up inspiring the whole blog post for today:

Color Matching at Home Depot:


Mom and I needed to know the exact colors we were working with for the new rug (which will most likely anchor the nursery). Luckily, I had a swatch of fabric that matched two of the colors perfectly! The turquoise/teal was the toughest to match. In fact I had three objects (push pins, a measuring cup, and a t-shirt) that I brought along to make sure I had a mixture of the right hues.

Since I’m not crazy about the exact hue of some of the rug colors, I also brought along inspiration to pick out coordinating shades (specifically greens) that I’d rather incorporate into the room. I’m hoping they will pull the rug in a fresher/lighter green direction.

I also brought home a Behr White and Light Collection paint chip book of about 66 shades (since whites/creams are SO tough to pin-point). This resource has already come in handy for two projects since it’s been home with me for 3 hours. This is a great resource.

Luckily, the inspirational greens I chose matched other greens already in my apartment. Hooray!!!


Now that I was home, it was time to see how well my swatches matched the actual object…the rug. I was nervous. I didn’t have time for another trip to Home Depot today.


I’d say it looks pretty good! The teal is a bit off, but we can see that it’s a little muddier – and we might not bring teal into the room in a big way anyway.

Then the confirmation from Mom left me bursting with pride.


Even if I wasn’t heading home today, Mom and I could share the paint names and she could pick up free matching reference paint chips for herself at Home Depot.

This little system has worked out well for us long distance, but it comes in handy for anyone out shopping who sees something they really like. Without having to drag it home, you can reference your paint chips and know whether or not it will work in your space. Best of all, there is no need to go through the hassle of returning it (and chance picking up something ELSE you don’t need…I’m guilty of this!).

Now I have to finish laundry and start packing!

Can’t wait to share all the North Carolina adventures soon!