I used to think that home decorating was easy - just buy stuff that looks nice together and put it together. I have since been humbled from that perspective, given that good home decor is an altogether different talent, and a skill that is far more difficult to develop than one might think.
Despite living in a place that is far more chic, modern, and urban than any other I've lived in before, I still cannot make any of my rooms look like a room from Martha Stewart Living. I'm lucky that I don't have clashing colour combinations, but that's about it. It was humbling to walk into our neighbour's place and see that even he, a single man living in a bachelor suite with a Murphy bed, could make his place look more posh than ours. He obviously has an eye for design that I am desperately lacking.
Truth is, I think I know why I'm not able to (or willing to) class up my home the way that those places featured in home magazines can. In a nutshell, there are 3 reasons:
1. Money - To decorate well takes a great expense, and most of the coolest furniture in the city cannot be found at IKEA or the Brick. The places that do carry the unique funky furnishings usually offer these up at ridiculously high prices. We of humble stock do not dare to drop $400 on a stool or $250 on a piece of decorative wall art that serves no purpose. My peasant-classed, lower-middle-class roots forbid me from ever making such purchases, even if I had an unlimited amount of cashola to spend.
2. Function vs. Fashion - I'm Chinese. I am genetically programmed to be practical, and possibly a little bit cheap. My home, as an expression of my efficient and practical nature, is set up so that I can be at my most productive in the least amount of time at any given point in time. This means that pots are not discreetly hidden away in cupboards; they are on the stove, where they will be easily accessed for quick and immediate use. Likewise with the rice cooker, the salt & pepper shakers, the grill, and the kettle. To put these things away would mean it would take precious extra minutes locating and retrieving these items on a daily basis.
The gloriously-fashioned rooms featured in home magazines are not very comfortable to live in either, I would imagine. Their TV remotes and Wii's are tucked away inconveniently while some giant display vase or centerpiece features prominently on the "use-a-coaster-or-it-will-stain" coffee table. How could someone as anal as I am possibly live in such a place?!? I really couldn't, which is why my place looks a little bit messy, a little bit cluttered, and very much "lived in." At least I don't have to worry constantly about someone accidentally breaking an expensive crystal vase or knocking over my art-deco plate of gold balls.
3. Time - This ties in with the practicality element, really. To maintain the appearance of pristine home-as-art designing takes a lot of time. It takes time to find the great pieces that go together, and time to hang them up. It takes time to care for these pieces, and to clean them. It also takes a lot of time to return things to their original states of poshness following any kind of social event or even just any kind of human activity, like sleeping. I confess - I don't make my bed every day, and even when I do, sometimes I don't do it well, since that would take time. If I had to put away my alarm clock and the Nintendo DS that lulls me to sleep every morning, a further few minutes might be added to the day that could otherwise be spent elsewhere. I'm almost totally convinced that unless one lives alone and is never home or is retired and has tons of spare time, the residents/owners of well-decorated homes probably have hired help to assist in maintaining the look of their places. The rest of us that work simply do not have the time or energy to invest in all of the little details that make for effective, fancy home decor.
So, in essence, I will simply have to settle with my humble surroundings and the even more humble decor that I've chosen for it. I must resign myself to the cruel reality that I will never be like Martha Stewart and my home will never be featured in any home magazines. I suppose I can live with that, though. In the big picture of life, there are far more important things for me to focus my money and my time on.