Perfecting the Midwest Apartment Aesthetic

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A spacious living room filled with Midwest home decor.

It’s an eerie feeling nearly everyone has experienced. You visit someone’s home for the first time and instantly feel totally at ease. It’s not déjà vu or the aroma of apple pie in the air, it’s just welcoming and cozy, like a soft throw you wrap yourself in when you feel the first chill of winter.

This phenomenon is not created by the genius of a celebrated designer or the power of mysterious incense burning in a hidden room. It’s done using well-placed pieces of Midwest decor, and it’s easy to pull off in pretty much any apartment.

Mitigate The Mess

Magical Midwest homes are generally free of clutter. This doesn’t mean there’s not a mess hiding in a closet or two or under a bed, but the public spaces are almost always orderly. It’s a proven fact that cluttered surroundings result in cluttered minds. Things like piles of laundry, junk mail, boxes, and bags adversely affect thinking and cause stress when they’re in clear view.

Go room by room and get to decluttering. Either trash the offending articles or put them behind closed doors. An organized room begets an organized mind and gives you space in your head for more productive and calming thoughts.

Spacing Out

One of the most noticeable aspects of the Midwest aesthetic is the open space. The look is by no means minimalist, but there are no hutches butted by china cabinets next to dry sinks alongside desks. In other words, Midwest homes don’t look like used furniture stores.

Every room in a Midwest home, from the kitchen and living room through the bedrooms and baths, has lots of available floor space, emphasizing the beauty of simplicity in décor and design. A good rule of thumb whenever you’re arranging furniture is that it no piece should ever look like it’s in a jailhouse lineup, up against the wall with no place to run.

Picture This and That

Your grandmother may have had more family pictures on her walls and atop her upright piano than you liked, but all those were mementos of people she loved, past and present. She also may have had a limited budget that had no room for pricey prints or oversized photographs. Midwest homes frequently have picture clusters on walls, usually consisting four or five family photos of different sizes, each with a unique frame. But these photo groupings are discreet and never take up much space, leaving the wall with lots of open space, again creating a feel of order and good taste.

Timbering Effects

Wood is typically a significant part of Midwest home décor. Tables and chairs are often crafted out of heavy wood like oak, and exposed wooden beams are common on ceilings and some walls.

Besides adding a tactile touch to rooms, wood is comforting. Real hardwood floors are more prevalent in Midwest homes than ceramic tile or wall-to-wall carpet, and they’re often enriched with small or large areas rugs in muted, calming colors and made from wool or other tapestry-like materials. Heavy wooden doors commonly grace these homes’ front and back entrances.

Many Midwest homes also have fireplaces flanked with a neatly stacked supply of kindle and slow-burning logs to take the chilly edge off fall and winter nights. And nothing says cozy like the glowing embers of a fireplace barely lighting up a room.

Make It Your Own

A spacious living room filled with Midwest home decor.

Envision what you perceive to be a relaxing home environment. Think of a home, restaurant, or even a hotel room that you recall giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling as soon as you walked in. Now personalize that vision and bring it to life in your home. The best part is that there’s no right or wrong because it’s your ideal that you’re to create. You can frame a baby booty from your first (or last) child, display an old washboard you found at a swap meet, or create a montage of school pictures taken decades ago. Whatever makes you smile or touches your soul like the soft hand of a child will make your home a place where visitors will say, “I feel really comfortable here.”

Shopping With a Purpose

Once you’ve solidified your plan to work Midwest decor into your home, it’s time to shop for a few accessories. Don’t rush the process. Remember to peruse online buying options, as well as consignment stores, local auctions, and second-hand shops. Avoid getting sidetracked by novelty items that “say” what you are trying to create such as Love, Peace, Tranquility, etc. After all, you want to make people feel those emotions, not spell them out. Check out tactile items like pillows, throws, and rugs in person to find out how they actually feel when you touch them. And don’t feel compelled to add a “splash of color” here and there. Desaturated colors are warm and consoling, not cold and flat like black and white, so they work best for conveying that homey feeling you’re striving for.

Once you’ve created the Midwest environment you had in mind, don’t become a slave to it. Every few years, replace a few items. Add a lamp or pillow to the décor. Just remember to avoid the clutter, and home will stay sweet forever.

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