James Swan

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Decorating is All About You


I recently heard someone say that “decorating their home was the most selfish thing they’d ever done”.

If that’s the case then I’m inclined to believe that this brand of selfishness aught to be practiced by more people.

Decorating your house? Let your inner child be spoiled (for a bit) because, after all, if your not decorating to please yourself (and those immediately occupying the home) then you’ve missed the point completely.

Who else would you be decorating for, if not for yourself? Certainly not your nosy neighbor whose taste you don’t share but whose tongue you might fear. Definitely not your In-laws; for while their visits can be stress producing the last thing you want is to be reminded of them at every turn in your newly decorating home. Work friends? No. The chair of the PTA? Not a chance.

The point of decorating your home is to capture a small bit of who you are as an individual and spread that throughout your home as evidence that you not only live there…but that you’re worthy celebrating.

The most successfully decorated homes I’ve been to are those that perfectly reflect the thoughts, ideas and passions of their owner.


Take this image from the cover of the May 1980 edition of Architectural Digest. It’s the home of designer Bruce Gregga and it captures, in one vignette, the precise, creative and exuberant personality of it’s owner. Each item takes on a sculptural quality as displayed against a stark, contemporary background and items are loosely grouped to avoid the feeling of a museum. Items relate to each other almost casually, which seems to further reflect the owner, the climate (relaxed Southern California) and a general way of life to be found within the home’s four walls.

Look around your home and see what looks and feels like you. My suggestion today is that anything that rings ‘false’ (not like you or your family) really has no place in your home. Not if you’re decorating to please the most important person in your house; you!


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About the author, James

With the launch of the new podcast, Million Dollar Decorating, James Swan adds media-host to his career accomplishments. The interview-based show becomes the first daily podcast devoted to the worlds of design, decorating and beautiful living and features interviews with the world’s leading designers, decorators, architects and artisans. Life-style leaders like Robert Couturier, Sandra Nunnerly, Vicente Wolf and Timothy Corrigan populate the podcast where unguarded conversations reveal behind-the-scenes sources of inspiration, resources and stories that inspire and motivate.
James Swan has built a career crafting classically influenced interiors across the United States. Swan has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune and wrote for the “Trends & Shopping” column in House & Garden magazine. His book “101 Things I Hate About Your House” won a 2011 American Bookseller’s Award.
Television appearances on HGTV’s “Homes Across America,” speaking engagements with the professional design industry association NEOCON, regular guest spots on national radio programs have consistently placed Swan in the media spotlight.
Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious design firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives. In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.
Swan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and music from Southwestern College in Waxahachie, Texas, and studied in Arizona State University's Architecture and Design master's degree program.
Swan is a past member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, serving on its Executive Board of Directors. His other commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth. In his free time, Swan may be found furthering his passion for skiing and traveling. Currently he lives and works from his home on the Maine coast.