Every so often in the world of home design, you meet a refreshing pro who doesn't take herself too seriously, who is not afraid to own up to her mistakes, and who knows when and where to take the pressure off.
While I confess part of me is hoping you're thinking, "Why, that's you, Marni!" (I can only aspire), all is true about Myquillyn Smith, the voice behind The Nester blog, and author of three books, including her newest due out Sept. 15, "Welcome Home: A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting All Year Round", (Zondervan Publishing, hardcover $26.99).
I got an advance copy, which came with this self-effacing author bio: "Myquillyn is a self-taught, design-school dropout who took a week-long course so she could be a certified home stager and redesigner."
How could I not like this woman? That same humble confidence shows through in "Welcome Home." I mean, anyone who writes this can be in my inner circle: "As much as I want my home to feel connected to the season that's happening outside our walls, I'm not willing to devote more time, money and storage space than what's needed."
Later in the book, Smith promises that her decorating advice won't involve any "elaborate DIY projects," "precise measurements," or "expensive, one-time-use party supplies."
Can I get an Amen, sister?
The book's four sections, divided predictably by season, include decorating and hosting suggestions in tune with the outdoors, ideas to express seasonal rhythms at home in a way that doesn't involve dozens of color-coded plastic storage bins, and style moves that reflect the essence of nature, not the plastic and pretend representation of it.
With directives that include more style, less stuff, shop your house and shop your yard, Smith pumps the brakes on perfection and teaches us her cozy minimalist ways.
"Most of us aren't trying to make our homes look pretty, so our neighbors will be jealous," she writes. "We want to love our homes so we can use them. We want our homes to look lovely so we can stop thinking about them already, so they're always ready to welcome you, your family and your friends."
I needed to talk to this woman.
Marni: We have much in common, including many moves. You've lived in 13 houses since you got married. Wow. I've lived in 11, and I thought that was a lot.
Myquillyn (pronounced MIKE-willin): It's true. I still don't remember my ZIP code. But, looking back at all those moves, they were the best design education ever. You learn so much setting up a house.
Marni: In your book, you say, "Hosting is never about the host, and hospitality is never about the home." Talk about that.
Myquillyn: Like everything, I had to learn that the hard way. Having friends over used to be about me. I used to always feel like my house wasn't ready enough, or nice enough, or perfect enough. But now I see a red flag when I'm having people over, and I'm concerned about my outfit and whether my house is up to snuff. If that's what I'm worried about, I'm not in the best place to host. Hospitality is grace with throw pillows. It's being in a place where we can connect. People miss out on connection when they focus on trying to impress others.
Marni: What's the best way to host a no-pressure get together?
Myquillyn: My husband and I are big fans of the last-minute text invitation. "Hey, want to join us for drinks in the backyard after dinner?" Such an invitation clarifies that there's no food involved, so no one expects a meal or has to put on fancy clothes, and you don't have to fuss with the house, except to clean the toilet. I like low-expectation hospitality.
Marni: What did you learn while writing this book?
Myquillyn: I wrote this book out of frustration. The frustration was me scrolling on Pinterest and seeing all these wonderful fall décor photos. I remember one that had dozens of plastic pumpkins lining the stairs. Don't get me wrong. It looked stunningly beautiful. But I thought, "Is this the standard? Is this the new bar?" I love seasonal décor, but buying every beautiful thing clogs up our lives and our homes. We do not need to go to Hobby Lobby and buy 67 plastic pumpkins that we'll store for next year.
Marni: What else do you wish more people knew?
Myquillyn: To decorate for the season, you don't have to rely on store-made factory décor. It's more fun to go to a farmers market and find that big, quirky pumpkin, set it out all season, and throw it away after Thanksgiving. Then you honor nature and don't have to store things in the attic.
Marni: You talk a lot about not letting our things boss us around. What do you mean by that?
Myquillyn: That all those things you save year over year become the boss of us. We need to take back control. A big part of creating a home is paying attention to what our houses are saying. Some things in a room are bossy; some colors and styles are bossy. I don't want a silk sofa bossing me to be careful. Our stuff needs to serve us, not vice versa.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of five home and lifestyle books, including "Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go" and "Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One".