Secrets of a Style Director: What I'll Never Buy for My Own Home

OK, guys, it’s confession time. I’ve just returned from Alt Summit, the annual design bloggers’ conference in Salt Lake City, where I was schmoozing on behalf of Joss & Main. Between booth sessions and lots of posing for our #whitesofachallenge, however, I was able to pop into some of the breakout sessions and roundtables on blogging and design.

After hours of talks on creativity, finding your voice, and #authenticity, I decided I needed to let a skeleton or two out of my own closet from time to time. So today I’m here to tell you all that I…


This is really hard. Let me try again.

See, ever since I was in college, I [cough]....

Ugh. You know what? Fuck it.

I only buy neutral-colored toiletries.  

I'll let that sink in for a moment. I’m a mess, am I not? But seriously, I simply do not possess the ability to buy a bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo. Walking through Sephora or CVS, I mentally whittle the selection down to only those bottles I’d be willing to put on public display, and only then can I begin to comparison shop. 

Want proof? Here’s my shelf in the shower. (It’s getting real, folks.)


Here's what's around my sink.


Not everything I own is pure white, gray, taupe, or black. Translucent colors, pastels, metallics, or pops of color on the label are OK if the overall look is clean and tailored, e.g. Molton BrownDr. Hauschka, or Fresh.  But the overall effect is neutral. Like, barely-notice-anything's-there neutral.

Where did this weird compulsion originate? It may have come from my early obsession with lifestyle magazines and home-furnishings catalogs, and me wishing that I’d one day have a bathroom that looked as put-together and well-edited as this:

Source: Domino magazine via  Pinterest

Source: Domino magazine via Pinterest

Source: Pottery Barn

Source: Pottery Barn

It could have been my stint as a beauty editor at Whole Living magazine, where I had to find products that were not only eco- and health-friendly but also had packaging pretty enough to photograph. A lot of the time, we had to shoot the organic beauty products in unwrapped or deconstructed form because the packaging was so detestable, not unlike this:

Source: Pietro Scordo Photography via  Pinterest

Source: Pietro Scordo Photography via Pinterest

Source: Greg Broom Photography via  Pinterest

Source: Greg Broom Photography via Pinterest

Or perhaps it’s all of the time I’ve spent writing and thinking about well-designed homes, not to mention renovating my own. To me, a bathroom just looks so much better when it’s not cluttered up with ugly drugstore cosmetics, which are purposely designed to scream at you from the shelves. If you’re going to put all this work and money into choosing tile and faucets and finishes, I say, why muck up the look with piles of fluorescent-colored plastic?

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom. I'm not sure we could be friends.  Source: Harper’s Bazaar via  Guest of a Guest

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom. I'm not sure we could be friends. Source: Harper’s Bazaar via Guest of a Guest

It's so much better this way, isnt' it?

I’m moving in.  Image via  Shelterness

I’m moving in. Image via Shelterness

Buying only neutral products also allows me to be a little lazy. While I like to imagine I could commit to a Marie Kondo-like routine of putting every product back in its place after every use, owning mostly neutral items means I can leave my moisturizers and serums and things out on the sink from time to time and not see a mess.

I’ve read advice from professional organizers and in magazines about transferring products from ugly containers into pretty, uniformly sized ones to keep your bath looking clean, but that’s always struck me as an expensive and annoying extra step. It also makes it hard to check the product’s ingredients, which can be really important if you have sensitive skin or a health condition, or to find out when a product has expired.

Does this neutral-only restriction ever cause me issues? For sure. There are times when I want to buy the citrus-scented facial scrub, but ultimately can’t put the chartreuse-colored bottle in my cart. The exception is when it'll fit in my medicine cabinet, but most bath & body products are too large. Know this: You’ll never find a bottle of aquarium-themed Softsoap on my sink, a Yankee Candle in my powder room, or a stack of Irish Spring on my open shelves, even if I liked those things. I'm a ruthless packaging snob, and now I'm admitting it to everyone. 

What about you? Are there any products you’re ultra-picky or weird about, for reasons other than the usual ones? ‘Fess up in the comments, and help me feel a little less weird...