Home Style

OK, so you think it’s all about decorating. It isn’t. It’s not just color and fabric and furniture. Those are functional things and -- while important -- it is not the be all and end all to creating a beautiful environment. What is it about? The feeling you and your guests have when walking into your home. And in my mind, it’s more important that you love it and are comfortable in it than anything -- or anyone -- else.

That’s why I do what I do. Your feeling about your home is important to me. You are important to me. We’ve breezed through this year talking about functional things, fun things and developing our own senses in order to recognize style or perhaps create one where there was none before. I’ve even come right out and insisted that you surround yourself with things that you love. Why so adamant? Because once you surround yourself with those things that you love, you’ll find that you are happy in your surroundings.

And you will have done what no decorator in the world could have done for you -- you will have created your own (personal) style.

It’s December already, and it’s traditionally the time of year we think about putting on some finishing touches. And this isn’t just December, it’s the last December of the 20th Century so we’re leaving a millennium behind as well as another year of our lives. For many of us, it’s time to evaluate what’s important enough to preserve. For some, it’s time to determine what is insignificant enough to let go of. And it’s the anniversary of “the” time when we make resolutions of one kind or another.

Perhaps it’s the Y2K fright -- excuse me, panic -- or the fear of the unknown. Perhaps because moving into the year 2000 sounds helplessly strange to us, we’re resolving to pay more attention to the details of our lives. I know I am. And so we say goodbye to the 1900’s, taking with us lessons learned -- the hard way or otherwise.

One of my goals in writing to you is to convey the fact that your home should be your safe place; your refuge. I want it to be a place in which you want to spend quality time, and a place that you’re happy to run to at the end of the day. After all, large, small, squatty or tall, it is your space in the world. Home is where you go to get away from everything and everyone else. It’s private and important and there’s no other place like it on earth.

What you do with it or to it is pretty much up to you. You can clean it, clutter it, fill it, empty it or paint it all white -- your choice. You can bring the outside in, or take the inside out, but whatever you do, it should please you and give you a tranquil, peaceful place to live.

Lots of people write and ask me about various decorating styles, and this year we briefly defined them -- “them” being Contemporary, Country, Eclectic, and Traditional. But it’s important that you don’t get hung up on “following the rules” for this style or that one. Remember that our language defines things, and we had to call a particular “look” by a particular “name” so we categorized it and named it. These are descriptive words for a defined look -- not a biblical doctrine, and the look that has the most appeal to the majority of people is a combination of two or more styles.

Years ago I joked with people when they’d come to my home by telling them that my furniture was Early Divorce (ED -- a truly technical term). It was true. Where once I had two, now I had one -- and he had the other one. I progressed from Early Divorce to some derivative of Eclectic when I married a man who himself had been married previously. It was like Early Divorce squared, with latent tendencies toward Contemporary-Country-French-Polish-and-Irish.

But we were nothing if not unique, and by working with what we had, we made it comfortable. (There’s a lesson there.) Eventually, we replaced “that” furniture by donating to every charitable organization that would haul it away and by forcing some of the old stuff onto the kids. Finally, we had furnished our own nest, with our own choice of things. But I caution you to remember this took years, not weeks or months.

This is the very reason that I tell you that if you can’t change it -- and you hate the way it looks -- disguise it or use it in a different way. I learned how to do this the hard way -- by having to disguise or live with the “ED” furniture. My whole interest in design came from necessity. I had no choice but to make-over some “inherited” burnt orange velveteen chairs. I could not live with them one more day, and so I covered them with sheets. Yes, I said sheets -- and they looked dog-gone good too. It took some elbow-grease, and a lot of tucking and tying, but it worked beautifully.

Your taste may lean toward contemporary furnishings but you have inherited some beautiful Victorian-style pieces. They can go together. That’s not a problem. You may dream of an all-white sofa, chairs and carpet but practical considerations say you shouldn’t do that. That’s a problem. So “tweak” your dream a bit, and choose another more practical color, keeping the same “theme” of tone on tone. See? This isn’t rocket science -- another thing we’ve learned this year.

And as I’ve said before, God is in the details. A home that is clean, orderly, and organized is a beautiful home, period. How you choose to “dress it” is as individual as you are, and should be. So what’s next? There’s a lot more where this came from.

In 2000, we’ll look at economical ways to do things yourself and we’ll also review things that you should know before you HIRE someone to do it for you! We’re going to paint and wallpaper, sew and no-sew and we’re going to turn trash to treasure with flea market and antique store finds. We’re going to learn to look for the “unexpected scene” we can create from the “expected things” that everyone has, and we’re going to focus attention on some little things that make a huge impact.

Here’s the bottom line. If you hate the way your surroundings look, it’s up to you to change them, and it does not have to cost you a fortune -- large or small. The flip side is that if you’re happy with the way things are, I would not dare ask you to change a thing! It truly is personal you see.

I hope you’ll continue to give me your feedback -- I listen you know, and it helps determine what you read about each month. It’s been a wonderful year, a fruitful decade, a loving learning experience, and a precious treat to share time with you. As we enter the 2000’s I hope we’ll take the past along only for reference, and that we’ll look to each day as a beginning.

    Designer and television host Christopher Lowell says it all the time, “Where there is fear, there is no creativity”. (I love him.) And I agree with him. Don’t let fear stand in your way of trying something new. Wrap an ugly chair in a new well-ironed sheet, tuck it in, tie it, pin it or use duct tape, but try. Choose to lose the cold feet – allow yourself to be creative. You have nothing to lose but fear!

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