Don’t Hide Behind What’s “In”

One size does not fit all.  If you have a brand new home in a look-alike neighborhood, then go ahead with what’s “in”.  But if you have an old and beleaguered house, with crooked walls and battered  baseboard heater covers, with weird angles and misplaced windows, you need to form a cohesive whole.  One that goes.

Goes?  Yes, goes.  One that goes with the house, the setting, and one that suits you, even if no one else gets it at all, even if it couldn’t possibly be less “in”.

A brief history of decorating:

Our house had darkly stained (almost black) wood trim, unpainted.  The walls were a dark diarrhea color, and the crowning touch was the mauve Formica countertops to match the pink-ish stain on the cabinets.  My budget was for paint.  Not new trim or countertops or cabinets.  Paint.

After much searching I finally hit on a golden apricot for the walls and a trim color called “Blackberry” which was deep purple most of the time (I took the doors off the upper cabinets and display dishes rather than pink-ness).

But there was that time of the day when the purple trim was just garish as heck against the white areas of the kitchen, and not all that complementary with those  lovely mauve countertops.  The countertops were the sticking point – the mauve against the apricot, which also at some times of the day was just plain orangey papaya, began to be a thorn in my side.

I griped in my head every time I looked at it.  If I could just get new countertops.  I spent a couple of years on this “if” but to no avail.  Fine.  One fine day I would have new countertops.  In the meantime I would go to what always works for me.  Paint.

Don’t want to repaint the whole thing.  How about just the kitchen including the wall that is also the window wall of the dining room?  What color then?  Finally I found it.  A lovely and very pale green/yellow (depending on the light, but more green than yellow).

The mauve countertops against the green look fantastic.  The ugly old now appears lovely vintage.  I am so very pleased with this outcome of my efforts.  However, there was one thing.  The corner.

With a bit of uncertainty I had stopped in the dining room corner, where each color refused to cooperate with or give way to the other.

And so.  Something to tie it all together.  Perhaps a border that went all the way around the dining room.  I found the border.  A year later I thought (border still in drawer) of stripes on the lower part of the wall, beneath the border.  Another year later I did it, and you see the results above.

I leave it to your imagination to  envision how awful this room looked before I painted, but let me assure you that when that trim was stained walnut, and later when those walls were painted in shades of body excrement, those things were “in”.

Again, what’s “in” should be what works for you.  My house is high in the Rockies and it’s often chilly.  I want warm colors.  My house is also a 70’s monstrosity of vaulted ceilings and weird angles, and the argument could certainly be made that “granny” decor doesn’t fit.  But the final word on it all is “mine”.  This is house is mine, and so what’s “in” is irrelevant.

No design police are coming, no magazine photographer either.  What’s “in” about this house are the people who LIVE “in” this house (continual compliments from my beloveds on this new creative endeavor).

I encourage you.  Go browsing and digging around thrift shops, estate sales, antique stores, kitchen stores and consignment shops, and your own “stuff” for something that absolutely delights you.  Let your imagination go.

Just remember this:  “In” is based on someone else’s imagination, or lack thereof.  Again, this house is your house!

Happy Real Decorating!

P.S.  Somewhere in all this – about a year ago, I think, I painted the trim white, a lovely brilliant white with the very teeniest hint of rose (in certain light).

Fall Decor to Warm the Heart and Soul!

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I just read a decorating post about warming up your space for Fall.  But if all your walls and furniture and decor are white and grey, you’ve got your work cut out.

Why not put old fashioned colorful quilts on those white chairs, soft camel throws on the couch with scarlet-streaked pillows, and warm amber lightbulbs under those stark white lampshades and then . . .

Paint your walls something warm and marvelous, such as butter yellow, or golden umber.  Maybe a deep terra cotta trimmed in olive green or a dusty apricot with creamy trim would really light your fire.

Fire.  If you have a fireplace, you understand fire power.  If not, light candles until you can get one, or at least a facsimile.

Move some art around.  Go through the house and find the warmest and brightest of your art and bring it to the most-used areas, which are likely the living room and kitchen.

Cook.  Soup.  Cook soup.  And muffins.  And don’t stint on the butter.

Use warm spices.  Spray the house with spicy essential oil scents, cook spicy foods, warm up some cider and keep the tea kettle whistling.

Even if it’s still 90-plus degrees at your house, Fall is coming and it’s time to get ready!

It’s Fall and it’s cozy and warm and welcoming time.

 

How About a Bit of “Maximumism?”

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Starting in the low 400’s!  Yay.  For just a bit more you can get windows and doors.  And never forget the marble countertops.  Friends of ours got a deal on a  house because it had lovely blue Corian counters, which aren’t “in”.

I recently visited a favorite decorating blog post, and was disappointed.  The author, a lovely and talented Christian lady, was touting, “What’s in for Fall 2018!!!!”  And everything was white.  And grey.  And there was that teeny bit of “color” as proof of bravery.

Why not be brave and actually go with your heart?  Please, I must believe that I’m not the only one with a red heart.  I must believe there are red-blooded women out there, whose homes minister to their red-blooded family members, and to Hades with what’s “in”.

Pray to God it will soon be out, and as forsaken as most other decorating mysteries of the past.  Really, we once put fluorescent lighting in our kitchens to illuminate brown ovens?  Really, we now prefer stark white, encoldened (I made that word up) by gray.

Perhaps I should say we prefer gray “further silenced” by grey-white.

Gray.  Grey.  White.  Off white.  Off.  When can we get off this chilling, unwelcoming, stark, minimalism.

What’s minimal here is coziness, warmth, hospitality, jollity, personality, uniqueness, honesty, quirkiness, heart’s treasures.  

I have changed my entire kitchen because of the colors on a Susan Bright calendar, and once because of an April Connell dish towel.  To my delight, and isn’t that the point?

Why must we delight in being like everyone else, and therefore really like no one?  Why worship at the altar of what’s “in” rather than seeking to find and express what’s “in” our own hearts?

There’s a falseness, a facade, in preferring pressed wood furniture that won’t make it twenty years, over a family heirloom mahogany table (I have a friend who gave such a table to charity because her daughters had no use for it).

We choose to make social “statements” rather than personal, and in so doing, say nothing at all.  We are not mindless parts of a group, or a generation.  We are each unique in all the world, in all the history of the world, and our homes should reflect who we are, not which group with which we share birthdates, or fad to which we’re enslaved.

So, how about we go to a bit of “maximumism” (yes, I made that word up, too).  Why not maximize our own personal joy in our surroundings by making our homes uniquely, radically, and positively ours.

Are we cold and soulless, unwelcoming and robotic?  No, we are human!  We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Word of God tells us.  “Knit together in our mother’s wombs, known by God before the foundation of the world.”  Talk about “maximumism”!

Welcome to our very own homes, and welcome to everyone who enters herein.

 

The Enchanted Home is Authentic, Artistic, and Sometimes Even Boasts the Best-Ever Molasses Cookies

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We forgive people who decorate in colors we abhor, with “style” we can’t fathom, using cat-clawed and dog-scratched furniture, if their homes are authentic.  If we have to hide a smile at some of the wild colors, particularly those in hues of sunshine, we will overlook what we consider a decided lack of taste and sophistication.

Conversely, walls of flawless beige, trimmed in pristine white, surrounding us and brand new-looking sofas set just so before “modern” décor atop ice-cold coffee tables make us wonder, “Is this a home or a statement?”

Does your house scream your lack of identity, thereby stealing your guests’ senses of identity as well, or does your house say “I’m OK, You’re OK. I didn’t invite you here to impress you, I invited you here because I value you enough to open my home, and therefore my heart.”

An authentic home has heart—it’s owner’s. An unauthentic home hides its heart behind its façade. It’s sad enough that we sometimes feel we must wear the façade in public, but at home we must take off the mask.

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Does that mustard yellow throw your grandma made embarrass you? That’s a good reason to put it on the couch, front and center. Do you have a secret love for that hideous orange ottoman from the 50’s, and does it match absolutely nothing else in your living room? Go with it and add a bouquet of flowers with a bit of that same orange. You’ve shown yourself and your guests just a little bit of your heart. And you’ve given them art.

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But what will your guests think, especially the world travelers with such cool stuff? They’re on their way. You look around, asking yourself What does this look like to other people.

Dirty for starters. You can wash those awful smears off the patio doors, or make molasses cookies and put on a bright and crazy shirt. You guessed it. If this guest is a mom, she’ll either feel greatly relieved that other people have nasty doors, too, or she’ll feel superior because hers are clean. Let her feel superior. Authentic people make those kinds of sacrifices. Just be sure your cookies are better than hers. Just kidding. Sort of.

How to make great molasses cookies? Use the recipe on the molasses jar, only double (I did say double) the molasses and the spices and the salt. Also use real butter and/or coconut oil instead of shortening. Then make them awesome with lots of raisins and walnuts. For even better results (and healthier cookies) use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour, instead of the standard bleached white flour, and last of all, use a non-GMO organic sweetener. I like organic light brown sugar by Wholesome. Also, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it, I like a little vanilla flavoring in my molasses cookies. But I think it’s safe to say they’re wonderful without vanilla.

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P.S.  These aren’t actually my cookies.  I’ll post them when I make them – closer to Christmas!

yellow castle picP.P.S.  This isn’t actually my house, but I’ll definitely post it if I get it for Christmas!

The “Art” of Home Education

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“What should I do with him today?” Hannah asked this morning, regarding her babysitting charge.  “I’ll think on that,” I said, knowing Hannah was talking as much to herself as to me, and would as usual come up with something on her own.

Still, I pondered her question because I said I would, and then later called her.  “I know what you can do.  Google a recipe for finger paints, then let him do something like the horse Seth did with finger paints when he was about that age.”

“Oh, God,” Seth moaned in the background (he now thinks that marvelous painting is awful).  “Thanks, Mom, that’s what I’ll do!” was Hannah’s more gratifying response.

It doesn’t matter what Seth thinks about that painting, or that he doesn’t understand why his dragon water color has a place of honor (more on that place later) or that Benjamin wishes heartily that I take down his crayon drawing of his battle horse, “Ready”, or that Hannah disagrees entirely with my assessment that her quilt horse pencil drawing is pure joy (I even have candles to match it).  Rebekah’s most prized artwork (in my view) is her picture of me (I have a crown on my head and a hugely smiling, bright red mouth and am wearing a low-necked turquoise dress), and she’s the only child who never complains about it being on the wall for all the world to see.

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Yes, there was plenty of art that never made the frame, never graced our walls, some of it long gone, others in folders stored away.  And I do have artwork that was done by “professionals”.  But none of it has ever elicited the interest, the smiles, even the joy brought by the works of my children.  ‘Real” art has never made John say, as he did about Seth’s 4-year-old finger-painted horse, “Don’t ever take that down.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.”  Me, too.  Even now.

Hannah, in entertaining her charge last week, sculpted a cat for me, as he created for his mom.  Hannah wrapped her creation carefully in toilet paper, sat down beside me on the couch when she got home, and said, “I know you are the one person who will appreciate this.”  She unwrapped the cat, and just as she knew I would be, I was delighted.  The cat (not named yet, am waiting to get to know him/her) sits in a place of honor on my dresser.

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As to Seth’s dragon painting’s place of honor, it sits in front of the TV, effectively hiding the hideous thing from view.  TV can be the greatest enemy of creativity, of family life, of art appreciation.

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In all our travels the kids have never been allowed to watch movies or play video games rather than enjoying the scenery (they can read if they like).  Nature’s art speaks to our hearts whether we’re on the Oregon coast or at the highest spot we can climb to in Rocky Mountain National Park, or amid the Sugar Maples during Fall in the Ozarks, or on a desolate stretch of desert highway.  Appreciation and understanding of God, that’s what art can give us.  Real art.  Art from the heart.

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Exhortation of creativity is one of the hallmarks of good home education.  Good home education produces children who are highly individual, and yet uniquely qualified to contribute to the greater good. Such as in creating artworks that are also mementos.  Such as taking the time to ponder what will bring joy to the heart of a child when babysitting.

A little child will lead you.  When Seth first tried to draw dragons, I bought a little book entitled, “How to Draw a Dragon” (or something like that).  When Rebekah wasn’t all that keen on drawing, I bought books on how to draw horses (she was very keen on horses).  Hannah’s interest in water colors was fueled by a local water color class.  For Benjamin, I simply kept plenty of pencils, pens, and paper on hand, as his art was mostly props for his writing.  If he was creating a battle scene, he would go outside, build a city, enact the battle with the wooden sword and shield John made one year for his birthday, come back inside and sketch out further details, and return to his writing (fantastic writing by the way).  My small contribution was making a hauberk, helping John with the finishing touches on the shield, and saying, “Absolutely!!!” when John asked if I thought he should add a battle axe to the weaponry.

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Home education, done in love’s rhythms and graces, can make learning an enchantment of  color and light and joy.  An art, in other words.

Authenticity at Home

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What is an authentic home?  In looking at the definition of authentic below (see the end of the post), we can deduce that, in a word, an authentic home is real.  Does your home feel authentic to you?  Are you comfortable in it, and does it offer comfort to others?

I am reminded of a purchase I made yesterday.  In a shabby chic sort of store, I searched for something to catch my eye, something to speak to my heart.  I wanted something that would slightly alter and enhance my home.

Mostly I saw things that wouldn’t stand alone.  They were attractive in their settings, but not something I really wanted at home (well, there was that framed picture that said, “Eat Cake for Breakfast” but I don’t care for art that tells me what to do). And then I saw it:  a red vintage umbrella.  The handle was wooden, it worked beautifully, it was red, and it was raining outside.  Yay! I had almost bought an umbrella a few weeks ago, but it was . . . well, let’s just say it was not Made in America (it broke when I opened it).  It was “cheaper” than the red umbrella in every way, and had I bought it, way more expensive.

I chose the authentic umbrella, just as I choose an authentic home.  Any time I can substitute wood for plastic, fresh for canned, a walk in the woods for floor exercises, my child singing in the shower for radio music, denim for polyester, shoe laces for Velcro, viewing the currently running Jan Brett art exhibit in Fort Collins vs. an intelligence-insulting matinee, lounging in a home-crocheted afghan on a second-hand leather couch rather than wrapping up in, and sitting on, new micro-fiber monstrosities, cotton diapers to replace paper/plastic sweat wrappers, homemade biscuits dripping with butter instead of Styrofoam with a stingy (thank God) bit of margarine . . .

You’re thinking this all sounds like too much work, and too time consuming?  What are you doing that’s more important, more satisfying, than authenticating your home, your life, your soul?

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Syllabification: au·then·tic

Pronunciation: /ôˈTHen(t)ik/

(abbreviation: auth.)

Definition of authentic in English:

adjective

1Of undisputed origin; genuine: the letter is now accepted as an authentic documentauthentic 14th-century furniture

More example sentences

  • He is in no doubt that the document is an authentic copy of the original.
  • In recent years, Disney’s park designers have filled the place with what look like real antiques, genuine artifacts, authentic junk.
  • A letter should have been sent to confirm that the references were genuine and authentic,’ he said.

Synonyms

1.1Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original: the restaurant serves authentic Italian mealsevery detail of the movie was totally authentic

More example sentences

  • These hotels and restaurants did all they could to recreate all that is authentic in traditional Kerala cuisine.
  • The restaurant ensures that Mangalorean cuisine is made and served in its traditional and authentic form.
  • The crowd then made their way back to the High Cross Inn where they celebrated St Patrick s Day with traditional music including authentic bag pipe playing.

1.2Based on facts; accurate or reliable: an authentic depiction of the situation

More example sentences

  • The written word persuasively conveys the authentic ring of reliable authority in a way the recollected spoken word does not.
  • It’s based upon an authentic story that happened in the ’20s and ’30s.
  • Earlier an unnamed assistant editor had emphasised ‘the need for publishing absolutely accurate and authentic information’.

Synonyms

1.3(In existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.

Example sentences

  • Hence, he argues that the appropriate mode for authentic human existence is the personal.
  • For Heidegger, authentic existence begins from self-understanding.
  • As such, for Heidegger, an authentic existence requires as its precondition a radical and not received experience of the past.

2 Music (Of a church mode) comprising the notes lying between the principal note or final and the note an octave higher. Compare with plagal.

Origin

Late Middle English: via Old French from late Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos ‘principal, genuine’.

Beware the Beige Blahs

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Do you try and try to brighten and cheer your house, but never seem to get that ah-hah! you’re hoping for?  Perhaps the problem is nothing more than that showroom floor look – the one with the fear of color, fear of originality, and celebration of nonentity.

People actually believe their houses will sell faster if the walls are beige (or worse, still sporting the dugout look – dirt in color).  And if they happen to buy a house whose walls (probably beige) need a new coat of paint, they re-paint them beige, “in case we decide to sell.”

What?  You are living here right now.  Today.  Make it yours!  Make it beautiful!

Then there are those “experts” who advise painting everything white (looks like primer, now ready for real paint) and add “splashes” of color.  Not soothing, not relaxing, not your idea.

Of course, if this is what you truly like, and you get a brilliant white and the splashes are authentic (maybe framed children’s artwork, or your own) you are on to something.  Namely, a home that is, you guessed it, authentic. 

We all like to see other people’s houses, and hope to get a glimpse of who they really are.  But when we see beige, and everything looks as though we’re in a decorating magazine (and not one of the good ones) or on a showroom floor, it’s as if they’re hiding something – themselves!

When we moved into our house the walls were the color of diaper contents when the baby has acute diarrhea, and the trim was stained dark, dark brown.  I painted the walls a golden apricot which actually glows like the sun in the evenings and mornings.  I then began the search for trim color.  After much ado, I settled on blackberry, which is a deep, dark purple.  This color combination went perfectly with this house, and with me, where I was at that time.

Now that I’m considering repainting I may put a bright cream on the trim, or perhaps a brilliant white, and leave the apricot.  Or paint the walls a light-infused pale yellow-green with the brilliant white trim.  Maybe I’ll paint my cabinets a deep moss green and the walls white and the trim whatever seems right.

Whatever I do will horrify a few people, and please most people.  Best of all, it will be MY choice, unhindered by the Made-in-CheapoLand décor offerings in the decorating aisles at the superstores, and uninfluenced by what’s “in” right now.

Your house is your house, my house is my house.  Amen (so let it be so).