Friday, March 26, 2010

Embrace the Elephant

I have a vintage necklace with a metal Elephant on the bottom of it. As it’s quite bold I can only wear it with certain outfits. I like Elephants, but I don’t have an unusual affection for them. It was my mother-in-law’s, Anita, she passed away many years ago. After she had gone, her husband gave me some of her more unusual pieces of jewelry; he recognized that side of me before I did. At the time I was a little unsure about being known for originality, it bothered me a bit. I preferred to blend in.

Now, I like originality; nothing makes me happier than to go into someones home, to see a collection of personal treasures that are filled with meaning for the person that lives there.

I have a friend who loves Elephants. What started off as a pair of Elephant earrings, turned into an obsession that knows no bounds. She will buy anything that has an Elephant on it, or is even remotely in the shape of an Elephant. Elephants make her happy.

When you first go into her home it is a little startling to see the old-fashioned etagere’s filled with hundreds and hundreds of these creatures. They are made of every substance imaginable; some of them exquisite and colorful, others clumsy and dark.

Initial thought is that she may be a little mad. But, she’s not. It is a collection of her beloved things, and she is not embarrassed to show them off. This is one of the things I love about her; she embraces her Elephants, and her own uniqueness. She displays them with no apologies, amassed together, in a room that is used every day.

When we display what we love, people react. It is a feeling; regardless of whether or not we love what we are looking at, we are swept up into what is important. It is a privilege to peek inside someones personal belongings, and a joy to imagine what they see.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make mistakes, they're good for you!

Remember the stairs that I painted a few weeks ago? Well, I finally finished them. But, in my haste I forgot to plan the rest of the space; the space that also had a blue and red hutch, directly beneath the newly painted red stairs. When I was done I was left staring at two painted pieces that were very similar - a bold red and blue. It just looked like I had spent an afternoon with a lot of extra time and paint on my hands. Together their extreme "paintedness" overpowered the room. At that point I could either go in the decorating direction of a cartoon, or try to scatter the color throughout the room, incorporating the other, more subdued pieces that I had.

So, here's what happened. I had a glass fronted hutch and a green, distressed buffet. All in different corners of the living/dining room. I moved the green one out and replaced it with the glass one. Moved the blue one where the glass one had been and the green where the blue one was. The green one was too small, so I bulked it up with vintage hats and accessories until it looked like I lived in a millinery store. Lived with it for a few days and decided the scale and content was wrong, I hated it.

The next morning, newly inspired, I moved the blue hutch back to it's original home. Pushed the green dresser into the place where the blue one had been (formerly home of the glass hutch). The blue was still too jarring, but the scale was right. I painted the blue hutch cream!

After painting it cream it became more of a country piece than an art piece, which led to another reassessment of the room. The balance was off again, and I needed to balance the negative spaces with the vintage and colorful.

Less than an hour later and I was done. The room looks refreshed, and there is a good symmetry that flows around the space. I didn't buy anything new but I did bring another chair down from upstairs, to give me more seating.

Like a lot of my decorating, I didn't intend to write about this, and I didn't plan on redecorating my home, but sometimes it happens. Painting the steps seemed like a very small, innocuous thing to do, but the depth of color became an additional strong element in the room that threw off the entire space. When I realized what it had done (admittedly unimportant in the larger scheme of life) I thought at first that I had made a horrible mistake, and I would have to repaint them. Then, as I lived with it, and went through the process of redoing the room, I knew that it was the right thing to do; a learning process to help me make the space more of what I wanted it to be.