Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pretty without Apology

In an ideal world, we want our home to be beautiful and practical all the time, but life is never ideal, and when we have to choose we tend to focus on the practical part first (because it seems like the right thing to do) then we decorate (leaving the fun stuff until the very end (or never). Unfortunately, once we grow up we become more sensible, and we want to get everything right, without being frivolous or wasting too much time; it's a bit like forcing ourselves to eat all of our broccoli before we're allowed to taste the ice cream, when sometimes, just sometimes, we really should have the ice cream first (with sprinkles).

Right now, I am a little overwhelmed by my Living Room. It looks like Winter; like I am settling in for a long nap with a cozy fire, warm plaid blankets, and lots of art and books. With daffodils starting to peek through the ground it feels wrong, and I am also feeling incredibly impatient. I don't want to  neatly label boxes and take my time trying to decide what to donate, keep and trash, I want to move things around and make it look pretty. I want instant gratification, and I want it now.

So, that's what I am going to do as soon as I finish this blog. I am going to ignore the rules (well, most of them) and take out what I don't like in the room anymore; a picture that has faded, a few too many rocks that I can't remember where I got them from, and a candle that I keep moving around (constantly hoping that one day I will learn to like the person who gave it to me). I don't mean to sound harsh, but I don't like to look at things that bother me (this could be open to interpretation I know, but that is the beauty of decorating. It is one of the easiest things to control in our lives, so why should we look at things that don't give us joy?)

In a couple of hours I know that I can pack up what I don't like, take the pictures off the walls, pile all my knick-knacks and books on the table, and move the furniture to one side. Then, I will spackle and paint the nail holes (most important, because otherwise I will just plonk it all back up in the same spot again, which defeats the whole process). And, if I am rushed and have to spackle with toothpaste, and the paint doesn't match exactly when I get up close without my glasses, that's okay. I am looking for something fresh and pretty in an afternoon, not perfection.

When I put it all back, it might not be a candidate for HouseBeautiful, but I make no apologies, and it will be just right for me...

Homemade Ice cream from Glamorous Glutton, and chairs from Lucy Merchant via Fresh Home.

Friday, March 20, 2015

I Heart Street Art

Do you remember when graffiti used to be the bad boy of art? The illegitimate way of expressing yourself in a place where no-one else could reach; spray cans shoved in coat pockets, and friends keeping watch as you leaned precariously over a bridge or ducked behind a newly built fence.

At first, my rebellious streak felt sad when graffiti started to cross over, but these artists were so talented that I couldn't help but admire what they had done. Painting gigantic pictures with a spray can on the side of a building is something I cannot even comprehend (I can barely spray a metal chair without clogging the nozzle, and I am sure the insect population has suffered because of my overzealous misting).   

I have always loved street art, and I think part of it might be because it seems impossible to me that someone could create something so amazing on such a ridiculous scale (never mind a surface that is far from perfect) and still have it make sense from the perspective of us mere, tiny mortals. (Good grief, I just realized there is probably math involved, which definitely rules me out).

Often commissioned, street art is emerging into the mainstream, but still finding its voice in the competitive, commercial world. It tends to be appreciated by companies who are not afraid to make a  statement. Boldness does speak, but it isn't always about shock value.
Some artists create work in areas where it often goes unnoticed; a time-consuming expression of who they are, or who they wish they could be. A quiet, forgotten place where they can paint for free; a poignant reflection of something inside them that is often thought-provoking, sometimes beautiful and always unexpected.

I don't quite understand why we don't use this type of advertising more often to get our point across; what could be better than hiring creative people to produce an original piece of art that is taller than any billboard and can happily navigate itself around windows and doors? So much more than a political statement or a clever advertisement, street art can be a reflection of where we are in the world, an archived moment in time, and an incredible source of inspiration.

We can go a lifetime without ever knowing what we are capable of, and drawing on any wall used to be frowned upon, but this is a new way of expressing ourselves, and I think we should celebrate it.

The street art above is in Rome, Italy, and was created by the artistic duo, Etam Cru.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Take Me With You!

One of the most favorite questions I get asked is, "How do I choose a _________? There are too many, and I don't know what I like, or where to start". It can be anything from a sofa to a cup hook, but instead of making life easier, having the luxury of choice has made decorating appear to be more complicated.

To me, questions like this are so much fun; an instant challenge that makes my heart beat faster, and my creativity push into high gear. Whether it is haggled for at a garage sale, bought on a lazy  afternoon, or saved up for over many months, it is all about making us feel happy and comfortable.

So, where do you begin if you want to go out and make a purchase for your home? I think it depends first on what it is; if it's decorative, the only rule is really whether you can afford it (and can it fit through your front door) but a practical purchase sometimes need a bit more thought. So, I thought it would be fun to make a check list that you could print out and take with you; just start in the middle, and see what you need. Hope this helps!



Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Pleasure (and Perils) of Shopping Online

After a week with lots of weather (yes, that is what I have decided to call it now; not bad weather, a Winter Storm, or the worst February ever, just lots of weather) I found myself wandering through shops online, and trying to remember outfits that didn't require a scarf and boots (usually my favorite thing to wear, but I think I am actually starting to scowl at them now when I see them waiting by my front door).
Internet shopping is so much easier than it used to be, and I am sure it is a favorite Winter activity for many of us, but in spite of its ease, large purchases should probably still be approached with a small level of caution. 
I wrote a while ago about redecorating my daughter’s room, and buying her a new bed, but what I didn’t mention was that the bed that she wanted (a low, black platform bed) had to be ordered online. It was a lesson that made me both appreciate, and fear, online shopping. I had never bought anything like that, sight unseen, but I feel fairly confident with a few tools, and the process seemed to be as simple as ordering a pizza with a few extra toppings.

Unfortunately, it wasn't like ordering a pizza at all; a couple of weeks later it arrived in a box that was about 1 x 8 feet, and weighed almost 300 lbs. We had to pay extra to get them to bring it into the house (thank you very much), and an additional charge if we wanted it carried upstairs. Needless to say, the box sat in the Living Room for a week while I unpacked it and took the pieces up to her room a few at a time.
When I had got over my shock, I started to lay out the pieces according to numbers and letters. Of course, some of the numbers were missing, and I seemed to have 27 screws instead of 22, but I still knew that it wasn't going to be that complicated. Daylight came and went, and I started to curse the reviews that said it was quick to assemble, and the instructions were easy to follow.
Umm, no, they weren’t. It took me almost two days, and a tube of extra strong wood glue, to get it to look like the picture. Maybe I didn’t need the glue, but by the end of the second day I wanted to take the entire thing and fling it out of the window, so the glue was definitely the way to go. The bed actually turned out great, but I would not recommend it to anyone with limited patience, limited time and a bad back.
In spite of my experience, I do still shop online, and I will recommend it, but I now have a check list before I click that final button.
  • I try to read as many customer reviews as I can.
  • Check measurements and shipping box sizes, to see if they will fit through my door, up the stairs, and around the corner.
  • Look at the shipping charges; especially if the item is particularly heavy, or a funny shape. If they are unclear, I call the company and ask. 
  • What is the return policy? Is there a time limit, a fee, refund or exchange only?
  • Do they have a “Ship-to-Store” option? Would this be easier, or more difficult (it is usually free, but can also be more inconvenient as well).
  • If it is an upholstered or decorative accessory, can I see the colors and patterns clearly? Will they send me a sample before I order?
  • Will it be a lot of assembly? Do I have someone who will help me, and will I need special tools? Do they offer online assistance if I have a problem putting it together?
  • If it is a large item, ask what happens if I am not home to accept delivery. Do they leave it at the curb, or return it to the truck? Will there be an additional fee? (Sounds crazy, but I was honestly told that if we weren’t home, they didn’t need a signature and they would leave the 300lb box at the end of my driveway).
  • With case goods (chairs, tables etc) I read the description, and make a decision based on my budget, what I really need, and how long I would like the item to last. (Try to find out if they use glue, veneer, paper-clips, hardwood, pine, bubble gum or screws to hold it together).
  • If I shop late at night, or the wee hours of the morning, I save the item in my shopping cart until daylight. Then, I check it all again, take a sip of coffee and click “Pay Now”….
Delightfully Crooked Lamp by Andrew Oliver