Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Freshly Painted Walls

When I was young, my dad hung up all the pictures in the house; hammering nails into the wall was his domain, and I spent my entire childhood with just two pictures on my bedroom wall. My dad wanted to keep our newly built house nice, and he didn't want to ruin the freshly applied paint; which made sense to him, but no sense at all to my 15 year old self. So, one day when he wasn't looking, I taped a poster to the back of my bedroom door. I figured that tape was okay, but didn't realize that the gluey substance holding up "The Who" must have been created for NASA or something, because despite many attempts to get it off, 35 years later, Roger Daltrey and his crew are a bit worse for wear but still clinging to the back of my old bedroom door.

Fortunately for me, my current home is old, and it has been repainted and spackled more times than I can count, but when I first moved in I thought of my dad, and the fear of making a mess on the walls paralyzed me into avoiding any contact with a hammer. Instead, I would carefully wiggle a hook or nail into an existing hole, not caring if it didn't quite fit, or the picture didn't look right in a certain spot.

Within a short while I had filled up all the existing holes, and my avoidance technique started to feel just a little bit silly (and I realized my dad wasn't actually watching) so I decided to pick up a hammer and see what would happen.

The very first thing that I hung on the wall was a vintage, ostrich feather dress at the top of the second floor hallway (so that no-one else could see it - a very restrained act of rebellion against the restrictions of my childhood room). It's a beautiful dress that I still imagine fitting into one day, and I love the look and feel of it; it is a true party dress from a long time ago, and I can imagine a lady taking great amounts of time getting ready to wear it out to a very fancy dance.

For days after I would look at the dress, and wonder how on earth I could have hidden it away when seeing it on the wall gave me so much pleasure. It was a very subdued ah-ha moment that slowly nudged me to start placing my collection of tea plates down the side of the staircase wall. A few at a time, other favorite things started to attach themselves to the wall and gradually creep down the stairs, like random decorating ninja's peeking ahead to see if my dad was looking.

But of course there was no going back, and before I knew it I had bought even more nails, and I delighted in filling up the oddest of spaces in every single room, and putting things far higher up than they should have been. I decided that I liked seeing things on display, and the balance of shapes and texture was a game of sorts. I found that I didn't have to follow all the rules, and not everything needed the perfect picture hook with a maximum weight limit; sometimes a push pin, or the tiniest of nails was more than enough, and other times I had to be a bit more thoughtful, warding off unexpected falls in the middle of the night.

When my dad visited he laughed at how full my house was, and he didn't remember being so stern in the past, but I still can't get the tape off my Who poster, and I think I will probably always hesitate before taking a hammer to a freshly painted wall ....

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Finding Your Focus

Once upon a time, a very decorated lady glanced around and told her that her room would be so much better if only she had a focal point. The lady stayed for a cup of tea, they pondered the room with much disappointment, then she left.

Finding your focal point is a term that is tossed around in the world of design, but we often forget to explain what we mean, what it is, and how you could find one for yourself. It is sometimes implied that they might be elusive, an enigma, something that has that certain je ne sais quoi destined to be a secret for the very few, when really, it is actually quite simple.

How you define it is up to you, but every room needs something that makes you want to go inside, otherwise what is the point? It can be as simple as a tiny photograph, a curious piece of art, or as extravagant as a floor to ceiling stone fireplace, but there should be something that immediately captures your attention. (And, it doesn't have to be nice and designery, it just has to be).

This is why a television is often frowned upon, but if the television is the focus of your room, then accept that and make it as appealing as possible; surround it with art that you love, or make sure it is at least placed on a decent piece of furniture. Try not to drape dirty laundry over it, but, honestly, if you seem to have an endless supply of laundry, and it feels destined to be the focal point of your room, why not place it in a beautiful basket, or find an unusual design that suits your style and blends in with your home a little more.

See, finding a focal point isn't a mystery at all; just find something you like to look at, place it across the room, and you're done....

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Little Undone

I often get anxiety if people are coming to my home for the first time. The label, Interior Designer, is often thrown around, mistakenly attached to my name, and I worry that people will be woefully disappointed when they step inside. Someone even asked me once if they could just come and look around my house, to see what it was like and how I decorated; they didn't even pretend to invite themselves over for a cup of tea, they just wanted to see my house.

The thought terrified me, especially when I knew that their home looked like a page out of a decorating catalog, and mine just looked like, well, it looked like me. The day before she came over I cleaned my home like a mad woman (something I rarely do) and while I would never want my home to look like something from a catalog (well, maybe a small page in "Shabby Couture" or something) my confidence plummeted at the thought of being judged.

Ten minutes before she arrived I tripped over the cat, knocked the plant off the wall, and burst into tears. Unfortunately, the plant was actually in a frame, with water, in a terracotta pot, so there was water, terracotta and aquarium gravel all over me and all over my Living Room floor. Ironically, that was exactly what I needed, and the next minute found me answered the ringing doorbell with no apology, just a wet towel, an angry cat, and an overflowing dustpan.

Almost every single client I see apologizes for something when I walk through the door, when really, I find a perfect home far more disturbing than one with an untidy kitchen and a less than new sofa.

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of creating a perfect room, one that is kept aside for special occasions, holidays and 'company". We want it to look so nice that as soon as we have achieved that niceness we back away slowly, almost closing the door quietly, wanting to preserve it until later. Once we're done, we breathe a sigh of relief, turn around and find our way back to the comfy sofa in the other room, where we can eat ice cream on our belly and tuck our tired, dirty feet into our favorite, old blanket.

With most homes, regardless of our budget or style, being in the middle is usually the best place to be - it shouldn't feel precisely composed, but it also shouldn't require a compass and a tetanus shot to walk around. Actually, a home is a bit like a person; it should never be so perfect that we are afraid to approach, and when we do we usually like them so much more if they are just a little undone....