Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living in your Living Room

I feel sad for rooms that are left alone and unused. It's funny, often the largest of rooms are the most neglected; initially praised for their existence, we save them for a special occasion, fill them awkwardly with family heirlooms, then discard them with barely a shrug because they feel too uncomfortable. Before we know it, we see them as a growing nuisance of a rabbit hole, falling into the center of our (seemingly) perfect home.

If I was a living room, I would want to speak up; curious to know why you had let me fall apart. All that potential, accidentally stifled by good intentions. If you didn't hear me, I would scream quite loud, and tell you to use me (well, that might sound odd, but you know what I mean) and ask you where all the joy had gone. I would perhaps even move the furniture around when you weren't looking; like a very decorative ninja, opening curtains, and making small, neat piles by the doorway.

I couldn't draw you a picture, because rooms can't draw, but if I could speak, this is what I would say...
  • Why not bring the furniture closer, so you can talk to your friend without raising your voice or leaning awkwardly towards her. 
  • How about a table and a coaster for that glass of wine?
  • Let's put that sofa over there, instead of here (don't ask me why, but that's what "they" always say, and if they say it then it must be true).
  • Open the curtains, it's a gorgeous day outside!
  • Why don't you put away some of those things you don't like, that you got from that person you don't like? 
  • Can you really read with that single, piddly light?
  • Let's have some fun, and invite someone over!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hazardous Decorating

The other day I went to visit someone, and I knocked the end cap off their gate. Because I didn't know them very well, and it was in the dark, I hastily grabbed it and stuck it back on; mortified beyond belief, but also wondering why it had popped off in my hand so easily. Surely I was not the first one to do it?

When I watched a television show last night, a couple were "oohing and aahing" over a polished-like-glass marble floor. It actually made my heart beat faster (in a bad way) because as much as I dream of having marble counter tops in my kitchen, to look at it on the floor brought to mind images of me skidding on my backside and being carted off, in a very undignified fashion, in an ambulance. I could never wear high heels, children and dogs couldn't tear around in crazy confusion, I could never leave the shower to grab the phone, and I would have to come in from the rain in a very sedate way, placing my drippy umbrella in a stand, and removing my coat and shoes before I even decided to venture onto the beautiful, marble floor.

Decorating can be hazardous, and I wonder sometimes if the wonder of it all gets ahead of the quality and the practicality? Like most people, I want it to look good, but if something doesn't work for me, then the novelty wears off pretty darn quickly.

Along with my marble counter's, I would love to have a gorgeous, new front door, with no screen door in front of it. I even know the exact one which I would get, and the color I would choose. But I like my windows and doors open, and I use the screen every single day; if I got rid of it, I would have a beautiful front door, but it would either be closed, or a welcome invitation to all sorts of unexpected critters coming in and out of my house.

When I get an idea, I do always try to anticipate the pitfalls, but one that I never gave much thought to was ripping up all the carpet in my house. It started off as a small spot by the front door, then slowly spread to every room. Apart from the extreme amount of time that it took, I found myself in the middle of a renovation with my toddler daughter; I knew she was there when I began, but for some reason I never thought about how it would affect her. I guess my post-baby brain assumed that she would just sit and wait, while I spent weeks ripping up carpet and placing thousands of rusty tacks into little porcelain bowls. She was never hurt, but there were more than a few close calls.

What I also didn't think about was that my home would be twice as cold in the Winter time, that when the dog ran down the stairs it would sound like someone was throwing a barrel full of marbles, and that the floor would be so poorly built that when we laid on our tummies we could actually see through to the cellar below. Useful if we need to yell, or pass a note to someone, but not much good for our heating and cooling bill.

When Winter settles in, I wonder what on earth I was thinking and I crave being able to walk barefoot around the house on the squishy, soft carpet. But then Spring arrives; I forget my mistakes, and all I want to do is lie on my tummy, feel the sunshine warmth of the old, wooden floors, and watch the light peeking down through the cracks ...

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to Sell your Home - Staging 101

Did you know that the Playboy Mansion (above) is up for sale?
$200 million is the asking price, with the extremely odd caveat that Hugh Hefner will continue to reside there until the end of his life. Negotiations on whether or not he will pay rent etc will be made at the time of the sale. 

While I am sure that the mansion is beautifully decorated (and that Hugh would be a very amiable tenant) I don't think that including a permanent resident is a very enticing selling point, and I wouldn't recommend it to any of my clients.  

On that note, a quick reminder that our first design class starts this week:
How to Sell your Home - Staging 101 
It is on Tuesday March 8th 6:30 - 8pm at the Roxbury High School, Room A102
For more information, or to register, go to the Community School website.

Thank you! 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Exit Strategy

They estimate that 1 in 10 Americans own a storage locker, and that at least 2 out of every 10 lockers will become abandoned and unclaimed. Apparently, we spend a tremendous amount of time and money storing things, and the older I get the less I understand why; it is frightful to me how much I have stored in my own basement, and on more than one occasion I have gone to look for something, only to find that it has been nibbled on by mice or become more than a little damp and damaged.

Some things, I honestly don't know why I even have them, but I am sure they made perfect sense at the time. I'm not so silly as to store rubbish down there, but after last Winter I was so afraid of losing electricity again that I began stockpiling cardboard to use in the wood-burning stove; fortunately, this year has been very mild, but now all I see is an endless, messy mountain of boxes when I walk down the stairs, and the thought of breaking them down makes me want to cry and lose the will to live. It made sense in a random doomsday prep kind of way, but now it is just something that feels overwhelming because of the sheer volume of it all.

There are a few things that I thought I would sell (which considering I have never sold anything before was maybe a tad ambitious) and an old cast iron sewing machine that I love, and is useful for putting things on, but far too heavy to make its journey back up the stairs.

So, while I understand the occasional need to store things, it is often my least favorite idea when it comes to organizing a home. I prefer to think of it as a temporary solution; one that should probably be stopped before it becomes a reluctant place to visit, a small habit, quietly fed with irrational doses of fear, cardboard and avoidance.

When the weather warms up, I will empty my basement as much as I can, and delight the recycling man with my impressive pile of cardboard, but in the meantime I must decide what to do with the rest. Don't ask me for my life plan, or even a 5 year plan, but ask me to organize something and I will be right there. It makes me so happy, and, I am sure that if my cellar was heated (and not jumping with cave crickets) I would be cleaning it out today.

I donate most things to Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Market Street Mission in Morristown. I like that they are local, they are friendly to deal with, and I know that everything is appreciated and used (or at least sold for their cause). I have found that it is so important to donate to something that you truly believe in, as that will make the process far more motivating and enjoyable (palatable?).

If you want to make money off what you have, there are places for that, but otherwise it is best to give freely, without regrets or conditions; not everything may go to the exact place that you imagine, but someone somewhere will always get the trickle down benefit from your donation, which, as Martha would say, is always a good thing.