It was at least 20 years ago that my father said we were no longer exchanging Christmas gifts. He was not being a Grinch, he just felt we have too much already. My Dad wanted us to give gifts that impacted lives in honor of one another; specifically in developing nations. A new family tradition was born. INTENTIONAL GIVING has been central to our family Christmas celebrations ever since.
I had a life defining moment at the age of twenty eight. Through this exceptional experience I came to understand how life giving the character and atmosphere of my personal space was. I have since discovered this can be achieved through DIY projects, hand stamping, hand glazing, upcycling, recycling, thrifting, Facebook Marketplace and curbside finds. Creating an appealing décor is affordable for everyone.
Let me tell you about my landmark encounter. My husband and I had just joined a nonprofit trying to do good around the world. We visited a couple who had made similar choices to ours. I was enamored with their commitment and sense of purpose. They were warm, kind people. As we enjoyed an evening of conversation and home cooking I took in my surroundings. I realized their style sense was vastly different from mine.
This stand alone moment sent me on a journey of discovery. It seemed the aesthetics of simplistic living was open to individual interpretation. I realized I needed color, style, and flair and these attributes didn’t preclude my desire to live in light of the great needs of the world. When I realized as a young woman that I could have both it set me on a lifetime trajectory to live a beautiful life while leaning into voluntary simplicity. Being satisfied with what I have rather than what I want has been a lifetime struggle but well worth the effort I believe.
Our season of service provided a platform for my developing philosophy: that I live my life engaged in global concerns while celebrating my own unique choice of ambiance that nurtured life. It was also the perfect forum to gather color combos and other creative designs that has contributed to my eclectic taste.
Personal space that reflected my creativity was crucial to my identify. As far as I could remember I did things with a certain special touch. Copper Jelly molds did not exist in my childhood home but the gift of hospitality had been modeled for me by my parents. So when I was as teenager I intuitively set about making jelly molds from soup tins. My lack of accoutrements or sophisticated recipes didn’t stop me from serving a jellied salad with panache. I was onto to something, it wasn’t resources or a worldview that limited style it was creativity and an adventurous spirit. The beginnings of the art of simplicity was born.
As a young woman I read an impactful soundbite, FRUGALITIY WITHOUT CREATIVITY IS DEPRAVITY. It is from the author of THE TIGHWAD GAZETTE, a book that promoted thrift as a viable alternative lifestyle. I adopted this phrase as my own as it best reflected my nuanced lifestyle. A welcoming appealing aesthetic created mostly on a budget, by hand and with thrift store finds has been a lifetime pursuit.
We need not let limited resources or space deter a creative spirit. The walls that surround us have nothing but potential. How we paint them, decorate them, group pictures all contribute to the character of a room. The cost for beige paint is identical to sunflower yellow and barnyard red. I started by experimenting with color palettes. I loved the patina of the French Country I had seen in magazines and my travels. I wanted to recreate that old world character in my understated bungalow in Central Florida.
Most of my ideas are not original but garnered from images procured from dozens of sources. Women of my generation looked to Martha Stewart for ideas. Most of us did not have her unlimited resources or entourage but nonetheless were inspired by her creativity. I never thought her magnificent creations could be duplicated but only that they stimulated creative thought. The younger generation is now inundated with ideas from the internet. Pinterest and You Tube provide countless DIY projects. It’s important to let these images not intimidate you but use them as a springboard to create your own unique oasis.
STENCILS & GLAZE & CHALK PAINT
I also discovered stenciling. I created faux ceramic tiles and wooden floors by hand painting and stencils. When I wanted a back splash behind my stove I painted it. A border along the perimeter of my kitchen wall was designed and hand stamped with sponge shapes. A faux armoire in the Master Bedroom came alive by taking advantage of the design of the closet and accenting it with a contrast color and stencils.
My orange and blue patinas in the living and dining room were created with lots and lots of hand rubbing with glazes and cheesecloth. I also adore the worn aged look created with chalk paint made famous by Annie Sloan. Chalk paint gives surfaces a shabby-chic style. Sanding the surface intermittently can easily produce a distressed look which adds character and vintage charm to your home.
Prior to Digital Pinterest Boards, we had glossy magazines filled with decorating ideas. In my younger years I amassed hundreds of pictures from magazines and placed them in an over sized scrap book. I remember seeing just one photo of curtains hanging willy-nilly throughout a house and it captured my imagination.
So I have set about over the years to use curtains of all sorts and colors to grace my home in addition to being used as simply as window coverings. The revelation that materials of all sorts could be used as decoration, trimming, room dividers, doorway coverings and a special touch of realism to a faux window was liberating.
Fabric also drapes my ceiling as I attempted to create a Middle Eastern theme for a Ramadan event I hosted in my home. I stapled a huge piece of natural muslin to opposite corners of the room and it has stayed there ever since. I have also learned that both a tablecloth and a saree can make fine window dressings.
Ten years ago I visited dear friends in their Pennsylvania summer home, a respite from NYC living. I fell in love with their white sideboard covered in potted plants. I knew I just had to have something similar in my home. The idea got tucked away and percolated for a decade until a discarded wrought iron kitchen unit caught my eye curbside. I knew I had found a piece that would best mimic the image I had been carrying since that summer visit.
I walked that piece of furniture across my cul-de-sac, painted it white, filled it with potted plants and placed it on my back porch. As we dine al fresco we can also feast our eyes on this splendid floral display. I think the joy of waiting for the right piece also contributes to the adventure of creating a home with character.
FIND CREATIVITY EVERYWHERE
The sources and the depth and breadth of inspiration vary but gems for living are waiting to be uncovered. Look and listen you will be surprised. Endless inspiration can be found everywhere!
Browsing through stores, visiting someone’s home, internet searches, garage sales, magazines and travel are all sources of genius. We collect ideas from varied sources all influencing our personal taste and style. Home is where the heart is. May you beautifully decorate your domain that best reflects you and your taste.
Ultimately what matters is the relationships that exist between those inside the walls. The address, whether an avenue or a street, a courtyard or cul-de-sac, makes no difference because the doublewide and the two-story alike, serve the exact same purpose. A roof over our head, no matter how stately or humble, is home. But it’s the relationships that transform a house from brick and mortar into a place where life is nurtured. Home is more than a space, it is a place where real life happens.
1 Samuel 25:6
“…Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.”
A milestone birthday prompted me to update my appearance. A certain color of lipstick was soon to become my signature look. The surprise is in the narrative that accompanies this bright hue.