I had a life defining moment at twenty eight years of age. 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, homemade, upcycle, recycle, thrift store, 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 were visiting Northern Canada and met with a retired couple who had made choices similar 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. What struck me was how they had chose to decorate their home. Its simplicity I admired but it very much lacked color and character. My heart sank. I equated their decorating sense to be a reflection of the life we were about to embark upon.
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 adult 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 worth the effort I believe.
Our season of service with a nonprofit provided a platform for my developing philosophy, that creativity and simplicity could co-exist. My deep need for ambience could be reconciled with my deeper desire to help others. Personal space that reflected my creativity was crucial to my identify. As far as I could remember I did things with flair. Copper Jelly molds did not exist in my home as a child but the gift of hospitality had been modeled for me by my parents. When I was as teenager I set about making jelly molds from soup tins. My lack of accoutrements didn’t stop me from serving a jellied salad with panache. I was onto to something, it wasn’t resources 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 and space deter a creative spirit. The walls that surround us have nothing but potential. How we paint it, decorate it, group pictures on it 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. Woman 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 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 on 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 age 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. I have cut out hundreds of images from magazines in my younger years amassing them in a over sized scrap book. I remember seeing just one photo of curtains hanging willy-nilly throughout a house and not as window coverings. It captured my imagination.
Materials of all sorts could be used as decoration, trimming, room dividers, doorway coverings and a special touch of realism to a faux window.
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 their original purpose, although tablecloths it seems also make a fine window dressing.
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 Muslin to opposite corners of the room and it has stayed there ever since.
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 the 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 ideas can be found everywhere!
Walking through stores, visiting someone’s home, internet searches, antique sales, magazines and travel are all sources of genius. We collect ideas and inspiration 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 though is the relationships that exist between those who dwell under one roof. 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. Every family and every person has a dwelling no matter how stately or humble. They call it home. It’s the relationships that transform a house from brick and mortar into a place where life is nurtured. Home is not merely a space, but a place in which real living is found.
1 Samuel 25:6
“…Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that