Sunday, October 18, 2015

Creating Comfort and Joy

Once upon a time, home decor had a long shelf life. Trends came and went, same as always, but you had time to catch your breath and enjoy them. In those days, when I needed inspiration, I looked at my favorite shelter magazines--not to replicate a room but to learn. I studied details and asked myself what I liked (and didn't like) about a space.

Do you remember the old design shows on TV? Lynette Jennings taught me about yellow paint color, and Candice Olson showed me how to arrange furniture in a long, narrow room. I learned all kinds of tidbits from Kitty Bartholomew.

Nowadays, it seems to me that design aesthetics are formed by places like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. Just for the record, I like those stores. I enjoy looking at some of the vignettes. I adore my reclaimed wood table from RH, and I smile each time I use the PB galvanized compote. I can't wait to (finally!) put up string lights from Ballard's.
Maybe these items won't seem dated in 15 minutes. Or maybe they will. The thing is, I prolly won't care. I'll still like the table, compote, and lights.
I guess I'm saying that I like certain elements in design catalogs, but if I put together, say, a RH living room, I would need to wear a Hazmat suit--to protect the furniture from my clumsy, loves-to-garden self.

I just know one thing: design moves as fast as a hurricane, but you can stop the whirlwinds if you know what you love. It's never too late to figure it out.
When my mother was a girl, she slept in a beautiful, hand-me-down twin bed (from her grandmother's farm). Today, it's still beautiful.
Books on a Nightstand: Mothers, Daughters, and Books

Many years ago, when Bandwidth was still in diapers, my husband and I built a house. We added furniture piece by piece, as time and funds allowed. I still have those pieces. Along the way, my dining table has acquired a few scratches, but many memories. You won't see a table like this in an online, hipster decorating store, but you will probably see a version in real homes.

Fast-forward to the present day. If I had a design style, maybe I wouldn't feel so lost when I think about furnishing my ranch house. But, you see, I began acquiring foundation pieces in 1978, when I was a bride. I bought the things I loved. Now, all these years later, the objects are wildly different, and while they aren't always harmonious (and may be out of style), they are sources of comfort and joy. I've got French pieces, but my style is too inconsistent (and crazy) to be true French Country, and I dearly love that style.  But I like so many things: Shabby chic, country, new country, farmhouse, eclectic, traditional, even a bit of industrial. You can really tell what I like when you come to my house. It's a grab bag.

I'm not looking to replace anything. But I would like a few things to vanish, like those new accessories I rushed out to buy in 2006, when I moved to the windy farm. I wouldn't call these items trendy. The term for them hasn't yet been invented. They're the Lord Voldemort of accessories and shall not be named. I bought them because they looked okay in the house and I could forget about the room and get back to writing. But these nameless things didn't fit my life. They fit the room, and now the room is gone.

I still love my faux orchids, still love the antlers, don't care if they are in or out; but a couple of things give me pause. Like all of those chunky, resin candlesticks, all in sets, and assorted resin boxes. Resin will be here at the End of Time, I reckon. 
I may paint them. In fact, I probably will. 
I can't help but wonder: What in the world was I thinking? Had I forgotten everything that I'd learned from Candice and Kitty? More to the point, I had forgotten everything that I'd learned from the women in my family--that decorating isn't meant to be rushed. You're creating a home. And homes are organic.
They are meant to change as we change.
If I see a trend I like, I'll bite. Just not too much. It's fun. This isn't decorating: it's fluffing the nest. It's part of being human to tweak ourselves and our homes. A good part.

Shelter is, after all, one of man's basic needs.

Nowadays, I'm looking at interior design from a different hilltop. Still evolving. Still tweaking things in my mind's eye. I'm studying what matters: comfort and joy.

My Short List for Creating Comfort and Joy

1. Plush, Comfy Bedding

At the end of a hard day, I love to sink into soft, womb-like bed.
2. A Practical, Welcoming Foyer

A foyer gives a sneak preview of your home's style--and your personality. Add a bench so you can sit down and take off your shoes. A hat rack is a nice touch, too.
To my way of thinking, it's more important to to add comfort than to match a style. We'll see how that works at the ranchburger!

3. Pillows

This is just a personal opinion, but I've never grown tired of pillows, especially if they feature flowers or dogs. Pillows add color and personality. 

4. Surround Yourself with Memories

Place old photographs in a bowl. This is a wonderful way to share memories during the holidays.
Create a vignette in old suitcases.

My mother loved to beachcomb, and she collected shells from her travels. My husband collects rocks. An old bread bowl is a great way to display your beloved objects. 

5. Use Collections to Tell a Story
Who are you, really?
What do you love? Who do you love? Where have you been? Where do you want to go? Who shares your life?

Maybe this is what decorating is really about--creating a narrative. This is the time to really lose design rules and get creative. 
An old china cabinet is the perfect backdrop for a design narrative. On each shelf, you can create vignettes that tell a story.

6. Books

The Kindle may have turned old fashioned books into dinosaurs, but I will always love the weight of a book on my lap. A crammed-to-the-brim bookshelf adds individuality to a home. It gives a peek into your inner world. Well-worn cookbooks tell one story; travel books tell another.

This room has everything: books, needlepoint pillows, and two gorgeous, happy dogs.

7. Vintage Rugs

A room has four walls--the ceiling is the fifth wall, so the floor must be the sixth.
I have a few sisal rugs (and I like them), but there's nothing like a colorful rug that tells a story.
Below, a whimsical rug provided inspiration for a warm, pretty living room. The little Westie is adorable.

8. Candles

Candles add romance and magic to any kind of decor. They are also therapeutic. We light candles every single night and say prayers for the Yorkies we miss so much. 

9. A Morning Beverage Station

The first thing in the morning, when  you're stumbling into the kitchen, it's comforting to find everything you need for a cup of coffee or tea. Placing items on a large tray adds boundaries if you live with a messy person. Put tea bags, coffee beans, or K-cups in labeled jars. If you live with grumpy people, add whimsy.

10. Flowers

No matter if they are faux or real . . . 

I spent a lifetime trying to educate myself about design. I was a poor student. I made many mistakes, and some were beyond my skills to repair. Nevertheless, I kept studying, hoping that one day, I would understand how to decorate and not screw up all the time.
But I'd missed the point.
The point wasn't to avoid mistakes. It wasn't learning how to hang photographs or blend colors.
The lesson was right in front of my eyes, but I didn't see it until I was in my 60s.

We live in a world where everything moves swiftly, where everything is curated and disposable. We live in a time when the "color of the year" has a shelf life of two months, if that.

I still look at design magazines and always will. I am also inspired by many blogs. These beautiful homes are all different, all beautiful, organic, and alive. They have a history.

There are classic ways to add comfort and joy to a home--but comfort means different things to different people.To me, comfort and joy is a ceramic rooster that has a broken (and repaired) claw. There's an irreplaceable memory behind that rooster.I saw him sitting in the window of a discount store--but the store was always closed (it later went out of business). I drove by the store every single day to check on the rooster. Then, one morning while my husband and I were running errands, we noticed the store was open. I dashed in, bought Mr. Rooster, and carried him home on my lap! A few years later, I dropped a fork on his claw and it snapped off. The menfolk glued it back together. 
In my opinion, roosters are classic (if you like roosters, that is).

Our homes are a repository of all we are and all we were. We tell the story of our lives by how we adorn our walls and floors. Use the things you love, and it will work out. Somehow, someway, it always does.
Isn't that a marvelous thing?


  1. It is a marvelous thing and such wonderful advice. The things we love provide us with comfort and, often, memories.

  2. Bless your mind. I'm thinking exactly like you are these days. I was married in 1978 too! I never had the mindset to acquire things that could stay with me early on but that's what I'm doing now. I am not easily influenced by trends but I rather love to stick to traditional decorating and feel stable with it. I enjoyed your thoughts and pictures. Making mistakes along the way allows us to share the knowledge with others and there's nothing wrong with that! Big hugs, Liz

  3. I miss Kitty Bartholomew! What happened to her?

    1. It's worth looking into! I miss Matt and Sherri, too.

  4. Great post...and just what I was thinking! I know roosters have fallen out of style..but in my you said....they are a classic...and I have two! I wouldn't trade them for the world either...they hold memories. It took me til I was about 60 too, to truly understand what it means to create a home. There is a level of comfort in being surrounded by familiar things...whether they are trendy, or doesn't matter to me. When I walk into my just feels right! ;)

    1. We can start a Roosters Are In club! I think you just defined the meaning of home--"When I walk into my just feels right!"

  5. Love your post. You inspire me. So happy that you share your thoughts with us. I too love what I have. My home is precious to me and my family and that is all that matters.

    1. Thanks, Ahrisha, for visiting me today and for your kind words.

  6. We are kindred spirits Michael. Love this post. It truly speaks to me.

    About those resin boxes...youngest grandson, almost 8 year old Noah, loves those boxes I used in the old house. They've found a home with him. I think it must have something to do with Harry Potter.

    1. Harry, for sure. LOL. My little niece will love a box for her treasures. Great idea!

  7. Ditto. Ditto is what comes to my mind. I was a bride in 1973,,,and had so much to learn. I used Southern Living Magazine to help me hone my traditional style. We built our first house and collected nice pieces...most of which I still have. I cannot forsake them just because their federal style might not be of the moment. My poor dining room table suffered the slings and arrows of moving again. I had to glue some joints, etc. But I still like it and like you we hosted holiday and birthday dinners at that table. Yes it's just wood...but so much more. It has the history about which you spoke. I have an old 100+ year old table that my great great grandmother had on her back porch after it fell out of favor inside the farm house. I would not take anything for that.And...I have three very special roosters. Are they out of style? ha?
    And so...we grow comfortable with our spirit and our style as we mature. ha!
    Lovely post. I think many will identify with it. At least we older girls. ha.

    1. Oh, thanks, Sheila. You know, I was thinking about today's 20-somethings (or even 30-somethings) who are buying furniture. Will they still love it when they're 70? Or will it be long gone, sold on Craig's List? Glad you have some special roosters. Consider yourself a member of the Roos are In Club.

  8. What a beautiful post, it so echoes just how I feel. I love the things I have collected over the years, and while I enjoy some trends here and there, I'll stick with my traditional style. How I wish Lynette Jennings was still on TV, she really taught me a lot. I used to love the Joe Ruggiero show, I think called "Homes Across America", and the Joan Kohn shows about kitchens and baths.

    1. Oh, I loved Joe. I had forgotten about Joan, but she was great, too! I miss the old gang.

  9. Oh My!!! Have you ever opened up a can of worms for me!!!! First and foremost...Thank You Thank You Thank You for saying what I've been saying forever......who cares what is the "in" thing is at the moment????? If you don't like the trendy thing, why on earth would you put it in your house just other people will say..Oh, isn't that nice? I. Cannot. Stand. That. EX: granite. have never seen a pattern I like. Just don't like the feel it gives to a kitchen. Never have. Never will. But I'm supposed to have that in my kitchen because that's what everyone is doing and that what prospective buyers would want. Wha???????? I've been in my house for 30 yrs on 360 acres with not one iota of a desire to ever sell it. Even if none of my kids want it when we're gone, it will sit here forever. And if I don't like granite, why would I put it in my house if it doesn't make my heart sing?????
    I so agree with you on decorating styles.....we should do what makes us the most comfortable. I look at decorating sites forever and when I see the rooms that are as neat as a pin with no obvious comfortable seating, it makes me cringe. What makes our homes our homes is the livability...the comfort....the memory making times spent in that home. My built in shelves tell one million stories. I do not accessorize with anything that has not come from my travels. I can sit in my comfy chair and gaze at my shelving, taking each trip all over again. And its always a conversation maker for guests and friends.
    My home is a little window into my soul.............just the way I like it!!

    1. 360 acres sounds like heaven on earth. I love your idea of accessorizing with travel memories. "A window into your soul." How lovely and true!

  10. I love, love, love this post! Thank you.

  11. Great post and you and I love the same things. I wish we were neighbors!

    1. Oh, I do, too. I could be Miss Bailey's honorary auntie!

  12. I TOTALLY agree! I feel SO blessed to have inherited so many beautiful things from my in-laws. My Mom was a single Mom so never had money to "decorate" her house. I suspect she didn't really care much either. But when I got married I ADORED all the things my in-laws had. My FIL was a pilot and loved to shop. When they died, the other "kids" didn't want most of what I consider treasures: a screen from Japan, 2 ceramic elephants from Vietnam, artwork from Vietnam, lamps and tables from India etc. Each piece has a history and memories for us. I decided 30 plus years ago that I wanted to collect blue and white porcelains. I LOVE each piece and remember where I got almost every one.My son has inherited that love for blue and white too. I do have to say though, that your homes have always been GORGEOUS to me. I wanted to copy YOU!!! Back from the RMS days:) You have always been a huge inspiration. XO

    1. You have beautiful pieces, Pinky. Your blue and white collection is breathtaking--isn't it wonderful that your son loves it, too? Thank you so much for your kind words and for being a friend so so many years.

  13. Comfort and love! I like the theme of this post, Michael Lee. Our home has evolved over time too. I can't relate to letting go of everything and replacing it with the current trend, but I know some who do just that. Our home is layers upon layers of things that are part of our history, either from our families or of our own history making as a couple. As for roosters....yep, I'm one of those who loves roosters. ;-)

    1. Layers--that is a great description. Welcome to the Rooster Club!

  14. Thank you for this post and I like your ten items. I have days when I want to have a massive yard sale and sell everything I own and start over and fill my house with new and trendy pieces. But that is just not me and in the end, what would I have? A house that looks like someone else lives there. Like you, I enjoy a few trendy items that will probably stay with me long after the trend has gone. But, I want my home to reflect our life in all of its seasons of joy, hardship, growth, perseverance and character building so that it is all woven into and added onto a strong, traditional foundation.

  15. Great post. I loved it. My hubby's cousin decorated their entire house by going to Pottery Barn and like stores, and buying entire setups. Their house feels like a museum. But they can afford to do that. I've had to decorate in pieces. Finally decorating a space when I have a few extra funds. I kind of like it better that way though. It takes me time to find pieces I like, and I feel a connection to decor that I pick up because it speaks to me. I think it makes for a much warmer feeling home. And I agree with you 100% on comfortable bedding. A must-have!

  16. Buy what you love, use what you have, change what you don't like, and enjoy your unique style, that's my motto!
    Loved all the photos!

  17. Very nice article with beautiful pictures.
    Very creative ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  18. What a wonderful post!! You said it all so well!! Jenna at 'the painted apron' expressed my feelings exactly....thank you!!

    I was married in '68, before that was a single working girl with my own apartment in the big city.......I still have many of the pieces I or we acquired back then and still love them. Some new things have filtered in and out, but am still a traditionalist , and am very comfortable in my surroundings and with myself.

    Thank you for taking the time to compose this post......really great!!!

  19. I certainly connected with this post, Michael. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us.

    Oh how I miss the good old days of HGTV - when it was truly home and garden television! I wish that there was some way to watch these old shows. I haven't had much luck on youtube.

  20. I have enjoyed the wisdom in this post so much. Thank you for your honesty and for being nice about it too.


  21. Good design never goes out of style, even for centuries. Your post has expressed this so well. I have a few things from when I was a single working girl living in an apartment with roommates. One piece that I still love and use is an old church communion table made from oak. It sat in my Sunday School class because it had a repaired leg, top stained with ink, and worn finish. I looked at it every Sunday and eventually offered to buy it from the church elders. The table was in such poor condition, they gave it to me and would not accept any money. I stripped it and refinished it over 45 years ago. I still use it as a desk in my home office.


  22. Oh, Michael Lee, I just loved this post! You're so right! Decorating is so very personal and our homes need to be filled with what we love. You really are the most clever one on all things!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  23. So very well expressed Michael Lee ... ☺.... and I couldn't agree with you more. -Brenda-

  24. What a great post and you are so right my friend. The pieces we love provide us comfort and yes, our heirloom pieces are my fav, but I think I love all the pieces and things from my house, my nest and my security blanket, lol..
    I am like you, although French cottage just doesn't go in my house at present, I did have a farm and farm décor, and I still would love to have more of a cottage kitchen. I love all styles, except minimalism. No matter what, I always tend and end up with the traditional English.
    Beautiful images and I love them all! Thanks for sharing.

  25. I must've missed this post while flying from Ohio back to Texas. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and remembering Kitty Bartholomew and Lynette Jennings. I think as we get older, we come into our own and surround ourselves with things that we love. I like different styles, too, but never contemporary for me. Yes, it all works when it brings "comfort and joy".

  26. Wonder why the old interior design shows on TV went out of style? Now it seems to be all about remodeling and not so much about interior design. Like you, I loved Lynette Jennings, and still remember some of her design tips. If nothing else, the design shows gave us ideas that started us thinking how to put our own things together in a pleasing way.

  27. I think all of this comes from an inner peace-- the peace to accept who we are and actually find joy in it. It's also why the rooms I love have evolved rather were "decorated". It's all about telling our story :).

  28. So much inspiration!!! I really miss Lynette and Kitty...Mary Emmerling too!
    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!

  29. Oh this is wonderful. Yes, comfort and joy is created with these comforting additions. I love that fireplace with the candles. I burn candles every day!

  30. Well said. If I was a trendy gal, my home would look nothing like it does. I lived in this home for a year before I did anything besides build a closet and a wall to hide the furnace downstairs. It's taken me three and sometimes four years to pick paint, because I want it to be this way for life and not for a moment and I want the house to tell me what it wants. The furniture... well, I've had most of it for years and it isn't going anywhere, because as you said, it's full of memories and love and family and you can't replace it with the latest new thing. At least I couldn't ;)