Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just Beyond the Farmhouse

In just a few minutes, I'll be returning to Teenyville--not a geographical location but a state of being, a place where I will make the final edits on the new book. It won't be an easy transition. For one week, I've enjoyed the cooking/house puttering mode. I've gained three pounds, cleaned the cook-top, and made headway into my overstuffed closet.

Today, it's damp and chilly. As I gaze out the back window, I see rolling hills just beyond the farmhouse. Many hundreds of years ago, our little patch of Tennessee earth was settled by dissidents, plucky folks who stood up for their beliefs and got kicked out of England.
Some were stripped of titles and land. Others wrangled land grants.

All these years later, the Celtic influence is still alive in our landscape, cooking, music, and spirit.

When I'm indoors, I spend most of my time beside a window.

Hands down, I prefer to be outside.
To my way of thinking, land has no design rules.
Five years ago, I was much more interested in the interior landscape. But you know what? It's a different world inside. And it has certain "rules." As in my-decor-is-dated. As in I-Need-To-Repaint (or Repent).
As inI-Just-Finished-Decorating-This-Room-And-I-Ain't-Changing-It.
As in Yep-The-Curtain-Rods-Are-Too-Low-But-I'm-Short-and-Can't-Reach-Higher-Even-With-a-Ladder.
Since Teeny Templeton is like me, a bit of a style dissident, our response is, Whatever makes you happy.
If you've got striped, puddled draperies, come sit by me and Teeny. If your walls are red and your trim is white, come sit by me and Teeny. If you love the idea of all white rooms but you also love dirt (and a love of dirt is totally Celtic-farmer, by the way), come sit with me.

I'll tell you that it makes me dizzy to see how fast interior trends change. When I read that this color or that color is "out," I wonder who makes up these rules. I wonder who, in this economy, has the time, money, or energy to prevent the dated look?

But it makes me happy to know one thing:
I might get dizzy, I might have the wrong wall colors, draperies, rugs, and trim, but guess what?
I don't give a damn.
I know what I like, and I'm keeping it.
My partner likes things on the formal side, and I like things a bit frayed at the edges. We've set the table with Waterford and, in the same room, we've had a baby goat running loose. Our farmhouse is a farm hospital; we've nursed chicks and lambs and baby donkeys, too.
It's a place where Yorkies come to tea.

I believe in comfort food and comfort decor. I like the sameness of things. I like the stability of sameness. At this farm, an all-white decor would last five minutes.
Don't get me wrong--I flat-out love all-white rooms and gray rooms. I might paint my wicker gray, but honestly? By the time I finish writing, gray will be so over.
I love the pared-down, simple, unfussy, all neutral look. I really, really love it.
But I'm also a realist. I know what will and will not work in my own interior landscape.
Also, I'm not getting rid of my out-of-style stuff.
My tassled pillows are comforting.
My junk is comforting.
My bright colors might cause instant blindness, but they are comforting to me and Dr. G.
(gollum's mom with Wink the kid.)

No interior designer can compete with Mother Nature.
She invented the color wheel, and she doesn't pay one bit of attention to trends or what's "in."
She goes with what she likes.She ignores food trends, too.
And when the going gets tough, she takes green apples and turns them into comfort food.

You can live in a condo or a subdivision and enjoy farmhouse style. Because it is a state of being.
It's an attitude.
Farmstyle is about comfort, however you define comfort. It's adaptable. You can dress it up or keep it simple. You invent the rules.
This is not to say that "style" is missing from farmstyle. It just eschews trends. 
It enjoys pretty rooms, and it knows that gray is the new beige and that bold wall colors and white trim might soon be dated.
It just doesn't care.

Farmstyle is about a good cup of coffee and homemade cake. The berries don't have to be homegrown, but it helps to have a homegrown attitude.
But mostly, it's important to take in the view just beyond the farmhouse, and beyond ourselves.

For me, style is all about the land and our beloved animals. It's that far tree in the background (right side). It's my English tree. The tree with Scotch-Irish roots. The tree that says, I may lose my leaves, I may be scraggly, but I'm still here.
And I'm smiling.
For a peek at Houzz'z 10 Wonderful Farmhouses, (in today's San Francisco Gate), visit:


  1. I LOVE your pictures and the little stories to go along. They always make me smile :)

  2. What a great post. I love all the pictures and I love your style. Funny thing is my hubs and I were talking about how much we like a lived in feeling and love some of the things we have had for years. Styles change so fast, but I like a home that feels homey, like the people who live there, not just what is in style.

  3. You are spot on with this post! Nature is the best designer.

    Your pictures are just beautiful.


  4. Thank you for this post, it is wonderful, spot on, and full of hope! I have those colorful walls with white trim, and other than a grey cashmere pashmina, I can't really embrace gray or beige as overall color, sorry, it is not in me. I have a colorful personality and it so comes out in my tastes! The baby goat with Mom photo is precious! xo

  5. Thank you so much! I cannot begin to tell you how much I truly needed this post today. You are a gem, my friend! I've thought these same thoughts so often; thinking I must be behind the times. And then, I think it over and decide I love my surroundings, even though I shift and change a thing or two now and then.

    I am from the same "stock". My folks arrived in MO from TN and KY during the mid 19th Century. Those same Scot/Irish/Welsh folk settled the beautiful Ozarks.:-)

  6. Hi
    I was just in Scotland in June and I have a new love for sheep. The Highlands and the Scottish folks are awesome. Your farm and your ideas are right on! I have been married for 51 years and I have only owned three sofas and lived in same house for 43 years. I have a wonderful life. A very simple life. The creative juices for my blog keep me grounded and I love your blog and Teeny too...
    Betty @ My Cozy Corner

  7. Oh Michael Lee, you have hit the nail on the HEAD!!!! I agree 100%!!! I know what I like, I love what I have and I am NOT changing my wall colors or anything else to go along with a TREND! I just can't do it. I love COLOR, warm rusts, golds, blacks, etc. I can not have an all white interior or the grays or beiges. Just isn't ME! Or my hubby. Thank God we like the same things!!!! I am pretty content, we both just want to move to an EASIER house. Not necessarily smaller, just different in layout and function. Before we are too old to enjoy it:):):) XO, Pinky I am SO glad you are BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. PS, the picture of the goats on the picnic table CRACKED ME UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Amen Michael! My home is very comfortable to me and my guests, that's the only thing that matters:@)

  10. OH, how I love to look at all white rooms and how lovely and beautiful...but, when it comes to my home I love color, particularly warm colors. That is the very reason we have struggled to find a new sofa (the one being "relocated" to my office, no less, is 13 years old and if it weren't frayed and a bit on the sad side I would still keep it the center point of the living room seating.) Funny, though, my "new" living room furniture is in the same color sceme as my "old" one which also flows from my kitchen, office, dining room and into the Master as well. It has taken me almost 23 year to come to terms with what I like and what we feel is home and I don't want to change it up just because it isn't the IN thing! Love this post and can't wait to hear where Miss Teeny travels next! (((hugs)))

  11. I just finished the book I won (way back when) and I loved it! I can't wait for the next installment of Teeney. But it's hard not to drool over the pages when I read those delicious cakes, etc she makes. Good job and good luck with the new book.

  12. You're right about Dear Mother Nature. She is ALWAYS fashionable!

  13. What a gorgeous place!! I'd never leave home with a view like that!

  14. Michael Lee~ Can you see me standing on my desk giving you fist pumps and yelling KUDOS and BRAVO to you. Clapping and giving you the biggest standing ovation? Well, I am in my mind! Here's to your and your great common sense. Here's to you and loving where you are and what you have! Here's to you for having "style and greace"! I say YOU ARE LIVING LIFE...real and authentic!
    And from one country girl who lives in a farmhouse to another...you nailed the true essence of farmhouse style! No wonder our houses are more like hotels, who wouldn't want to be in a place that feels so comfortable, at home and inviting!Living this way is like a warm hug!
    Please stop by and read my blog today~ We were of one mind. I posted something with the same essence today.
    Wonderful post... wonderful you!
    You are delightful!

  15. Here's to loving and living with what you have! As much as I love seeing new and different decor and think I would love a change I know in my heart I would still be very hard pressed to get rid of much of what I already own because it's all come to us with so many memories too. I enjoy tweeking my look a bit here and there but for the most part I have my decorating constants also. Great point! Love the goats on the table so much. They look like they are trying to sit down. LOL!

  16. Hi Michael Lee! Oh, this was a wonderful post and I do believe you're talking about 'home'! You do have a marvelous farmhouse, and to have your beautiful land and all the animals must be heavenly. Little Mister is still a doll, too!
    I'm like you, I don't care what others think, I just like what I like. Well, I guess I care a little bit! :) But not enough to worry about it.
    Take care and good luck with all of your editing.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  17. I couldn't have said it any better! Nature is the best designer, and I am keeping my pussy willow wallpaper on my dining room walls. It's been up for over 20 years, and I still get compliments because of its natural look. Love the picture of Little Mister and your sweet mom!

  18. Oh, I agree with everything you say. My house doesn't follow any trends, it's just filled with things I love. An IKEA sofa sits right next to an antique trunk, which is pushed a little to the side to make room for the latest cat bed for the cats to ignore. I wouldn't change a thing.

  19. This is one of my favorite posts of yours! My sentiments too!!

  20. Amen! So glad you posted this today and I couldn't agree more!

  21. Thank you for this post,
    it is wonderful

  22. Your post today is incredible. I love your stories and sediments! Very inspirational. Fondly, Susie

  23. Amen Sister, do you hear me screaming from the roof top? I believe that you surround yourself by what make YOU comfortable and what YOU love! Yes, look in magazines and etc to get ideas, but it all boils down to what YOU like/love! Love the photos! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Love your blog. Will be a follower from now on. And thank you for your lovely comments. You are so kind.

  25. What a great post todat! I agree 100%. I still love my brass and red dinning room. Your mom looks wonderful... thanks for sharing Pat H

  26. Beautiful post! I am so with you! Some of those so called "decorator" rooms leave me cold. If I don't like a color, I don't care how "in" it is, orange, no way!
    I can't wait till they regret painting all their solid brass, black or whatever. Some things are classic, like a cashmere blazer, and are always in style. My brass will stay, brass!
    It must be the Celtic influence!

  27. I'm so sick of white slip covered sofas I could scream. I live with 180 lb dog that drools. I don't want to wash my sofa every day but it seems if you don't have an IKEA sofa you're not "in". I'll take my BROWN wipe and go leather any day.

  28. What a beautiful post. I could not agree more. I just love it when people tell me that I need different colored curtains or sofa in my house! Your pictures are beautiful and those apples are like artwork...so very pretty!

  29. LOVED this post, Michael! I think it's good to know what you like regardless of what the 'rulers' say is in or is out. Your home is beautiful. Red walls or white walls.


  30. Amen~ I knew when the Belgian/greige look first appeared that it wasn't "me", or even our family. As you shared, it doesn't mesh with our lifestyle (and our family also includes out animals). I love the look, but to me furnishing one's home isn't about following the latest trends (unless it truly speaks to your design sense), but about creating a warmth that embraces you and your guests...and is an expression of your authentic self.

    Thank you for such a spot-on post...I hope that you and your family are well, and wish you much success with your new book! xo