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When I was in my early 30’s, my decorating style could be summed up with any of these three words:
I just didn’t try too hard, I guess. At this time, “decorating” to me meant clearing the clutter off of an end table, and artfully arranging a few knick-knacks. But something inside me was definitely stirring, beginning around the time my daughter was a toddler. I began to seek out real decorating advice in the only place I knew to look: the bookstore. One day while browsing the titles, I came upon a book by an interior designer named Alexandra Stoddard, called Creating a Beautiful Home.
The book included chapters about each of the most common rooms in the house, featuring Alexandra’s philosophy about the role of each room in the home, followed by specific and tangible things you could do in each room to make them more comfortable, more functional, and more welcoming, regardless of your individual decorating taste.
Uh, what’s that? Bullet-point-style decorating tips? I could handle that! Little did I know the impact the rest of the book would have on me. It seems sort of silly to pull specific examples from the book, because to take them out of context seems only to trivialize them. But here are a few that I remember to this day, and implemented early:
- I set a clear glass bowl in my fridge to display fresh fruit, which made it appear purposeful and more appealing as a healthy snack option.
- I started bringing home fresh flowers as often as I could.
- I hung a mirror in our front entryway next to the front door, so guests who had just arrived to could freshen their appearance after removing hats and coats.
- I started to use “pretty things” whenever possible instead of merely functional ones, such as cardboard storage boxes covered in lovely images rather than clear plastic tubs.
These small touches helped me see that details made a difference. I was so taken with Creating a Beautiful Home that I soon picked up two other books by Alexandra: Living A Beautiful Life, and Daring to Be Yourself. All of these books, as it turned out, were more about a way of living: being hospitable, choosing beauty to surround you, and being connected to other human beings… than they were about decorating or personal habits.
The result of all this, for me, was that I improved my home-making (if not my housekeeping, which was and is still fairly disastrous) not because I was copying Alexandra’s style… but because I was heeding her broader advice and applying it to my own evolving tastes, my own space, and my own budget.
Over time I simply began to understand how minding the details and surrounding myself with things I liked made me really like my surroundings. And that liking my surroundings – loving them – is really important to feeling comfortable, safe, and happy.
I think this is why I never really worry about whether my decor is trendy or whether my DIY and craft projects are perfect. I’m not trying to create a showplace, I’m simply trying to feel at home in my own house and make others feel welcome.
I’m now in my mid-50’s and I can say without hesitation that I do have a decorating style, which has evolved over time and now rests comfortably on my heart like a well-loved needlepoint pillow. It contains elements of overstuffed comfortable cottage charm, timeworn patina, antique and flea market treasures, happy clutter, collections, and natural/garden motifs like roses, peonies, and birds. I don’t know what others may call it, but I call it “vintage floral cottage.” Those three little words to me represent a time period (past vs. modern), the motifs that I love, and the type of dwelling that makes me feel most at home. They evoke warmth, comfort, and respite.
I thank Alexandra Stoddard for setting me on the path not to her style, but to mine.