Archives for August 2007

Beauty through authenticity

As I mentioned in my previous post, I used to suffer from Magazine Cover-itis. If you look it up in the doctor’s disease manual my picture is right there by the description. Someone who suffers from this disease worries about the magazine cover potential of their house from every angle. Even if it is for their own visual delight and not for show, it is important to get a proper perspective about this. As I have grown up a bit (reached the big 4-0) I am much more comfortable in the journey and acceptance of my own limitations and reality that I must work with. I guess I am just more aware of what I am doing, why I am doing it and the focus has changed. The authenticity of the life behind the cover shot has become my driving force in the creation of my home.

The goal for me is not “magazine cover ready,” but that will be a likely result in time! I get almost giddy about that thought — I know, it seems contrary to my magazine cover-itis recovery process, but the reality is beauty in my surroundings makes me happy! I am simply going about my life, making things work for my family and making practical things as attractive as I can, and suddenly I look around and say, “Hey, look at that, my room looks as pretty as a magazine cover” (Well, I usually only say that when I am having a party. The other days I am thinking “NO ONE would leave pb&j crusts and socks on the table for their photo shoot, so call off the cameras because today is not a good day for it!”).

And, really, not having a good day for a photo shoot means you are involved in the regular everyday business of living. Bill paying, working at home, laundry and cleaning, children, pets and cooking aren’t always conducive to magazine photo shoots — nor should they be. Photo shoots are staged. Life is more spontaneous and unpredictable — yes, messy. But you really can live in a way that is personally enjoyable to you, allows you to fully and comfortably live in your home AND be able to say your home is as pretty as a picture (minus a few stray socks here and there) no matter what your budget or limitations are. It is not about the money or where you shop, but rather the art of living with grace & beauty in ways that make sense.

I will share a few applicable tips with you to get you started in assessing your own journey towards a more authentically beautiful life in your home:

In general, always ask yourself “why am I buying this or why do I need this?” about everything you add to your home. If the answer is that you are trying to recreate someone else’s room or even subconsciously trying to impress someone (or yourself!) with what you have or where you bought it, STOP! That won’t make you happy for long. Don’t buy things unless they serve a needed purpose and because you either love it or will love it once you fix it up a bit. If you know you will never “get around to it,” don’t buy things that need more help than you are willing to give. Better an empty space than something ugly you will never get around to beautifying.

Create layers over time. Rushing to complete at room at lightening speed will end up with the room lacking the ingredient of authenticity you need to have a truly beautiful home. Authenticity requires time and real life to create. Authenticity requires problem solving and addressing needs that come up over time. It is more about designing your life — each new experience and need adds beauty to your home. Enjoy the process of layering. Don’t apologize for being “in process” — most of us are! The best rooms take time.

Let rooms evolve the way they want to. When you try too hard to force a theme or a style on a room, things just don’t come together in a real and pleasing way. Get real about the style of house you have, the type of furnishings you already own and what really makes sense in your home. As you add new things and move other things around, rooms evolve all on their own.

You don’t have to start out with a “plan”!

That isn’t usually a realistic way to do a room (again, unless you have a perfect room, no furniture yet, money is no object and creativity is not going to be a part of the equation). My rooms rarely start from a plan, rather they start from one non-negotiable feature, problem to solve, or piece of furniture I already have, and they begin to evolve based on the solutions I can come up with and the delightful things I stumble upon over time at affordable prices. I really will not know what twists and turns the room will take until later on. I am always pleasantly surprised!

Re-purpose things. I have found fabulous things for my home at designer resale shops, garage sales or in my own house that ended up in a completely different room or used in a different way than I originally thought. No need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive accessories or furnishings. Repurposing adds to the reality of living and adds a dose of unexpected charm. Look at these quaint vases, re-purposed and so pretty! Also notice the simple painted dresser and chairs, put together to create a charming dining space.

Beauty through authenticity

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: Paint and color coordination are always a solution. Paint covers a multitude of mish-mash. If you are just not feeling like your room is “coming together” why not find a delicious paint color and sweep it over a number of things? Look at this pretty picture. Note the baskets got a coat of paint right along with the chairs! This shade of blue is given to a number of objects, bringing it all together. Color can solve problems with little or no money.

Beauty through authenticity

And look at this bold room. By adding color to a wall in a room with really very little furniture or accessories you can pull a room together for the cost of paint.

Beauty through authenticity

Re-arrange. Most people have lovely things; they just are not arranged in a way that is pleasing. Sit in your furniture; look at your room from different angles. Even take pictures of your room so you can see what it really looks like. Look at the ceiling, the walls, the floors, the doors, the windows, the shelves, and the furniture. Do you see order and beauty when you look around or do you cringe when your eye lands in some corners? Tweak things until you are satisfied by beauty and comfort, or have a professional help you look at things in a new way. You can’t be comfortable in a room that has too much stuff, doesn’t flow with the house, is lacking attractive things, or isn’t set up for conversations or real living. If you have rooms you never use, why not put different furniture in there and mix things up a bit so you will have reason to use it? Make your home suit you both functionally and visually and it will become pretty in the process.

These were just a few ways to combine a desire for beauty AND authenticity in your home. “Decorating” with this approach is not focused on interior design, perfection or popular style but on what makes sense and what is pleasing to YOUR eye.

I will try to cover more specific ways to create beauty in authenticity in coming days and weeks. I haven’t even been able to touch on some of my favorite topics yet! So much to write, so little time…

Do you struggle with any of these things? Feel free to share your stories or questions and I will try to address things that might help. Everyone has their own unique style but we all are happier and more productive when our surroundings reflect our own personal beauty. For some, this process is easier than for others. What are your personal challenges?

Flower vases and bold orange room photos: domino magazine online; Blue room photo: coastal living magazine online

Magazine Cover-itis

Magazine Cover-itis

Most decorating books, blogs, websites & magazines deal with products and design. What are the latest, the most popular, the most beautiful objects or techniques for your fixing up your home–the “I have got to have it” sort of stuff. Double page spreads of homes that photograph beautifully, or are staged to appear picture perfect to its readers. And rightly so, as these are the things that will show well in photos, and will inspire people in their quest to find the “perfect” solution to their situation. And these images sell magazines and entice readers by giving people a feast for the eye. I love them!

Yet, for years, I struggled with “magazine cover-itis”? Have you heard of it? I believe I have made up my own name for what I have. It is a disease that makes one obsessive about each and every corner of their home maintaining a cover shot existence. Creating an image of beauty becomes a priority over creating a beautiful home. While to some degree I still am afflicted by this disease (it is incurable), it no longer brings about so much frustration when I cannot achieve that “magazine look” all the time. Magazine cover-itis is a part of who I am, to be sure, but with life experience has come a measure of maturity — an acceptance of reality and priorities. And a new appreciation for creating imperfect beauty for real life, not for prestige or show.

Authentic living, for most people, is not always magazine-cover material. But there is a richness about it that cannot be denied when you enter the rooms of those who understand it. There is an indescribable beauty in a home that has history, life, happiness, spirituality and love within its walls. It is a place where children can run through the halls with messy shirts and dads can take naps in the living room. Moms can bake cookies and yummy things in an apron that doesn’t match her outfit, while dirty bowls pile up on the counters. Friends can come for a chat and they don’t care if there is laundry being folded on the coffee table. Books to be returned to the library can remain stacked by the front door and teenagers can do homework on the dining room table. Babies and dogs barf on things. And cherries can fall from trees onto the driveway leaving their own unique messy mark where they fell.

This is life. Not a staged version where the mom is “cooking” in a size-two cocktail dress and three-inch heels and there is not a dirty dish to be seen. Real life isn’t always picture perfect in every way! And yet, there is beauty there! You can have all the latest and greatest designer things and miss the most important thing of all. What kind of life do you have within those walls? Why are you buying those things? And what are you sacrificing to have them?

So many things do not translate as well into stunning photos, but they are part of what makes an authentically beautiful home. I think you can have a fantastically lovely home, one that is both at times (and from certain angles!) magazine-cover ready, AND has a beauty that pictures cannot see.

That thought makes me happy!

But always getting the cover shot at the expense of substance, appropriateness and balance of priorities makes it all a mirage. And that does not make me happy.

When you understand how to create authentic beauty, you often do not need to work so hard at knowing what to do for your home, you can avoid spending a lot of money and you don’t even have to know what the current decorating fads are — you are pleasing your own eye, creating beauty for your own rituals and designing a home that suits your life.

Tomorrow we will begin to talk about specific ways to achieve real-life beauty for your home. For now, I hear my son rustling about in his room. Real life is calling…