Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Peaceful Retreat 2

People have been asking for pictures of my dwelling, but I think after all I've said, they might be expecting something a little more fantastic than it is. I've learned over the years that it first and foremost must be a home, and that it doesn't matter if the furnishings aren't quite up to snuff, and if nothing matches.

While it is fun to look at the decorating magazines and see what other people are doing, I look only for ideas to do some things better, and don't try to immitate a lot of it. It doesn't bring on any envy on my part to see someone else's house well-done, as I am looking more for simplicity, beauty, order, love, sentimentality and spiritual values in my home.

I'll post pictures as I get them, but in the meantime, let me describe the home of my first friend who loved homemaking and had what I called an "atmosphere" in her home.

Carol lived in a small townhouse, but once I entered, I was transported to another place. She was very British, having been born in Scotland, and it took me years to figure out "how she did that." I detected no wealth or inherited fortune, yet, her house always had a rich look.

She and her sister had grown up in a home where their mother was particular about cleanliness and order, and good quality. They wouldn't hang on to something that was torn or broken, unless it was to be repaired immediately. Their father would fix things as quickly as possible, and the house was always kept in ship-shape.

I asked Carol once how it was that she had so much talent to make her home so orderly and to be so effective in homemaking, and yet make it so beautiful. She said, "I had it bred into me." I was curious about this, because, how does one who lacks the habits of orderliness and beauty, get such a skill? When something is bred into you, it is trained from youth, but it is still possible to reverse a habit or acquire a skill, if you want it bad enough. (It takes 30 days to change a habit, I'm told.)

Observing her house, I noticed she had green velvet curtains trimmed in matching ball fringe, tied back with shiny twisted rope, onto a decorative catch mounted ont he wall. While I thought she had got them at some exclusive store, I found out that she'd made them rod-pocket style from discount fabric. She draped the ends of the simple rods with matching hand-made tassels.
She had a simple couch with cushions made from leftover pieces of the green fabric. Next to the couch was a table and a lamp, with her husband's reading glasses and his mail and favorite magazines.

The fireplace mantel contained two candles on pedestals, placed in front of a mirror, which doubled the effect of the light. The mirror was a an unadorned piece, without a frame, which she had found at a yard sale.

She was particular about everything being clean and having a fresh smell, and you would never have guessed that she didn't shop the most expensive stores.

Her dining area contained a table draped in a pretty cloth, topped by a piece of clear plastic. I had eaten with her several times before I discovered that this table was merely a piece of wood set upon a new trash can that had never been used. The tablecloth was a sheet that she liked and thought was too pretty to put on a bed.

Over time, Carol was able to replace her old furnishings with more substantial things, but I've often wondered what it was about her place that was so appealing. Then one day as the pictures of her home clicked through my mind, I figured it out. She had a way of putting shiny objects (mirrors, brass candle stands) with her soft objects (velvet pillows and curtains), and her wood tables and shelves contained china pieces as well as the occasional dash of unexpected bright spots of color. There was a contrast between textures, as she paired shiny with soft, dull with polished, etc. The place was a "natural history museam" of her family's interests and accomplishments.

She had no papers laying around and no clutter, because she had the interesting habit of picking things up whenever she was in her house. She never waited for a cleaning day. If she was getting something out of her kitchen cabinet or fridge, she would also straighten out something, pull out an empty container, or wipe something with a cleaning cloth. She had a "clean as you go" habit. Things didn't lie on the floor; they were swept up immediately with a little broom and dustpan. Now I don't say that everyone can do this, but it is an interesting custom to aspire to. My home gets really cluttered and messy, but everyone knows I don't feel comfortable that way and that eventually I will remedy it. That's a lot different than someone who doesn't care a whit about it and treats the home as if it were just a stopping off place while on the way to something else.

Her home also had a wonderful scent, depending on the season. It wasn't just clean, it had a smell of spices and flowers and foods that made you just want to hide out in her house somewhere so you wouldn't have to leave.

In front of the couch was a trunk she had been given as a girl, which she now used for a coffee table. On it was placed a bouquet of flowers and a stack of coasters to hold drinks. In a corner shelf were framed photographs of her family. Everything in her home had a meaning. She didn't just put a picture on the wall because it matched; it had to have a message of value to her and represent her feelings about life.

When her husband came home, he always looked forward to sitting in his favorite place and talking to her about his day. She didn't complain about him not offerring to take her somewhere and I once asked her, "Why doesn't Dave ever ask you to go anywhere? You've been home all day and he never offers." She said she had made the place so pleasant, that he couldn't think of anywhere he wanted to go, that was more pleasant or relaxing. She had plenty of things she wanted to do, and was able to go out with her mother and sister during the day. She said, "We got married so we could be together. We got tired of meeting in restaurants and parks. We wanted to have a home to spend the evenings in."

Another painting by Susan Rios: "An Elegant Afteroon." Susan used to be a florist, as you can probably tell by her detailed paintings of foliage. This can be purchased online at Cherish'd Gifts online.


Cherish the Home said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thank you! You have a real talent for writing and even in writing you come across as 'lady-like'. (o:

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful. I love the idea of creating a "peaceful retreat" for my family, although I am very far from achieving that. I have seen homes that were so beautiful you just wanted to curl up on the sofa and drink tea. That is what I want for my home, but I am still trying to figure out how to keep up with the laundry and the toys everywhere :-)


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful article! Home organization and decorating is a subject which fascinates me no end - probably because neither pursuit comes naturally to me but I keep trying. Luckily my house is small (by today's standards) and this fact makes decorating much less expensive. I did learn to stay with neutral colors for anything costing a lot of money, like the couch, carpet, etc. and add the accent colors in items that can be rotated seasonally. I'm looking forward to the day when I can quit my job (just a few more months!) and stay home to attend to these matters full time. Hooray! Thanks again Mrs. Sherman for all you do in writing and maintaining this blog. It is truly wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

I HAVE seen some pictures of your home in some older articles of "Lady Lydia Speaks". They were an inspiration to me because you decorated within your budget, thought of convenience as well as beauty and showed thankfulness for what you had by pointing out the good points of your home, like the view, etc. Your home is beautiful and you showed me that if you look for the good in the dwelling God has provided and care enough to "feather" it for your family and honor God by staying withing your means, it will truly be a HOME.

Thank you!