Thursday, March 29, 2007

Creating a Beautiful Home Without Decorating

I have been quite absorbed of late in various things at home, and I'm afraid that several comments on previous articles went unanswered. In this article I would like to address the problem of not being able to decorate because of financial limitations, or a husband who objects to it. I got my ideas from living on the homestead in the days before interior decorating became popular. I believe all the other women who lived in those days will be able to identify with what I am saying.

I have included some photographs from Better Homes and Gardens to illustrate that not all rooms have to be decorated in order to give you a feeling of contentment. In most of these pictures, it is the pleasing way in which the posessions are arranged, that give the effect of decorating. Using objects that everyone has, such as clocks, books, chairs, tables, lamps, dishes, cushions, photographs, and gifts from other people, you can create a home that feels just right, without going over the top with a particular decorating style.

In the 1940's and 1950's, hundreds of families built homesteads in the wilderness, where they were mainly concerned about creating shelters that were safe and warm first, and clean and neat, second. We got any ideas we had about what a bedroom should look like, from the Sears and Roebuck Catologue, which showed pictures of bedrooms with their products in them. We imitated that as best we could with what we could find.

In those days the style of a lady's dress was just perfect for making a skirted table cloth, or even a curtain, if you can imagine. However, we preferred everything to be very plain, because it was easier to look after. An empty jar or tin can filled with wildflowers might be a centerpiece for a day and then the whole thing was tossed out. Some things came in colored jars and bottles, so we kept them and lined them up on the windowsills to see how pretty they were with light coming through them. Making a bed as perfectly as we could, or setting a table as neatly and precisely as we were able, using a diagram from a cookbook, was as close as we got to decorating. The idea was to create a scene or a mood by the way we displayed the ordinary things we used daily.

You can probably see in these photos that there is very little really obvious decorating going on. The decorating simply uses things that people need, in an artistic way. You see lamps and chairs and tables arranged so that it looks balanced, clean, pretty and bright, and it is somewhat exciting to look at.

In homestead days, the people we knew could have the most charming log cabins. They didn't decorate as we do today, but their floors were swept with sawdust, which gave them a sweet smell and a sheen. They had curtains on the cupboards, made from flour sacks. (In those days, flour came in cloth bags.) There might be a clock on the wall and a kettle on the stove. Some people had braided rugs and quilts. Others had paintings on the walls, usually painted by members of the family, of nearby scenery. They weren't as concerned about decorating, as they were about function, and yet, they managed to have such cozy homes and they still loved beautiful things.
In the photo of the green chair next to the little chest of drawers, you see a very simple decorating scheme. It may be using someone's favorite colors. I like sage green a lot, so it really appeals to me. They used a lamp, which everyone needs, but have used it decoratively. Everyone has a mirror, and such things can be placed over a short dresser like this.

If you can't decorate for one reason or another, there are many ways to make you feel that you are decorating. Take for example, the towels in the bathroom. Try folding them all in one direction, with the folds facing out, and according to color or size. Place a bar of fresh soap on the sink or in a special soap container.

When you purchase something for the home, whether it be soap or paper towels, find the most decorative ones. They usually cost no more than the plain brands. Need a box of kleenex? Find the box with the best picture or artwork on it. In your closet, sort your clothes according to season or color and hang them on soft padded hangers. In the bedroom, make the bed carefully and fold the top sheet down neatly. Arrange your own personal items according to color and size, and place them on a paper doily in a tray. Just cleaning a room and making sure that it is fresh and comfortable can create beauty.

Match your colors as best you can. Maybe you have wedding gifts that you can display in groups: a bowl with a vase and a frame, or candlesticks and a stack of books. In the living room, place a tea cup next to a photograph. Surely no one would deny you the privilege of displaying a photograph. Get the prettiest frame you can find, at a dollar store. In the kitchen, clean off the cabinet tops and make enough room to roll out your dough or mix things. Display your favorite mixing bowl with a rolling pin in it. Everyone already has these things, and though they be plain, they can be used as part of your home decor.

Think of those women on the homestead who didn't have places to put things like we do today. They had to leave them out. We washed all our dishes by hand and left the blue willow plates in the dish drainer, but they looked very decorative there. Decorating is more than having all the right objects and accessories. It is using the things that you naturally will have, in an artistic way. You probably own books or magazines. If you are not using the books, they can be laid with the bindings facing outward, and used as height for a lamp or a vase.

Maybe your children have toys, or you have childhood toys that can be displayed in a corner shelf or just on the floor near a book case or a table. You aren't just decorating. You are finding useful places for the things you own, but you are also placing them in a strategic way so as to appear artistic.

Anyone can throw a towel on the rack in the bathroom, but a thoughtful lover of the home will fold it carefully to make it look important and special. After all, this is a place where the most important people in the world to you, live. Anyone can throw a quick meal on the table, but it takes a real decorative spirit to arrange the table and the food neatly so that people feel they've really had an experience of some kind, and that there is an atmosphere in your home of some kind, that they like, but they cannot quite define it!

If you have nothing to decorate with, just use what you use daily, and you will see a big difference in the way your home looks. When you go out to choose something that you really need, choose the prettiest you can find, whether it be a slipcover for your couch, or a table cloth.

When you fold a napkin at a place setting, do it in a way that shows carefulness and thoughtfulness. I did write an article about this a long time ago but I never look back at old articles and wouldn't know where to find it, so I'll repeat something in it about a girl I met who lived in her grandmother's house. It was an old place and the tile was peeling from the floor and there was really nothing decorating-correct about it. However, she had taken a metal utility shelf from the garage and cleaned it and put all her towels on it in the neatest way.

Her kitchen was so clean that she had nothing on the surfaces except a canning jar with some lilies from outside. She had sparkling clean windows, with a pretty plant on the windowsill. Now that is really "decorating." She knew exactly what it took. In spite of all the pretty show homes and show rooms that I have gone to see on open-house days, this house still stands out in my mind as being the best decorated, because I was able to get some ideas from her about using the things everyone has, such as towels and dishes, as decorative items.

For good information that takes the mystique out of decorating, go here for instruction. Sign up for her newsletter and then learn a step by step, room by room method of re-creating your home.

Also, you mght enjoy peeking into some real homes here Some of the cottages on the previous months are "decorated" and some are more plain, but they can all inspire you and give you ideas.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The First Stitch

This is called "The First Stitch" by Francis Day, and you can order the poster at this location

Thanks to Laryssa for finding it. How'd you do that? We stayed up half the night looking for it!! This is one of the pictures we used on the slide show for the homemaking conference.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Posters For Your Girls

These were two posters used in our slide presentation at the online homemaking conference. Since our subject was about mother/daughter harmony, we included these two. One is called "The Shell" and can be purchased from a number of sources online. The other one did not have a name, but I got it by going to the fine art section at All Posters, and typing in "mothers and daughters."

Home Is the Real World

When the rush is over, and all is said, and all is done, everyone comes home to a world of their own making. This is a place that is regulated by those who live here. While family members may be consulted, the arranging, maintaining and appearance of this place is largely determined by the woman at home. No one in their right mind wants the wife and mother to be miserable in her own home. That is why it is essential that she be encouraged to exercise her experience and judgement in the placement of furniture, the colors and the types of things that she will be living with.

One example that I can relate is that of the woman who wants a chair in a certain place while she reads or does her crafts and needlework. She knows where the light will be and over which shoulder it will come, providing the best advantage to do her work. She knows why she wants the bookshelf arranged in a particular order, because, while at home she obeserves the habits and preferences of her loved ones. She has to be able to control this domain, and determine the kinds of things that come in to her house. She will know what irritates her and what gives her a homey, peaceful feeling. She has to have free reign in the house, to control the clutter and to create the scene that gives her a sound mind.

I doubt very much anyone really wants to drive a homemaker into a state of confusion, but nonetheless, that is what happens when the living room is so cluttered there is nowhere to sit and enjoy the home, and the bedrooms are so full of clutter that the doors will not open, or the kitchen is full of things that do not function as kitchen tools. Order, then, is one of the most important things in giving the home a peaceful atmosphere. The homemaker is free to control this and can discover her own methods that are effective. She doesn't have to be told what to do, any more than the ant has to be told what to do, because her very instincts tell her that the home must be a pleasant place and that she must diligently oversee this mission. (Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. )Although it may not come natural to all women, after home living for a certain amount of time, most people can develop a feeling for the kind of atmosphere they want in their houses.

Think, if you will, of the impression you would get when you dropped by the house of a friend or relative. Perhaps having arrived when the hostess was not expecting you and was away from home, you may have peeked into the window. Inside, you see the sweetest room, and though not entirely matching, it is complete with every element that pleases the heart. Let us say this is a seating area with a plump cushion on it, and though it is for support of the back when seated, it is also pleasingly decorative; maybe with an embroidered hummingbird and a flower.

Your eyes pan around the room in a virtual tour, resting upon the little side tables with bearing shiny lamps and little books with gold-embossed titles. Then you see a potted lily in its full bloom, placed inside a pretty container. The pictures on the wall and the colorful area rug all invite you in. You see the hostess's knitting or crochet in a basket next to her chair. A tea set sits ready to serve, on a low table in the middle of the room.

Although the entire house may not be up to viewing by company or outsiders, we might consider the impression we give from the front window. People are not always influenced by attending a lecture or reading a book. Sometimes we can do more than we realize just by the appearance of our homes through the front window.

Paintings by Susan Rios: An Elegant Affair, and Beyond the Green Door, are available for purchase from Pierpoint Galleries online. These posters are a lot less money than an original painting, and can be a great inspiration at home because of the beauty and calmness they portray. If we surround ourselves in such elegance, we can develop a feeling of dignity for our role as homemakers.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Homemaking Online Conference

On Saturday March 17th there will be an online homemaking conference. I realize that due to the cost, many people will not be listening in, so my daughter, Lillibeth, and I are preparing a newsletter/magazine tied in ribbon, containing our part of the conference, which discusses the mother-daughter relationship.

In this newsletter we will include the things that we talked about, plus some ideas for working with your girls at home. There will be some crafts, as well as a list of things you can do together that make home living desireable.

We would like to be able to send this out for free to everyone, but are unable to bear the cost completely ourselves. We will be offerring this special publication for the price of $ 6.50 which includes postage, and will mail it to you ourselves. All you have to do is email me at and I will give you the address where you may send a request for this publication. It will have a cardstock cover and be tied in ribbon.

The painting is sold at Gallery Graphics online and is called "The Springtime of Life." It reminds me of a subject that I spoke to young girls about a few years ago, regarding their attitude about life. You are only young once, I told them, so don't be gloomy and pout, and don't dress like something the cat dragged in. Look alive and be happy because you are creating a history for yourself to look back on. Do you want to look back with regret and shame, or do you want to have a story to be able to tell your own children, of a life spent in good habits and worthwhile pursuits? One day, some young person will ask you the question, "What are some things you did when you were a young girl?" If you spend the spring of your life in foolishing following of the crowd, or in the teen culture of the world, you will not have a very ennobling story to tell, but if you set on a course of diligent learning of the feminine arts and a study of good character, you will be able to talk enthusiastically of your youth.

Think about what you are doing and be conscious of the example you are showing. You will not always be young, but did you know that the attitudes you form now and the tastes you develop will one day be ingrained in you and form your personality and character as an older woman?

You can be a bitter and selfish old person, or you can be an inspiring old person that will draw young people to you. It all depends on what you are putting into yourself right now. Be careful to put only the best ingredients into your life, including the most inspiring reading materials and the highest standards in everything. Your speech, your appearance, your hospitality, your housekeeping, and the way you cope with life's ups and downs right now as a young person, will determine what kind of old lady you will be!! You can either be a sad, depressed old woman or a happy, optimistic one that inspires others to be so.

Note: I'm getting your requests and will be able to respond as to how to order, after the conference on Saturday, so please be patient. Also please don't think that if you don't have daughters, you won't enjoy this newsletter. It is for everyone!

I am also getting your posts but have been unable to make them stick, due to a problem with my computer in all the arrangements for the online seminar. Things should be back to normal in a day or two.