Monday, October 15, 2007

Adding Interest to a Plain House

Garden Retreat I
Garden Retreat I
Art Print

Shipman, Barbara
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This is concerning those who live in plain houses with no architectural details, who would like to make them distinctly special. The intention of the articles on 19th century was certainly not to depress anyone who lived in a tract home or to make anyone feel they weren't in the right setting. Instead, we can use the elements that made these homes so homey and appealing, inside our own little houses.

The first thing that is perhaps the easiest is to add prints of good paintings. I was never so astonished as when I went to visit a studio in an architecture school. The students were working inside of places that were worse than jail cells. I wondered how in the world they could produce something good without the inspiration of beauty around them.

Romantic Pathway I
Romantic Pathway I
Framed Art Print

Brevard, Michel
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If I had free reign and money enough, I would allow each student to decorate their own studio using architectural salvage like columns and steps, arches, gates, fountains, roofs, gables and dormers. The steps could be drawers containing their supplies. The columns could be holders for tools, with real plants on top. The walls could be Trompe L'oeil, similar to murals (painting a scene on a wall) of gardens or houses or villages or old cities that had a lot of architectural interest. I would totally revamp each student's headquarters so that instead of thinking they were returning back to their slavery or back to the dust mounds, they would feel they had entered a world of of love and beauty and creativity. One studio compartment would contain a flat rock type of walk way as you see in some of these paintings, appearing to recede into the distance leading to the steps of a cheerful cottage. The door of the cottage could actually open to a seating area by the window, and of course, the interior would be decorated appropriately.The Well
The Well
Art Print

Warwick, Dwayne
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The paintings have stories in them or messages of peace and tranquility. A house without beauty can be really improved with such paintings on the walls. Now they are available at the same cost as a poster or a card, and framed quite inexpensively. There are even ways to mount them without traditional frames by a type of clip that has a fancy cord with a tassel to hang on a hook on the wall. Mural are wonderful and their themes can inspire the home owner to do more outside, adding a gate or a trellis or just a bench and a pot of flowers.
Garden Arch
Garden Arch
Art Print

Parks, Kenneth
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With paintings and posters of good art, a person can feel the joy of having a garden or living in the country even if they do not. This sort of thing, in my opinion, improves the home considerably. In choosing the kind of pictures you like, you can determine what colors appeal to you and why you like the painting. It has to make you smile, and in a way, speak to you. I like to feel something about a painting in all the senses: what does the picture make me think about? Is it reassuring and calming? Will I like it in a few years? Has it got the values that I love (home, family, beauty, children, domestic arts, etc.).

Another way to add interest in the house is with columns. Columns now are quite available, even in discount stores and can be used for any number of things: as a lampstand, a place to put a few books, an end table, or just a place to display something you value.

Paint is the best, easiest and cheapest way to change the look of a plain house. If you don't like it, you can re-paint it. Wallpapers are another way to make home a little less plain. Because it is expensive, sometimes you can decorate just one small area with one roll and it gives enough of a change.

Adding curtains made with interesting fabric purchased at a fabric store can also make a difference inside. Those kind of curtains generally give a softer and gentler look to the home, than the severely formal type of pleated drapes with those awful, sharp hooks and the pulley to open them. Those are also so extremely expensive that it explains why many people use sheets and blankets over their windows until they can afford something. The roller shades are very inexpensive compared to the Venetian blinds, and are more versatile. They can be trimmed in braided ropes and you can iron fabric on to them using a fusible web.

Little embellishments here and there take away the sharp edges of the modern house. Someone recently made me some gingerbread trim for the porch and two railings for the walk area so that it looks like a real entry. Inside, there are things that might not even occur to you that could add a more uplifting atmosphere; things like frames for pictures that are beautiful and colorful or just elegant, or the kind of accent cushions you choose for your home.

We really enjoyed a recent trip to the new TJ Max in our nearest city, where there is a big selection of beautiful things for the home. Some of it makes you feel you just stepped in to a beautiful walking garden or a garden cottage. Some of it inspires you just to have someone over for afternoon tea.

The point is, you do not have to have chosen a 19th century style house in order to be happy at home. I did describe in detail how some of the modern architects seemed to have deliberately made homes, public places and parks very inaccessible and undesirable for human life, but I also showed how many homemakers have thwarted this plan by painting their houses and adding trims and gardens and other embellishments. It is perhaps this plain-ness that has caused the demand in the market place for things like architectural type of decor and things to hang on the inside and outside of the house to make it feel like a real home where people want to be, instead of an institution.Blue Gate
Blue Gate
Limited Edition

Singley, Greg
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Many years ago I could not figure out why the houses we lived in gave me such a feeling of lostness. I was happy in every other respect, but some houses just seemed to make my stomach lurch or made me uneasy. I did a study about the effect of color and discovered some interesting things. Some colors are used in public places to get people to move through fast and not stay too long (such as fast food places), and some colors evoke a feeling of home. There are also things that evoke moods and feelings, such as shapes, which can be studied and adapted to the home.

These are all rather large ways to change things, but if you want to start small then I would suggest the following things:

candles in your favorite scent and color (you don't have to light them)
a special pen at your desk
a pretty tea cup
buying every day products in pretty containers--such as your tissue and your dry goods
opting for the prettiest if you have to choose something for your table or your house.

You can go through some of the shops listed on the side bar for some ideas of what people are doing to make their little houses look great.

I have seen several small dwellings with hardly any yard to speak of around them, that have been transformed by a woman's imagination and use of garden decor. Inside, they changed things so dramatically, using practically free things, that when I visited I was transported in such a way that I forgot I was in a neighborhood and thought I was in a dreamland. I really admire women who can do this, for everyone around them benefits from it. Across the scenery from my window I view someone's house and I intend to send her a card telling her how much I appreciate the things she had done to make my view better!

Blue Gate
Blue Gate
Limited Edition

Singley, Greg
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Anna said...

I too have been in model homes or friends residences and felt the calming sweetness even in tract style homes. Some of the newer homes we have viewed just overwhelmed us with this. When we stepped back and really looked at the homes with our minds and not just our hearts we saw them differently. If you pictured the rooms bare they would not have been that unique. It was as you said, the way they decorated the tiny yards and rooms that made the difference. The homes were not that special in themselfs. Visiting them we got several ideas to take back and incorporate to cozy up our little home. Many of the homes I love in the Romantic Home and such publications when I read the article accompaning the pictures I read that they are tract homes that the family has added this and that and changed it dramatically. Amazingly there was little expense. Not having read the script I would have never imagined it. Also some bloggers show their homes and the things they have done. There are many talented imaginative people out there to learn from. I always read one of your articles and feel invigorated to get up and do a little something extra for my home or family..or country. Thank you for inspiring me again!!

Mommy Lynda said...

There are so many things you can do nowadays to add those little architectual details that soften the home. I am glad you brought up other ways too to add beauty within the home. I didn't even think about a column book case. I love coming on here and getting more ideas. Thank you!

Katrinka said...

My comment is not about architecture (although I'm loving the topic) but about staying at home and raising our children. (I'm not quite sure where else to make a comment about different topics.) Anyway, I was waiting outside a store for my daughter to return (in the middle of the day) and was watching a young mother with her young son. He looked about 3. She was standing behind him at the soda pop machine and helping him select his drink, pointing to each button and describing the pop, and explaining whether it was empty or not, then showing him where the money goes in and finally letting him push the button to dispense the drink. It took about 10 minutes of discussion and elaboration and patient waiting (for him to make up his mind) before he finally punched the button and got his drink. All done patiently and lovingly by his mother. I wanted to climb out of the truck and hug her! Granted, we are sometimes too busy to allow such an investment of time, but simple things like this are what builds intelligent decision making skills and a sense of stability and love, as seemingly insignificant as it is. Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute contact builds strong ties and confident children. I've also noticed at times the way mothers speak to their little daughters while they are using the bathroom in public places, and it bothers me. Hollering at them to hurry up (while the little ones make the funniest comments!) and threatening to leave them. How in the world could I go to the bathroom with someone screeching at me like that?! These little things make such a huge difference to the stability of our little ones and on into adulthood, not to mention the way they will one day treat their own children. That's all. I had just been meaning to mention these two things.

Anna S said...

"Across the scenery from my window I view someone's house and I intend to send her a card telling her how much I appreciate the things she had done to make my view better!"

In the house across the street (at a very close distance), a sweet-looking, lovely woman hangs her laundry on the line. I see her in the mornings, relaxed and unhurried, filling her clothesline with fresh and clean wash. The look of it is so soothing that I really would love to have the opportunity to get to know her better (we moved not long ago), and hopefully, it will appear one of these days!

nannykim said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts. When my husband and I had been looking for a home about 12 years ago we found the newer homes to be boxy--and sterile in their feel. I couldn't quite put my finger on what caused this feeling. Then one day we entered the house that is now our home and we both felt right at home and like it was not sterile. But what was the difference?? I am not totally sure but there were some of the following: Arches, spindles, fireplaces, wood floors, built in bookcases, built in teacup shelves, the old kitchen cupboards from the 50's, molding, picture molding, beadboard, tongue and grove on one ceiing, the old glass door handles with the skeleton keys, well built outside doors, crooked floors, cracks in walls, tiny closets, tiny bathrooms ;-)--but for some reason it was very homey to us. So I guess it had some touches that were not new--I guess I am drawn to things with a little history--. Changing the subject- maybe you have discussed colors already--you have mentioned that some colors are used in public places to get people to move through them--I was wondering what colors those were. Also should we pick colors that make us happy and or peaceful---colors that we enjoy and not care about others or what? What are your ideas on colors or have you posted that elsewhere?

Mommy Bee said...

Thank you for this post! I live in military housing, and I try to make things nice and homey here. Unfortunately, all military housing looks the same--basically square houses with windows cut out. I have been thinking lately of how I could add some interest to my home, and you've provided some great ideas!

Amy said...

Sometime ago you mentioned the magazine The Storybook Home. I was so taken by it that I began to subscribe (now buying back issues). It is a wonderful publication that thrills me to look at and read.

In the most recent issue, Vol. 7 No. 6, in the section titled "Storybook Decorating" Mr. Young writes, "..Yet in the construction of furnishing of today's houses, much of texture falls prey to an obsession with easy maintenance. And individuality has all but vanished because machines, not hands, make nearly everything. ...Such approximations provide an illusion that may for a moment fool the eye, but never fool the heart."

{lightbulb} That is exactly what you've been saying. I just wanted to share that bit of quotation, because it fit so well with the discussion of late.

Thank you, Lady Lydia, for sharing your insights and wisdom.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

As for colors: it was a social psychology of the 60's that created the colors of fast food places. In particular, bright orange, and reds with orange in them, and various kinds of bright, stimulating colors was supposed to make customers come and go very fast.Observation is probably the best teacher in the area of using color in the home. What rooms make you uncomfortable? What rooms do you like the best? Observe the colors. I don't think I would like completely calming colors everywhere, because it is nice to have some places that are bright and cheerful too. I don't know if I have gotten very good at coordinating colors or getting the kinds of colors that work the best, yet.

Mrs. Rabe said...

7 years ago we bought our home, a 15 year old ranch style that had been sorely neglected. The outside had a couple of overgrown shrubs and that is all. Since then we have removed the shrubs and put in a cottage garden complete with picket fence and arch, made by my husband. We put in a lamppost, also.

Inside we patched and painted walls, we tore out worn out carpet, and linoleum and replaced it with wide plank pine flooring. We also have been slowly replacing the trims in our home and put up a more interesting style of doorway, baseboard and window trim.

All this has been doon slowly as we wait until we have enough money to complete a project,before we start, as we are committed to no debt.

It has been a labor of love, and I adore our home.

Thank you Lady Lydia for writing these encouraging posts.


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