Saturday, November 6, 2010

Making A House A Home (Part 1)

I had someone ask me recently if I could help them "warm up" their house for them.
I guess that I've always looked at home keeping as something that just came naturally to me.  Over the coming weeks I thought I'd tackle one room at a time and share some thoughts.
First, let me tell you that I don't know if you could corner me into defining my "style".  I really love every "style" of decor.  At times the minimalist look really appeals to me.  I went through the Country phase, the Victorian phase, the Mission phase.  I think I've finally settled on one that is a bit eclectic and maybe has touches here and there of many different styles. (I am, however, REALLY in love with the Tuscan villa look and have found I can incorporate many of those style pieces easily into what I already have.)
 I think the first thing I would encourage you to avoid is the "room in a box" approach. Whenever we have shopped for furniture Brian, (my husband) has really wanted to purchase the "matchy, matchy" sets.  You know, the tables all match, the sofa, love seat and recliner are all done in the same upholstery, all the lamps matched and so on.  YUCK!  I can't think of anything more boring!
If you look around my living room you'd be hard pressed to find anything that "matches".  A leather sofa, an upholstered chair, a leather/upholstery combo chair, a glider rocker and several different tables are all mixed up together.  I have painted wood, dark wood, light wood, wood and glass etc. end tables etc. NOTHING... and I mean nothing matches.
You are probably wondering how you can pull all of that together into one cohesive look.  Well, actually it's quite simple.  You don't try!  The reason people find it so comfortable is because it looks like it was put together over time.  Things get changed out with the seasons.  In the summer light throws are folded and put over the arm of the sofa.  In the winter a heavy knitted afghan or hand sewn quilt replaces it.  Lots of textural things give that comfy "lived in" look.  Pounded metal, wooden candle sticks, pottery, woven baskets, tapestry pillows all combine to add color and texture to the room.
  I've picked 3 main colors for my living area.  Butterscotch, deep red and a dark olive.  The valences are a deep red and butterscotch tapestry. The area rug has all three of these colors in the pattern.  The upholstered chair is a rich butterscotch.  The glider rocker has a deep olive and red in the pattern.  The sofa and chairs all hold throw pillows in this color range. The walls are a soft buttery color. I NEVER use ceiling lights. I find it is very harsh and unflattering!  All of my lamps (and I have 4 in my living room) are different however I've put shades all done in the same fabric, (but different shapes depending on the shape of the lamp) on them to unify them. By the way, unless you are creating that white, seaside cottage look, white lamp shades won't work.  Pick something that will diffuse your light and cast a soft, pleasing glow.
Here is the key.  I didn't do all of this in a weekend, a week, a month or a year.  I started with a few pieces that have moved with us all over the country and built from there.  Yard sales, thrift shops, hand me downs, etc. have all contributed to the look. (More about some of the things I've re-done later.)
Much to Brian's frustration I am constantly moving furniture around. This could be because I'm a bit ADD and get bored really easily, but mostly because I find when I deep clean I do it best when I move things.  Once they are moved a little in one direction it inspires me to try it "over there". 
In short,  creating that "warmth" in your home isn't really that hard.  Just look around and see where you can throw that beautiful afghan your Aunt Matilda made.  Where can you tuck a basket or bowl with coffee beans and a  vanilla candle tucked in?  Is there a spot to stack some  hard backed books and place a favorite picture on top?  What would your area rug look like at an angle?  How about grouping several candle holders together for an interesting arrangement? (That might actually be a great use for that silver tray from your grandmother that you never seem to use!)
Just as a side note, I never "child proofed" our home.  Little hands were taught not to touch those things that were fragile or valuable.  Mind you, there has rarely ever been anything in our home that was of incredible value.  Children need to learn to treat your home with respect.  While we've always very much lived in our home we've never had a problem with maintaining furniture and decor.

In the next blog I'll share some tips on how to organize different areas.


  1. Love and am in step with all of your ideas Sue! I didn't kid proof our homes (except for danger areas like outlets!), but instead taught them to not touch. Keep in mind, Waterford, although pricy, is pretty heavy duty ;) I do try to kid proof for company since you just never know (or sometimes understand) what some little ones can do. MOPS playgroup here again on Tuesday :) Last time we had over 20 preschoolers and 10 babies so who knows!