According to one of my many books of quotations, Queen Victoria once said, “Things taste better in small houses.” Now, I’m not sure when Queen Victoria ever went to dine in a small house. Perhaps she just passed one while riding in her carriage and thought to herself, “There’s a scone in there with my name on it.” At any rate, I believe the sentiment is a nice one. Small, little cozy houses can offer up delicious fare just as well as a first-rate McMansion. My stuffed bell peppers are just as tasty as yours, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith! My blueberry pancakes could beat yours in a blind taste test, Martha Stewart! I like the idea of small, cozy places where warm, yummy meals are served up around a tiny table, a nice warm fire in the background. A little rain against the window.
And I tend to live by this mantra, living in a small house as I do. We like to think of our house as “just right” – kind of like the porridge in The Three Bears. And I am very thankful for our home and our windows and our hardwood floors and our wrought-iron gate. Over the last six years I’ve gotten to know this house better than any other. It’s like a person, this house. Slightly manic, a bit scatterbrained, but it sure does clean up nicely in a pinch. I will add that this house of ours, poor dear, seems to suffer from a slight identity crisis, which is entirely my fault and I’ll take the blame, thank you very much. For the interior design of our house is, well, not quite fleshed out to its fullest potential. It’s almost there, but not quite. And as a small house, I sometimes worry that it, more than other grander homes, needs to be completely settled in its design element.
I’m always so impressed with homes that I visit that are completely succinct and streamlined into their own style. As if the house is a book with one central theme. I can’t seem to settle on a theme. I like too many of them. I love the look of a clean, white kitchen with accents of bright orange bowls. But then again I love my mother’s kitchen which looks like it came out of a Mary Engelbreit drawing with its splashes of red and navy blue. I love a living room filled to the brim with family pictures and floor to ceiling books and yet I find myself salivating over the pictures in a magazine of a modern, barely furnished, sun-swept room.
I think my house is scatter-brained because I am. As my husband likes to say, I am “schushly”, meaning, prone to discombobulation due to my constant multi-tasking. I’m always doing 16 things at once and, more often than not, forget what the hell I set out to do in the first place. Marry this to the fact that I rearrange furniture a lot, and you’ve got yourself one schushly housekeeper. Friends come over to my house and often say “Wasn’t that couch over there last time?” or “When did you move that rug over here?” My sons have gotten used to it. They’ll come home from school and their bed is facing in a different direction and the artwork on their walls is completely different and, bless their hearts, they just roll right along. “Looks good, mom,” they say, knowing full well that by next Wednesday, their bed could be in another portion of the house.
Over the years I’ve had to promise my husband that I won’t move major furniture without him anymore, mostly because in one of my more vibrant moments of interior decorating, I moved our 3,526 pound couch by myself and left a tell-tale mark on our hardwood floor. My attempts to pacify him with “it gives the floor character” didn’t work, although I think I made a convincing argument. I can’t even say it’s a vain attempt at Feng Shui. No flow here, save the monthly one. It’s merely an endless need to find just the right spot for everything and to create my own style, apart from everyone else. And I feel good moving things around – keeping things fluid, trying new things and yet, I wish I could just settle down and commit.
We are currently thinking of giving our (small) kitchen a little facelift. Culinary botox, as it were. A little paint here, some new knobs there, and a beautiful new floor. And I think this just might be the first room in our house that feels exactly like me. And I’m so looking forward to the clean slate it will allow. White cabinets, polished nickel hardware, and a gorgeous, swoon-worthy tile floor that looks like crisp grey linen. Not to mention the new kitchen island I purchased for a steal at the Queen of all Flea Markets, the Alameda Antiques Fair. The thought of creating this new space and filling it with only the colors and textiles and objects I love is so thrilling, like moving to a new town and experiencing the joy of redefining oneself.
With that said, there are also little things in my house that I love for no reason other than I do and that I will never, not ever, part with. Such sentimentality associated with these strange little objects. I love them – and part of the difficulty in creating my own space is finding room for them in it. Case in point? The framed picture from my grandma Deedles’ house of the naked lady flying to the moon.
Why do I love it as I do? I know a lot of that love stems from the fact that it was Deedles’ and it hung there right above the toilet in her upstairs bathroom and I used to stare at it as a little girl and hope that one day my bottom was as round and apple-like as that lady’s in the picture. (At 38, I wish I could rephrase that hope, but nevertheless…) This picture is truly one of my favorite things on Earth, but it’s not exactly the sort of picture you can hang smack-dab in the middle of your living room. “Well, hello new neighbors! Would you like to see the naked astronaut?” But I can’t let it go. And I won’t. It will hang in my home forever.
Surprisingly, despite all of our fun new kitchen ideas I will not ever let go of my messy fridge face.
Whenever I look at photos in magazines of dream kitchens and such, I never see a fridge that looks like mine. Come to think of it, I never see a fridge that looks like it’s based in reality. Where do these cool cucumber moms hang their emergency phone lists? Where are the pictures their kids drew? Where are the magnets with obscene jokes on them? I love my scrapbook of a fridge – filled with odds and ends that define us as a family. The farting lobster magnet. The grocery list that I wish had nothing but apple pie on it, but instead has Slim Fast Bars. The crunchy, painted self-portraits that look more like my children than any photograph ever will.
I’m also a huge fan of my bookshelves which are filled with actual books I’ve read.
While I utterly love the look of artistically planned bookshelves, with a little pile of books on the right and a gorgeous glass bowl on the left, I don’t have room for that nonsense. I’ve got too many darn books. Books that I’ve read and taken notes in and read again whenever the mood hits me. Books from college, books from vacation, books from friends and boyfriends and from my husband and children. My books are like an extension of myself and I can’t imagine letting go of one of their dusty covers in order to make room for anything decorative. Just a hint..need a gift for me and don’t know what to do? Bring me a much-loved book and it will have a home in my house for all time.
Call me crazy, but there is one little item in my house that makes me laugh every time I look at it and, for that, I cannot imagine life without it. A little back story. I had taken my boys to Disneyland and on the way home decided to stop in San Luis Obispo for an overnight. While there, we stopped in one of the best shell shops in the world and I told the boys they could each pick out one shell to remember their trip by. My older son chose a gorgeous pure white clam shell that sits on his desk in his room like a little piece of the ocean. My younger son, in a move that forever defines him in my mind, chose the shell mariachi band.
I mean, c’mon. You’re laughing aren’t you? And as tacky and gauche and absolutely hideous it is, it is utterly beautiful in its own way because it is my son’s chosen piece.
Aside from the small house quote from the Queen, I also am a big fan of the messy desks are a sign of true genius one because, Lord knows, my desk means I am Einstein.
My adorable husband turned our walk-in closet into an office and it’s wonderful and perfect for our needs and yet, if I were to stand back and really look at it, it’s really just a closet with a computer in it and receipts and pens that don’t work and photobooth strips thumbtacked to the wall and sheets and shoes and old prom dresses and even my “Most Improved” trophy from High School Cross Country. In another life, would I have one of those amazing in-home offices with gorgeous wallpaper and picture windows overlooking a pond and white wooden boxes with calligraphied labels to store all of my things? Heck, yes. But for now, I relish in our office that serves not only as a repository for our life, but as a symbol of my cluttered mind.
So, how to balance the new with the old? How to take the steps toward individual tastes in decor while bringing along your style baggage? We’ll see how it goes for us. And for me. I know myself well enough that I will most likely rearrange something in the next week or so. That I may try out a new piece of artwork in our bedroom or switch the throw pillows around between my boys’ bedrooms, and maybe that’s perfect for where we are right now. To not be tethered to any one aesthetic. To be free to create and change and allow all that is new and wonderful to surprise me. Just an apple-bottomed gal flying around in space with no clothes on.