11 January 2011

Pretty ugly

I haven't been able to bring myself to feel guilty about not being much of a decorator. I just can't care about any of it, as a peek inside my house will prove. Paint, matching furniture, knobs, pretty thingies that go on tables with names, weird thingies that hang on walls--none of it interests me in the least. Seasonal pillows, man. Wow.

I can't figure out if this is a big deal. I know people who get into house garnishing projects with much enthusiasm and see it as a great service to their families. I'm so far removed from this way of thinking that I'm inclined to see home cosmetic endeavors as flatly frivolous. I have to remind myself that having a pretty house is very important to a lot of people and affects their personal happiness and, by extension, their families' well-being, and perhaps has some iconic relevance to the beauty of creation (this is where the guilt would come in if I could rummage any up). I can only be grateful that my husband doesn't care about these things any more than I do and that the kids don't know the difference, and wonder if that means we're First Article Philistines.

I think I could have gotten into decorating when houses were decorated with the physical handiwork of people who lived in them, rather than with arrangements of colors and externally acquired Stuff. Then the beauty of a house exhibited the practical talent of its residents and was a matter of personal accomplishment beyond decors gratia decoris. Now (to my reptilian mind) decorating would just mean that I spent my husband's money on some paint that a magazine said would look good until someone decides something else looks good and that other paint I busted my tail on doesn't look good any more. Decoration as skill would interest me; decoration as fashion (unskilled as I am in fashion), not in the least. So until I acquire some skills in producing decorative items I'm not embarrassed to put my name on, I must warn all decoratively inclined souls about the horror that is my house, undecorated as its nominal lady.

38 comments:

Lauren said...

A coat of paint is an amazing thing. Like love, it covers a multitude of sins. Head to your nearest Home Depot or Lowes and check out their "oops" or "mis-tinted" shelves for a $5 gallon of paint. It's a good thing.

Untamed Shrew said...

My home is decorated in the Early Elementary style.

HappyFox said...

Dude, you've got, what, five kids? Just be happy if everyone's wearing the correct underwear and you can find the floor in most rooms.

etem said...

hey, don't worry. in addition to being a poor decorator, i have trouble mustering much care about so-called "germs". and germlessness is next to godliness.

what is a germ?

Cheryl said...

Interesting topic. I think most of us desire order and beauty, but the ways that we seek it and the places we find it are as varied as we are. Some people find it in cooking. Some in crafts. Some in house decorating. Some in academic study or teaching or music or writing. :-D When I started my blog one of the reasons I gave for doing so was so that it pleased me to make something that didn't get undone within 24 hours (or less). It has provided that and I think that's one reason I keep doing it!

Personally, I have always longed to do more with my house than I have been able to do. I would like it to be neater than it is. I would like it to be prettier than it is. I highly identify with my house. If it's disordered (which it is a lot these days) I feel disordered. But ironically I did a better job of keeping it cleaned and organized when I had several young children running around. Figure that one out! I also have never had the funds necessary to do the things I see in my mind's eye. Maybe in retirement.

I have also noticed that as my children are growing up and I am aging and there is less and less I can do on either front to have a measurable effect, I am turning to my house more and more. Here I have power. Here I have influence. Here I have control. If only I had more money . . . .

Gauntlets said...

See, I have these folk in my life who decorate my house for me, from my own dear mother to the dear ladies of my lord's parish. And then there I am, in a decorated house.

I don't hate it, but wow do decorations ever get dusty.

Anne said...

When we first visited our parsonage several people told me they were looking forward to seeing a woman's touch since they'd been vacant for several years. I somehow managed to not laugh out loud at that! We have definitely given it a "children's touch". I've hung one thing on the wall: a print my husband got for ordination. All other decorations have been taped on by children.
I do like painting tho! I miss our old house with each room a different color;)

lisa said...

Anne - I miss your old house too. You had the best walls. Ever.
--
Dear R,
I think the art in your home is served on the table. It's not your fault it doesn't last long bc your hungry baby-people demolish it :)You also have rather nice crayola drawings on the windows as I recall.
Monet, top that.

Signed,
Lisa
(who is squarely in "the beauty of creation camp", wishes she had talent to be in the "displaying the awesomeness of my crafts on the walls camp" but appreciates well-made food as much as she does a good Oakley print or a brass ensemble playing in the bkgd -- I'm totally with Cheryl on this).

--
Thanks for the heads up Lauren.

Katy said...

Although I have often been slightly jealous when a friend purchases a house, and then spends all summer decorating every single room, I comfort myself with the fact that I never really like the end result. I mean, it's nice for them, and there's definite harmony, but I don't like "this wall needs a picture" and then "I have to find something at Target/Hobby Lobby to match the room and fill the space." If you don't love it, don't hang it up.

I depend on
1) our house's built-in oak trim. It's all over the place and saves me from having to hang anything up. Old houses have a lot less wall space than new houses (in my experience).

2) going with the paint colors the previous owner chose (if it's not hideous). Or just white is good, too (easier to use the Magic Eraser that way). I'm not sure when we'll repaint. When the wall going up the stairs has a definite grayish brown stripe, and not just a smudgy one? When the wall next to the stove has enough spaghetti and/or bacon grease splats on it to be embarrassing?

3) Gifted furniture. Mixing wood has its charm. We have a '30's cherry hutch off craigslist (christmas gift), an oak farm table from my husband's pennsylvania ancestors (6 leaves! Seats FOURTEEN!!), a maple 1970's piano (free when my cousins moved), a 1980's glider that belonged to my husband's now-deceased grandmother. People always say our dining room/living room is "homey." Maybe that's a nice way to say "scrappy."

4) A perennial flower garden. So far, this is theoretical, since I don't have one yet. (First the herb garden. And the vegetable garden.) But there is no better decor than cut flowers. Last summer annual giant zinnias and coleus sufficed.

I do want a huge reproduction Adoration of the Lamb above the piano, but that will probably never happen. So far the only wall decor here are some framed photos of the kids and the Rublev Trinity above the mantel.

@Cheryl: "But ironically I did a better job of keeping it cleaned and organized when I had several young children running around."

If this is true, I am in deep trouble. Because we all know survival now depends on fantasizing about the never-arriving state of "normal."

Cheryl said...

"If this is true, I am in deep trouble. Because we all know survival now depends on fantasizing about the never-arriving state of 'normal.'"

Katy, I have 7, 15, & 18, 47 & 80- year-olds living in my house and depending on me on a daily basis. The three in the middle willing and able to help. The ones on each end, not so much. Whatever "normal" is, I have not found it yet and I am starting to consider the possibility that I never will. I think the period of time about 15 years ago when I had a preschooler and a baby and a mother that helped me a lot and a husband whose life was a lot simpler was the closest to "normal" I ever got.

On the other hand, maybe I am saner now than when I was 8-1/2 months pregnant and still scrubbing the sink and picking up all the toys every night before going to bed and on my hands and knees attacking every carpet stain with rag in one hand, bottle of Resolve in the other.

Or maybe it has nothing to do with sanity but only with the fact that I'm just too darned tired anymore. I have had several 50-year-olds tell me to hold on, that it does get easier in your fifties. I'll let you know when I get there.

Rebekah, sorry for taking over your comment thread with something totally unrelated to the post!

Rebekah said...

Naw, Cheryl, I'd rather listen to you guys than myself. :D

Incidentally, the coloring on the windows went away for Christmas. Did I find the batteries for the window candles, my perennial limp effort to do justice to this beautiful house for the holidays? I did not.

Katy said...

Those battery candles cost too much to keep lit (and our house has weird wiring--only one outlet in the whole dining room--so I don't get the electric kind).

I want solar-powered candles. But no one sells them (yet), and someone already has the patent (just like everything else I want invented--all patented but not invented)

Kristen Gregory said...

Preach it, sista. I never notice decor in people's home unless it means something (photos, icons, etc) and keep my own house very easily dustable (no knick-knacks). Whenever I see those fancy pillows, I think, "Wow, they could have put that extra cash into paying the mortgage off early." But then again, we are anal budgeters. Maybe after we pay off the house I'll get those fancy pillows and seasonal dishware. Psych.

Monique said...

I guess I’m of the thinking that home decorating does have “iconic relevance to the beauty of creation.”

One look at the vast array of trees, intricate flowers, majestic ocean, will demonstrate Our Lord does regard beauty and was very deliberate in creating it. I think as keepers of the home we also should try to create a world in our home that is pretty, clean, and functional. Prov. 31 and several verses in Titus give us examples of this. Of course keeping in mind our pocketbooks and the ages and stages of our children.

A kept home can serve as a dramatic communication to the world and most importantly our family about the culture of the Christian home. Along with many other things, it communicates happiness, femininity, and that housework is good, formidable work. And hopefully this will be something our daughters will want to emulate, and our husbands and sons will want to return to.

A good book that talks about this in more detail is, “Passionate Housewives Desperate for God.”

Leah said...

Took me awhile to find this. You may find this post by Laura Wood interesting.

http://www.thinkinghousewife.com/wp/2009/11/principle-no-1-of-traditionalist-home-decoration/

She has some other posts about home decorating, but I think this is one I can do. As soon as I find a collection of sea shells...

Melissa said...

Oh, man. I think I might be out of place here, but in the spirit of honesty, (and a nod to your comment, Rebekah, about personal happiness in your home), I am an HGTV junky. If

That being said, the neatness factor of my home waxes and wanes (cleaning is typically motivated by having company over)...but I find a whole lot of pleasure in making what I believe to be a comfortable living space for my family, and a space to entertain.

Also a budget cruncher, (Target is overpriced-- Wal-Mart actually has cuter things), it also brings me great joy to re-purpose furniture and other household materials. I take pride in a bargain and have realistic expectations based on our budget and priorities.

Where does this trait come from, I wonder? Perhaps you said it best with regards to the "beauty relevance" of creation.

Also, realizing no consolation is needed, but my house has currently gone to pot now that I am one week post-partum. And, I don't care. For now. :)

Leah said...

This is a great post Rebekah.
Thank you.
When my husband and I go over our priorities of where to put our time and money, home decorating falls somewhere toward the end of the list (a clean house falls a little above that) . Having happy, trained, catechized children falls somewhere at the top and good meals follow soon after.

I'd rather have the dandelions picked by my son on the center of the kitchen table than a pre-made arrangement and I love the two large poster size printouts of Luther's Lord's Prayer with all the petitions and meanings on the wall in our kitchen and the framed embroideries and paintings done by relatives and friends on our walls and end tables. They MEAN something too us and that's what makes our home OUR home.

lisa said...

Leah - where'd you find the poster size printouts?

Katy said...

Cheryl: I know "normal" is a utopia, and I will never have time/energy to do what I want to do (because I am lazy and because I am always rebelling against the vocation God has given me). I just pray I will get better at what I do (since I have to do it every day). I don't listen to ladies in their 40's and 50's telling me it will "get better," since it's pretty good right now (I just don't appreciate what God has given me) and because the females in my family tend to procreate well into their 40's :)

Leah O: Your house always looks great (from what I see from your blog's pictures). My husband and I have that exact same list, although "clean" fluctuates all over the place, in practice. I wonder (and meditate) often on how training and catechizing (and disciplining) affect meals, cleanliness, decor (and vice versa).

Melissa: I always admire "put-together" homes like yours (especially the frugal ones). And congratulations!!!!!!

Lauren said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Monique. Very well said.

Rebekah said...

Well, decorators, you know what to expect if you ever show up here! :D We are tentatively planning some painting for the sole purpose of covering a variety of sins, so I'm sure that will turn out looking really great considering my gifts in this department. What color strategy do you recommend for a room with furniture discarded by others and so mismatched it makes even me cringe a little?

Lisa, we've got a complete set of big catechism posters too (in one of the more deliberately decorated areas of our house, the upstairs hallway--they go great with the world map, inflatable solar system, and books scattered all over). I think we got them at the seminary bookstore, although now I can't find them at CPH . . . I'll see if I can figure out where they came from.

Rebekah said...

Oh, and the battery candles do cost too much, but people here like to have the place lit up for Christmas (sorry about this year, everybody), and since they pay the utilities I like that the batteries are something I can pay for.

Kellee said...

I am disappointed to see such lack of desire to make your house a home. As a wife and stay at home mom of three little girls, I find myself striving everyday to make every part of their day nice. I mean why wouldn't you? You only have so many opportunities to make all of those wonderful family memories that will be carried on from generation to generation. Much of my furniture has been handed down to me and with it are incredible stories of who it belonged to and where it came from. I own the first chair my parents bought when they got married. I have a beautiful set of my grandmothers dishes. All these things have wonderful memories and meaning attached to them and I can't wait to share those memories with my kids. Almost every memory I have of my childhood can be attached to things in my parents home. We grew up in a farm house. My mother strived to make it a warm, inviting place for her family and any guests she may have entertained. And were it not for a pheasant patterned sofa, and a horrible blue kitchen, what would have to laugh at when we look at old family picures? My point is this, whatever you might think about your home decor shouldn't matter. What your husband and your children have as memories of your home and your life in it should.

Cheryl said...

"I am disappointed to see such lack of desire to make your house a home."

Kellee, I don't see that Rebekah expressed any such thing. She said she was not too interested in decorating. "Decorating" is not synonymous with "homemaking."

Leah said...

Lisa - my friend made them on Photoshop with the words put over beautiful pictures of mountains and nature scenes and had them printed poster size. I'm sure we could print more. I will try to check on that and post on my blog if somehow we can make them available again. (They work great in the bathrooms too ;)

Katy - Thanks. I do work hard at keeping it clean most of the time and probably just don't take my pictures when it's a mess.

Melrose said...

I grew up with an interior designer as a mother. Many weeks of my summer vacation were spent in the store with her hearing her talk about decorating. I think Monique gave an awesome explanation of where decorating fits in the Christian home. Obviously, with anything, sin can creep in. I am much less likely to spend money on a table/wall decoration now than I was when we had one child and a Hobby Lobby with AWESOME clearance prices nearby. But to me, expressing simple organized beauty shows my husband and children my devotion to making their home a beautiful relaxing place. Silly, maybe, and I'm making myself sound like a decorator, which I certainly am not.

Anne, those walls were rad.

Rebekah said...

Thank you, Cheryl. Since I seem to be giving the impression that we live in a sewer, um, we don't. We just live in a house where the walls are the same color as when we moved in (white, mostly) and the furniture is what we've been given, and a major reason for this is not only my lack of interest/talent in decorating but, as Leah references above, "fundlessness."

As I mentioned, I wonder very much how important it is that my dining room be green "while Christ lies at the door naked and dying." Ah, but that's not quite fair, is it? Because there is a case to be made for seeing to the internal beauty of these boxes we've set in the middle of God's creation, as my friend Monique articulates above.

So I will continue to direct my domestic efforts where my talents lie, and strive at the decorative level for simpler and more affordable effects than matchiness and putting things on top of other things, because that's where we're at.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, thank you, thank you for posting this! We moved 6 or more months ago and in one of the bedrooms upstairs are almost all our decorations/wall hangings/picture frames that we have accumulated over the past 4-20 years. I've put out the bare minimum, because I'm still trying to minimize the clutter in our house and keep it more orderly. The white walls bother my hubby, but if I could just keep the clutter more contained, I'd be a happy woman. Though there is that little nagging thought in the back of my mind some days that says, "you should really figure out where to put more of those things...or get rid of them"...

lisa said...

Leah & Rebekah: Appreciate it. I looked at CPH and was bummed :(

Gauntlets said...

Lisa: We got a set of nice-sized posters, one for each chief part, from the seminary at Ft. Wayne. I can't remember anymore whom I emailed (sorry about that), but I started on my hunt by calling the number listed at the bottom of the seminary website (260.452.2100) and asking up front if they had any poster sets left.

This was quite some time ago, but the set was free for the asking. Might not hurt to give it a try. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't decorate a lot although I am extremely visual spatially oriented. My house does have matched colors and furniture within rooms but it is what some might call minimalist because I am also claustrophobic. I do see setting rooms and the house in order as a way to serve our family. I like to say that facilities serve people and arranging things to facilitate our lives is helpful. Plus they are messy and I can't stand that, so it gives me an excuse to edit their junk. :-)

Anyway, Rebekah, it sounds like you might not be as visually oriented, so that is why you aren't as interested in decorating.

Rebekah said...

Lisa, we're headed Fort-wise this week. If I get a chance, I'll pick up a set for you (although I might just stay in a room with five kids and cry the whole time).

Jane said...

Hey Rebekah, let us know if you need help with the kids so that you can enjoy the week a bit. You know where to find us. :)

Melrose said...

Lisa, you guys didn't get a set for free at the sem??? Hubby said we got them in the mail for free while we were on vicarage from the seminary. He said they just sent them to us, we didn't order them or anything.

Kristi said...

Yup, I think there are two kinds of people in the world, those who decorate and those who don't! And neither of those people "get" each other, LOL!
While our priorities as a family are teaching our children about Jesus and God. Trying to set an example of our own actions to them. Healthy meals and a clean house (NOT my favorite, LOL) I DO love to decorate too :)
I decorate model homes for builders trying to sell houses, or I used to, BC, before children. Now I just do it for my Dad and my own house.
While I love decorating, it is NOT my first priority. And I NEVER EVER follow trends. I decorate how I like it and it stays that way for a LONNNNNGGG long time or until I tire of it ;)
What most people never believe (or understand) is that MOST (probably 80% or more) of my furnishings (and decor) are second hand, thrift-store, hand-me-down, or ebay purchase. It's the thrill of the hunt for me! When I saw a chalkboard in a fancy ornate frame for a RIDICULOUS price in a catalog. I found a huge old gaudy frame at a second hand shop, spray painted it and made my own chalkboard from a piece of 1/4 plywood I had layng in my basement. THAT is the fun for me! Knowing I could have spent $400 on something that cost me less than $20 and I like mine better!! :)

lisa said...

Gauntlets: Thank you!

Rebekah: If you can, please do. My husband said he would *TRY* to remember... :P So....yeh. Hope there's minimal crying on your part. Sorry replying so late, computer has been acting up.

Melrose: No - we didn't get any. I'm thinking maybe they went out the yr before we got there? Really sad :(

lisa said...

Kristi: I hear you on the "thrill of the hunt" bit. My favourite mugs are thrift store specials. Can we say fifty cents :P Yesss!!! :D

Wing It Mom said...

I have been painting and decorating in spurts since we moved here. I think that it goes along the same lines as my giving away all our moving boxes within a month of arriving here. I'm tired of moving all the time and am ready to settle down for a while. I think that's why my boys' room is now John Deere green, my daughter's room is pastel pink and our room is two fantastic shades of lavender - it looks better than it sounds... (I hope?) I guess painting and decorating is my way of making this house feel like home. I think your way sounds more practical and delicious...