Room by Room...spreadin' comfort to all the corners!
MMmm...Snuggley, cuddly, snoozely wonderful is what homey life is all about! It's the little embellishments and grace notes that seep into all the corners and make our home...well, what home is supposed to be--comfy and homey!
So just snuggle in for some snuggle-down ideas! And spread some my way, too! I can never get enough of this homey stuff!
Beauty and Comfort
Ilt never occurred to me until I had this house to take a vacation and stay home—Bill Robinson, decorator
Comfort and well-being can’t be bought.--Alexandra Stoddard
Beauty and comfort are very important and shouldn’t be overlooked or minimized, especially where children are involved. However, we don’t really have that particular problem in American society where interior decoration is taken to ridiculous levels. Some Shaker practicality and simplicity would most likely be more beneficial for many of us. I would tend toward a ‘less is more’ philosophy where ever possible, but that’s easier said than done. I, for one, love pillows—the more the better—but even I have had to squelch my indulgence for the sake of having a real place to sit or lay down. Once again, try to find ways to display blankets, quilts, towels, pillows, throws, etc. in ways that add to the decoration as opposed to over-crowding it. We can always do the seasonal rotation with these things as well. Another trick to avoiding sensory-overload is to think in terms of ‘groupings.’ Group the children’s photos or drawings, similar plates, or a particular collection. The children’s seashells or pinecones or sea glass collections can be stored in clear containers for display on a single shelf or unit. Curtains work great too for quick and easy cover-ups that look pretty, add softness, and don’t take up a lot of room. I’ve found some great ideas from the Scandinavian homes and decoration. They have a design aesthetic that’s fun, cheerful, yet soothing. Some interiors are more playful while others borrow more from the French sophistication, but a little whimsy is fun, especially with children. They also know how to use proportion and color to lighten and enlarge room space. There’s wonderful inspiration to borrow from all sorts of cultural regions from all over the world.
Lately I have been thinking how comfort is perhaps the ultimate luxury.
Another important element to the overall soothing or pleasing aesthetic of our home is to have a certain sense of unity throughout. By this I mean that each room needs to pick up on the next with a common feel to the whole. This doesn’t mean that each room has to be the same color or have the exact fabric patterns or colors in every single room. Most people don’t live that way and it’s fun to offer ‘surprises’ in different rooms. This excerpt from The Essential House Book gives some guidance on this element of unity:
One important element is unity. Rooms look awkward when there is a mishmash of conflicting styles and tastes clamoring for attention. Using the same sorts of colors and textures in connecting areas such as hallways and stairs, employing the same family of basic materials for surfaces and finishes and avoiding abrupt aesthetic leaps from style bring a sense of coherence to a sequence of rooms and help to define the essence of a home.
There will always be the need for a balance between privacy and openness in any home – large communal areas for people to gather in and small private rooms to retreat to. It may seem an obvious point, but in houses where every space runs into the other, life can become tiring: sound is amplified, intimate conversations are virtually impossible and different activities set up competing areas of attention. Whereas if your rooms are uniformly small, there is nowhere to celebrate and entertain without feeling claustrophobic. THE ESSENTIAL HOUSE BOOK Space and Light p.20
Beauty and comfort naturally involve all the senses and the more the better, so I have learned not to focus exclusively on the visual. Sweet or spicy smells, tactile surfaces—whether smooth or grainy, soothing music all play into the total picture. The living that goes on within your home should be the most beautiful and comforting scene of all. It’s the living, the pitter-pat of little feet, happy excited giggles, and sweet stories and nursery rhymes. Copy the illustrations from some cherished children’s books and frame them on the wall—and not just in the children’s bedrooms. A friend that I met while we lived in Florida, watched me put our year-old Asheley down for her nap. My friend never had any children, but adored them. She commented to me, “even the way you put your baby to sleep is poetry in motion—the bed, the blankets and pillows, the music and fan going all at once—it’s all so dreamy!” It is so dreamy and sometimes it takes another person a little more removed to help us see it at times. I always kept some soft background music going and the ceiling fans turning slowly. On many evenings we would light up the balcony with as many candles as we could set out. At our beach house we had a general ‘open door’ policy which basically meant that our door was usually wide open, so anyone could just sort of breeze in whenever. At different times, our neighbors would remark on how peaceful and relaxing our home was. That is the best compliment I could ever receive, for it means that I’m succeeding in my overall objective. There may have been sand all over the floor or beach towels strewn about, but to others it felt comfortable above all else.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And the voices soft and sweet.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From A Children’s Hour
The Romantic Life, The Romantic Mom--Children and Decorating
Decorating with children in mind
An honest home that rings true to the lives of the people who occupy it will always be disarmingly refreshing to visitors.
- Alexandra Stoddard
Yes, do go ahead and decorate. Don’t just hide everything in the closet until the children have all grown and flown the nest. I covered this pretty thoroughly in the first part of this chapter, but it bears repeating. Children are drawn to colors and prints, especially flowers, but don’t let that prevent you from going modern or monotone if that’s what really appeals to you. In Texas, I let our bedroom be my creamy oasis, even complete with a white couch. It held up amazingly well considering that only the cushions were washable. However, for our room in Florida I ended up going with a dark terra-cotta pink that looked great with the white accents. I had a breakthrough with the children’s room in our home in Texas. It had a blue and rose busy floral wallpaper that came about halfway up the wall like a wainscot with white wood trim at the top. Truthfully, I’m not a big fan of wallpaper—especially busy wallpaper. However, the soft blue and rose colors were not too bad. My other dilemma was that the wall color above the wallpaper was a dead flat whitish-cream color and the closet doors were a different type of white. So every time I went into the room I found myself thinking, “Which white is it supposed to be, anyway?” A young friend of my husband’s family had made a darling little crib-sized patchwork quilt with a sailboat motif. I had hung it on the wall and as I looked at that quilt, it suddenly struck me that the patterns and colors of that quilt matched that ‘busy’ wallpaper. There were some soft yellow tones as well, so I made a decision right then to use that adorable quilt as my guide and we painted those walls a soft sweet yellow. It didn’t ‘match’ that wallpaper exactly but it looked perfect. I didn’t have to choose any sort of white after all!
This actually correlates with a nice concept in using soft pastels to replace white as your accent color. For example, the idea is to use the palest lavender, yellow, blue, or pink as a substitute for white or cream. I used that trick in our beach house with a very soft lavender that became my light accent all through the house—where ever I may have wanted things ”white.” The effect was really nice. The only place we used white was on the tiles in the bath and then I painted the walls and sink cabinet lavender. Playing with two color tones within the same color is a nice look, too. For example, paint the wall a sunny yellow and the trim around the windows a soft buttery yellow instead of stark white This looks especially nice with soft greens and blues as well. Another trick if you have smaller spaces is to keep the walls a light beige but use a prominent color for the window trim or a wainscot. Some friends of ours have done this in their small house by using a burgundy or rose-red trim around the windows in the living area and a periwinkle color in the bathroom. The house feels very open and the shots of color around the windows are a nice surprise for the eyes. When decorating with children in mind remember to have fun and be playful. You have the rest of your life to be monochromatic and sophisticated so take a break with young ones and give yourself an excuse to have some fun. I’ve really loosened up in that area myself—and it’s given me such a creative boost!
For example, in our Texas home we had a spare bedroom that had nice pinewood paneling. However, it had been heartlessly stained a bottom-of-the-pond scum green (what were they thinking?) that gave the effect of walking into some dank, dismal cave. Obviously, this was far from an inviting place to be. I wanted to turn that room into my creative/office nook as well as provide a more pleasant place for my grandma to sleep when she came to visit us. I saw in a magazine a family room painted a salmon pink color with white trim that I would never have imagined would appeal to me in the least. Yet it had this white French door with a glass knob that opened into it and a young girl in the prettiest little white cotton nightgown peeking around that door. So I don’t know if it was that little girl or the actual color of the walls, but whatever it was, I loved it! I showed the photo to my husband and he surprised me by saying he thought it would be great for that room. This was a major branching out for me, Miss Monotone from Neutralville. My husband (who happens to be a great interior wall painter) had a heck of a time painting that paneling, but when it was finished I can’t tell you how fresh and adorable that room looked! It also had a built-in double desk unit which had been built by the original owners who also happened to have twins. We painted that and all the trim a glossy white and I splurged on some rose glass knobs and handles for the drawers. I took down the generic mini-blinds and replaced them with white generic sheer curtains over wooden white rods. The sunshine just spilled into that room. I had salvaged a chair-and-a-half, something I had always wanted, from the side of the street in our neighborhood and covered it with a white slipcover and miniature pink and peach flowered pillows to accent. I put a twin bed against the long wall that we treated as a daybed banked with pillows and covered in a bright yellow calico quilt with soft blues, greens, and pinks for what came to be known as “Grandma Cady’s room.” The next time she visited us she was shocked at the change of her “new room.” The children and I both loved being in that room and it also became a favorite spot to enjoy the mornings. It was another room that never fully realized its potential yet it catapulted me into braver, bolder more colorful and playful directions.
The Romantic Life, The Romantic Mom--The Embellishments
I was flying homeward now…to books, to music,
refinement, company, pleasure, and the dear old homestead I love so well
—Sybylla Melvyn, My Brilliant Career
The embellishing touches are really one of the most important components to the homey life and truthfully speak the loudest when it comes to our children and to their unique experience within the family. What exactly is meant by the embellishments? Well, embellishments can be described as all the little finishing touches, ‘tidying ups’ and grace notes that give each mother and her home it’s own personal imprint or expression.
Everything is an autobiography
The embellishments that we take the time to institute and create in our home and for our family and all who enjoy the comforts of our home speak volumes for who we are as individuals and all the things we treasure and hold dear. We need to make especially sure in our own lives that we are genuinely placing the value on those things that matter most. So what are some of these embellishments?
Flowers in various-sized pitchers and vases around the house, especially in summertime, are one of the sweetest, loveliest touches we can add to the atmosphere of our home. Even in the winter, we can force bulbs, and in late winter or early spring, blossoming branches from flowering bushes and fruit trees. The heady aroma from some flowers can almost be overwhelming, but children inhale these fragrances as if they can never get enough! During the summer months we keep an abundant supply of small containers and vases for the ceaseless rotation of wildflowers that the children use to bedeck their tables, dressers, and window sills. Small salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar bottles, and even the plastic film containers for cameras make wonderful vases. Small chubby hands many times only bring in one or two flowers, so it’s nice to have teeny vases to accommodate these “bouquets.”
“…exit from delicious dreams to a world of soft down…
and sheets that gentlier lie than tired eyelids upon tired eyes.”
–Rose Macaulay, “Personal Pleasures”
Excerpt Victoria magazine July 1996P 59
Speaking of fragrances, lavender is a wonderful, old-fashioned scent that evokes soft summer days and crisp, white sheets fresh off the clothes line with warm breezes and sunshine still clinging to their folds. A linen closet stocked with lavender-scented bedding folded neatly and tied with a ribbon will always remain any homemaker’s source of pride and delight. When we are able to get our lives simplified enough, then we can begin the process of really taking care and embellishing the things we do have—this can especially be the case for the linens we use.
The linen closet was large, almost the size of a dressing room.
It had white birch shelves from floor to ceiling, piled with soft, old white linens.
The first time Laura had gone in there she had stood for a moment, the door half-shut
behind her, and pressed her face against the smooth, white sheets, smelling the faint
cinnamon smell of unfinished birch.
From Summer Light by Roxanne Robinson
Napkins, tablecloths, pillow cases, and sheet borders with vintage laces or dainty needlework crisply starched and ironed, then lovingly folded, labeled, and wrapped in tissue paper with lavender sachets seem to be lost to a by-gone era, but I daresay, it’s a wonderful ritual to resurrect especially if you have youngsters. If you’re considering having your daughters begin their own trousseau, the linen closet provides the first impression for them to cherish and look forward to some day having their own special linens tucked away awaiting that special day. Children are fascinated by these things and treasure these memories their whole lives. I certainly don’t have a linen closet stocked with beautiful vintage linens, but I have tried to begin providing a few of these embellishments when I can. Once spring comes along and we have some nice sunny days, I make sure that I get all the sheets and bedding washed and hung out on the clothes line to dry. I also bought some linen spritzers of rose and lavender to spay on the children’s pillows and comforters after they’ve made the bed. They also have some flowers made from fabric tied around their bedposts that they want spritzed as well.
“She was so thankful for the softness of her lavender-fragrant bed, and so delighted with the lovely freshness of her chintz-hung room. As she lay upon her pillow, she could see the boughs of the trees, and hear the chatter of darting starlings. When her morning tea was brought, it seemed like nectar to her.”
–Frances Hodgson Burnett, “Emily Fox-Seton”
Excerpt Victoria magazine July 1996p.52
Another embellishment and fun, springtime project to do with the children is to clean out the pantry, scrub all the shelves, and get it prepared for the summer confections and fall harvest. Put down fresh shelf paper and cut a scalloped or a lace-like border to dangle off the edge of the shelves. Organizing and preparing the summer pantry simply invites fresh picked berries and preserves, garden produce, and glass-covered pies and tarts to fill these tantalizing spaces.
Any embellishments from nature through all the seasons are vastly appreciated and enjoyed by our children. Pressed flowers in homemade soaps or candles, decorated wreaths of berries or evergreens, mirrors and frames of seashells, or rustic pot pourris from the garden are all wonderful embellishments that bring the outdoors inside. A child’s small window sill garden is a pleasant winter past time, especially when we include pungent smelling herbs and big-blossomed geraniums. These are greatly appreciated on winter salads when summer seems so far away. The sole purpose of embellishing our home is to saturate our days—our moments—with the goodness and blessings all around us. This beauty and bounty should always be felt right at our doorstep and spilling over into the lives of our family and friends.
Next morning she got up very early and
began a spring cleaning which lasted a fortnight.
She swept, and scrubbed, and dusted; and she rubbed up the furniture with beeswax,
and polished her little tin spoons. When it was all beautifully neat and clean,
she gave a party to five other little mice, without Mr. Jackson.
He smelt the party and came up the bank, but he could not squeeze in at the door.
So they handed him out acorn-cupfuls of honeydew
through the window, and he was not at all offended.
He sat outside in the sun, and said—“Tiddly, widdly, widdly!
Your very good health, Mrs. Tittlemouse!”
All excerpts from The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse
By Beatrix Potter