Monday, February 20, 2012

A Room Of One's Own

I feel like nesting - I've been perusing online shops for stoneware cereal bowls and decent rates on framing, because I'm feeling like all my stuff is going to cave in on me and I'm going to have to dig my way to the surface with a flattened Coke Zero can. I've been wishing especially hard for someone to swoop down and fairy-godmother some gorgeous antiques into my life, and to make sense of the thousands of scraps of paper I have lying around my room. I swear to God, it's a tinderbox in here.

I'm trying to figure out my home decor aesthetic. My mom is an interior designer, so I grew up in these beautifully laid out rooms. They would be washed with colour and texture, and her personal quirks, like hiding the TV in a big cabinet or wallpapering the bathroom with black paper printed with African animals, became normal. I stopped seeing the Japanese garden statuary, and the vintage childrens christening outfits hung on velvet hangers decorating the bathroom became part of the scenery. I don't mean that my mother's style is boring - far from it. She has an amazing ability to see the bones of a thing - a chair, a room, a colour - and tweak into a form more glorious than it could have rightfully dreamed. What I mean is that I sort of take her style for granted, and then I wonder why my own rooms don't look as nice as hers.

Part of it is undeniably a cash flow thing: I don't have hundred of dollars to pour into paint or furniture whenever the mood strikes. Part of it is laziness, because redecorating and renovating is hard work and I am...well, I'm lazy. And a big part of it is a total lack of formal training - growing up in beautiful homes doesn't make me any more adept at creating lovely spaces than any other schmo. But I want to! I'm feeling suddenly interested in antique stores, with their jumbles of globes and vintage magazines. I'm yearning for stoneware cereal bowls and metal egg baskets. I want great big posters of old Japanese films, and 1960s-looking space-age mixing bowls. I grew up reading my mom's design magazines, so I'm not afraid of colour or pattern, but trying to figure out what I want everything to look like is pretty daunting.

My wardrobe is pretty plain: lots of black and grey, some red and white. I play a lot with texture and proportion, and I accessorize with cleavage on the weekends and big scarves at work (yes, I know, I'm about 40 years too young to be dressing like a funky art gallery owner, but here we are). Over the years, though, I've developed a pretty solid sense of what I like. Some harder-edged elements, like a pretty skeleton pendant or subtly gauged earrings, can combine with flowier looks, like floor-length skirts and linen pants. I die for texture - give me a handmade pair of socks, and I am swooning - and I like a little bit of dirt. Do we have smudged eyeliner, rat's-nest hair, and a crooked smile? Then we've got the beginnings of a great look.

But translating that into a design for rooms is tough. There are colour palettes I love, like the brights-on-white of Dia de los Muertos, or the warm nostalgia of buffalo plaid. But do those look good together? No. Maybe I should take a page from my mom's book, who had the African safari wallpaper in the bathroom and a a huge floral motif in the living room. There are things I love wholeheartedly, like hardwood floors, brick walls, and transom windows that I would be lucky to have. There are things like lush plants and great art that I would bring in myself. There are the constant, non-negotiable, room-filling books. And then everything else is just blank.

I feel like a switch has started to turn in my head - for the first time in my entire life, I'm interested in keeping plants alive. I'm making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. I'm sending letters in the mail. I'm feeling more and more like I'm becoming a person I want to be, rather than just stumbling through life with a collection of goofy, ill-advised accessories and habits. It'd be nice if the rooms I live in felt the same way.

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