Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A space to create

I recently came across a lovely book - "Where Women Create" - and it got me thinking about how beautiful spaces really do get the creative juices flowing. I don't have the luxury of a little home studio, but after reading this book, I decided I needed to find some space somewhere. So, I got my old coffee table out of storage (it's too big for my current living room), plopped a couple comfy floor pillows down and set up shop. I use it to collage, scrapbook, work on my poetry, plan the re-do of my house, play with the paints my best friend sent me, work on this blog, etc. I find that settling into the space really makes my mind "switch" to being creative.
As a side note about the coffee table - it's my old kitchen table from years ago. I didn't really care for the finish on the table, so one day I decided to cut the table down to coffee table height and paint it, despite basically being told I was nuts. But I had a vision going and I was determined - and there are fewer things more unmovable than me when I have a vision going. (Which reminds me of a story I should share involving The Magic Shed, an old front door, and a breakfast nook in sad need of a table. But that's for another day.) The circular form of my new coffee table was perfect in the large living room in my other house - it seemed to invite my furniture to gather round the fireplace. But since there's no room for that now, it's doing a wonderful job of serving as the place where I create.
And if you haven't already, check out this book:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A little fabric goes a long way...

As you can see from some other photos posted on my blog, my dining room chairs usually have slipcovers on. One of the main reasons for this was I didn't care for the fabric covering the seats. There wasn't really anything wrong with it - it was a sort of nondescript beige/orange Southwestern plaid. And even though it wasn't exactly my taste, at first it was fine. The chairs sat for quite a few years uncovered.
But then, well, things changed. I fell in love with the light, airy Shabby Chic look (thank you Rachel Ashwell). The Universe then serendipitously brought me slipcovers I loved and could afford - six matching slipcovers on clearance for $30 total (regularly $20 each)! So, my chairs got beautiful slipcovers and I smiled every time I walked into the dining room.
But last year, I got the itch to remove the covers and enjoy the pretty lines of the table and chairs - that was, after all, why we purchased it originally. The problem was that seat fabric. Then I remembered I had purchased some old fabric on eBay awhile ago. In the way things that are meant to be tend to work out, the fabric was perfect. It suited the chairs, the current color scheme in the house - and there was just enough to go around. Even my little Shih Tzu seemed to approve. 

I wish I had thought back then to take a "before" photo, but I didn't. My earlier description should give you a pretty good idea, though, of what the old fabric looked like. The "after" photo is posted here. Doesn't the chair look lovely? Now I have a dining room table and chairs that make me smile covered or not. How fabulous is that?
I share this for a couple reasons. One, when I decided I really wanted to add some beauty to my world by changing my dining room chairs, the Universe provided - not once, but twice. This sort of thing happens to me all the time, reinforcing my belief that we truly are meant to embrace what we feel is beautiful. And two, remaking your environment to brighten your life really doesn't have to be expensive. Creativity (and a little luck) goes a long way. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Once again, beauty draws me in... or in this case, out

One of the best things about our current house is the yard. Someone who knew what they were doing did a wonderful job of landscaping, putting down sidewalks and pavers and planting evergreens and perennials that bloom at different times, in various colors. All we've done is add a few potted plants and make sure everything gets watered and weeded. Thanks to someone's hard work years ago, it really is beautiful, particularly at this time of year.
The yard at the house I own, unfortunately, isn't anywhere near as pretty. I'm going to take quite a bit of inspiration from this one and transplant it back there to create a beautiful space that I want to relax and entertain in. I've noticed that I am drawn to the back yard here much more than I ever was at my other home - I'm thinking it has a lot to do with how beautiful it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For the love of teapots... and cups... and saucers

I love teacups. And saucers. And teapots.
And I'm sure my friends (and boyfriend) would be only too quick to tell you teapots and teacups are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to me and dishes. I love dishes. Obsessively.
I have so many dishes even I will admit (occasionally, under duress) that my dish habit/obsession may be out of hand. But I can't help it. I LOVE dishes. Old dishes, new dishes, family dishes, pretty dishes with flowers. Orphan tea cups - I'm a sucker for those. That's what I call those lonely teacups and saucers you find in second-hand shops and flea markets that have no other matching pieces left to their sets. How can you just leave them there?
I also have a habit of picking up what's left of a collection - I love to mix and match, as you can see from the second photo. The only problem with this, I have discovered, is that I will never have a matching place setting for 12.
The daisy tea set at the top is my absolute favorite. I bought it at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., a number of years ago. In my last move, the second large plate broke into lots of little pieces - and I, ridiculously, was heartbroken.
I am attached to my dishes (and tea sets in particular) for a number of reasons - who gave them to me, where I found them, the pattern, their age, the stories I imagine they could tell, etc. - but mostly it's just that they're beautiful and being surrounded by them makes me happy.
I'm sure I can't be the only person like this...

Cut, paste, enlighten

Have you ever been unsure of exactly what it is that you like? That sounds like a dumb question, I know. But think about it. Do you know what your style really is? If you're not sure - or even if you think you are - I've got a little project for you. Collage.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance, discusses collage as a tool for uncovering "your authentic self." Now let me just say that I unabashedly love Simple Abundance - it is a wonderful, wonderful book and I encourage you to read it and every other of Sarah Ban Breathnach's books. I have learned so much from her work and am a huge fan. In Simple Abundance and the companion Illustrated Discovery Journal, she walks you through the process of creating different collages to get at what you really feel. She can explain it much better than I can (and I can't encourage you enough to seek out her books for reference) but the general gist is this: Get some old magazines (and other materials if you like) and start tearing and cutting out photos that speak to you on whatever topic you're working on - your home, how you dress, your dreams, whatever. Pick out what speaks to you WITHOUT putting too much conscious thought into it. Pull images one day, then work on the collage the next. There is no right or wrong way to put the images together - do whatever feels right. Afterward, look at the collage and then look at the reality of what the collage is about - in other words, if you did a collage on decorating your living room, compare the collage to what your living room actually looks like.
Are the two similar? If not, why? What can you do to make your reality reflect what you truly love?
If you think this sounds silly, I assure you trying it a few times (and reading Sarah's work) will make you a believer. Would you believe that when I did the collage above about how I'd decorate my home that I lived with dark green/blue/red plaid furniture, dark green carpet and what can only be described as wildlife art? It's no wonder I walked into my home and felt like I didn't belong. It also explained my penchant at one time to wear florals (which I thankfully got over). I realized I was trying to compensate for what was missing in my home environment. When I made a collage focusing on wardrobe, it looked nothing like the clothes in my closet.
If you do a collage and are unsure what it is telling you, send me a photo and I'll be happy to interpret. I took a class from the master herself at Simple Abundance online to learn more. (I have a certificate and everything!)
And, I am happy to say that, over time, I have been able to revamp my home (and wardrobe) to reflect ME. And for that, I will always be grateful to Sarah Ban Breathnach. 
So, go get some magazines and try this out. Better yet, get Sarah's books and read them, too. 
After all, how can you embrace beauty if your mind and soul aren't working together to tell you exactly what beauty you need in your life?

Monday, June 22, 2009

When it's not perfect...

Some days I look around my home and I get the itch to change everything. That's partly because I'm currently living in a rental house. I own my own house (a lovely old fabulous house...) but I fell in love and decided I needed a change for awhile, so I packed up and moved across the country. (I am fortunate that one of my dearest friends is renting my house, so it's in good hands.) The move is only temporary; we'll be moving back in a few years. Still, having once lived in MY house, my perfect house, the house I always dreamed of owning, nothing else quite measures up. (Those of you who have been lucky enough to find the house that was always meant to be yours will understand what I'm talking about.) So, when it comes to not being completely satisfied with your current abode, I understand.
That doesn't mean, however, that I can't make the best of the situation and embrace my current home for what it is (a lovely old little bungalow near the beach), not what I'd like it to be (bigger, with a pink living room). I have tried very hard to do that, and for the most part, I think I've done pretty well. Figuring out a way to make my current home beautiful is worth the effort because it makes me feel so much better - though I am a long way from figuring out how to live with my boyfriend's hideous black leather recliner. I've tried everything and I just can't make it go away. Covering it doesn't even work. My only comfort is knowing it won't be coming with us when we move in a few years. For now, I think of it as the universe's way of trying to teach me acceptance.
If you aren't happy with what you see when you look around your home, identify the things you'd change. I'd encourage you to start fresh with a clean house, though. I've discovered that my dissatisfaction with my house lessens considerably with a good cleaning. It also seems to work wonders for my mental health.
Once you've got a clean slate, prioritize what you'd like to do. Think big if you must, but remember small changes can make a huge difference. Are you displaying a collection you've outgrown? Or are you living with an ugly lamp just because a family member gave it to you and you feel obligated? (I've done this.) Do you get an "ugh" feeling every time your eye lands on it? Sell it, donate it or pack it away - it's only bringing you down. Hate your furniture or just want a new look? Try a thrift store for a new piece or slipcovers - it's amazing what you can do for very little money. Ugly wood furniture can get a whole new life with a coat of paint. And those walls? Spend $20 and paint them a color that makes you smile every time you walk in the room. (Seriously, do not underestimate how happy this can make you.) If you're renting, you can always paint over it before you move.
Being surrounded by beauty begets peacefulness. And trying to work with my current home, instead of against it, seems to impart a positive energy. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to beat a house into submission and it just won't budge. Your environment has a direct effect on your mood and well-being, so it's worth it to make the most of it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Too cute...

There's no particular insight here - just a cute dog photo. Who doesn't love one of those? And though you wouldn't know it by this picture, this little one loves nothing more than playing with the big dogs and getting dirty. Dirty or clean, she's beautiful. :)
(But I must admit I prefer her clean...)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Authenticity and beauty go hand in hand...

Style is as unique to each individual as a petal is to a flower. Things I find fabulous you may find ho-hum. 
But as I've gotten older, one of the things I have discovered is that even though something might not be to my personal taste or style, I can still see the beauty in it. A lot of times, being able to do that means seeing something through someone else's eyes. 
I'm not big on super modern, contemporary decorating. One of my friends, however, is. And you know what? I love her house. Absolutely love it, even though it's not my taste. Partly because she's my friend, but mostly because her love and enthusiasm for what she considers beautiful shines through. And it's nearly impossible to be in the midst of that and not appreciate it.
Another friend of mine has a love of green and earth tones, with a sort of contemporary country flair. Her dining room in particular is great, as you can see above. And though it's not necessarily how I would choose to decorate, as you can see from the photo of my dining room, I really love her sense of style. (And if I thought I could get away with it, I'd steal that wardrobe from her in a heartbeat.) 
Many people would never consider a pink living room. For me, there's just no other way - it suits. And you know what? Even though my friends would never have such a thing, they love it because it is so me. The lesson? By embracing what we each feel is beautiful and putting it out there for the world to see, we have put forth part of our true selves. And people respond to it because it is authentic.
Same goes for your personal appearance, too. How many times have you run across a woman who makes you think "I could never dress that way," but you find yourself drawn to her nevertheless. You know why? Her sense of herself is on display and you recognize that and are responding to her authenticity.
So get out there and embrace beauty in whatever form you want. If you're not quite sure where to start because you aren't sure what your tastes are, hang on. We'll get to that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yes, even tissue boxes matter

People have always sort of laughed at my consideration of beauty. Ever since I was a kid, I've been drawn to it – and if it wasn't there, I was interested in creating it. When I was about 10, I was with my siblings at the house of my parents' friends. They were showing us the yard where we could play and an old tree house. It was a little dirty, with a few years of dust and leaves strewn inside. I immediately set about cleaning it up, already seeing in my imagination how cute it could be. I remember this because later on that afternoon, I heard my parents' friend telling them how I immediately started cleaning up. They all thought it was one of those cute/funny things about me and my dad said if left to my own devices, I would have it all fixed up in no time.
When it came time for new wallpaper in the dining room and living room, my mom picked it out. But she was stumped when it came to which color to paint the wall going up the stairs since it needed to complement both rooms. I was horrified that they were going to go with plain white by default – it would have looked terrible. So, I got to choose (a soft peachy pink, if you're curious). They raised their eyebrows at my selection, but once it was on the wall, agreed it was the right choice, warming the space and harmonizing the two rooms. Beauty 1, Boring 0.
One time in my teens when I was being teased again about always having to choose something "pretty," even practical things no one should care about, like tissue boxes, I explained that it wasn't that I would automatically discount something just because it wasn't "pretty." It was just that I felt if one had a choice, beauty should always be considered. After all, I told my dad, why live with something ugly if you don't have to? And yes, that applied all across the board, even down to little things like tissue boxes. Being surrounded by beauty is important, I argued at the time, or else God wouldn't have bothered to create things like flowers, nor would he have graced us with creativity. (Now I would add that choosing to surround yourself with beauty – be it beautiful furniture, colors, fabric, flowers, clothes, etc. – is a cross between honoring the divine and self-love.)
Dad laughed, said he hadn't thought about it like that, but I had a point. Years later, my husband and friends said the same thing. I hope you agree.


Greetings, all.  I hope you enjoy this blog as I build it. I will be sharing my thoughts and ideas on the importance of beauty and how we can embrace more of it in our lives. Beauty can be such a powerful, rejuvenating force in the world. I am totally new to blogging, so please bear with me as I get this going.

Thanks for looking and may you find that extra bit of beauty to brighten your day!