Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Evolution of My Decorating Style

Last week I came across this photo on our hard drive. It was taken in 2006 in the first home we owned, that wanna-be farmhouse (or at least that's how I saw it) on a corner lot in town.

I loved this room. I still love it.

I can pinpoint the exact magazine tear sheet that inspired the look. (And just so you know, there is nothing more frustrating in 2014 than being unable to find an online photo of something. But I just channeled my rage into devouring a bowl of Honeycomb cereal, so I should be okay.)

Somehow, all those years ago, when I was barely a Martin and not at all a Mama, when I didn't realize I was a writer and hadn't yet learned to deglaze a pan, I knew I liked white walls, a little bit of natural wood, a few judicious pops of color, and some heavy metal. I knew my style didn't involve a lot of cash or any ruffles. I knew pop art was the best art, handmade by someone I would never know, but about whom I wondered. His sense of scale was a bit wonky, but I knew his heart was good. I wish I had kept that $1 garage sale painting.

Another year or two, and we traded rooms. But aside from everything changing, not much else did. This was the girl I was, and it mattered even then to reflect who I was to the environment around me.

All I knew was what made me happy (and a tiny bit about Rachel Ashwell.) I tore pages from magazines, because what else would I have done with my free time back before the world picked up speed? There was no plan for those pages. Their fate was simply to be kept.

That corner house was never meant for forever. Not the way this one was. You know, the one I'd Never Leave.

And all at once, the internet was alive and I had a blog and a very small audience, but more than that, I had knowledge, so much more than slick pages with jagged edges. I knew things now. Pottery Barn fit my budget now, and the information came in the mail and Holy Moses, did it ever come flying through this screen.

I still knew the power of the flea and being thrifty was still important to me, mostly because it was a challenge, and so much fun. The problem was, I started to feel like things needed to match.

I was no expert, and no one put me under the illusion that I was.
But I uploaded my photos and people liked the way things looked. It all flowed so well.

 But the walls weren't white anymore.
And I always wished they were.

Every month, I would flip through my stack of mags, still tearing them out with great care and sleeving them forevermore in the plastic sheets we used to use for our "really important" hand-written reports.

The binder bulged, eventually giving birth to volumes II and III.

90% of the photos in the binder were more reminiscent of the olden days, way back around 2006, when everything was white and I didn't think a second thought about it, because no body cared but me.

Here I was, living in a beige world, all muted and serene and, dare I say, a bit on the traditional country side. What???

I toyed with shutting down that grayish blue and high-tailing it back to my roots. But I saw so many people doing it so much better, so I stuck with what seemed to be working. I siphoned enthusiasm from the comment trough and told myself this was my look, when it wasn't.

But how exactly does a girl escape from beige curtains? And is there an exit plan from cream-painted wood and 3 cool shades of blue?

What I really wanted was the complete opposite of what I had. I pined for a wild ruckus of a home that didn't match at all. I wanted rowdy pattern parties and gaudy curtains, every wobbly piece of furniture pained a different shade. I wanted a life with garage sale art, where the tree is roughly 200x the size of the couple walking beneath it.  I wanted to start over. And no one had time for that sort of nonsense. But especially not Cory.

Right at the very end, I started to rebel in snatches. It sort of started with the orange wing-back, who begged for a little color over her head....

 ...and if you give a pig a party, pretty soon every one wants in on the action.

 One day, we packed it all in and left the farm.

In a blinding light-force of strange and twisted fate, the house we would call our next home came with Dove White walls, and we didn't have a say in the matter.

Everything was changing around and in us. It was the most profound season of heart-transformation I have ever experienced. We were pummeled and yanked and shoved, but I swear, it was all in love.

And while we worked on laying things down and letting go, while we learned a new set of dance moves and fell free into the life we were meant to live, I got my gaudy on and paired checks with stripes with Mexican restaurant curtains.

My audience was larger now, but I didn't care as much what they thought. This one was for me. My life, once so serene and cozy, was now chaotic and crazy-loud. In our brand new digs on the wrong side of the tracks, when so much was changing, I needed to feel me more than ever. Forget about reflecting my Shannan-ness, I lit my vibe and flung it like a fistful of dime-store firecrackers.

I came home, to a place where "safe" made me itchy and the clash of everything ricocheted things I had known forever against things I couldn't possibly have imagined.

Perfection, or even the illusion or attempt, doesn't live here anymore. We squeeze our nickels 'til they bleed now, then find a quirky use for flattened nickels. I put strange things on the wall because they cost twenty-five cents and it makes me happy to see them there. It's okay if our neighbors think our house is new (it is) or clean (smoke and mirrors!), but I might surely die if they thought it was formal or fancy, a place where everything matched and they felt out of place.

Our home is entirely us, and we wear it like a broken-in boot. I've learned the flaw in saying I'll "never leave", but I know now that my roots jump the miles with me and I'm better off when I set a place for them.


  1. I love your home.
    You have a beautiful soul.
    I see love when I look at your white walls and your pops of color.

  2. I'm not sure I have a decorating style...unless baking brownies qualifies. :-) BUT, once God's time is right for our house to sell and we move in to a smaller place, I have some ideas I want to try!

  3. I think all of our homes have evolved over start out never really knowing your style...but like you said - eventually you have to be true to yourself...that's what I love about your posts (the picture of your entryway with the yellow purse is my favourite!) - it is your heart that shines through in every post that keeps me coming back

    Cheryl @ The Creative Me and My McG

  4. Please tell me you still have your bed frame and the chair from Ruby's room!!! I too am a white wall person with my husband always begging me to try a color but I hold fast...(unless it's wallpaper in a hallway or powder room) I will not give in to the new gray trend or whatever it will be next year. Also loved your post on poverty, sent it off to my oldest at college who is still young enough to see the world in judgmental black and white. Trying to get him to see that not everyone starts at the same starting line in this life and its not laziness that keeps people further back! Keep writing.

  5. I see the freedom in your decorating... And I love it. Well done.

  6. "I got my gaudy on" - LOVE IT!! : )

  7. I love your style, lady! Thanks for sharing the evolution.

  8. I adore you and your style and your home.

  9. Oh, the pre-Pinterest days were interesting, weren't they? I, too had a stack of torn out pages and if I went though them now I would see greige, greige, and more greige. (I thought everything went together SO WELL - it did - it was all the same shade of tan!)

    Now, I love things with texture. Woodsy, and a tad rickety. More than "chippy," our stuff is pretty banged up. When I was in my 20s my friends and I joked about how we long for the days when we could afford more than our style we coined "Early Attic." Then came the Pottery Barn years.

    Now, my husband and I like our rustic look. I was thrilled beyond belief when my husband fell in love with the banged up end tables I pulled out of the basement. (I really thought he would hate them...nope!)

    We're with you on the squeezing nickles part. Priorities have changed even more than the curtains. We have found there's a lot more change our my heart than there is in our pockets. But, that's ok :)

  10. You inspire me! To be true to who I am in all things is a most important lesson to learn and to teach. Thank you, Shannan : )

  11. I love how eclectic your home is. I truly LOVE it! You should totally do this for a living...just saying...home decorating is your thang. ;)

  12. Dearest Shannon, Thank you for this post. I love to see your evolution of style. I think its all good. You've got a crazy awesome eye. My evolution would look something like a bipolar woman with loud walls and an ugly thrifted couch calling herself a Martha-wannabe morphing into a lover of old homes and original crystal doorknobs, painting the mahogany woodwork white, into a calmer white-obsessed girl fighting off the inspiration sucker that is renting. Ugh. Ready for the next phase...

    Also, you know what photo I loved the very most here!? Your amazing mix of pattern with the little girl bedding...the stripes, the ballerina pillowcases?! the flowers??? Girl. I die. Please tell me about the ballerina bedding. Please. :)

    1. TJ Maxx, baby!
      You know I couldn't walk away from brown ballerinas. :)

  13. Oh, I love your style. But I adore your words and all the meaning that is packed in so heavily.

  14. I am captivated by your words. . your words are the show stealers in this post. . .now, I have to go back and look at the pictures. Just beautiful words.

  15. Love your style and your writing. I feel like I want to go "flea marketing" with you and spend an afternoon hanging out (and I never write crazy stuff like this). My house is always a bit chaotic, and that is the way it should with kiddos living it. Always feel happy reading your blog and seeing what is new in your corner!

  16. Truth be told, I like all the stops along your evolution. I totally thought the first picture was from your current I guess you have returned to your heart. :) I think that when you decorate with what you love, the result is always beautiful. Unless you love a duck border in your kitchen. At which point we may have to talk. But I try to tell myself that often - I think I box myself into what I think my house should look like, based off current trends (is that what you felt like you did at house #2?). But when I just do what I love, I always like it better and longer.

  17. p.s. Can you show us your bedroom soon? :)

    1. My bedrooom?

      Uh, no.


      As for your other question, I don't know if I was trying to be "trendy"....I liked the look of that house, it just wasn't really "me". I think I backed myself into a soothing, neutral, PB sort of corner and couldn't find my way out.

      I agree so much with what you said about going with what you love.

      And the Betty Draper rental totally DID rock a duck border! It broke my heart.

  18. Cow and Battery rack with mugs has always been my favorite! I've been on the hunt for a funky sort of rack/wall storage thingamajig for my mugs.. no luck so far. Always love reading FPFG :)

  19. You pull off funky so well! But would you sell me that bicycle basket in the bathroom? I've been looking ages for one!

    1. That basket was actually bought in the home storage area of Lowes or Bed Bath & Beyond or...somewhere. It's supposed to be the basket that clips onto a drying rack and holds silverware! We modified it a bit and screwed it into the wall. It's still there, back at the old house...presumably. :)

  20. I love the wonky-ness and the awesome art and the Mex restaurant curtains. Love it all!!! Long live pattern mixing and 25 cent art.

  21. I adore this post so very much! Seriously! I love seeing how your style has evolved and love hearing the story of why. Stay true to your wonkyness because it is so very inspiring! P.S. I SO wish we could go thrifting together!

  22. Shanana-ness is totally underrated.

  23. I love every inch of your little bit country little bit rock- n-roll house. But. I still miss the old homestead too. There was such a peace there and I loved soaking it in even if only for the day. It was way of living my country life dreams through you. But. You are where you are supposed to be now!

  24. I'm sure you realize your decorating style path and metamorphosis mirrors the rest of your life? You've come out of the norm-box, so to speak, and chosen an eclectic ...everything!

  25. I LOVE your style. Wish you were having a garage sale RIGHT NOW that I could capitalize on your hand me downs. LOVE your hand me downs. Please think it over for when the weather shapes up!

  26. You make mismatch look GOOD. I love that your newest house is so you - it looks lived in and loved and it has some serious character. I'm hoping I'll one day figure out what's "me" and be brave enough to go all the way with it, too :)

  27. Great post today. An interesting read for any person who would agree with your views. Long may these posts continue.air conditioner repair denver

  28. Where oh where did you find that Eveready battery display?!?! I've been searching for months and cannot find anywhere that would be selling that beautiful antique find! Thank you in advance :)