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.