Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Don't Freak Out but This is a Legit Decorating Post

A couple of weeks ago I sat working at my crappy disastrous homey dining room table for most of the day, at some point remembering I needed to rustle something up for Bible study that evening. Sadly, I didn't have wheels because our "new" car had been totaled while the ink was still fresh on the temporary tags, but that's another story for another day. (Working title, "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?")

I looked in the fridge. I looked in the freezer. Nothing. Then a small swarm of fruit flies hovering in the corner led me to two badly bruised pears. Scanning the rest of the kitchen perimeter, I found a jar of barley, mostly used for decorative purposes.

Because the answer to most problems (except for deep-seated psychological trauma) is acid, I spontaneously began daydreaming about balsamic-pear-something-or-other.

Then I remembered a handful of weary Brussels sprouts in the fridge.
Then I wondered why I've never devoted any sincere effort to caramelizing onions.

A quick internet search led me to two contender-worthy recipes for a pear vinaigrette, but both called for white balsamic vinegar, and I will be honest, I flipped my laptop the bird. My root vegetables don't care what color their vinegar is and neither do yours. That's not how we roll here on 5th Street. We are not that cute.

I settled on this fresh pear vinaigrette and ended up throwing caution to the wind by substituting Champagne vinegar.

Though my "Autumn Root Vegetable Salad with Barley and Pear Vinaigrette and Gorgonzola Cheese" (that's what I named it because I'm an author and words matter) wasn't necessarily applause worthy, I keep sneaking into the kitchen when no one is looking, grabbing a teaspoon, and downing a mini-shot of the dressing. It has lemon, garlic, and pear. It's practically a health smoothie.

The point is, when it comes to cooking I've become a "use what you've got" kind of lady. I've become a real culinary frontierswoman. Salt of the earth. Resourceful. Innovative. Humble. Take your pick.

The same, I've realized, can be said for my decorating.

The last time I did a full-blown fall living room decorating update it was 2014. A lot of things have changed since then, but the blanket on the back of my couch isn't one of them.

I have, in many ways, misplaced my seasonal mojo. These days, "decorating" means dragging a different painting up from the basement and propping it against the wall.

But I handed the first draft of my manuscript in on the last day of August when it was scorching hot, then it got so cold I almost wept, then it flip-flopped between the two extremes a few dozen times, then we went to the beach in October and two of my kids swam in lake Michigan, and somewhere in the midst of this meteorological turmoil, I decided I wanted my house to feel like Fall.

I dug out my favorite fall photo of all time, and put it on a canvas. (Incidentally, my decorating speed always hovers right around 3mph, but this time it took us a solid three weeks to decide which photo to use. Sometimes it's hard to trust the slow work of Shannan.)

I love it so much. It is childhood, the smell of dry leaves, Ruby's cute hiney in pink sweatpants, crisp air, adventure, and home. (It was taken on the farm, but I'm all out of vinegar at the moment, so I can't talk about it right now...)

(By the way, I'm smitten with CanvasHQ. A family-owned canvas company, their work is all done in Arkansas, the customer service is stellar, and they're offering all of us 35% off and free shipping with the code "harvestlove" at checkout!)

(Would you believe my editor once had the gall to tell me I'm overly reliant on parentheses???) (I couldn't believe it, either!)

Our couch is a low-rider, which makes the wall behind it look like a drive-in movie screen if we're not careful. I knew we needed more than just the canvas. But rather than trying to solve that riddle hastily, I drove friends to their probation meetings, tried to stop baking fatty foods, spoke at five different churches in three weeks, moved some of our besties into their new home down the street (you guys blew my mind and are the official best - stay tuned for an update,) clipped Box Tops for the school, and took up the interior hobby of trying to imagine what Jesus smelled while he was alive in the flesh.

One fateful Saturday I helped my homegirl Timi sell her life-changing goat's milk soaps and body lotions at the Madison Road Market and I found the gather sign. And though Dave Ramsey would have said "No way, sucker! Beans and rice for you!," JailChap texted back, "Do it."

So I did, because I like Cory a lot more than I like Dave.

The rest is history, except for the pillows.

Right around the time I began warming to the idea of fur, I found the large fur pillow cover at Good Will for $1.99. (When will Goodwill start selling cars??)

Next, I found the plaid wool at the thrift store for $0.49 and a local woman sewed pillow covers for me for next to nothing. I decided they work with the floral curtains on account of the red and yellow vibes. And they make me want to drink hot cider, which is basically the whole point of seasonal decorating in the first place. I have always loved some heavy-handed pattern mixing. I'm not trying to bore myself to tears over here.

In hindsight, I would probably arrange the pillows a bit differently, and if that's also where your mind was going, I know how to fix it...

See? Nothing like a good distraction to make us unbothered by pillow placement. (It should go without saying that this is the state our house is usually in, only with many more piles of books on every surface.)

{this pic is all about perspective. those are our dining room lights in the foreground.}

As you can see, none of this is fancy or even super organized and pre-planned. If I had unlimited funds and time I would probably bake a French chocolate souffle rather than inventing a weird salad, you know what I mean?

But it works. It stretches my creative muscles. In a small way, it connects me to the seasons and the physical world outside my windows. It makes me want to hunker down with my family and invite people over. It makes me want to boss Cory around like I'm some mid-town Manhattan photographer. "Move that tray two millimeters to the north!"

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if this is not your thing, go do your thing. Whatever it is! No apologies. No disclaimers. No excuses.

But if you're like me and you sort of love the fluffing and the changing-up, don't think for a minute that you need to spend money you don't have or bow to a trend you don't love. Surround yourself with whatever feels the most you-ish. Work with what you've got.

Grab your banged-up pears and turn them into salad dressing, as the old saying goes.


This is your one life. Your one living room.

Look around.
Toss it together.

PS - Have you signed up to get my Super Scoop secret email? I'll be sharing the file for that sweet little church photo in the big gold frame. Almost ten years ago the sky was so beautiful that I pulled over to the side of the road and took one picture. One. It's still my all-time favorite. It screams Cozy Fall, and I thought you might like it for yourself. It will show up in the inboxes of my subscribers in the next week or so. xo

Couch - Ikea, Karlstad (this model is now discontinued, but there are similar. We love it!)
Rug -RugsUSA
Canvas - CanvasHQ (Don't forget the code "harvestlove" for 35% off your order + free shipping!)
"Gather" - Joyfully Said Signs
Curtains - Jess Franks for Minted (also, feel free to fall in love with her artwork on her site...)
Table - found
Accordian wall lamp -  World Market (several years ago)
Ceiling fixture - Barn Light Electric
Letterpress "M" block and Shine pillow - Dayspring
All other artwork, plant basket, blanket, tray, frames, tchotchke stuff - thrift stores
Flowers - Kroger and our yard
Howard the Cat - My mom's barn
Paint color - White Dove by Benjamin Moore


  1. I love this post, I love your house, your kitchen has always been an inspiration to me! Howard looks so cute!!!

  2. Dear Shannan, It feels so good to read you. I know life (God and all) brings heavy stuff your way a lot because you have been called in a very special way to care for those He cares for who are in pain/difficulty/tragedy and more and be a little of Him to them... Life seems, for various reasons, quite heavy these days for me too. And your words, and seeing your good humor season this post (and the smell of pear vinegar)... all this makes me smile (your writing is so excellent and no I do not understand the parentheses remark either :-) ) as I could also see you smile writing this. You don't need my advice but YES keep being you, cooking, reflecting (the smell of Jesus ah, ah...), decorating in your own you'ish ways. I'm so glad to know you are my sister and that I'll get to meet you some day in person (here or later)... but if you ever come to France, I'll see to it that you'll eat a chocolate French soufflé (don't know what it's like and never had one but we'll find out).

  3. I legit laughed at the picture of Cory placing the tray after reading the sentence before. Hilarious. Also, I can totally see myself cozied up under the accordion lamp reading a book, and so the dreaming and praying for God's favor to visit you continues.

  4. Howard the cat---perfect name just perfect.

  5. Floral curtains + plaid pillow = pattern mixing. It's a real thing (in clothes, anyway) so you're right on n trend. I had to fight myself to wear a floral scarf with a striped top, but I did it and no one died. You people who have an eye for things really make me jealous. I was born completely lacking that gene.

  6. That is some excellent use-what-you-have fall decor! Are those paint-by-numbers? They're great! The print of the kids is perfect, and I'm so glad you got the "gather" sign. It's really cool! I love that it's so big. I think I'd be tempted to keep it up all year.

  7. I enjoy your posts so much. :) I like parentheses too! (And smiley faces and exclamation points!)

    Your living room is beautiful! I like that line about your one life and one living room... it's good to have fun making them beautiful and "you"-like. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Goodness sakes. I love you... and that is all.

  9. Soul Sister, this is exactly my decorating (and cooking) MO as well -- work with what you've got. I've always been this way. And it's weird because lately I've felt guilty about it. Like I should be more plannerly and intentional about my wares (even though 99% of them are thrifted) instead of working with what moves me / is already in my house. I needed this battle cry blog post is what I'm saying! : ) Love your living room. Love the photos, the pillows, and that swoony sign. So glad you said yes to that.

  10. I always enjoy and get inspired by your posts - putting out my seasonal stuff that I have collected over the years always makes me happy and feel so grateful to all that I have - it reminds me of old friends and good times, and leads me to thoughts of the coming good times as the holiday season approaches. I recently moved but I carry home within my heart and know that God is always with me. Thanks for your reminders and I love your book!

  11. Glad I'm a subscriber because I LOVE churches! I am not a decorator, but I so appreciate people who are. The only thing I do for fall is change out my placemats and napkins and put out a few ceramic pumpkins. Christmas, well that's a whole different ballgame! The weekend after Thanksgiving, we pull out all the nativities and lights and decorate! Thanks for sharing your cozy fall space!

  12. This post made me laugh. Life is too good and too short to not take joy in our "one living room" all the while laughing at ourselves while we do it. Thank you!

  13. Are the curtains the black or deepest blue?
    Also, I'd love a closeup of that photo line in the room divider (what's the architectural term?? I'm blanking).
    And, last but not least, tell us more about the herringbone and floral wall coverings. Wallpaper? Love.

    1. I'm just now seeing your comment. So sorry!
      The curtains are black, but I believe they also come in a dark blue option and a dark gray option (Minted.com)

      The support columns in our kitchen are not one of our favorite architectural enhancements ;) but we deal. Cory printed a bunch of his black and white Instagram photos online (there are lots of places that do this) and we just taped them down the length of the column.

      And herringbone wall is actually just black decorative tape on the white wall. (I love it and never want to take it down!) And the floral wallpaper in the desk nook was bought on Anthropologie clearance 6 years ago.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Shannan, I am desperate. I accidentally deleted the photo you so amazingly gave us in an email. The lovely, breathtaking one you took of the white home and the blue sky and clouds. I *need* it! Is there any way I can get another link to it? Thanks so much!!!

  15. Love the letterings above the canvas print! It is just perfect!

  16. That canvas print of your kids in the leaves is so pretty! What a perfect piece of fall decor, and it's even better since it's a photo you took yourself, of your own kids :)

    Sarah | https://affordableblinds.com

  17. Good idea to like it, I will try to do some look, thank you very much.

  18. I enjoyed over read your blog post. Your blog have nice information,
    I got good ideas from this amazing blog.


  19. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read about this West Palm Beach Roofing Contractors topic. I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  20. very clean and neat living room this is what i am looking for types of design and how to organized it well this is cool. Please also look more ideas on one of the website i found ewmacdowellroofing.com

  21. You are sure to get the best quality Custom Paper Writing Services in the shortest period when you get professional help from our fast college Academic Essay Writing Services.

  22. Great engaging information. Thank you for sharing. I found the post engaging and meaningful, which has added value in my understanding. Keep sharing good information. Thanks

    Hire Ruby on Rail Developer Hire Ruby on Rail (ROR) Developer
    Hire mobile app developers Hire mobile app developers
    Hire android developers Hire android developers
    Hire python developers in India Hire python developers in India
    Hire net developers in india Hire net developers in india
    Hire Joomla Developer Hire Joomla Developer
    Hire PHP Developer Hire PHP Developer
    Hire software developers Hire software developers