Category Archives: interior design

The Willow’s Bow

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“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. There is no house like the house of belonging.” – David Whyte

Well, I wanted to write a blog post about the fabulous home of designer Thomas O’Brien showcased in the latest video by Quintessence. But I’m fighting back tears…it has sparked childhood memories of sliding down the banister of my grandparents huge old Tudor in Detroit, shaking out cornstarch on the linoleum so our feet would slide when we danced,  and of watching scary movies at a friend’s renovated old mansion in Birmingham, where I used to dog sit…of the smell of old polished wood and ancient roses…and life.

My parents bought a rambling Cape Cod when we five kids were little. It was old by 1960’s standards; the architect had built it for his mother in 1926. I loved that home for many reasons, including the hidden staircase from inside my sister’s bedroom closet to the attic. And the faerie-sized garret doors perfect for squirreling through to hide. But I remember playing hide and seek outdoors most of all, crawling inside the peony shrubs that lined the 400′ lawn between the house and the Detroit River. They were so old, stems so woody, that they were hollow in the center, a natural fort of branches. They had been planted when the house and gardens were new as a frame inside the majestic willow sentinels. Those trees were taller than the fourth story of the house (where my room was in the eaves) and drifted lazily down to the grass. They whispered to me at dusk that everything would be alright; I swear they bowed to me every sunrise. They kept my tender heart swathed in hope.

As the house let sway the hours of the day, activity increased around me. I heard the movement of a family, sometimes peaceful, sometimes in glorious song together, often engaged in a personal war, always a family. The willows were still. Downstairs my father or my sister practiced on the grand piano in the living room hours on end. Their repetition, their mistakes, unnerving then, are now fond remembrances.

Such an enchanted life we all live, whether or not we realize it in this moment. I am grateful for all of it, all of the struggle and the beauty. Here, I get a sense of it all rushing back to me. I love watching and listening to these two. Thomas is obviously happy to be sharing the home he truly loves. Susanna Salk always puts a smile on my face. She’s such a “tourist” – she gawks and is demonstratively awestruck – as we all would be. And she’s paying attention! There is no pretension or affectation.  She admits she’s embarrassed at just noticing the fireplace two hours into her visit! They both make me feel more creative and more alive by their inspired way of life. Watch closely, you will see the willows in the garden bowing…

 

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Chien Lunatique

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This house has been one of my “all-time favs” also…this artist has got it goin’ on. You know she’s living life to the fullest. Susanne gets it: it’s deeply personal. Not being a drinker, I don’t know what much of this stuff is that she’s talking about – but I DO drink Limeade…and am a coffee-holic. I’ve always made coffee ice cubes so my iced coffee doesn’t get diluted. I’m serious.

Anyway, I maintain that all “true beings” love color, Lulu, and that we make far too many compromises in our own love homes. My home is a love home – I love my home, my land, my pets, my bed, my memories, my time here , my sweet, sweet life…

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.” – Claude Monet

Eat, Pray, Crib…

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Elizabeth Gilbert is an American icon, of course, and certainly one of my heroes. As an aspiring memoirist, I have followed her career since Eat, Pray, Love made her a household name. Here she takes us on a silly tour of the house she was selling in 2012. Gorgeous house! (Great artwork, too.) Damn. Missed it, or as Maxwell Smart would say, “missed it by that much…”

For some reason she is uncharacteristically giggly here, but nonetheless, stick with it to see the magical details built in to the “SKY-BRARY”, and the gardens. Not yet in bloom, I can only imagine how glorious they are in the summer.

We know much heartbreak would visit Liz in the years to follow, and yet still somehow the writing that would inspire us all to keep going. I only wish her well, and that her recent living spaces have proven worthy shelters for such a magnificent spirit.

It’s a humid, hot day in northwestern Michigan, but there is a wind, and so I must have the windows open. I love my home; I love my hills…could I ever leave? Oh, sure. Like Liz, I have always moved often. There is something inherently cleansing for your soul about paring down; always editing. Homemaking is so completely, consumptively, creative. So I do understand her selling…maybe…I guess.

“It’s Space. It Doesn’t Cooperate.”

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It seems that perhaps I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.

Embarrassingly, I note that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked – as inspiration is – by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.

There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.

This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make – that can, and does, effect our future.

That photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn sentinels of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.

One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul – and that I was worth saving.

In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.

For Faith.

A House with a Sense of Humor…yes.

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For Turkey Day, I thought I’d share a dining room tour with P. Allen Smith. It is the home of the artist Rebecca Thompson, whose studio I featured yesterday. There are so many design elements I admire and ascribe to, especially the personal touches that delight the senses…home is, after all, heaven for beginners.

Listen to the details that this design genius points out; I always learn from him. Enjoy your dining today…XO

A Physical Representaion of Her Soul

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Where do I begin to talk about this creative genius? Again, one of my guilty pleasures (which I never actually feel guilty about) is watching the You Tube channel ehow home of P. Allen Smith. I have never had the privilege of meeting this man, but I love him nonetheless…

He has about two hundred educational videos posted, and they comprise a “how-to” for home life. Many of them don’t interest me. I don’t plan on raising chickens or ducks, but there are so many great ideas. What a fabulous way to spend a snowy morning.

Here he showcases an artist’s studio, a subject I’ve been threatening to feature in my blog for months now. So, let’s get started with this, but do yourself a favor and click over to You Tube and watch more of his wonderful videos! You’ll be glad you did…

Living In Art

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One of my favorite guilty pleasures is the Canadian shelter magazine House and Home. Lucky for us, they also boast a television program available online at houseandhome.com/tv as well as a YouTube channel…(insert THANK GOD for technology here.)

This morning, watching some of the hundreds of videos available, I came across this terrific illustration of living in your artwork, and how dramatically it can effect the space around you…enjoy the next five minutes, and then, go play house…

The fourth vignette makes MY heart skip a beat…which is your favorite?

Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, White….

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“Only painting counts.” – Camille Pissaro

Now just a few months shy of coming full circle in my year at home, I whittle away at the enormous task of putting my house right after the Smoking Sociopaths moved out and the potential sales have all but evaporated…

Thank You Nancy Allen for sending me the Apartment Therapy article about ridding the house of cigarette smell…daunting, but I have incorporated most of these helpful methods, and it is abating…next week our weather is due to be, once again, unseasonably cool. I will use the suggestion of running the furnace with it’s new filter and all of the windows open. I have had all the carpets replaced or cleaned, the duct work cleaned, have thoroughly scrubbed down all of the ceilings and walls with vinegar, and have now repainted…since the above mentioned moved out just three weeks ago. It has been a lot like work.

Let me just mention that as the profit from the house sale will be my payment for this labor, I am sure to be losing substantially…lucky for me, I LOVE THIS WORK!!! Well…I love the painting and I love the sheer joy of arranging and putting together interior environments…I feel like I am gluing together one big delightful collage to live within…with purpose – the purpose of supporting and encouraging the creative life of a budding artist- in this case, me…(Insert big smile here.)

And as Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details…” Tell ’em, Mrs. Blandings…

I “borrowed” this video from one of my very favorite blogs, Content In A Cottage…all’s fair in love and art…

A House is Not a Home…

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Shortly after the first of the year I began attending a class, a women artist’s support group really, based on Julia Cameron’s brilliant book, The Artist’s Way. When the twelve week program came to an end none of us wanted to stop, so we continue to study with the sequel, Walking In This World.

Any of us women – along with millions worldwide who have studied and worked through these lessons – will tell you, it is life-changing. In my case, it has been life saving.

We meet once a week. We discuss the chapter and our experiences as we work through the tasks, how we are effected by the insights. We offer ideas, support. And although we are careful not to problem solve for each other, problems do seem to resolve themselves mysteriously throughout the following week…it’s uncanny.

Of course, what we are really doing is showing up, being present, learning how to relate differently than the ways that let us down in the past. Somehow we know this is a great privilege, to be here together at this time, and that growing up is a lifelong process.

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Susan Steadman, oil on canvas by Lisa Perrine Brown

As we gathered for class last night I complimented Lisa – extraordinary woman and artist – on her choice to paint the living room ceiling of her Victorian home a luscious peacock blue. “Ceilings should always be a color”, I said…and then realized that most of mine are white. It is the first of my homes where I have not painted the ceilings. It is the first home I have never really made my own. My name is on the mortgage, but I’ve never “taken ownership”…it is a house to me. It has never really been my home.

Yesterday, cleaning out a basement shelf, I came upon a box I had never UNpacked since moving in 9 years ago. It was labeled “studio” and contained art supplies. What a metaphor! I had unwittingly packed up my own heart, taped it securely shut, and stored it neatly away on a faraway shelf…

Lucky for me, the heart waits through our slumber to awaken again like a child on Christmas morning. Every morning, Christmas, in our true home, our true heart…where the ceilings glow and the walls shine like diamonds.