Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Shoemaker's Child

My cat's scratching post for the last 4 years. GONE!

My just re-decorated library using "only what I had in the refrigerator."

Details of these fabulous Italian candlesticks I got late last year for $116! Love them on a modern glass table.

I hear this all the time from designers and architects, after requesting a peak into their own private lives, perhaps for a magazine story: "NO, you can't possibly see my home. It's awful. It's not ready. I'm working on it. I'm one of the shoemaker's children."

Welcome to the club. Many of us are designers because we can't NOT be. We aren't all in it for the money. The big bucks seem to fall into the hands of the lucky (and not necessarily talented!) few. Of course, many of them are talented and smart and living in just the right places. But many really do this for the love of it and the lifestyle and income are perfectly fine, yet not extravagant enough to afford us the luxury of filling a home with beautiful furnishings, art and accessories - especially all in one fell swoop. We are, however, grateful for the people out there who do this!

So, when it comes to our own homes - most of us just get by. (Unless, of course, you are one of THOSE decorators whose entire life and business is funded by a husband. Is that a business, some of us would ask, or a hobby?) We wiggle along, finding this bargain, and that throw-away at an estate sale, and say, "Yes, Mom, I'd love that painting of Aunt Esther's," and save, save, save for the one amazing sofa that is worth more than everything in your home put together and probably 1/2 year's tuition for your child's college. (Not kidding.)

And we get depressed. I've long gotten over the "Gim-mes" when showing clients a Christian Liaigre sofa dressed in white linen, every bit as elegant as Jackie Kennedy in a Chanel chemise or a 19th Century Spanish table that is the bargain of a lifetime, but still not in this month's budget. (I have NOT gotten over the "Gim-mes" for antique rugs and Italian sofas, however.) I really do say that when I find something I love and can't have it, it must be meant for a client of mine. My clients love these finds and I live vicariously through their happiness.

A good designer is like the chef who has no plans for dinner, yet six guests show up at the last minute and he/she can dig around in the fridge and the pantry and pull together a culinary masterpiece. And more than most of the time, this is what we do with our own homes. This weekend, returning from New York, where I mostly love our apartment (and, at 450 sf it is easy to fill!) I just felt UGH at the site of my Minneapolis apartment, which has been ransacked so that I could enjoy New York. I feel like I live in a first college apartment again, with the ratty stuff - the stuff I wouldn't send to my new life on the Upper East Side.

I had to do something or I would abandon this post entirely, burn it down and send love letters from New York explaining my abject melancholy trying to live like a 22-year old as a 55-year old.
So I got to work. First, out with the ratty, scratching post of a chair. Wow. Did that feel good! Then, I just moved all of what was left into one room and made it as nice as possible. Now, I have one nice sitting room and an empty living room - without any seating at the moment. But, I have a plan.

What is interesting and a lesson for your own home is this: IF you buy things you love, over time, they WILL generally go together. Maybe not every last thing, but this room above is an example of how I think things work when you buy eclectic. A little traditional, a little modern, a little antique. This room is Room & Board (tables, sofa and leather chair, lamp - all Room & Board Outlet!) and the other stuff is just collected. Ralph Lauren leopard pillows, rather expensive Christian Liaigre fabric for a pillow, a painting by a great grand uncle but framed nicely in gold leaf. The rug is vintage 1930's Chinese Deco - a period I have always loved. Now, I wouldn't have painted the trim in this room blue, but que sera - it is quite European. And I wouldn't use a blue rug and a blue-gray sofa together for a client, but again....kind of European to just use what you have and make it look somehow intentional.

I'm working on the living room next. Budget? About $200 right now - I may have to stretch it a little. Will keep you posted and show you photos when I get it together. For now, do some digging and see how some of your own things might be re-arranged to make a room feel new.


  1. we are on the verge of downsizing from 3,600 sq feet to 1350. i cannot wait to rid myself of some stuff. i never thought i would be so excited to be moving into an apartment!!

  2. Your library is tres chic, Alecia. Like my BCBG cardigan with the $200 price tag that I got at Marshalls for $15, I would've never known it was Room & Board.

  3. Thank you, Lisa. The compliment comes from a noteworthy source!! Lisa is a kindred spirit in the world of field editors.

    And, Margie - welcome to "slow living!" It is fantastic.