How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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To Go Back in Time…

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I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder must have felt like at the end of her life.  To have seen the wild west as truly that.  To have only used candles, wood stoves, and root cellars.  Then to watch as electricity took the nation by storm, coffee makers and dishwashers plugged in, refrigerators and stoves.  I am sure it was amazing and something to marvel.  A woman’s life made easier.  But, I wonder if there was any mourning for the way things were done.

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Fast forward and we see that feminism brought with it the ability and expectation to not only work full time but also get to take care of the entire household at the same time!  Chemical cleaners, packaged poison food, and quick medicines with side effects, day cares where someone else can raise your child, and all the electronics you can handle are our everyday life now.  All to make a woman’s life easier.

Many folks want to go back a little.  Get a little land, live a lot simpler.  One overwhelming comment that I always here is, “But I want running water and electricity!”

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My Aunt Donna has a cabin up in the mountains built circa 1800’s.  I used to take my son there when he was small.  It sits nestled in a canyon with a sloping, giant of a mountain as the back yard.  Tree houses and forts dot the landscape from family members past that played in those woods.  A small meadow with a pond and a stream is in front of the house.  The sun rises over the meadow and brightens the landscape.

At the time I stayed there, electricity was not present.  There was water, gravitationally pulled I imagine, a well I don’t remember, for there was a shower outdoors in the back.  Water ran from the sink.  The outhouse was a small walk away through the fresh pines and the smell of clean air.  Birdsong escorting you there.  The peacefulness that the cabin bestowed was something that I wish for in my everyday.

At twenty one or so years old, I never even considered the fact that it had no electricity.  Oddly, I took to the woodstove instantly.  I started a fire and cooked meals on it without problems.  The smell of sweet wood.  Fresh fish.  I kept the cabin warm in the evening.  I also started a small bonfire by the pond and cooked potatoes and corn over the fire.  My son and my wolf by my side.

I know that running a full household that way day in and day out may grow old, particularly if one were to have several children.  It’s just me and Doug now.  The children skip in and out, mostly out.  And our house is getting quieter and easier to run.  I can cook on a wood cook stove.  I can heat the house with wood.  It certainly would be less shocking than the electric bill I got in the mail the other day.  I could use the water from the sinks to water the garden.  I could use a root cellar.  I could….

There is a small farmhouse with my name on it out there.  And a cook stove waiting to be lit.