Today’s post comes from Steve.
I paid no attention to home decor in the early years of my marriage. We were grad students living on sketchy incomes. Our furniture—sagging, mismatched and threadbare—came as gifts from our parents. Moreover, my former wife dominated all decorating decisions. When I ventured to suggest something that might make our home attractive, she was amused that the spouse with lousy taste was offering advice to the spouse with good taste.
Then, rather suddenly, the marriage ended. Within a few weeks I lost my father, my job and my wife. Everything about my life changed almost overnight, with my address being virtually the only thing that stayed the same. When my erstwife suggested I was now free to sell the home and move anywhere on earth, I panicked. Like a man who has suffered a shipwreck and now clings to floating parts of his old boat, I needed security. I needed my home to be constant and comforting.
But there was a problem. The upstairs of my home had become a place where I did not belong. I lived in the basement, rarely venturing upstairs where everything reflected the taste of my former wife. That began to bother me. After dithering for half a year, I decided to take on the challenge of changing everything about the appearance of the upstairs of my bungalow. I had to make my home a place where I would not feel like a trespasser.
Home decor, something I had ignored all my life, became an obsession. Although I had never bought furniture, now I haunted furniture stores and consulted catalogs. Having never bought a lamp, I bought seven, all with stained glass shades. I gave away the art that my erstwife had put up and replaced it with original art, a big tapestry and a triptych. I collected fine art pottery and a handsome Mission clock to promote a turn-of-the-century look. I bought six rugs, including two hand-tied Bokhara orientals from Pakistan. I changed the color of every wall of every room. I installed new sconces, chandeliers and light switches. I studied the Arts and Crafts movement in American domestic architecture, and educated myself about the fascinating home design movement that produced the bungalow. My home had been built in 1925, and now I honored that by filling it with lovely objects from the early 20th century.
Reclaiming my home took about four years. I understand that the way I accomplished it was unusual, but I had been put in unusual circumstances. It was the perfect project for a divorced gentleman who was not as young as he once had been. Buying Chinese knockoffs of Tiffany lamps was healthier than other ways I might have processed the divorce. When I was done, virtually nothing was the same. It was all different and it was all me. The upstairs became a place that made me smile, a place where I could—finally—feel “at home.”
Have you ever taken a serious interest in the look of your home? Are you fond of any particular style of domestic architecture (Colonial, modern, Gothic revival, Arts and Crafts, etc)? Or, like most people, are you happy with an eclectic approach?