Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just Like an Episode of Cribs: Minus the Bentleys, Plus Books

My friend Bethany inspired me the other day. Oh, she's inspired me before, often actually. But the other day in a conversation on Facebook, she posted a bunch of photos that she's taken at our house over the years. And it made me think. Hey, even though this house is taunting me with the thousands of unfinished projects, the irritating backyard swamp and the serious paint and chimney work we still need to tackle, I love our house. And since I am a bit of a voyeur and I'm guessing you, readers, might have a tendency of the peeping tom as well, I'm going to let you peep on me. Or just on one of our rooms. 

Joe and I have very different styles. Or at least we used to. No. We still do. They've just grown a little closer together over the years. For example, I used to sleep under a feminine Waverly floral bedspread, had a vast collection of celestial themed knick-knacks and read novels while curled up in a white wicker chair. Joe used slumber away in a water bed with black satin sheets that he never changed, drowsing under posters of architecture and The Hunt for Red October, with a tall lamp that you could turn on and off by hissing at it. These things have disappeared in the last ten years. (Though I think those posters are still lurking in the basement waiting for some future man cave placement. I hate the expression man cave. Let's try den.) And together we've come to some middle ground. The middle ground of eclectic.

We aren't designers. We don't live in a magazine photo shoot. We have mail on our counters and dirty dishes in the sink and a couple of stains on the carpet. But that doesn't prevent us from wanting our house to be beautiful and comfortable and personal. We both care a great deal about how the things we decorate our home with look together and even about how the things we use in our home look. (Particularly Joe and particularly in the kitchen, but that's a whole other post.) Maybe this is shallow. But I don't think so.  I used to think that everyone felt this way about their houses.

Turns out this is not true. There are many people who are just thrilled to have a roof over their heads or don't care if the curtains go with the color of the couch, or the whole hoarders issue, which fascinates and nauseates me a bit. I am not that person. These small things, like the photos or art on our walls or bright pillows on the bed, are actually really important to me. I gain a lot of peace and energy from our home, when it's clean and orderly, and a lot of frustration and stress when it's not.  (Except for our messy office, which I've essentially abandoned and like to pretend is some kind of outbuilding that is not on my property.)

Our home is my favorite place to be in the world. I look around at all the things that I love, and each one seems to have a great memory or story attached. I love that feeling. They aren't just things, they are recollections, memories, bits of our lives scattered around on walls and shelves, reminding us of gorgeous vacations, lost family members, or raucous evenings with friends. But all these beloved things don't necessarily fit into one style. So eclectic simply works for us.  Because nearly anything goes with eclectic. As long as we both agree to it.

That is the key. Unlike most men, Joe has opinions on decorating. I'm sure this would bother many wives, yet I love it. Joe has great taste and a good eye for color. He has the precision and attention to detail to hang an entire hallway full of photographs, or a whole mess of bookshelves. I'd just eyeball it. While he's got three levels, a stud finder and six nail choices. Joe would prefer a home filled with gray concrete and granite. Hard steel, industrial fixtures, high design furniture and the occasional pop of color, Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Psycho, swap out Huey Lewis for ELO, and Joe would be in heaven. But that doesn't work for us together. His sleek modern look has made my cozy, colorful, slightly kooky Pier 1 vibe more sophisticated. And my comfy vibrancy has warmed up his industrial cool.  So vintage, brightly colored, modern, if we think it's cool, then somehow we make it work.

The room

Our bedroom is the perfect place to start. With light gray walls and one dark red accent wall, it's my favorite room. The focal point of the room is our bed. Shouldn't it be, in any happy marriage? I love our bed. It's firm and has super soft sheets, Joe is in it, and my favorite piece of furniture is our headboard. In college, Joe studied industrial design, which included a furniture making class. He made this lovely headboard for me. It's a light birch veneer over a gently curving scrolled frame. When he originally designed it I wanted some kind of quote painted on it. I love words painted on walls and furniture, but I'm so glad he talked me out of it. It would have completely distracted from his careful design. I would have grown really tired of it. I still love our headboard after twelve years and I'll love it in another twelve.

Handmade HeadboardIkea birdies

The footCrowded nightstand

In addition to a hell of a lot of red stuff and plenty of birch veneer furniture, we have so much reading material in our bedroom. If someone locked us in, we'd have decades worth of books, magazines and more books to keep us occupied. Is it wrong that that actually sounds rather appealing? Like a deserted bedroom island. As long as we have access to basic bread and water, and maybe some music, I think we could last for quite awhile all locked away.

African wood carrier/magazine holder

Our basic furniture, other than the headboard, isn't particularly exciting. I think it's the accessories that make spicy. The photo above is of this awesome wooden carrier that I bought when I was traveling in the Ivory Coast during college. African women carry this on their heads, filled with wood or other supplies, when they walk home from the market or fields. I've just filled it with more magazines, since I rarely need to carry wood around on my head. I tried to buy this intricate woven chicken carrier basket when I there too, but my limited French and the basic confusion over why a white American lady would want to buy a chicken carrier caused a scene, and I gave up while about 35 old African men watched, pointed and laughed over my struggle. I settled for this wood carrier instead. Probably more practical than a portable chicken coop.

Painting by Dad, Joe's books

The painting up above was a wedding present from my father and one of my favorite pieces of art. It's vivid and messy and loose and the color is so strong that it vibrates on the wall. It's also huge. I can't wait until we have taller ceilings or a larger entryway where this piece can really dominate the space. And of course more books.

Hipster GiraffeNot enough time

Now I've realized that this post is getting long, and quite possibly I'm boring people half to death with the knick knacks and art talk. So in the words of Inigo Montoya, let me sum up. Hipster giraffe wearing a beret and monocle bought from a young artist at a youth art show, more books, shiny red coral Italian hooks filled with jewelry, tiny pottery collection filled with more jewelry, one tiny footed dish glazed by me while painting dottery with Katrina and Bethany, handmade birch picture frame by Joe, Kofi Swank my "spirit spouse" from the Baule tribe (he is the one wearing short blue shorts and a tie,) antiqued jewelry display rack with a tiny bird perched on it (a sweet birthday gift from my mother,) and finally our super fancy lighting fixtures, the paper lanterns that we used to decorate at our wedding.

Alessi coral hooks

the Jewels

Pottery collection
Kofi Swank returns
Glazed bowl

Matisse print in Joe made frame

I could go on and on. But I've only posted the attractive glossy views of our bedroom. The version of our bedroom that I try to focus on. What you can't really see is the dog's ugly plastic crate in the corner, the bland black TV cabinet, the window frames with visible nail holes and sashes that still need to be painted or the dust bunny family breeding behind that sleek headboard. But who cares? There's so much else to occupy us, I rarely notice the flaws. So what's your favorite thing tucked away in your bedroom? Do you have as much junk shoved under your bed or in your closet as we do? Do you read before bed or just watch Letterman? Come on, I shared, now it's your turn. Let me peep on you!

Paper Lantern from out wedding
All photos actually by me this time, as Joe said, it's a special occasion.


bethany actually said...

I am so glad I inspired you! I love your house, and your bedroom is the room I have spent the least time in, so I'm selfishly glad you focused on it for this post. :-)

Our bedroom is my least favorite room in the house right now--well, other than the downstairs bedroom that had a leak in it and which is now all moldy and awaiting fixing. :-\ But really, when you live in a rental as we do at the moment, there's only so much you can do to personalize. We could paint our bedroom, and I hope to one day soon because that's what I dislike most about it: the color of the walls is like some weird deep rosy tan foundation color, like Fake Palm Beach Tan. I can see how it might be good in a different room, or in a smaller dose, but on all four walls of our smallish room? No thank you. We really need to paint. Unfortunately, it takes us forever to get around to paining usually.

I also do not like that we have weirdly placed vents so it's hard to arrange our king-size bed and dressers without covering a vent or running into the closet or a window.

What I DO like is our king-size bed. Even though I am not really friends with sleeping right now because at nearly eight months pregnant I have no choice but to sleep on my side and I HATE sleeping on my side, I do love our huge bed. I'm so glad we went for it and bought a king-size, even though that's kind of impractical for people who move every couple years and never know how big their bedroom will be. But the extra space is so nice with Annalie, the cats, and my belly sharing space with me and Troy.

Sigh. Someday I'll have the time and energy to care about how my bedroom looks again, not to mention the rest of my house. I do care on some level; I just don't always have the time to implement my ideas before it's almost time for us to move again and then it seems like a moot point. We do have a TON of those little things around the house that are reminders or souvenirs of places and people. I love those and wouldn't trade them for the world.

bethany actually said...

Oh look! I wrote a book in your comments AGAIN. Sorry about that. :-)

Snowfairy said...

What a great room and amazing collection of items, I love the painting from your Dad. The process of two people building a combined style is quite a cool concept, the compromises and joint decisions building the story of who you are.
Our bedroom is the largest room in a tiny house, so has to be more than a bedroom. With computers, art equipment, laundry, toys that have migrated from Matilda's room, it's amazing that there is any room left for my excessive amounts of clothing.
I'm looking forward to the next installment of your house tour.

Katrina said...

I love your bedroom!!! I have always admired Joe's ability to build furniture and completely agree that he has that artistic eye! That's another business he could start up I think!! Your two styles blend perfectly together I think! I wish Matt and my style did more. (Matt seems to like wild patterns in dull colors- I like bright colors and stripes and dots and change my mind a lot or get bored with things) Which is why I feel that our house isn't really decorated at all. We both can't agree so we just do nothing. Sigh. I love how each piece has meaning for you guys- like the lantern lights or the basket from Africa or the wedding pic from your dad, etc. I also breathed a sigh of relief that you admitted to a not so nice dog bed and tv cabinet. My first thought of looking at your room was wow!! very cool! My second thought was where is the TV? :) That is sad isn't it? Oh and by the way I love that you took all the pictures and that Joe's comment was it was a special occasion! That made me giggle!

Kristendom said...

I have always loved yours and Joe's combined style - in another life, I would have had a similarly decorated place. And really, those photos? They definitely belong in a magazine! I wish our bedroom was this put together (or any room in our house, for that matter). It always feels so disorganized, pell-mell, randomly put-together. I can't decide on a style, or I can't find the pieces I want, or I change my mind on the colors halfway through getting everything decorated. Regardless the fact that you've managed to keep hidden the things you don't like (b/c hey, it's your blog - you should be able to show whatever you want), it's an amazing room, and I'd use it for my inspiration any day.

P.S. Someday I want to post on our house, but I keep thinking I really have to scan the "before" pictures we took when we had just bought it so people can see what we've really done. Maybe next week/month/year. :-)

Erin said...

Someday, when I am in the middle of the country, I am coming to see you 2 and that house (when I am invited of course!).
Favorite in my bedroom: deep red bedding with ridiculously-thread-counted gold sheets. I often feel like the emporer of China.
Least favorite: gun cabinet opposite the bed. Sexy.

kassie lou said...

Thanks, guys! Bethany-Leave comments as long as you like, they are always a blast to read. Katrina and Erin-you both have an open invitation anytime you want to stop by! Kristen-can't wait to read your blog on your house, it looks like a totally different place then when you first moved in. Emily-I'd love to see more photos of your fantastic wardrobe, that's a long blog post right there!

Shannon M. said...

I laughed at the section about Joe hanging pictures. He and Michael must have made a good pair of roommates in college. The first time I watched Michael hang a picture we had just started dating in Chicago. Forty-five minutes for one frame. Measure and re-measure. I was flabbergasted.