Robin and I were new acquaintances with a lot in common. We were both about the same 60 something age and had moved from the northeast to South Carolina with our husbands. I was excited to be invited to tour her brand new house, built to her specifications.
Her home, a wash of baby-boy blue, cream, and gold, is beautiful. The tasteful furniture is comfortable. Embroidered sheer curtains diffuse the light streaming in from the many windows. Antique artwork in gold frames hangs strategically on the walls. Well-taken-care-of plants thrive. Her and her husband’s collections are carefully curated. A guest will notice, for example, a delicate teacup in a matching saucer sitting on a bureau. A women’s beaded purse and a pair of white gloves complete this particular vignette. Her home evokes calm. We are close friends now, and every time I visit, I long to take a nap amid the stillness.
Robin’s is the home of a grownup with elegance and style. And every time I return to my home, I wonder if my place looks like the residence of a graduate student? A teenager? A kid?
Newly married, my husband and I bought our house sight unseen. We studied a few pictures on the internet and had our local real estate agent walkthrough for us. The city lists the house as Tudor Revival which is a fancy name for a little cottage that needed lots of repairs, a new roof, and elbow grease. We pushed up our sleeves and ripped up carpeting, pulled down tile ceilings, and repainted every surface. We tore off the boards blocking the fireplace opening and peeled off outdated wallpaper. Here, time had stopped somewhere in the 1980s. I had no decorating expectations for this little house–just the thrill that it was our place.
Now, all the walls throughout are painted the same soft shade of buttery yellow. The woodwork and the old panel doors are white. The ample windows give me the impression that I am living in a terrarium as the sun shines in through the old, wavy glass. In another life and another state, my furnishings had metamorphosed from primitive and country, to French country, to shabby chic. No one wanted any of it when I moved.
My husband trash-picked the dining room table. It turns out it is teak. He sanded the top which I then stenciled, stained, and varnished in a Moroccan design. We have rescued a sideboard for the dining room, a chest of drawers for the living room, a diminutive desk for the bedroom–all with a good cleaning, new knobs, and paint. I have forgone formal window treatments and instead have grass shades. Unlike my past life and home, there are no matching pairs of wing chairs, bedside tables, or sets of lamps. Heirloom does not apply to much in this little abode. What you will see is an eclectic collection of art from framed prints to originals, bright colors, a medley of textures, and, here and there, vintage dishes and curios.
I am retired and now enjoy a long-term goal of renting space in a vintage vendor market. Through my many journeys in looking for items to sell, I have re-discovered collections from my childhood. I buy china figurines to put on my market shelves, but their sweet faces call to me and end up staying, either tucked into planters or watching me from shelves in my little office. Turn-of-the-last-century dolls, antique teddy bears, and vintage dollhouse miniatures also surround me. I have tried to confine these new-old collections into one room, but, alas, miniatures and an accompanying doll have traveled to two shelves on a bedroom wall. My husband often complains that the doll stares at him!
A sense of familiarity and comfort fills me since the moment I stepped in this little house. My husband and I have filled it with the things we love. His acoustic guitars hang on the walls. Books spill out from shelves and magazines from baskets. I enjoy seeing my favorite childhood reads lining the shelves, especially the gold spines of my Little Golden books. Vintage creamers are filled with flowers that I pick from my yard. Pads and notebooks of paper and old juice glasses filled with crayons, paint brushes, and markers are always at the ready for doodling, for writing, for creative play.
Decor is important, but at this stage in my life, I want to see happy and even cute and moments of things past. I remember back to when I was twelve, emerging as my own person. Discovering. Learning. Exploring. My cottage in South Carolina evokes the best of the kid in me.