My Pitiful Venture into Interior Design

I call my decorating style eclectic. That’s mainly because I can never decide which route to take.

My daughters, who have very good taste, probably laugh at me behind my back. Not in a mean way. Just something like, “Mom and her crazy decorating ideas. It just never goes well for her.”

When we outgrew our little house, we wanted plenty of room for four growing kids. So we found this two-story, four-bedroom Victorian built in 1883.

Very cool. Except that the previous owner had torn down the wrap-around porch in the 1950s, tried “updating” with dark wood paneling in the 1980s, and disposed of the beautiful stained glass windows shortly after that.

But it was spacious! And full of possibilities. That’s what I had to keep telling myself as we walked through dark, dismal rooms on our first visit. Possibilities . . .

When we moved in, four layers of flooring covered the front entry and stairway. The house had plumbing and electrical disasters galore (mostly discovered later). It also had an attic full of thriving bats. But that’s another story.

When I told the Welcome Wagon lady how glad I was to finally be in a safe neighborhood, she said, “With old houses like these, you’re more likely to have your house burn down than be robbed.” I think she was trying to comfort me.

My husband Tim immediately pulled up old flooring, refinished the hard floors in two rooms, laid down new hardwood in the other two rooms. We painted the bedrooms and kitchen. This is where my husband’s knowledge and skill in home repair came to the forefront. He’d had plenty of experience growing up and in our first home. Our sons, ages 7 and 5 at the time, “helped” him.

A few weeks later, we invited the previous owner for dessert. He’d owned the house for 50 years, and raised his family here. He was thrilled to see another family enjoying the house. And he sheepishly apologized about tearing down the front porch. He gave us a picture of it–in its original glory.

Tim has been a real trooper. His skills have been tested through endless creative problem-solving opportunities. (Yes, problems go along with possibilities.) He’s had to be innovative with plumbing, electrical, and placement of appliances. If I listed everything he accomplished, the list would exceed a mile.

Three highlights are: 1) He re-did our kitchen. 2) He built a wall and two closets to turn one big bedroom into two. 3) He added a secret passage between them, befitting of such Victorian homes.

Anyhow, back to the possibilities.

Obstacle #1) I don’t particularly like Victorian decor but wanted to retain some of the flavor.

Obstacle #2) Sometimes I have great ideas that get shot down by Tim, the Ever Practical One.

Obstacle #3) I’m my own worst enemy with so many ideas that I can’t decide.

The thing is, I’ve been addicted to decorator magazines for decades. I literally had stashes of them. When I wanted to reduce my collection, I pulled out favorite pictures and articles and put them into folders. That only brought the stack down halfway. But at least the ideas were organized by room.

Here are some of my decorating blunders:

  • For months, the TV room had mint green walls (that I painted), but I couldn’t find a wallpaper border or valance that matched that shade of green. The furniture looked out of place, too. Exasperated, I finally picked a rug and fabric I liked and painted the walls crimson red to match. (Duh . . . I should’ve figured that out before doing it all backwards.)

 

  • After 15 years, the dining room is still in transition. Plaster walls bulge through ugly, old wallpaper. Tim’s fine with dry walling but didn’t want to tackle plaster, so there it stands. Instead, he painted the trim to match the ugly wallpaper. I tested a piece to see if I could paint over the paper, which I’ve heard is possible. But because of other disasters needing our attention, the room is dormant. Even so, we have many fun mealtime memories in there.

 

  • The front room “parlor” and front entry (side by side) are both painted a golden yellow that I love. For variety, I decided to paint the back room off the kitchen another shade of yellow–more creamy. I loved it, but my daughter said, “Enough yellow!”

 

  • When said daughter moved away after college, my boys grabbed her bedroom as a “hangout” room. It had to double as a guest room. With one small window, I wanted brightness. Guess what I picked for the walls? A cheery shade of yellow . . .

 

  • We have three bathrooms and the girls helped me do the first two. But shopping together didn’t always work out. I love bright splashes of color (like yellow!) but they thought neutrals would be best for one of the bathrooms. We shopped for a shower curtain for over 3 hours because we couldn’t agree. They vetoed my ideas. We came home with a neutral curtain that went very nicely with the tan walls and floor. Tim said, “It took you 3 hours to pick a solid off-white curtain?”
This is one of my yellow walls: a corner that highlights my blue and white stuff, including my Delft.

The back entry is the happiest room in the house with kids’ artwork. I framed my favorites from their elementary years. Each kid has a wall. About 50 pictures grace the room. The rest is a hodgepodge, but the walls are jubilant.

  • We inherited old bleacher wood from Tim’s school. He used it to renovate our kitchen. I designed it to include a big peninsula, perfect for cooking and serving. A friend gave us a free slab of granite for the countertops. It all turned out great! The best room in the house.

But how should I embellish it? I had trouble narrowing the theme down from my random collection of pictures, platters, pottery, and ceramic pieces. Do I go with copper and ceramic roosters or whimsical teapots? Do I display bistro coffee and latte tiles or my blue and white Delft? Alas, this has never been resolved. I use a bit of everything.

You can see how I got into a rhythm with one snafu after another.

That’s why my style is . . . eclectic.

That’s why my daughters probably laugh behind my back. In a respectful sort of way.

At one point they came to the rescue. More on that later.

My interior design bungling has given me much appreciation for what home decorators contend with, beyond just knowing products and trends. Plus, they can’t merely employ their own tastes; they have to consider client preferences, too. Many elements must blend together into a pleasing arrangement called home.

Have you encountered any decorating disasters? Or successes?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,

Laura

P.S. Coming next: An interior designer whose creativity thrives in surrounding wounded women with a healing home environment.


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10 thoughts on “My Pitiful Venture into Interior Design

  1. When we went to buy a couch, I wanted a blue one. Unfortunately, blue was not in style at the time, so the sales clerk was trying to convince me I really wanted the green ones that were in abundance. She finally had me describe my house’s color scheme. I did my best to paint a verbal picture of my beloved home with all its familiar, comfortable pieces.

    Her response? “Sounds cold.”

    (Needless to say, I didn’t buy a couch from her.)

  2. What a great house you have! Sorry about the front porch but it seems as though lots of happy memories have been (and still are being) made in spite of it. Eclectic is good and so is color! Your kitchen is charming and your blue and white collection looks great against the yellow. I have too much stuff too, and am super sentimental. My solution is to put out my delft/Dutch things in the spring, my seaside collection in the summer, and the warm/cozy stuff goes out in the fall. And then there is the Christmas-into-winter collections. Each season has a plethora of gifts and/or artwork from people I love, along with photographs of parents and ancestors that are appropriate to the mood I’m setting.
    Oh, an my worst design scheme? In our old house I decided I could easily texture/sponge paint the bathroom without a clue how to do it. Ended up looking like waves. My husband got seasick every time he went in!

    1. Great idea to rotate your themes and decor, from Dutch to seaside to warm/cozy, etc.

      Ah, yes, sponging looks easy but there’s definitely a technique to it! I learned that the hard way, too! You only learn by doing.

  3. I’ve had no disasters because I make no attempts to decorate (my kids will vouch for me on that). I usually try to find someone else to do it for me!

  4. Made me nostalgic to see your house again!! Having just moved to TN from WI 8 weeks ago, I know something of the decorating dilemma!! Knowing where to just begin is huge! Some people favor with the furniture, some with a color scheme….which is all fine and good, but based on what??? So I decided to go with the rugs. I LOVE colorful, oriental style rugs (note how much I care that grey and monochromatic is the rage….I have gotten older and with that comes the freedom to like what I like 🙂 It took soooooo many trips and countless hours staring at tiny rug samples on my computer, but finally I found 2 coordinating orientals that I liked for the 2 main rooms that are not contiguous, but in the same line of vision. My husband, like your Tim, surely deserves an award for patience, b/c after we got one of said rugs home and down for a week……your guessed…..I changed my mind!!! He even hauled it back to the store for me. I now have the 2 perfect rugs, I love the colors so much. Every time I walk by them, or sit in their rooms (which is a bit hard to do in one b/c our furniture there has not been delivered yet) I am filled with beauty and thankfulness for glorious color. Now I am on to the paint to match…..that too, like you, is another story (filled with abundant patience opportunities for my beloved :/ ) Thanks for the fun, timely-for-me post, Laura!

    1. I have to laugh at your choosing of 2 rugs and then returning one. I’ve done the same thing with paint several times. There’s no way you can tell how paint will look on a wall, based on the little paint samples. There’s only one way to find out if you really like something…you have to immerse yourself in it for a time.

      So glad you feel the freedom of surrounding yourself with color in spite of the popular gray/neutral trends!

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