Thursday, November 17, 2011

A House More Meaningful...

A few years ago, I visited a home in central Minnesota that made a huge impression on me. It wasn't a half a million dollar home. It didn't flaunt its riches. It didn't look like my favorite Pottery Barn catalog or the latest Home & Garden magazine. What struck me was how warm, comfortable and inviting it felt. It was obvious to me that they hadn't chosen their belongings at random. Every item had a story or a history. In addition, they had hired a painter to paint quotes and other flourishes on the walls that were meaningful to them. These personal touches were everywhere...above the doorways, interwoven between collections of framed photos, above the bed, etc. This family had created a home that was deeply personal. It was beautiful, and spoke volumes to me about who these people were, what was important to them, and even to a certain degree, told a story about the events that had shaped their lives.
When we were selling our previous house, the realtor suggested that we remove anything personal. He said that the house would sell easier if potential buyers could envision themselves and their family in the space. Having too many of your own personal items, such as photographs, would get in the way of that vision. At the time, we didn't have to remove much (aside from extra clutter), and I thought that was a good thing. Looking back on it now, I'm almost ashamed to admit that it meant our house was pretty generic.

Upon returning home from that fateful Minnesota trip, I studied our house with new eyes. While my house looked nice and comfortable, I had a hard time finding anything that was truly "me" or that described "us" as a family. Aside from a couple of photographs, our house could have belonged to anyone. I began to contemplate how and why I choose the items that fill up my house and what my possessions have to say about me.

In our current house, we just finished our basement and added quite a bit more living space. Now we have several empty rooms to fill. I guess that's why I've been thinking about this topic. This would be a good time for me to start letting go of the things that just aren't working. This applies not only to the stuff, but also to my ideal image of how I think my house should look. Rather than trying to make it worthy of a magazine spread, I'm choosing to focus instead on how it makes us feel to be living in the space.
My husband unknowingly helped me in this endeavor when he purchased a painting of Venice for our living room. It has a story.  In June of 2009, my sister came to watch our kids so we could take a trip just the two of us.  We spent 6 days traveling through Italy, and Venice was one of the stops. Every time I look at the painting, it brings me right back there again, remembering with all 5 senses the wonderful experience of being there together.
My friend Jennifer gave me this beautiful, weathered ladder for my birthday two years ago. It has old world charm and character. I added eye hooks and wire so I could hang photographs on it using library clips. I love it! I can swap out photos or artwork as it suits me.  It reminds me of our friendship and also of our time in Germany. It's one of my favorite things in our living room.
If I asked you to look around your house and describe the people who live there based on its contents, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Hopefully it's not a statement about wealth.  This isn't supposed to be about how much money you spend (or do not spend) on the material items in your house. I've been to houses that were quite lavish; filled to the brim through a "spared no expense" mentality. That kind of house can be gorgeous, but it can also be the best example of how a dry, cold, impersonal, and/or completely disconnected space feels. I'm certainly not making a generalization.  Any house, lavish or not, can feel cold and empty no matter how much stuff is in it, if it's only goal is to communicate how much money the family makes for a living or how important it is for them to live up to a certain status quo. Don't get me wrong...I want a beautiful house too! That's only normal. I'm simply suggesting that you consider making your space more you, more personal, rather than creating a space based on what you think other people like. They don't have to live there. I challenge you to consider your surroundings carefully and choose things that are truly meaningful to you. Make your home a place you love.

What Do You Think?
Do you have favorite objects in your house that tell your story? What do your possessions communicate about you? Please share your comments at the bottom of the page.
Project of the Day:
Since I loved the idea of putting words or quotes or other flourishes up on the walls, today we'll explore some ways to do that. The least expensive option is to paint them yourself. Draw freehand with a light pencil until you get the look you want, and then paint it with water based acrylics. If you make mistakes, wipe those areas with baby wipes, Clorox wipes, or a wet papertowel. You can also make touch-ups with the original wall color if necessary. I've seen some examples where people outline the painted letters or shapes with a marker. If painting freehand scares you, try using a projector to project your image or letters up onto the area, trace the outlines, and then paint. Or try using stencils. There are stencils available for most common words, like "Family," and hundreds of shapes. At a previous house we lived in, I stencilled morning glories as a border around the top of our kitchen.
I painted this whimsical willow tree freehand onto the wall in my daughter's fairy-themed bedroom.
We move around a lot, so whenever I paint directly on our walls, I cringe at the thought of leaving it behind. I either want to take them with me, or at least get rid of them easily when the time comes to sell our house. The realtor was right after all. So, if you want to paint, but want to be able to remove it later, try painting on clear contact paper. Here's a faux window that I painted onto clear contact paper in our kid's castle-themed playroom.  When they outgrow the room, or we decide to make the space into an office, we'll simply peel it off (and take down the curtains too of course).  You can also paint onto canvas, wooden or metal boards, and many other surfaces. 
Faux window in the castle-themed play room.
If you aren't confident in your painting skills, a great alternative is vinyl stickers. These are quite popular and there are dozens of sources to get them on the internet, as well as home based businesses that sell them. Most brands will peel back off again (cleanly and easily), but you should read the fine print to be sure, as some are better quality than others. They adhere to smooth surfaces, such as laptops, windows, mirrors, wood or metal signs, dry erase boards, plastic bins, etc. They usually come with an applicator, but I've used one of those Pampered Chef Nylon Scrapers and that worked well.

Here are some of the projects I've done using vinyl stickers:
IKEA plate with Stampin' Up! Decor Elements sticker

Unfinished wooden sign was purchased from a hobby shop.  I painted it, added gold glitter spray, and the phrase from Stampin' Up!
Both the metal sign and the vinyl stickers are from Uppercase Living.

Here are some of the online sources that I've found that sell vinyl wall stickers: (they have stencils too).

Happy crafting!

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