Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring's Coming: Finishing Touch

In what began as a four-part blog about freshening up the decor in your home to welcome spring as well as guests and family members alike, the series has now unfolded and blossomed into tips on transforming our homes into comfort havens. We began by utilizing bold and beautiful spring blooms to brighten our home visually. Then we gravitated to refreshening the air by bringing in some ideas for infusing comforting scents into our homes to try and squash out the staleness of winter. By now, many of you may have begun your spring-cleaning ritual: diving head-first into closets and desk drawers, attics and other hidden crevices to sort and toss with reckless abandon. Likewise, in our attempts to be productive, little distractions abound everywhere. You may be sorting through your attic and continually stumble across some long ago tucked away and since forgotten object which brings pause in your cleaning spree as you take a virtual stroll down memory lane. You may not realize it, but you could potentially have a whole treasure trove of items which could be brought back to life in your home. In this segment, we'll talk about using different things on display throughout the home to make every room invite a sense of comfort.

Generally, when displaying objets, the key is to keep it under control. I have been in homes where the person's knick-knack collection had multiplied beyond all reason and the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures. The home felt suffocating and the visual experience was way too busy to be comforting. If you are going to collect something, stick to one theme per room. When you see something in a shop, think about it. Will it not only fit into the collection itself, but tie into the color of the room as well? Does it look like a well-crafted item, or does it look cheap and tacky? Be selective, quality over quantity.

To make our home inviting to us, it is the comfort of something familiar and of things we love that makes it so. Such things are varying for each one of us as unique individuals according to personal taste. Let's start with my favorite room in the house: the kitchen. By displaying some cooking or food related items you've collected, your kitchen beckons you, as these personal touches make the space your own. Do you have a favorite cookbook author whose books you have collected? Then you might consider buying any of his or her books which you may not yet own and a single wall shelf to install on a kitchen wall on which to display your cooking idol; his or her books will then inspire you to whip up something rewarding at any given time. If you have space between the tops of the upper kitchen cabinets and the ceiling, this is a perfect space for displaying collections, whether you fancy elegant teapots, whimsical cookie jars, soup tureens, baskets or decorative serving bowls. Moving on into the dining area, if you have the space for some shelves, this is also an appropriate palette for some culinary display. I have a whole wall of my dining room filled with bookcases where I keep all of my cookbooks. In spaces in between these books I have various serving bowls and platters. The display not only lets people know that they are in the dining room, it's all about the food in here; but it also welcomes me to sit at the table and peruse a cookbook for next weekend's dinner recipe ideas.

In other rooms, such as the bedroom, guest room and family room, take the opportunity to display things you love. Being a Long Islander, I love the ocean and everything associated with it. In response to that love, I decorated my guest room accordingly, with a seashell print bedding set, a framed lighthouse poster, and I even framed a poem I once wrote describing the beach in winter. Then I filled in around the room with some conch shells and starfish that I'd collected on our Carribean trips, as well as a few shells I picked up along the shores close to home. The room is now not only comforting to me whenever I need to go in there, but it gives a Long Island welcome to out-of-town guests. In our bedroom, I decorated in a French theme, because I am half French and I also just happen to love all things French. Blue toile linens on the bed and window, a single pillow boasting "I'd Rather Be In Paris", because, frankly, I would. Across the wall right over the bed I placed three black and white prints of Paris landmarks in black frames. Whenever displaying multiple pieces together, keep in mind that odd amounts tend to work best visually. In our library and computer room, I have a show-and-tell of something else I love: Brian's and my weekends together. I am currently working on putting together a collage frame for each season, with photos of us having fun together: some beach pictures from summer, hikes and pumpkin picking expeditions in autumn, etc. Whether your spouse, your children or your pets, by framing a few of the best photos you have of them and displaying in a personal room such as a family room or library, you will not be able to fight back the smile for long when you come across that picture as you enter the room. Again, moderation is key. Three to five large prints is enough to set the mood and make the statement. An entire wall completely covered is turning what should be a comforting space into a chaotic art gallery.

Thinking back as far as your memory will serve, what were some of the first things which brought you comfort as an infant? A blanket? A bath? Guess what? That hasn't necessarily changed! Fluffy new towels in a seasonal or pleasing color and a basket on display filled with bath salts and lotions are the way to make a bathroom feel welcoming. New towels and a soothing lavender scented bath oil will set an inviting and comforting mood when you enter the room after a long tough day; all you have to do is fill the tub, step in, lie back and the day's trials and tribulations melt away. The living room can also be a welcome haven to comfort by simply draping a favorite, attractive blanket over the arm of a cozy chair or sofa. The blanket invites you to get comfortable and lose yourself in your favorite movie or a new book, or even browsing through a memory-filled photo album that you keep on the coffee table.

One last tip for displaying collections to personalize your home: I am a big believer of mixing up old and new. If you just discovered an old pitcher in your attic that once belonged to a beloved grandmother, for example, bring it down. You have probably collected a couple of pitchers yourself over the years. Choose your two favorite ones, and display them right along with Grandma's. It's a tribute to a relative who once gave you comfort, thereby evoking comfort here and now, and links together your shared attraction to collecting pitchers. Using old things that once belonged to now departed family gives an even more personal touch to your decor, it pays homage to someone who was once an important part of your life and it likely has a few stories to tell, stories which may have been told to you over the years by that person and are now stories being opened up for you to tell. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of things in your attic or closets that you are getting reacquainted with, whether things that have been passed on to you by family members or just things you once purchased, maybe even used for awhile, got tired of and relegated into storage for another day. That day could be today, so while sorting through things and going down the virtual memory lane, also pause and ask yourself if and how this object could be a welcome addition to your home, thereby making your home a welcoming and comforting haven to all who enter. First, better bake up a batch of those cookies Grandma used to make and bring them along, you're going to be up there in that attic for awhile!

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