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Room of Our Own
A few years ago my career took an unexpected turn. I’d been playing a high-adrenaline, frequently exhausting executive role. Then a new boss came to town with an agenda I couldn’t live with, and I knew I needed to move on. The camel’s back had been strained already, and this was the final straw.
My husband and I had had a remodel on the docket when this happened, and we went ahead, with me as the coordinator. What happened next I could not have anticipated. I took all the big thinking from my executive job and poured it into my house. I wasn’t going to have just any old house, I was going to have something striking and unusual and unique to us. I was going for broke.
What’s the upshot? I now have 18 feet of lipstick-red countertop in my kitchen. I don’t have a dining room; I have a lounge, with built-in benches upholstered in purple. Let’s just say my house is not ripe for resale. It is, as the real estate gurus say disapprovingly, “very specific” to my family and me.
Looking back, I occasionally regret my idiosyncratic choices. If you love earth tones and stainless steel, my house is not for you. If you need crown molding or subway tiles, you’re out of luck. And maybe the day will come, as a good friend warned, when I am good and sick of the palette and floor plan and overall vibe I’ve chosen.
But should I have instead created a place I’d be sick of from day one? I say no. My house is the one place I can be entirely myself, and there is something important about that. If I’d followed the crowd and copied the magazines, on some level I’d be living in somebody else’s house. And I couldn’t quite relax.
Home is essential, it’s clear to each of us fortunate enough to have our own space. What do we want when we’re sick or overwhelmed or tired? We want to go home. What does a toddler yell after a few hours at day care? “I want to go home!” Dorothy was right: There’s no place like it.
I thought about this as we put together this issue on home décor. As scientist Esther Sternberg argues convincingly, design should be personal. There are some universal principles – views of the outside are good, indirect lighting is soothing – but much of what feels right to us is individual. The sights, sounds, and smells of our happiest experiences are our best guides to comfortable living spaces.
And as several others suggest in this issue, décor is about storytelling, and storytelling is by definition individual. Leslie Williamson shoots portraits of people, but that doesn’t mean they pose for her in a studio. Instead she photographs their homes. As she sees it, “The choices someone makes in her home – the books on the shelves, the objects she chooses to have out, what she collects, the style of furniture and so on – all paint a portrait of who she is more fully than any portrait of her face could.” The people we talked to at Forage Modern Workshop agree. Their conviction: “Our homes should be beautiful, because our stories are beautiful.”
Someday I may tire of the choices I’ve made in my home, the story I’m telling now. What then? I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. And next time I’ll probably pick something just as personal.
Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens remake an antebellum mansion and fill it with objects they love.more