Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Interior decorating: the musical

If you're going to go farther with your home than the eternal equation of Good Lighting + Place To Sit + Basket Of Knitting, you'll be looking at some very scary and bewildering places.  Just thought I'd mention that in case you hadn't already noticed, yourself.

I don't know why this is, because all my life I've considered myself extremely engaged in the whole decorating thing and I haven't noticed anything remotely scary about it.  I've bought loads of magazines on the subject, and I've even slipcovered things and sewn curtains,and positioned chairs so they have a view of a fireplace, and never so much as turned a hair.

Probably that's because it turns out my entire approach has been wrong.

All this time I've been noticing when I need new curtains, and then going to a fabric store to find the best quality material with the steepest discount, and then sewing them from scratch while figuring out how to make the rest of the room work around it. 

Or I'll identify the need for a sofa, and buy the first one I can afford that is comfortable without sparing so much as a glance at the shape of the arm, or the height of the back, or anything else a true fan of decorating would check even before sitting down.  Decorators know that the scale and proportion and curves all have to work with the rest of the furniture in the room.

Also: I will buy something (even an IKEA something) and keep it until it has died a miserable broken down death, regardless of whether styles have changed, because I am very very loyal even to broken down pieces of furniture.

This is not, as it turns out, Decorating.  Decorating involves choosing stuff by line and colour and texture to make a whole.  It's a three dimensional art form really.  And it does involve shedding older pieces (they are called pieces, this is very important) that don't capture your new vision even though they are not worn out.  Oh! and that vision really does move beyond 'I want to sit in here and knit, and maybe have a friend over for tea.'  A vision has adjectives in it, and it often suggests a style to which all the pieces in it will conform.  Unless the style is eclectic, in which case you're allowed to throw in weird combinations like Santa Fe rug plus bean bag chair plus crystal chandelier, as long as the colours and textures and shapes are compatible.

Lately I've been noticing that when I talk with Ray, our beloved contractor who is turning our 1982 master bath into a 2015 spalike retreat (true to form I was going for 'anything that will help resale', but we all decided a spalike retreat would do the job), I say things that are just weird, throwing out strange words that combine thoughts about the balance of shiny stuff in a room, or light coloured things, or - this is a biggie - in which direction a tile should be set.  And so on.

I guess in theory we do this with yarn combinations too, but... TILE.  What have I become?

(a person who really wants tile that looks like whitewashed barnboard in her renovated powder room, that's what.)

Mostly Ray says Mary what would you like to put here, and I really try to sound like I have some idea, and I give my opinion before saying But what would you recommend, Ray? and then he tells me, and I agree, and we get to move on.  Sometimes later he comes back and says he thinks we should go with my idea instead and I agree to that too because if he says it's okay I know it's okay.  Other times I hold my ground - as with the staggered rectangular tile placement, instead of symmetrical, because I really like the way that looks - and then switch to his idea because it really does make more sense in this particular case.  Symmetrical tiles, here we come.

I'll tell you one thing.  Staggered or symmetrical, I love the fact that instead of tiny white subway tile we are now putting massive, foggy grey rectangular tiles into the shower stall.  Thank you Ray, and not just because it means so much less grout cleaning.

Still, I am sad to realize I am not the interior decorating junkie I thought I was... and also, more than a little scared to be choosing expensive new furniture after many years with no space for anything at all.  Because here is what I have learned:

If you are a decorating person, you are either good at choices or good at discarding choices that no longer make sense no matter how much they cost you, and probably both.

I am not good at either.

Like, last week Pete and I went out to buy a big roomy fabric-covered sectional sofa, in grey or maybe orange, but definitely to seat five.  We came home two hours later with the receipt for a white leather sofa bed that seats three and cost our entire living room budget.  Granted we need a guest bed for our renovated house that can survive without a guest room, and the one in the sofa is a really, really deluxe bed - bigger and more comfortable than our real bed, and a huge step up from our 'guest futon'.  Also, the leather is top of the line in quality and protection, and because it was a floor model we got it massively on sale and can have it right away instead of waiting 6 weeks for  a custom order.  So: maybe it's a good decision.

It's just not what we decided.

And this keeps happening.  We'll get an idea on our own, or see what a neighbour did, or flag a nice magazine photograph, and then we'll go into the store to get that thing... only to buy some random other thing that is completely unrelated to the plan.  Or we'll be completely overwhelmed by the options and back slowly out of the lighting store, shaking and traumatized.

In good news: I tested, and with a fairly firm pillow at my back to build up the low arm on the white leather sofa, I can curl up and be super cosy for knitting or reading.  And probably I can serve tea and cookies to friends who are sitting on it, as long as I clean up any small chocolate stains the moment they appear because as practical as leather is, it turns out white leather is just completely crazypants unless you plan never to sit on it.

So maybe I have the whole decorating thing sorted after all?  All I need is a cool looking knitting basket... maybe in weathered white pine... and I can fool anybody.  Except Ray.  And now you.


Okay, how's this?

"Good decor requires you to be flexible and have a clear sense of what you like and don't like, regardless of the 'rules'."

There.  Now you don't have to bother with any more decorating magazines or shows.  You're welcome!  And if you'll excuse me, I have to do some more hunting for slipcovers. You know why.

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