After 35 moves in 54 years, I've learned a thing or two about how to make your house a home. I've never had a big budget, and much of what I own has been thrifted or scored from the clearance shelves. Much of of it has also been transitory. I get rid of a lot of stuff with every move. My goal is to have less and do more, and I'm working towards that on a daily basis. If I bring something new into my home, I let go of a few other things. We don't really own anything, anyway, we're merely caretakers. I've tried to be a good caretaker.
We have owned three houses. The first was a former Amish school house and union hall that was 125 years old. It was stucco over stone, with thick walls and huge windows with deep sills on both sides of the structure. Had we a bigger budget, we would have redone the kitchen and the bathrooms, and finished the dirt floor basement. Sadly, our budget was mostly limited to paint, so we made the most of that. Because this house had so much light, I chose rich, saturated, intense colors. Verdant grass green, vivid orange, Tibetan red, navy blue, periwinkle, and buttery yellow. It was all planned to flow from one into the next. The kitchen was wild, but it sure woke you up in the morning! The house was bold and bodacious, but also cozy. With 9 foot ceilings, lighter colors or white walls would have made the rooms feel too open and cold. We had big plans for that house, but then a job offer came up in another state and we moved. Our agents were concerned that it wouldn't sell because the market was cold, but it sold to the first people who came to look at it. They were surprised, but I wasn't. I staged it in a way that felt warm and inviting, and I knew someone would see what we saw when we looked at it.
Our second house was in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Perched precariously on stilts, it had huge windows on the side with a view, a wraparound porch, wood floors, and pine wood details. It was rustic, but modern. Because it was surrounded by trees, we painted the living room a vivid (but not obnoxious) green that brought the color from the outside inside. I wanted to make it feel like it was part of the mountains that surrounded it. Again, with the open vaulted ceilings, white walls would have made it feel too open and cold. The bedrooms were painted dreamy shades of periwinkle and blue, the hall a soft yellow and the kitchen a shade in between yellow and green dubbed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. My only regret was the lobster pot red I chose for the staircase, it just didn't flow as well with the other colors. Picking colors isn't easy. What's on a paint chip is not the same as what it looks like when you paint it on a wall. So much of it is affected by the light coming into the space. Always test swatches and look at them at various times of the day to be sure you can live with them. We sold this house, after the job opportunity proved to be less than ideal. Again, the first people who came to look at it bought it.
This is our third house, a brick American Foursquare built in 1920. Like our other two houses, it's very well constructed and has great bones. Unfortunately, the original white oak hardwood floors on the first level were buried under a dark cherry hardwood in the dining room and semi-shag carpeting in the living room. We were hoping to expose them again, but those plans were thwarted by plywood sheets riddled with a gazillion screws. One wonders what possesses people sometimes. We found a lovely faux pecan laminate on sale at a home store and it looks beautiful. This house does not get as much light as our other two. I had to adjust the colors to help bring some light and a feeling of openness into the space. The kitchen was renovated by former owners with high end cabinetry, but the wood was darker so I chose a spicy orange to bring out the warmth in the wood. I call the dining room the Zen Garden Room, painted two shades of blue/green surrounded with bright white trim. I find bright white trim frames colored walls beautifully. Lowe's has a color called Ultra Pure White that is the brightest white I have found in my searches. It's fabulous. The living room is yet again a happy shade of green. I like a green living room, what can I say? My friend Carolee recently described it a mix of pistachio and lime, mostly pistachio with just a skootch of lime. It's very light and playful.
I am not afraid of color, as you may be able to tell. I am also drawn to eclectic, interesting, folk art inspired decor. However, if I moved into a mid-century modern home with clean lines and big windows, I would veer towards white walls with bright colorful sleek mid-century furniture and accessories. If I bought a beach cottage, I'd tend towards white washed faded pastels and vintage nautical inspired decor. Though I can't say, honestly, how I'd decorate a house I've yet to meet. Every house has a story to tell. It's your mission, should you choose to accept it, to discover that story and bring it to life. I love old homes because they have history. They've seen things. They've stood the test of time. They're more often than not built with far more care and quality than newer homes, at least the new homes in our budget!
You can see photos of our progress over on my Instagram. I will post more as time passes. Once we finish painting and decorating the inside, we have to tackle the landscaping. Some former owners had a serious love of rocks. There is a dump truck or two of them scattered around the garden beds in the yards front and back. Big rocks, little rocks, gravel rocks...so many, many rocks.
Hopefully it doesn't make for a rocky gardening experience.