from scratch

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June 4, 2013 by Ellen V

Sister A is moving soon to her first real apartment. I’m having fun living vicariously through her. I know it’s probably a little stressful and a lot of work to find a place that will feel like home to her in a whole new area, but I know it will also be a joyful experience to create a place of love and laughter as she begins this leg of her journey.

I know the house we live in now isn’t going to be our forever home, even though we absolutely love it, as well as the neighborhood and town where we live. Eric and I always have “in another year or two or three…” in the back of our minds, which makes it hard to commit to major changes or improvements, even if they would make our lives better. When we were first married and I moved in, now almost 3 1/2 years ago (!), I felt like I was living in some other person’s place. It is so much more home to me now than any other place, besides my childhood home, of course, has ever been. But I do wish I could go back and give my younger self a few pointers about making a home, whether it was in my apartments or in the first months of living in my present home.

I would tell myself, as I’m often telling Sister A now, to find good-enough-for-now treasures at Good Will, or on Craigslist or eBay, or from the attics and basements of friends and family. Then, I would give myself permission to have fun with them (paint them wild colors, experiment with DIY upholstery, etc) while socking away the money I save for solid pieces that will last me the long haul. This isn’t just about furniture, either. Some of my favorite homes in the world have mismatched silverware, homemade art, and vintage quilts.

I would remind myself that “grown ups” don’t necessarily have a “color scheme” for every room, and that it’s okay to have fun and play and make mistakes in decorating. As long as things are relatively clean, nobody really cares.

I would focus more on entertaining (what does this house need to accommodate friends for dinner or a girls’ night) and comfort (will I enjoy working out in this space? reading a good book? taking a nap?) rather than extreme simplicity or impressive decorating. This can go both ways. I have been in places so jam packed or well dressed that they felt too stuffed or pretentious to me. On the other hand, my last apartment before my current home was so crazy utilitarian and sparsely furnished that even I didn’t want to do anything there but sleep or take a shower.

Mostly, I would remind myself that homes should be built and cared for around the people and the love that they protect.


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