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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

AN INSIGHT WHILE PAINTING THE BANNISTER

A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness.
~ Charles Baudelaire~

Purchasing a house is like finding your spouse;  you just know when it is the one.  Our little cottage was by no stretch of the imagination anyone's dream home, the fact that it was on the market for several years is testimony to that.  But the second I stepped inside, I knew it was the place for me.  It was the odd little angled nooks, the rough old horsehair plastered walls, the little open landing on the second floor, even the sturdy old-fashioned clothesline that sold me.

Lately I've been thinking about what attracts one person to something and another person  finds it ugly.  You have a lot of time to think when you are painting lots of  bumpy surfaces!  Whether it's the clothes we choose to wear, the way we decorate our homes, or even the people we are attracted to, it all harkens back to our childhoods.  At least I know it is true in my case, and it is true in most of the people I know.

For instance, I have always wanted to paint the bannister red.  Why red?  If you asked me to name my favorite color, red would not be counted among my  favorites.  Why have I always wanted a little open hallway?  Then it occurred to me, that when I was a very little girl, my grandparents had such a bannister in their farmhouse.  My grandfather died before I started kindergarten and my grandmother sold the farm soon afterward, so I have few recollections of the old place.  Couldn't even tell you what any of the interior looks like, except that upstairs in their hallway, my grandmother kept her hope chest, filled with dolls and sock monkeys that she had made.  And that is where my sisters and I spent many happy hours.

I've always felt most comfortable in small dark spaces.  I call it cozy, but I'm sure that to those that love the open beachy or the all-white shabby chic rooms, would call it something else. LOL!  Conversely, while I can see the beauty in those rooms, after a while I feel cold and uncomfortable in them.  Why do I love small dark little rabbit warrens of rooms?  Because as a child, I spent many enjoyable afternoons camped out in the den closet.  My mother stored the blankets and extra bed pillows in there.  It was the perfect place to wile away a rainy afternoon, trying to imagine myself into the cottages illustrated in the Little Golden Books, like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. For me, small and dark, signifies happiness, safety and love.  I was always attracted to the cottages, not the palaces in my storybooks.  Guess I was thrifty even as a child!  By the way, that is why I have that rather gaudy wallpaper that you see on the walls.  It looks very much like the stenciled walls in Elizabeth Orton Jone's illustrations in Little Red Riding Hood.  That, plus the fact that I bought the Brunschwig and Fils  wallpaper for fifty cents at a thrift store. (Another story for another day!)

Once a year, I go shopping with my sister.   Recreational shopping is certainly not a thrifty thing to do!  She always asks my opinion about what purse, dress , teapot, etc.  that I prefer, then always picks the opposite!   Although we grew up in the same home, our tastes are completely different. We have different experiences.  If it has sequins, beads or something shiny, she loves it; I love tweeds, dressmaker's details, and somber colors.  Reminds me of that old proverb, "In matters of taste, there is no dispute.".  I used to come away with things I knew I would never use, after a day of shopping with her.  She can be very persuasive!   But after I learned what makes me tick, it was a lot easier to say "no" when she tried to talk me into the Barbie pink sweater or the Kathy Van Zeeland handbag.  Pretty, just not me.   Knowing who you are and why is one of the easiest ways to stay within your budget. Once you get that figured out, you won't be so influenced by fads, thus you won't have  to cringe when looking  back at old pictures and exclaim "What was I thinking?!".

What do you think? Has your childhood influenced your tastes in decor,  fashion, and relationships?

25 comments:

  1. Oh, I love your red banister!! The candle table is very fascinating too- I have never seen anything like it- very nice space!! Our first house was built in 1916 and was an old Portland (Oregon) house, I loved it, it had an open stair landing room with secret hiding spots in the sliding floor boards, and every nook and cranny had a cubby or closet. I loved that house and had it not been for my desire to move to the country I would have been quite happy to live there for quite some time.

    I agree, my childhood has immensely influenced my taste in so many areas of my life. When I see colors or items that go back to my childhood home and grandma's home, or the things I was watching on TV at the time, even the library I visited often, I am drawn right to it, and can hardly get it out of my mind.

    Your cottage always sounds wonderful!!

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  2. Hi Jane, what a lovely and thoughtful post today! I know just what you mean about small places. I feel much more cozy and comfortable in a shady small, room filled with knick knacks and things I love. The house we have now is much larger than anything I ever grew up with. The ceilings seem unusually high. The architecture of the houses is very different than in California where I grew up. Here in the south they purposely build them this way because it allows the hot humid air to rise in the summer time. A much needed necessity as I have learned. We also have my mother-in-law who lives with us and we needed more space than my husband and I were used to. My most comfortable room in my little sewing room/studio. My taste is actually quite different than my parents. They had 1950's blond furniture, and like modern bright colorful walls. I grew up loving cherry wood and antiques, tea cups and little knick knacks. They never could quite understand why their little girl would take her allowance and buy a teacup at a garage sale instead of a new record or a tube of lipstick! :) But it was all there wonderful stories about the family, my grand parents and the past that sparked in my heart a curiosity and love for antiques and old-timey crafts. Your cottage sounds so beautiful and homey and a reflection of all the things you love! Delisa :)

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  3. Oh April! What a fascinating house you lived in. Did you ever find anything interesting in any of the cubby holes? We lived in a huge old Italianate Victorian built in 1862 for several years. Searched high and low, but all we ever found was a few coins. The candlestand is an old 1940s reproduction of colonial one. My decorating style is greatly influenced by what I call the 1940s movie version of New England colonial farmhouses. Movies like Christmas in Connecticut, Holiday Inn, My Favorite Wife, etc. Probably because I have such happy memories of watching those movies on the late show while my sister babysat me on Friday nights. My parents always went out dancing. Back in the olden days when every county had a little nightclub with an orchestra to dance to. Ah! The good old days!

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  4. Ha! Delisa, my parents had that same blond furniture, seafoam painted walls.. Kinda looked like the old I Love Lucy set. Remember those couches with that scratchy metallic threads running through the upholstery? No wonder we kids never spent a lot of time sitting around inside! I think it skips a generation, because my son thinks that Danish modern furniture is great. Thanks for the fun trip down memory lane!

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  5. Oh Jane, this truly spoke to my heart! Like you, I just knew when I saw this little house that it was a gift from Our Father. And yes, like yours, it was in the market for two years.

    Now, I am slowing making it our own. I am beginning to feel as if it truly ours now. I don't know why I have waited so long to pain, but I have yet to go down that path...I think I needed time to heal from loosing our previous one.

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories and your thoughts today.

    Maria

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  6. Hi Maria, isn't it funny how a place can tug at your heart? I've lived in much grander homes, but there's something about this little quirky house. One of the thing I think I love most about it is that it has no value (except for an expensive heating system. LOL!). We don't have to worry about the resale value so we have free range to do anything we want to it. Like a big dollhouse!

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  7. It was a memorable house to live in, we never found anything in the cubbies or floor, since it was owned by only 2 people before us, we did have a lot of it's history and a copy of the original amount of land they owned etc, which was pretty neat. When we moved, we took quite some time penning our own letter for a future home owner to find, which we hid in the floor compartment. :)

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  8. I always love the peeks inside your little cottage, Jane. You have such a wonderful home. Too bad you are so far from Minnesota - too far for me to come over and ask for a full tour - and a cup of coffee. (-:

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  9. That was a nice thing to do April! I remember when we bought that old Victorian we wanted to know it's history, so we had to dig through a lot of old archives. It would have been nice if someone had done it for us. LOL! We found out that the house was owned by Matthew Vassar's nephew and the original land deed was for Vassar college. They were going to build the college there but decided it was too much in the wilderness and no one would want to send their young ladies there.Still is out in the middle of nowhere!

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  10. Glad you're enjoying the peeks Sandy. It would be so nice to visit with you and we could talk more about what Mrs. Chas. Cowman has to say. Wouldn't it be nice if we could visit with her?

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  11. I think I wrote this post once. Just not as well as you! I COMPLETELY understand every word!!

    Thank you for your prayers and support these past 20 days... You're a sweet blog friend!

    Blessings, Debbie

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  12. Thank YOU Debbie! Can't wait to read your visit your blog again.

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  13. I love the victorian farmhouse look, and the cute little cottage with many nooks and crannies, look, too. I must be from my days of reading, reading, reading, as a young girl, because I certainly never lived in anything like either of those! We, too, had a couch with a scratchy metallic thread, and those "blond" end tabels when I was little!

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  14. Hi Jane,
    Love the bannister-looks like the attic room -wonderful hiding spot! Hoping this works!
    vickie

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  15. Hi Charlene! Good to hear from you again! Childhood reading certainly has a big influence. Isn't it fun to reminisce about the olden days? Wonder why everyone thought those couches were so great? They came in pretty horrendous colors too. Gramps has a pinky- plummy one. It would be hard to match the drapes.

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  16. Hi Vickie! I was going to send you an e-mail this morning. Enjoying our frosty morning?

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  17. Your comment BLESSED me Jane. You know that when we put our hearts out there it's helpful to get feedback and yours was so encouraging. I said it in my last post... I'm so glad to be part of the family of God! Thank you sister!

    ~~Debbie

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  18. Dear Jane,

    Your banister reminds me of the house I lived in as a little girl. It was built in the 1890s and had been a boarding house at one time. My bedroom (and my sister's) had a balcony with Virginia creeper along the railing. I loved it, but was scared of it at the same time! My mom antiqued our piano a pretty blue color, and I think that's why I love blue so much today (I'm blessed to have that piano now).

    I know exactly which Golden Books you're talking about; I still have mine from when I was little, although they're a little beyond dog-eared now!

    Love,

    Marqueta

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  19. Hi Marqueta! You'll have to post a picture of your piano sometime. I don't think I ever saw a blue one. But why not? Who says pianos can't be blue! I think the Hansel and Gretel book was illustrated by Eloise Wilkens. I love her illustrations. That one was a big influence. Wanted one of those cupboard beds when I was small. Still do!

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  20. Oh how I love this post. Maybe because my sister and I are just like this. She knows just how to stack teacups, scatter frames, etc. I come home and try to decorate like her. It's not long before I clear everything off and redecorate with the simplicity that is me. The funny thing is, she does the same thing after she leaves my house!

    I love a red banister!

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  21. You know I love red and purple, so I adore the banister!

    My favorite place was Daddy's suit closet. I could hide there all day and read... and it smelled like Daddy -- Old spice...

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  22. Matty, my father wore Old Spice too. I think most of the men did back then, except for a few daring ones that wore Brut or the thrifty ones that wore Aqua Velvet. Such memories!

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  23. hello jane
    what a wonderful red banister.....i love it. your home looks very cosy.
    have a wonderful day,
    love and hugs,
    regina

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  24. Thanks Regina! I appreciate the hug too!

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  25. Enjoyed your posting so much! I lovely cozy little corners (we had a cubbyhole under the stairs in our childhome farmhouse -- sis and I took our dolls, blankies and whatever else we could squeeze into the teeny space -- and have the best times together (except when we'd bang our heads on the stairs above us).

    And yes yes yes.... that old farmhouse we grew up in..... the layout was simple and small, but whenever I dream about a dream house, it's that little house that I end up longing for.... with windows on every side letting in the light.

    It took me a long time to recognize that was what I was looking for....

    So thanks for asking!

    Wishing you a beautiful day........

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