Smith Says: Decorating bug bites

  • Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It started with the wallpaper. Doesn’t it always?
For decades all I asked of my surroundings was that they didn’t leak, stink or explode. Some women wake up at 30 with baby fever. I woke up at 40 with brocade fever. Overnight, I became obsessed with thread counts, cabriole legs and contrasting welts.
I grew up in a house that can best be described as… practical: small, boxy and plain. Kitchen, three bedrooms, den, one bath. No fancy woodwork, trims or carpet. Except for the fact that we had electricity and zippers, you’d have thought we were Amish.
As an adult, decorating was way down on my priority list. My then-husband hung deer heads on the walls, and I shrugged. At Christmas I hung wreaths around their necks and stockings from their poor dead antlers.
After the divorce, I still didn’t care if the duvets matched the drapes. I was too busy paying a mortgage, car payment and utilities while having a quiet little nervous breakdown.
Then I sold my house and built a cute condo. To my astonishment, the builder expected me to choose a floor plan, paint colors, carpet, cabinets and flooring. I learned two things: 1) “Oxygen” is considered an upgrade, and 2) Decorating can be fun!
But the bug didn’t really bite until I married Widdle. Before I moved into our little love nest, he said, “We’ll do whatever you want to make it your home.” Turns out that meant Chinese red wallpaper in the bathroom, refinished pine floors, antique sconces, new paint and Oriental rugs. Who knew?
The decorating die was cast, and now I have inside me a frustrated interior designer clutching a sheaf of samples, trying to claw her way out. Decorating is my favorite hobby, aside from exercising and eating turnips bigger than my head. I bookmark design Web sites, read magazines and books and scour Craigslist and thrift stores for new finds.
I move furniture around so often Widdle peeks in the front door before he enters, to avoid tripping headlong over the chair and ottoman I’ve rearranged for the third time in 10 days.
And, after taking many “what’s your decorating style?” tests, the results are in: I have no style. I’m all over the map—painted Swedish, Early American, bungalow/cottage, English country house… which explains why visitors invariably gaze around and say, “Well, this is… interesting.”
 (My only house issues are A) There’s no dishwasher and no room for one and B) The vinyl floors in the hall bath and kitchen have been in there for decades, thus proving that Congoleum is the best buy if you want a hideous pattern that endures for 25 years.)
My husband is amazingly tolerant of my decorating whims. We do, however, clash over one BIG element: I like dark, cozy rooms, with heavy drapes, upholstered pieces and earth tones all around; he loves open spaces and flings open every curtain and blind to let the sun flood in. He would happily deck each room in crisp white from top to bottom.
If I want fresh air and sunshine, I’ll go sit in a pasture. “Home” to me means a dimly-lit, quiet refuge, surrounded by books, antiques and paintings. I don’t do oak, recliners or cheery café curtains.
OK, full disclosure: Widdle DOES have a recliner, but I ignore it. If I don’t see it, it isn’t there, la-la-la-la-la-la!
Julie R. Smith, who is somewhat challenging to live with, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com

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