My year in review....well 4.5 months anyway.

Back in August, I was facing the first fall in 24 years alone, watching my kids jump on their respective school buses after homeschooling the last 12 years.  It was weird.  Really weird.  Even for me.

Somehow I found my way via a google search on the word 'interior design' (or some such) the wonderful world of Disney home decor blogs and I was off to the races.  I've had 4 other blogs previously as I love to record and process thru writing, but I'd never thought to solely focus a blog on my creative homemaking pursuits.  I started one simply to keep track of all the other completely awesome bloggers and their ideas.

But then I decided to begin recording my own trials and tribulations in decorating (and maybe a few successes) and my wee blog actually got a follower.  (Thank you Kim of Twice Remembered!).  Then another uber-talented blogger happened upon my blog and did a feature.  (Thanks Donna of Funky Junk Interiors!)  Now I find myself with a full-fledged shelter blog, and a nifty soapbox platform for all manner of creativity and connection with other like-minded kooky ladies souls.

Here's a quick run down of my favorite projects and posts:
EDITED:  I'm linking up with Rhoda at Southern Hospitality's Top Ten Projects of 2009 Party....there's actually 15 links below, but only 9 are really DIY oriented.  The other 6 are my favorite posts since starting the blog.  Thanks Rhoda for hosting!
Also linked to Kendall at Finesse Your Nest: 2009 Best of Your Nest Party!  Thanks for hosting Kendall!
And as of 2/10 I linked to the DIY Showoff !!!


And last but certainly not least, My Reality: the Extreme Home Edition

Whew.  Throw in some linky parties, tons of spray paint, crafts gone well and crafts gone awry, thrifting and antiquing, a little travelling, some more babbling....and you pretty much have cottage instincts in a nut shell.

I'm honored you consider cottage instincts a small part of your day.
 Lookin' forward to the next year with its promise of more creative inspiration from blogland, and the opportunity to maybe make y'all laugh a bit.



Ruminate with me. An exercise in interior design.

 PSSSST...I'm no longer blogging here!
You can now find me at


Like it or Love it?

How about walking with me thru my designing process?  It won't hurt.  With the new year comes that urge to start getting rooms in order....a never-ending ordeal journey of self-discovery in which I overload on inspiration images because I've wiped out the city's entire library interior decorating section.

Now that I have this butt-load of books, I thought I'd document for you guys how I'm training my eye and defining my style.  I'm looking for ideas for my bedroom and for the family room where the tree stood.  So firstly, I get that in my big brain.  It's ok to look at all the pretty pictures, but don't dwell too long on pictures of kitchens....see?  Then I gather the usual suspects (except for the glasses, which are a newer suspect):

Also important are comfy pj's, poofy pillows, a couple graham crackers, and a big black dog all thrown together in a jumble on the bed.  Now we can really begin.

I actually wrote out the following questions on sticky notes to keep me focused:



See, these help me bring some kind of order to the willy-nilly conglomeration of pictures I find appealing.  I've mentioned before that when you like lots of styles, and throw them all together in your home it's called Eclectic Chic.....and sometimes that works ok.  Other times it looks more like the Early Parent's Attic Motif, and that can sorta start to feel scatterbrained and well, willy-nilly. I'm looking for a common thread through-out my house. So here's what I do next:

I take a picture of the book cover and say the following images are from this book:

Then I dig in.  Uh oh, not good. I've already fallen for the first shot.

As I make my way thru the pages, I ask myself these questions too.  Why did I stop?  What caught my attention?  Is it just a lovely grouping?  Is there something specific that reached out to me?  These are soooo important to answer.  This is where the rubber meets the road. This is learning to hear your heart and spirit.  It can also be hard work.  Darn it.

Before my foray into home blogs, I used to quickly flip thru my magazines and rip out any page that struck me...or mark pages in books with tabs like this:

Sometimes I write down specifically what caught my eye, but mostly I did it quickly, without stopping for air.  Then I'd go back over all the shots and try to find a common thread...were they all green rooms?  Was all the furniture chippy?  Were there donuts on the counter?
I do this with my friends too, who ask for my help in decorating their rooms.  It also gives me a feel for their style, because low and behold, not everyone likes a worn cottage look.  I know, weird.
Anyway, if I can name something immediately, or if I'm already sure I LOVE something, I write it down on one of my stickie-wickies.

This method works, is fairly low stress, and is often a good place to start in defining what you generally  like and don't like.  But I'm to a place where I'm going to have to say no to some of the 'likes' in order to say yes to my 'loves'.
Hmmm, I think I'll type that again:
I going to have to say no to some of the 'likes' in order to say yes to my 'loves'.

This is where it gets tricky.  It's also where I re-remind my mommy brain of the questions I first posed at the beginning of this post. I know you've already forgotten them, so I'll wait while you go back up and read the sticky notes with the cute-ish birdie. *tapping foot*

Got it?  Ok, good.  So, let me walk you thru the next step.
(the following images are from this here book:)

  I hesitated on this picture for the 6 millionth time.  I've never actually analyzed what the principle characters are, and why it speaks to me, but today I tried to pay attention.

But then I turned the page and got wallupped with this:

 They're both in the same cottage style book (and the one directly above has made the rounds in almost every country/cottage book I've read as well as sneaking into lots of blogs.)  But they each have a different feel....a different focus.  So I go back to my handy-dandy notebook sticky notes and try to descend beneath the superficial surface known as the "oh, I like this" layer.

Can I see my family in this room?
First picture: yes, cozy neutral fabrics in muted florals, won't show dirt as easily
Second picture: no, perhaps too much white for 4 kids and a huge (but adorable) black dog.

Does this room have a 'timeless' appeal or is it too trendy?
First picture:  Timeless.  Could be a turn of the century farmhouse or modern-day beach bungalow.
Second picture:  Also mostly timeless, but some 'trendy' collections. Which leads me to ask: Why do I collect?  Because I'm drawn to something, or because it's the trendy thing to collect?

BTW, it's ok to collect trendy things for the sake of collecting trendy things, especially when they help cover a big wall (like the vintage mirrors above).  But I'm at a place in life where collections need to have meaning or be things I will love to look at for years to come, regardless of their trendy-ness.

Now the biggie:
Do I already have furniture or accessories to pull this off? (this will also give you a clue to what you already like, or help you know what to sell on craigslist.  And few of us can start from scratch when decorating or remodeling.  At least I can't.)
First picture: yeah, my floral fabric stash is a bit out of control.  I already have a white painted room and a wicker side table. Couple squishy couches and some antique wood pieces too.
Second picture: some of it, yes.  But my house isn't close to the style of this house. I do love the natural textures in this room, though, as well as the worn furniture pieces.

What is the common denominator?
Both of these rooms feel relaxed to me.  Each has an eclectic group of vintage or antique furniture, and the stuff that matches isn't matchy-matchy-ford-apache.  You know what I mean?  They both use white walls so the furniture and accessories are the main focus. There's also painted furniture in each.  I love white painted furniture, but I'd go for just about any color except maybe red.  The first room feels more welcoming, though, like I wouldn't be screaming at reminding the boys to get their shoes off the couch and to please use a kleenex. My style will probably marry my 'loves' from each setting, but lean more to the first picture's homey atmosphere (at least what *I* see as homey atmosphere...everyone's different.)

Ok.  So I move forward with some new knowledge....I can begin narrowing down my search field.  I'm looking for relaxed rooms, eclectic furniture, white walls, natural textures.  Are these things found in the previous pictures from the Easy Cottage Style book?  You bet'cha.  From those shots, let's add florals (generally muted ones), farmhouse-style antiques, eclectic gatherings of items.  I can also go back to those shots and more specifically identify what I liked/loved in each picture.  For instance:
1st shot:
The farm table, natural elements are loves. The sparceness is a like.
2nd shot:
Upon looking at it again, I'm just drawn to the coziness of this room, but wouldn't necessarily try to incorporate any of the decor at my house.  It doesn't really fit the new criteria I'm working with.
3rd shot:
Love this window treatment's texture, simple style, and timeless neutrality.
4th shot:
Like the florals and untidyness of the couches, but would LOVE more muted colors.

This book has lovely images, but my favorite is the cover.  It has many of my 'base-line' likes, but is missing some of the homey-ness I love.  A bit too sterile.  Still like it, and I can enjoy looking at it, but I'll be gleaning only those elements of my own style to replicate....brown velvet curtains perhaps made of burlap or linen instead?

Next up:
(the following images are from this one and I highly recommend this book, btw, as it has fabulous crafts and how-to's)

This picture stops me in my tracks everytime.  Can you tell me why?  What elements are in this room that speak to me based on what I've learned so far?

How 'bout this?

I love me some neutrals, eh?  These are both 'white' rooms, but lack the sterile airiness of the white room I used in the comparison photos.  These pictures also combine lots of texture, antique furniture, faded florals and/or natural fabrics, and that 'come hither' quality I love.

Now that my field has narrowed, I flipped thru the next few books a bit faster.

(yep, you know.)

Does this look familiar?  If you saw my dining room reveal, you know why I love this room.

Here's a good example of collections I'd partake in even though they're trendy because they also have a timelessness about them, and birds and eggs and nests talk coo-ing words to my heart.  Always have. Natural elements and all....


This one threw a wrench in my thinking just a bit.  I needed to back-pedal a bit as I took in the lovliness of this room:

There's only a teeny bit of white in there!  BUT, hold up homies, what does this room also have?

All my loves....coziness, vintage/antique furniture, natural elements, textural fabrics, eclectic gatherings of furniture and accessories.  And AQUA.  *swoon*  Give me aqua in a pale or a bold, and dude I'm slobbering all over myself.  I think this room is just about perfect.  Just needs some vintage, faded florals and I could die happy there.  I also love blues and cool greens....uh, which would explain why I like aqua.

'Nother test, though:
Would this room play nicely in the same house as some of my other 'loves'? 
I could definitely see this bedroom in the same house as the first picture in the comparison.  It also has enough deep neutrals to hang around some of the other 'white' rooms I've loved

For funsies, here is another picture from the same book that I *thought* I loved:

I played the comparison game with the questions above, but this time it only took like 4 seconds to see what specifics I liked in the second picture (ticking pillow, white walls, antique furniture) but that the first picture's whole feel was my true love. It passed all the tests.

Are you understanding the process a bit here?  Basically find two pictures that you really like (or even think you LOVE), but are fairly different, then start asking the questions.   It's really a simple exercise, but it can also be a frustrating process.  I'm just warnin' ya.  Sometimes it's hard to let go of certain images that you think you love, but realize they don't work with your family, your budget, or your TRUE loves. You're mostly just 'in like' with them, not truly 'in love'.  Or it might be a crush...real but fleeting, intense but hard to sustain.  For example, I'll always be taken by the serene beauty and casual elegance of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic style, but girlfriends, it will never fit me as well as a vintage farmhouse cottage filled with faded florals, ticking, homespun and linen. That's not to say it's still ridiculously hard not to buy all the glamous Simply Shabby Chic toiletry items in Target!  In this case it's a choice to invest in what I know I have always loved instead of what I kinda love but wouldn't work with a family with 4 kids still at home and a house full of more rustic antiques passed down from my family.

I going to have to say no to some of the 'likes' in order to say yes to my 'loves'.

Here's couple more examples of 'my style'.  These I plucked immediately as my eye was being trained quickly to filter out the likes and hone in on the loves.  Any surprise that I'd liked/loved a lot in this tome? But I easily assessed LIKES....things I recognized as perhaps useful secondary layers of decor, as opposed to LOVES that would be the building blocks of my home's interior...of which there were many in this little diddy.

Here are some definite LOVES.  See my signature elements?
And from here:


I noticed too that as I was going thru old  pictures of past houses, I began to see the things I've carried along with me, be it furniture, colors, and styles.  No matter how much I hyperventilate over all white rooms, my enduring love will always be rooms with muted vintagey florals and touches of warm color.  Take a gander at some of your old pictures and pick out what still speaks to you....then incorporate it into your home now.  There's always paint to 'update' an old dresser that still has meaning, or a pillow slip of your favorite floral instead of full out drapes.  Try favorite pieces in new places or preferred colors in different combinations.  Play with what you know has worked in the past and still speaks to your spirit.

And then there's always the blogs.
Below a listing of bloggers whose style either closely matches mine or who have perfected one of my 'loves' such that I still glean much inspiration from their taste.  I applaud and support those who have managed to mold their homes to their unique personalities and not just to the latest catalogue of Pottery Barn whether or not their tastes perfectly match mine or not. Some of these are the 'big guys', but some are just creative genius' waiting to be discovered.  Surfing blogs can give you a 'real life' picture of how 'real life' decorating looks without all the glitz and glamour and staging of a magazine shoot...but these gals give the mags a run for their money IMO.  Take some time to visit (and tell them you saw them here), do some comparisons with the questions I offered above, and get inspired by real women with real budgets and real vision for beautiful homes. 

EDITED 12/10:  I now keep all my faves in my blogroll in the sidebar and up top under my header in the cottage tabs.

So to end this novella, as maidens of our manors, it's a good habit to refine our tastes in decorating.  It can help us avoid costly mistakes, help congeal our look, and make us smitten with our homes each time we arrive home from a grocery run.  It's a thrilling challenge, but well-worth the $156 in library fines,  the 4,000 cups of hot mocha java guzzled whilst browsing the decorating magazine section at Barnes and Noble, and the 12 million hours spent blog hopping.

Start getting comfy knowing the difference between your likes and your loves.

Start practicing saying no to some of your likes so you can give a big YES to your passionate loves.

Hope some of this helps...feel free to ask questions.  My disclaimer is that I'm not a professional, so don't go thinking I have this all figured out.  I mostly still fumble on the 4th down at the goal line.

Um, yes, I basically love this.  And I will forever.
(from the 750 Style and Design Ideas book up there yonder)

And I'm adding this to The Nester's Best of the Nest 2009 'cause I'm pretty durned proud of myself for sitting down and writing this post....been meaning to for a long time!  Think it's one of my best....

I lived here.

Several bloggy gals I've read recently are documenting previous homes and the decor therein.  I had actually been looking for old photos to post recently anyway, so now seemed like a good time to share some.  I only have digital photos from around 2000, so I'll have to scan pictures from the first two homes before that.  Which may or may not happen. (leaning toward the latter).

In 1997, we purchased our 4th home having come back to the town we had lived in just after college, and where we reside currently (though we're in house #7 now).  We tend to move every 3-4 years, which is a joke in my family as my folks do the same thing.  It's getting expensive, so we're trying to stay put for awhile. 

When I saw this house, I cried.  We'd built our previous home, and I never got comfy in it.  This house was perfect.  'Course it became un-perfect as we lived there.  You know how it goes.  When I became pregnant with #6, we upsized from this 2.5 wee bedroom cape cod.

It sat on almost an acre, and had huge trees.  I was smitten with the blue and mauve painting treatment.  Now? Not so much.  I was actually beginning to get my decorating feet under me in this house, and although my tastes have changed a bit, I was proud of this house.

Family Room
Recognize the corner hutch?  I was into cottage florals even then.  No painted furniture yet, though.

Galley Kitchen (I was into roses, but aren't the arched doorways cute? And #5 kiddo...he's cute also.)

Main floor bedroom....my three girls slept here.  I was wicked proud of my wall treatment and painting skills in here.  I had sewn the duvet and shams, so was beginning to appreciate my '60's Kenmore hand-me-down sewing machine by this point.

Hubby and I had a bedroom upstairs under the eaves, with our youngest in a 'nursery' up there too.  His room was 5X10 with a sloping roof.  Oldest son slept in a room in the basement.   So when baby #6 was announced, we ran outta room!

Looking back, there are so many times I wished we could've stayed in this house.  By now, we'd have it almost paid off and would've been able to add on and remodel.  This was the first house that 'moved' me.  My girls always say they will move back here someday....such happy memories here.

Our next home was a mistake.  It was a steal, as a friend from church was selling it, and gave us a good deal.  Here's why:

It was horrendously dated.  But it had 5 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a basement, and THIS!

Which quickly became the bane of my existence.  Talk about a time, money and energy  hog.  Not worth the 2.5 months of use it got in our climate.
After #6 was born, we went to work, quickly realizing this entire house was a Money Pit in the extreme.  We began going into debt in this house, but the only way out was to fix it up and sell it.  Here's some befores.

Ick. We'd actually already taken out the bank of cabinets that were over the peninsula.

Ick #2...like that lantern light? How 'bout that Waverly wallpaper?  Tell me you like the thick wood spindles.

Even with a vaulted ceiling and skylights, this room was a black hole. The sunporch off the back didn't help.

Like rust much? If you look closely, you'll see a couple of these pieces in the 'afters'.

Neato.  My son actually loved this room at the time, as you can see. He was still defining himself, and the retro-goofiness of the painted rainbow, plaid wallpaper and orange carpet fit him.  This room became a pale pink eventually.

We mostly painted stuff, but we did gut the kitchen after my painting adventure on the cabinets and floors went awry.  Ahem.  Here's some afters:

Did lots of painting of furniture (remember the rattan?) and walls, and sewed drapes and cushion covers.
This was my first foray into the 'shabby chic' style.  Not too bad for a first attempt.  I obviously LOVED that fabric as I used it flippin' everywhere.

I was still into roses, and went nuts in this half bath.  See how I wallpapered the cabinet doors?  I also painted the countertop.

Here's the other side.  It had washer/dryer hook-ups, but since there were hookups in the basement, I used this as a changing station for my boys who were both in cloth dipes at the time.

Kitchen.  That island was on wheels so we could push it to the side.  We was geniuses. :)
Everything was replaced in here except the fridge and stove. We knew at this point we were selling, so I just did neutral blah.  Did beadboard backsplash though!

Family Room, lightened up a bit.  I wallpapered behind the shelves.  Thought it looked dandy.  Again, now?  Not so much.

There's my hutch again.  And no chunky spindles.

Master bedroom.  I loved my bed, and still have these linens....hope to use them again in a guest room someday.

Master bath...replaced the vanity/sink.  Wallpapered to cover horrid wall damage. New lights, painted mirror.
Boring, but again, we were going for neutral blah in order to sell.

Took out trees and shrubs, painted, knocked down enclosed brick porch.

We ended up selling this ourselves in about 4 months time....and actually made enough to pay off what we'd spent remodelling, with a bit left to put down on the next house.....

....which will have to wait for another post 'cause I'm pooped from digging thru all my photo files.

It's interesting to see what 'constants' there are in my homes.  Roses, antiques, cottage style.  They take different forms and evolve with each home, but I can see things from my very first apartment 24 years ago that I still love, that are still stylish and classic.  I'm moving more and more away from 'trends', and moving toward what makes me feel like I'm 'home'.  This is going to be a good exercise for me as I attempt to revive my current home.  'Cause, well, I'm not getting any other exercise, don't cha know.



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