Although I have yet to live in a space bigger than 600 square feet for most of my adult life, my dream country home has always been alive and well in my head. So when I stumbled upon this book a few years ago, filled with “501 old-fashioned ideas to simplify your life” in your house, your kitchen, your laundry room, etc….I knew I needed it. To prepare for, you know, when that dream country home becomes a reality.
While I’m still waiting for that reality to hit, this book has brought my tiny household game to a new level. It actually looks much like my AP Stylebook did in college – full of tabs and notes and dog-eared pages. (Although, the drool on this book is from the gorgeous photos, not lack of sleep.) It covers everything a domestic goddess-in-training needs, from cleaning to baking to gardening and organizing, and though I may not have curtains to clean or be responsible for washing the outside of our windows (perks of apartment l-i-v-i-n) the main goal of the book is to help make your house- whatever the square footage – into a home.
With guests coming to our new place for the first time this weekend, it seemed like the perfect time for a country wisdom refresher (and serious cleaning streak) on “making a welcoming home.”
No room should be an island. If stepping from the living room to the kitchen is like stepping from Versailles to American farm country, and the dining room is a lesson in Danish modern, the effect is jarring and the rooms feel closed off from each other. When rooms harmonize, each seems as an extension of the next, and the whole house feels more spacious and peace with itself.”
The world makes a lot of demands on us… Your home should be a refuge from all that. The “shelter” in the food, clothing and shelter equation means more than mere protection from the rain or a place to stow one’s belongings. It also means shelter from the stresses of the greater world, a little oasis where we can relax, pursue our own interests, share time with those we love. But a home that is dirty or cluttered can’t fulfill that mission…Far from being a mundane concern, learning how to keep a house clean and uncluttered is the groundwork for many loftier achievements – happiness, thriving family relationships, intellectual pursuits, hobbies that nurture creativity, and renewed energy and enthusiasm for the live we live outside of the home.”
Beyond a certain level of clean, I’ve noticed that homes that feel welcoming all have a “tended-to” look. Items that need repair aren’t in evidence; they’ve been moved to the basement or garage. Valentine’s streamers aren’t dangling as Easter eggs are being deviled. Most of all, someone has taken the trouble to make things nice – to fluff up the pillows, fill a vase with flowers, put down a freshly laundered throw rugs, or set a pot of potpourri to simmer. These little grace notes of sight and scent do more to make a home feel gracious and expansive than all the expensive furniture in the world.”
Homes that welcome you in don’t eradicate signs of life, they embrace them. They reflect the personalities and interests of the people who live there and convey a sense of life going on in all its bustling, varied and not necessarily predictable ways. Putting personality in the place you live is easy – just go with your tastes and interests…The easiest way to do this, of course, is to start with an overall style you like rather than the trend of the moment or a style so neutral it doesn’t have a name. Chances are that all the things you love and have acquired over the years go together pretty well, and you will work to create a home that reflects your personality. The worst question to be asked by the person that visits for the first time is, “I love this, but who is your decorator?” But when you hear someone say, “This place is so you,” you know you’ve created something special.”
The guest room:
Show your guest they’re special. There’s a particular kind of happiness that happens when you see something that was put in the room especially for you. It could be a small vase of flowers from the garden, a little coffeemaker with an assortment of coffees, or a few homemade cookies on a pretty plate. Whatever it is, you feel special and welcomed – and how often does that happen in life? Offer something to read or look at before bed…leaving a book or two on the night table, but I also leave vintage magazines, family photo albums when relatives are visiting, or old letters and greeting cards my guest and I exchanged years ago.”
Photo via Country Living