Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ten Budget Friendly Tips for Creating a Lovely Home

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language defines the word lovely as 1) full of love; loving; 2) inspiring love or affection; 3) having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye; 4) enjoyable, and delightful. Isn't that the kind of home you want to have? I know that I do, though I have a long, long way to go in that respect.

I'm sure it's no accident that the number 1 definition is being full of love or loving. True loveliness comes from having a loving heart. (Doesn't everything begin with the heart?). This loveliness originates in a relationship to Christ and it shows up in the things we think about, the things we say, and the things we do. (See Phil. 4:4-8, Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:1).

True loveliness doesn't has nothing to do with physical surroundings. However, a lovely heart will want to express itself in creating loveliness for others. And, we will enjoy our role as keepers of our home better if we attend to the beauty of our hosue. So, let's move on to definitions 3 and 4: having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye; enjoyable and delightful. Here are ten tips that I've learned from others about creating a beautiful, enjoyable, and delightful home:

1) Learn what makes a home lovely to you and what makes a home feel lovely to the other members of your household. Use what you learn as a guide for how you spend you decorate and entertain. Having a plan will save you from making expensive mistakes. Take the long view and be willing to shape your home over a period of five to ten years. Buy a few essential pieces, and then add to them as your budge allows.

If you aren't sure what makes a house feel like a home to you, start a file of ideas that appeal to you. Buy a few decorating magazines and clip photos that draw your eye. When you visit someone and are charmed by their home, think about what it was that you enjoyed. You may have to dig to see what your pictures and your notes have in come. For example, you may have clipped out a picture of a modern room and a picture of a traditional room. If you look closely, you will see a common thread: perhaps rich color or a light and airy feeling. Eventually, you will start to see your personal style emerging.

Don't stop with determining your own style. We are all individuals, and what you find to be lovely may do nothing for someone else in your household. As keeper of your home, it's only natural that you will put your personal stamp on your dwelling. However, you don't want to do this to the point of running over everyone else's preferences. If you have "girly" tastes, like I do, and you are married, be especially mindful of your husband. My poor dear husband once gently asked me if we could have at least one room in the house that wasn't too flowery. Some men don't feel at home with lots of nicknacks, frills, and dainty furniture. They prefer sturdy, but cushy places to sit, and lots of room to move around without fear of breaking something delicate. I enjoy watching HGTV's Designing for the Sexes, because it demonstrates how to blend two opposite decorating styles into one.

2) Some people have a natural eye for line, color, proportion, and how to arrange things to their best advantage. If you weren't born with this gift, don't worry. You can develop your artistic eye. Ask the advice of friends whose taste you admire. Check out books about the principles of art from the library and study them. Keep these principles in mind as you make your home. You will find these principles can improve how you do something even as simple as setting a table. A knowledge of these principles will also help you spot great bargains on beautiful items at garage sales, flea markets, and antique shops.

3) Choose lovely reading material and music. The author Theodora Goss pointed out in a journal item on her website that classic literature and classical music are reasonably priced. I had never thought of it that way, but she's right. You can walk into any bookstore and find a classic novel for a fraction of what it would take you to purchase the latest bestseller. And, good quality classical CD's are often less costly than rock or rap. Now, the classics may not be your thing -- at least not for daily fare -- and that's ok. But, if you keep an open mind, you might discover that you find it soothing to have Pachelbel's Canon playing in the background or to curl up with Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice.

Another way to add a bit of loveliness to your home is with with children's books that have a beautiful story and beautiful illustrations. Even an adult guest will enjoy thumbing through a high quality children's book that is placed on a coffee table.

4) Another tip from Theodora Goss: Collect old items of white china or white stoneware, old lace tablecloths, and antique silverware. As mentioned above, you can often find these for little to nothing at garage sales, flea markets, and antique shops. Take your time. Add one piece at at time as your budget allows. Do not worry about matching the white china or the silverware. The white pieces will look good together. (Don't mix china with stoneware, though). The silverware will be all the more charming for not being part of a matched set. (I would, however, look for silveware that is similar in design or scale. You might look for forks and spoons that are dainty and with floral patterns, for example.)

5) Grow your own flowers for cutting. To many people, nothing makes a house lovelier or more homey than a vase of pretty, fragrant blossoms. Create your own cutting garden so that you will always have some on hand. Bulbs are particularly easy and cheap to grow. If you don't have the time or the room to grow flowers, look for a discount florist in your area. Also compare the prices in the floral departments of grocery store. Sam's is a great place to buy inexpensive bouquets, but only if you find it economical to buy a lot of things at Sam's. You won't save enough on flowers alone to justify the annual membership fee.

6) Consider how the things you already own may be re-arranged for a fresh look. Ask a friend to help you with this one. You may be so used to the way your home looks now that you don't see how a particular object might work better in another place. For example, a former neighbor of mine had a background in interior decorating. (I miss her company and her advice!). I had a painting that I loved but didn't know where to hang, so I put it in an out of the way spot at the bottom of my staircase). I was decorating a bathroom, but I got stuck and needed something to put on one of the walls. I did not even realize that the bathroom was done in the same colors as the painting. My neighbor ran to the painting immediately and hung it in the bathroom. Voila. The painting brought the bathroom to life, yet it was easily overlooked in its former spot.

7) Ok, we all know this one, but I need to keep it in mind: Cut the clutter, and keep things as shining and clean as you possibly can. You have to be realistic about this. Your house is a home and not a monument to cleanliness. If you have children, pets, or a life of any kind, you won't always be able to keep things perfectly clutter free or spic and span. But, clean and orderly surroundings are not only lovely, they are more comfortable. Clutter and dirt can make people feel out of sorts without their even realizing why.

8) Have some pretty afghans or coverlets in spots where you read, gather to talk, or watch TV. More women than men find these essential to the comfort and beauty of a home. But, if you're like me, when you are relaxing, you will find it soothing to snuggle under a light cover. And, these can provide inexpensive and quickly changed decorating accents, as well.

9) Try not to use loud appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers when you are trying to spend time with family members and friends. This noise can be distracting, and, for some people, nerve-wracking. Especially avoid running these applicances during meals. Of course, noise control means planning ahead. If I wait too late in the day to start a load of clothing, I get caught with the washer or dryer running as we eat dinner.

I often use the delay button on my dishwasher. That way, I can put the dishes in right after dinner, but I can delay the time the machine starts for up to four hours. That's more than enough time to watch a movie or play a game without the noise interfering with what we're doing.

Being mindful of using noisy applicances at certain times is especially important in houses like ours, which have open floor plans. We can close off the sounds of the laundry room to some extent, but the noise of the dishwasher carries loudly into our living room.

10) If you move a lot, put together a color scheme that you can take with you from home to home. The late President Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, moved many times during his career. The first house they ever owned was purchased when he left the White House. Mamie developed a color scheme (hers was green and pink), which she was able to use everytime they changed quarters. She carried a swatch board with her to help her set up each new household.
(A side note: Mamie believed that every room should have one touch of yellow -- yellow flowers in a vase, for example -- because yellow is cheering and reminds peole of the sun. You could acccomplish the same with a bowl of pretty lemons)

Have fun!


plainandsimple said...

Hi Elizabeth

I love this post and I agree with you whole heartedly on what makes a home lovely!

PS. Re: Husbands and girly decoration. We spent a lot of money on the fabric for our living room curtains - the DH stipulated plain but everything else was down to me. I chose a lovely cream jacquard which he approved of, but made them very fancy (swags and tails) he walked in on the evening they were up and his face fell - "is this what you call plain?" Oh dear I shan't make that mistake again - he's got used to them now though!!!

Grace said...

Thank you for the post. All of your ideas and suggestions are just lovely :-)

I especially enjoyed learning about Mrs. Eisenhower's way of decorating her home. We are a military family and move around quite frequently, so I really appreciate learning of this idea.

bauhaus_sea said...

Hi Elizabeth, I actually like hearing the dishwasher, dryer, washing machines in other's homes....strange I suppose, but they make me of someone taking care of things in that house....