A few months ago, I shared the exciting news that my house would be included in this year’s Grove City Historic Tour, sponsored by the Friends of the Library. The 2012 Historic Tour will include several private residences, the newly renovated Tower Presbyterian Church, the Grove City Area Historical Society, and the lovely Terra Nova House Bed and Breakfast.
The tour will take place on Sunday, September 23, 2012 from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M., so mark your calendars!
In advance of the tour, I was asked to provide a write-up about my house for the tour booklet. It’s due on June 1—eek! The Tour Chairperson provided me with some samples of write-ups from previous years, which provided detailed descriptions of the various features of the houses on the tour. I began with these as my models, but somehow mine drifted into more philosophical territory! Here it is, I would love your feedback:
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.
—Samuel Johnson, The Rambler
This photo was taken just before I moved into the house—I remember seeing that front door as an entrance into a new era, full of exciting challenges. But while I was opening a door to a new life, I was also returning to family and to the familiar—purchasing this house meant moving back east after spending four years living on the West Coast, far away from those who mean the most to me. So while it was a new adventure, it was also, in many ways, a homecoming.
I believe our homes should offer us the prospect of homecoming every day. Our homes should be our shelter from the world, our space apart from the toils and troubles of life—a soft place to land, both literally and figuratively.
My goal is to create a home that is beautiful, but also comfortable—these are the values that are most important to me, and I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive values. I don’t want my home to feel “done” or “decorated,” nor do I want anything so precious that I become enslaved to preserving it and trying to keep it pristine. I remember a remark my mother once made after a particularly festive dinner party that everyone, including the hostess, thoroughly enjoyed. She was fearlessly loading the dishwasher with delicate bone china, and when I questioned what she was doing, she said, “Remember that these are just things. We should use them and enjoy them, but they should serve us—we shouldn’t serve them.”
I want a home where using beautiful things every day (without being afraid to use them!) is part of the natural order. I want a home where everyone—family and friends, adults and children, and, of course, my dog—can feel at home, and even more than that, feel free to be who they are.
My approach to designing my home has been to mix the traditional and the modern, the old with the new. I have found this approach, at least in my experience, to be the most pragmatic and personal. I like how more traditional and formal pieces (like my grandfather’s oil paintings or my grandmother’s dining table) can coexist, to beautiful effect, with a glossy white parsons table, for example, or an abstract print. I love gloss andpatina—to my eye, mixing contrasting elements helps create both a pleasing balance and tension in interior spaces. I find these types of juxtapositions more rich and interesting. Without this mix, you risk looking either stuffy and dated on the one side, or too cold and clinical on the other (when I see über modern interiors in magazines, I ask myself, Does anyone actually live here?).
I think our homes should have a sense of history, but should also nurture our aspirations and hopes for the future—they should tell of the places we’ve been and the places we’d like to go. Recently, I stumbled across a quote by popular interior designer Nate Berkus that really resonated with me:
Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.
While I feel as though I’m still writing the story of who I am, I am slowly, patiently bringing together what I love under my roof. It’s a gradual process, but that’s okay: I think a house should evolve just like a person evolves. And I am enjoying the process so far: I get great satisfaction at seeing how I am beginning to impose my personal stamp on the house (it now feels much more “me” than it did at move-in four years ago). As I make improvements, the house becomes more and more a reflection of the things I love, the things that buoy my spirit. I look forward to the challenges still ahead, and to discovering how my house and I will grow up together. But the truth is that I have grown so much already. By living here, I feel as if I’ve expanded my reach—having a home has given me the great gift of being able to invite the people I love into my life. When they set foot across my threshold, my hope is they will never want to leave.