Well adjusted people may live happier lives but they are not on the cutting edge of progress or creativity. It takes a fine madness to compose a symphony or color coordinate a bathroom.
Personally speaking, I like a certain amount of beauty and harmony around me, although my taste does not run to matched sets of anything. And, I am an admirer of Martha Stewart, an admission I made to my sister some time ago. Unfortunately, she responded in a predictable way. Frankly, when there are so many horrible people in the world, I fail to see the attraction of bashing Martha Stewart. After all, like a latter day William Morris, she’s just distributing beauty in the same way that Johnny Appleseed flung around Cortlands, and I don’t think anyone hanged him in effigy.
Still, to make her point, my sister sent me a letter from “Martha Stewart” which she had down-loaded from the internet: “This perfectly delightful note is being sent on paper I made myself……Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand-painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom, and made a blanket in peaches and mauves. Then…I made a white horse to pull it, from DNA I just had sitting around in my craft room. By then it was time to start making the placemats and napkins. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t have time to make the table and chairs this morning, so I used the ones I had on hand.”
Speaking of tables and chairs, one of my favorite places used to be my daughter’s babysitter’s home. The house was decorated in early chaos, the direct result of having a dozen little children spreading Legos under all the furniture on an hourly basis. Smack in the middle of the living room sat a child-size table with teeny baby bear size chairs, one usually holding a squashed peanut butter sandwich. Stray puzzle pieces fell between the sofa cushions and dress up clothing hung from the lamp. It was the happiest, friendliest place I have ever been and I think the children thought so too. This is home decorating at its best.
But back to Martha: “While the homemade bread was rising I took antique candle molds and made the dishes to use for breakfast. These were made from Hungarian clay, which you can get in almost any Hungarian clay store.”
As much as I loved the babysitter’s house, my own take on decorating is that less is more. Ideally, I would like to have a godown. A godown is what the storehouse of a traditional Japanese home is called. Japanese homes were not decorated with all the vases, pictures and things the owner possessed. Only a few were used and the rest were put away, and changes were made from time to time.
At the moment the only things take down and put away are the window screens.
And Martha continues: “Well, I must run. I need to finish the button holes on the dress I’m wearing for breakfast. I’ll get out the sled and drive this note to the post office as soon as the glue dries on the envelope I’ll be making. Hope my breakfast guests don’t stay too long—I have 40,000 cranberries to string with bay leaves before my speaking engagement at noon.”
Well. While Martha may be very versatile, I think I’ve come up with one of the most useful home decorating principles of our time. This one is a relative of Jean Kerr’s idea.
(Jean Kerr was the mother of four boys, two of them twins, and she wrote—I don’t know how she found the time—Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.) Jean said that if someone could come up with a rug the color of spilled soda, mashed peas and crumbled hamburger, he would make a fortune. Well, this is my idea and I hope the money starts rolling in: always color coordinate your animals, your furniture and your clothing.
Unfortunately it’s too late for us: We have a snow white dog, a black cat, blue winter jackets and a brown couch and carpet. We are always, not to put too fine a point on it, a mess. But a solution is at hand; obviously our next animals are going to be navy blue.