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Personalising a Home

Anthropologie Austin Texas

I remember so clearly the first time my family went to get store bought furniture. It was a huge, huge deal for us and it was only one huge teak table that was cut down to be a large coffee table. This piece of furniture came with us from house to house, always elicited ooh’s and ahh’s and, till this day, is brought up in almost every family conversation.

Practically everything else was a second hand find from an antique shoppe, a friend, an old abandoned home or made. Everything, however, always went well together, was always well made and lasted us for years and years. It was bought or made with affection and purpose which is why, I think, things lasted.

On my own, I continued this tradition of making things or refurbishing. When I moved to the Canadian Rockies I found a very large oak table near a dumpster, took it home, borrowed tools from the local High School wood shop, stripped the table down and completely re-did it. That free find earned me over $1000.00 months later when I moved to New Zealand and obviously could not take it with me (I would have loved to seen that on carry on!).

When I came to America in 1999 I stopped making things for a variety of reasons; it was often cheaper to buy, I wasn’t settled and moved a lot so owning wasn’t a priority, a lot of things in second hand shops were junk, craft stores were in and specialty art shops were out and I didn’t know where to go or what to do. So I just became lazy and did nothing. This is when my minimalist attitude really came forward and I stopped owning things altogether. However, in last year I have slowly begun to buy things for my home (furniture and cookware) but they are all store bought – mostly from Pottery Barn (I do like me some pretty basics). With the exception of my sofa which I had custom made, there is nothing truly personal about my home; no keeps sakes about, no made furniture or found gems. There’s a few art pieces I’ve made lying about but nothing to distinguish my home from the one next door. Although I’ve managed to make a pretty home, I haven’t done a very good job at making a personal one.

Wanting to incorporate antiques, thrift finds and some home made things into my own home has left me both excited and nervous; I’m still a minimalist, still love well made things and still am afraid of both craft shoppes and garage sales. In America now, there’s a huge “craft” mentality that I confess I don’t always appreciate or understand. I’m not a glue gun kind of girl; I’m put off by shows, books or sites that suggest making something cheaply just to have it. I’m old school where I believe in making things well or not at all. I don’t want to half ass my home.

Awhile ago I saw a home decor show that used really cheap fabrics and glue guns to make a room and it really bothered me. It didn’t look good, I’m sure it didn’t feel good and I’m sure it wasn’t going to last (either because it’d fall apart or the people would be sick of it in six weeks). I didn’t understand the purpose of this; why waste money when you could save it for something you loved? Or not be so proud of doing something in two days but perhaps taking four to really make it worth while?

There’s such an emphasis in the US to make things cheaply and also, just to have things. I think this has contributed to the fact that I’ve really hesitated with nesting as it were. I don’t want a decorated home; I want a personal home. But also, I don’t want to do garage sales, huge craft supply shoppes or spending every free moment on Ebay looking for finds. I want to mix something made with something store bought and something thrifted or antiqued. But I didn’t know where to start; reading books often left me even more confused because they’d be all minimalist or all crafty and I’m neither. What was a girl to do who wants some personalisation, some home made, some Ikea or Pottery Barn and some French Antique?

She’s to stop reading books and start focusing on what she wants and then find a way to get it! And assume that it’ll get easier and easier after the first attempt. Thinking this I am reminded of a girl I met when I was 21; fabulously wealthy and always dressed in amazing skirts, I had to know which boutiques she went to. When I asked where she got her lovely skirts she said, “darling, I make them all!” I asked her how she could make so many skirts with so many designs and she replied, “darling, I started with an idea. Then I picked up material. I got a pattern and made one. With one came many more. So start, start!”

So this week, I start my journey into the world of thrift, of vintage shoppes, of looking at things differently, of looking into making things myself and being inspired everywhere. Armed with my notebook of ideas (a list of rooms, what’s in them with measurements, colour swatches), a wishlist of things, an open mind, I, too, start. No longer afraid to own loved things or to take the time to sit and make a curtains if I find fabric I love but not on premade curtains. Not afraid to purchase, perhaps, that French chair that’s been calling to me or going to the lumber yard to make a set of custom shelves that I know I want and can’t find anywhere else.

I confess I’m not going it alone; I’ve actually found some really beautiful and amazing books and web sites that combine my love of clean/useful/minimalist styles with the French/Shabby Chic/Cosy styles. They are:

Creole Thrift (LOVE this), Flea Market Style (has lots of Anthropologie homes!) and French Country Living and so sites many here.

At the store I see girls sewing up things such as a simple tree made out of plain white linen and placing them next to $400 bags. An old beat up coffee table looks stunning next to the brand new $5500 couch. Being around this and reading the book, my interest – and hope – is peaked. I’ve bought the basics for my house (sofa, table with benches, simple wooden bed, desk and chaise) and now with some tools, creativity, and a few good stores I can be on my way to making it my home.