Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Taste (or Lack Thereof)

I have a friend who likes to frequent a local flea market to see what she can discover. Her latest find was a $59 very comfortable chair that was quite excellent except for the two steps away from heinous fabric covering said piece. I haven't actually laid eyes on it, but I know her well enough to know that the only thing standing between her and bringing it home is the future upholstery bill. Lucky for me, and for others I know, I don't have that problem. I just bring it home anyway...ultimo tacky upholstery doesn't even remotely frighten the Hotel California of home furnishings.

Our home is an eclectic mix of antiques, hand-me downs, and furniture that we actually went out and chose during some point in time before private school tuition and college bills laid waste to any semblance of discretionary income. While I know some people who are meticulous about decorating their homes and do not allow anything through the door that they do not absolutely, positively love, I am apparently living in an alternate universe. If I did that, I'd be sleeping on the floor and sitting on patio furniture.

I'm not alone in this, actually. I go to other people's homes and if I know them well enough, I'll hear something like, "Do NOT look at my curtains too hard or they might disintegrate under the weight of your stare." or "Let me show you what my mother-in-law blessed us with last Christmas...I swear...that woman truly hates me." I smile to myself, because until fairly recently...I thought it was just me.

As I mentioned, our home is the Hotel California of home furnishings. It can come freely in the door, but it will never leave. Like ever. Anything given to us may be recovered, assigned to a job other than its original intent, or painted....but it is ours...for better or worse. Primarily worse.

Case in point: somewhere in our early marriage, we accepted a beautiful intricately carved Victorian-ish sofa with horsehair stuffing that lives in our living room. It belonged to David's grandparents where it was rescued from obliteration at the curb of a Palm Beach mansion. Basically, that's a fancy way of saying that they picked it up on the side of the road. I assume that this rescue took place sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. Needless to say, seventy years from its brush with obscurity, "The Albatross" is in our living room reminding me every day that it needs recovering and just daring anyone to sit on it and even think about being remotely comfortable because that, my friends, is simply not happening. But getting rid of furniture that you've named isn't happening either. Not in this generation.

I have also inherited a lot of beautiful furniture, truth be told. Some of it was rescued from a storage building that had been paid on for close to forty years and from the garage. These antique pieces were used by grandparents and great-grandparents and who knows how many generations before them. I just know that we are enjoying them now. Oh, they aren't worth a lot, but they are beautiful and flawed in a good way and well...old. Sometimes, I just run my hand across them (I call this dusting) and I am glad to know that they lived in the same space as the people who made it possible for me to draw breath today.

Some families pass down silver, linens, and property. I used to be jealous of this, but realized that this is not exactly my destiny. My blessing (or curse) is to be the manager of those items that have passed through the family...the good, the bad, and the ugly. I just wish sometimes that there was far less ugly.

I mean, who can resist an everyday china pattern nicknamed "Dead Cherries" because that's what it unfortunately brings to mind when viewed? And an even bigger question...which one of us is going to draw the short straw on welcoming that particular abomnination into our china rotation?

Or a collection of thermal cups that hold about 8 fluid ounces. I have a set of sixteen. I'm sure you're jealous.

There are a few things that I would like to change if given the a relative's penchant for French provential furniture and using color combinations like bright orange, chocolate brown and pale yellow in the same afghan. I'd love to display it, but it matches nothing I own. Frankly, it matches nothing that anyone that I know owns either.

I'd also like to rethink my china patterns from 1985 when I was apparently young and completely lacking in any discernment of what I might like to eat off of twenty-five years down the road (because it certainly isn't what I chose). What was up with the flowers? Or there are more, but I'm keeping those to myself...for the time being at least.

But all-in-all, it could have been worse. I had a friend who decorated her entire house in "country blue" and geese circa 1983. Another one painted stripes in every conceivable room because she was excited about her newfound ability to do "faux painting". Or the friends who collected pigs, Precious Moments figurines, roosters, and Coca-Cola memorabilia. I never did any of that. I limited my obsessions to photography and scrapbooking. And Beanie Babies. But enough about me.

Thankfully, I never bought into the whole "Home Interiors" concept, and remained either too clueless or to broke to actually decorate much of anything. Because - no offense intended to those matrons of all things Home Interiors - for me, that could have ended badly. I would have probably chosen something that looked like early single-wide with a touch of married your cousin...and it would still be hanging on my wall. At least judging by my spectacularly bad taste with some of the home furnishings that I actually purchased of my own accord and haven't yard-saled yet. Thankfully, most of these are only dragged out during Christmas. Let's just say that they involve cutesy bears in cowboy boots and leave that one alone.

Oh, and for the record, I am not bashing mobile homes. The ones today are amazing, quite frankly. But if you think back...really'll remember the decor that was pretty much standard fare in the early models. Yeah, I've tried to drown out those images, too. And if you married your cousin and are reading this, well, I am going to try to drown that out too.

Each of us knows that our home represents something sacred and special and unique. Some of us try to channel Pottery Barn, and others of us seem to have a whimsical knack reminiscent of Southern Living magazine. My home, however, is simply a collection of items that reflect the people who originally chose them. People whose hands I've held and who taught me well. People who may never have laid eyes on me, but who I remain aware of because my grandmother saw to it that I was. People who made do with what they had and tried to create something beautiful despite some serious limitations with regard to personal taste. Apparently (and sadly) this is an inherited trait.

As I glance around the room, I see two oil lamps from David's grandparents, my grandmother's mahogany dining room set, and four bronze stars that I purchased for $7.99 each from Michael's (before the coupons). There are plates on the wall that were my grandmother's, a visual record of our travels to Europe in 2006 on another, and the wedding picture of my in-laws on yet another. The rocking chair from my grandmother's family room is here along with the big leather sectional sofa that Big Dave and I purchased because - quite frankly - nothing else would fit in the space and make sense. And what are tax refunds for anyway?

And this is home. And it is fine. It really is.

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