Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Letting a house be what it wants to be

The striped rug that I ordered (actually Jaipur, but found on Overstock for about 1/3 of the price) arrived last week.  With in-laws in town, the girls home from school, a dance recital, and father's day festivities, it just sat, wrapped in plastic, a little mystery of will-it-or-won't it, until yesterday.

I did what one does.  Moved all the furniture by myself, got the rug in place, looked at it from every angle, took some pictures.  I did my favorite trick of walking to the other side of the room and then turning around to "catch a glance" at it.  You know, for the good old gut reaction.  You do that, right?

My husband came home while I was out supervising some city block bike riding, then it was bath and bed.  When I was finally done with it all, he came in to the office and said he had three questions.  The first two were about the lemonade stand he is building with the girls (out of all the scrap wood left over form various headboard projects!)  The third?

What's that rug?

I'll skip the part where I explain about the musical rugs through the house and having an eye out for the perfect thing for the living room and how I forgot to tell him I bought a 9x12 rug.  (See?  Totally doesn't read the blog.)

I'll skip right to the part where he asked me if I liked it and I said, "well, I think that rug is kind of how the house wants to be."  And then he asked me if that's what the house told me when I asked it.

A real jokester, this one.

Anyway.  Do you see why I'm bad at twitter?  So many words just to start to tell you about letting a house be what it wants to be.

Here's how I broke it down for my husband:

People have a look or style that they are drawn to.
And a house can be bossy about what belongs in it.  You know?  I mean, it has it's own inherent style, too.

The style of the house influences you, I think.  Or it will if you let it.

This is a challenge when you don't have the budget to scrap everything and start over when you move.  And while I do believe that you should buy what you love--and that the things you love will mostly go together--I also know that what worked in your last house might not work now.

When I moved to New York after college, I lived in a tiny fourth floor walk-up with basically no architecture of any kind.  I was in a barkcloth phase and decorated with a mix of my parents cast-offs and flea market finds, and my roommate's orange fur beanbag chair from a store in the East Village and a sheepskin rug we bought with his mom at a suburban New Jersey Costco.

When I moved from that Hell's Kitchen 1-bedroom to a gorgeous pre-war co-op apartment in Park Slope Brooklyn, with real parquet floors and picture moldings in every room, the rug went in my bedroom and I re-purposed my one-window curtain panel and a bed throw, like this.  But the apartment wanted something a bit more dressed up, and piece by piece, over 5 years, I invested in some good stuff, like the rug that's now in the dining room.

I love that rug.

But I'm not sure this house wants it.

When it comes down to it, this house has California dreams.  White walls, light-wood modern trim, open plan, oversize windows.  And most of the purchases we've made since moving in play to that.  Vintage eames chairs, mid-century tall boy, campaign chest, rattan swing chair, brass garden seat: all could fit right in out west.  And all things we love.  It's about WHICH of the thing you love that you choose to fit a space.

This new blue and sand striped dhurrie?  Fits that California vision.  Makes me think of this.

Ione Skye's house, design David Netto, in Domino

(You can see Ione Skye's whole-house tour here on Meg Biram's old blog.  And you can see it in the context of designer David Netto's oeuvre here on Habitually Chic.)

But the rug is fighting with my old favorite dining room rug.  So.  Do I put it in storage and let the house be what it wants?  Or do I find a different rug for the living room that bridges the two styles?

Do you let your house boss you around?  Or do you wrestle it in to submission?

Just curious.


  1. I think it's a give and take. I moved from a 4500 sf restored Victorian to a 1972 French Provincial ranch. Polar opposites. Of course I consider the architecture (or lack thereof) and also my own style. At least in our own homes we have the luxury of slow experimentation.

  2. If your house has a really strong personality, you let it boss you around. It will never work to decorate country french in a 70's ranchburger, if you know what I mean.


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