When I married the Professor we decided, for sanity’s sake, to keep our respective homes in Austin and Mobile and move into each other’s existing houses instead of muddling through the headache of selling and buying anything new. Cohabitating in two states is tricky enough. Plus we love both houses and both neighborhoods so it seemed silly to upheave unnecessarily. Nearly two years later we are still navigating the process of revamping and reglamping to put our “couple stamp” on each house. Upon saying our vows I, of course, assumed that I would have free reign over all interiors and he would handle exteriors. (I’m not much of a landscaper, to say the least.) Underestimating the Professor’s passion about his likes and dislikes (and what he doesn’t want to pay to change), we definitely hit a few roadblocks in the early days. But with a deep well of new marital patience and a can-do spirit we chugged along and have found a negotiating process and a look that we both seem to love. Our first success was the kitchen remodel. And now we also have a bright, fresh new living room in Alabama. Goodbye bachelor pad.
Keep in mind I am not a professional decorator, I didn’t hire a professional decorator, and time and resources are scarce. Given these boundaries, we are really excited that our perseverance and creativity paid off. Some things I love about the new living room:
[If you're short on time just scroll down and read #12. It's the funniest and frankly I would like credit for surviving it with a modicum of grace.]
1. We started with the Ikat chairs. These massive wingbacks were covered in burgundy, navy and hunter green stripes…so to me, they were the low hanging fruit, the quick win, if you will. The Professor loved the new ikat and so the blue and yellow basically drove the rest of the palette.
2. I love the mix of old and new. We kept his antique armoire, dresser (not pictured) and secretary (lower left corner) which are all beautiful antiques and suit the age of the house. (It’s an old house, I can’t remember how old.)
3. The pair of blackbucks on the left wall (you can only see one here.) No, I did not buy these off ebay, or from a home decor shop. I shot them myself on a hunting trip with my dad at the YO Ranch in the Texas Hill Country when I was in high school. Legit. You see, I used to hunt as a kid before I got into flyfishing as a 20-something. All of which seems like a lifetime ago, but I digress.
4. The drapes…proving I that I do have a little preppy in me. They are a yummy yellow and cream stripe pattern. But a thick horizontal stripe which is a modern twist, no? The silk fabric was originally $64/yd but it was discontinued so I stole it for $14. Cha-ching! I chose white wood rods because there was just too much brown in the room with all the antiques and hardwood floors.
5. The Fritz Scholder over the couch (on the left.) I am blessed that my parents are infinitely more interesting that I am and spent a good chunk of time following the art scene in Santa Fe. This Scholder original is a prized hand-me down from them. I like the contrast of the gloomy drama in the painting next to the sunshiny preppy drapes. If you know anything about me at this point you should know that nothing pleases me more than a juicy juxtaposition.
6. The needlepoint pillows on the sofa (you can only see one.) My mother needle pointed these just for me so don’t waste your time scouring the Internet trying to copycat and buy them for yourself. Sorry! She used to be a needle pointing fool in the 70s…trash can covers, pillows, jean jackets, Christmas stockings, you name it. But then, without warning or explanation, she went on hiatus for decades. When Jonathan Adler brought the trend back I was lamenting the price of his pillows and KABOOM!– the woman went back into operation full tilt. I now have four of her masterpiece pillows: two in Austin, two in Mobile.
7. The painting over the fireplace. Another hand-me-down from my parents. Well, specifically my dad. He was moving his office a few months ago and invited us to come choose some art. The Professor picked this dramatic oil western which is a little old-world masculine for my taste, but the colors are bright and I do love the West and this is a compromise, after all. I actually love it now that we found its home over the mantle. Sometime art just needs the right place to come to life.
8. The paint. The Professor bought this house in 1991 when the world and decorators were still gaga for anything that smacked of Ralph Lauren circa 1987. So the paint color throughout most of the house was sort of a desert storm khaki flavor. We brightened things up with the classic Benjamin Moore ‘Mayonnaise’. At first I couldn’t tell him the color name because my husband has a weird aversion to the condiment. But once he choked down the name, he loved the color. In the spirit of being healthier, we’ll just call it Veganaise. The ceilings are a faint, subtle blue which gives everything a little depth and avoids the hospital white factor.
9. The lucite lamp. I have been coveting this 60s original lucite lamp in my mother’s living room for eons. It used to be my grandmother’s. Let’s face it, my budget is a little more acrylic than lucite. Well, I think my mother was all swept up in the excitement of our nuptials and my fairytale romance because for some reason when she drove down to Mobile for our wedding, she brought the lamp and gave it to us. My father loves this lamp and jokingly protested when he realized it was leaving his house, but I assured him he can just come visit the lamp (and us) as often as he likes.
10. Not pictured stage right but also beloved are some butterflies in lucite and a Eugenia Foster oil painting that best girlfriends gave us as a wedding present. It’s a painting of the Montana ranch where we had our first girls trip together. Ah! I love you for sentimental reasons…
11. The mod chairs on either side of the fireplace. Again, we claimed these during my dad’s office move and I could kick myself for not getting some before pictures of these babies. They were natural wood with a strange gray fabric that looked sort of like a suede but not exactly? Very officey. So I painted them white and found this mod fabric that I thought the Professor would hate, but he loved, and they added just the perfect finishing touch to the right side of the room.
12. The white sofa. This is the very sofa where the Professor proposed so nostalgia dictated that we keep it. But it was the Professor who felt we need to recover the desert storm khaki with a fresh white. Hallelujah, music to my modern eyes and ears. I searched for months for an affordable white fabric to no avail. Finally, I tried a local, oooolld fabric store in Mobile. I am not a snot but this place was more than a wee bit dingy. Women in old housecoats, cats roaming around, boxes of kitty litter and bowls of cat food. And I’m a dog person. But I dug deep and dug through the bolts and actually found the perfect white! No small feat am I right, ladies? I’ll spare you the whole saga but they didn’t have enough. Deflated but not defeated, a week or so later we went back and just decided to get our second choice. We were about to pay and load it up when they noticed the fabric was stained. Stained….with….cat urine. (Yes, the cats lounge atop the bolts. Gross.) I thought I was going to cry. Or scream. The Professor displayed the ultimate act of optimism and recruited the whole store to find enough bolts of the original first choice fabric. He truly was the Little Engine that Could Save His Wife From a Nervous Breakdown in The Fabric Store. In what can only be described as a miracle we found some hidden bolts, free of cat urine, and had enough to recover the sofa. My dear friend Jerry The Upholsterer (who for the record was the very first human being on the planet to buy a copy of my book the day it came out last year) was mighty stressed about the super white sofa but we assured him we would live with it no matter what happened. I’m sure I will be cursing the first drop of red wine, but for now we are beaming at the crisp white look of it.
So that’s it, I told you I wasn’t a professional. I don’t even know what my ‘look’ is, if you could even call it a look. It’s more a hodgepodge of things we like. I saw a quote recently from a designer who said something to the effect of, “I hate when you walk into a room and it looks like everything came from the same store.” Yeah! What she said! That’s exactly how I feel. So on we go trying to make these two houses into our family homes. It’s a work in progress, an exercise in compromise and a labor of love that requires lots of patience and lots of laughs.
Laughs you ask? To redecorate? Yes, laughs. Two words: cat urine.
(Copyright 2012 by Christine Warren)
Prefer fishing posts to all this girl talk? Sit tight. No need to unsubscribe, you know I always come back around to fishing. Until then, how about a trip down memory lane with this Montana trout fishing post: Brown Is The New Black