By Marni Jameson
As I wind up the year with my traditional consolidated replay of column highlights, I have selected what I think are the best lessons from the 2016 line up – one for each month. Last week I shared advice from the first half of the year. Here are post half-time tips.
IN JULY, my happy yellow house got a lighting makeover, enlightening me. I threw spotlights on artwork, adding drama. I put dimmers on almost every switch in the house, controlling mood (wish I could add them to people), and I converted every light into an LED, ceremoniously ushering out the CFLs, fluorescents and incandescent lights. The move toward LED marks a tidal shift in the lighting industry, experts told me. LEDs offer better light quality, efficiency, and lifespan. And now they are cost competitive, too.
The Lesson. When decorating, don’t underestimate the power of light. Add it layers: accent (art spots), task (reading) and ambient (overall).
IN AUGUST, I flew to Houston to help my daughter decorate her first post-college place. When kids leave college, their décor level graduates, too – one hopes. They shed dorm décor – futons, milk crates, posters taped to the wall, and fraternity emblazoned glassware – and shoot for something more adult. The problem, most young adults, like my daughter, still have a milk-crate budget.
When I arrived to Paige’s duplex, I looked around, and felt a dizzying clash of emotions: pride (she’d done a great job), and hurt (she didn’t need me). Sniff!
“The place looks terrific!” I said, hoping I didn’t sound as shocked as I was. Then I grilled her for these frugal-furnishing tips: See what you can rustle up from friends and family for free. Check your local university for sites where moving students post furnishings they are giving away. Shop Craigslist and Goodwill for steals. (She got a solid wood coffee table and side table at Goodwill for $15 total). Add some sweat equity. She and her boyfriend refreshed old items by sanding and paint tired furniture, and recovering seats on a well-worn, hand-me-down dinette set with inexpensive cotton.
The Lesson. You can decorate an entire place without ever going to a retail store. That’s my girl.
IN SEPTEMBER, I learned something about taste. See, to home designers, taste means one thing. To chefs, the word means something else. But when I talked to Celebrity Chef Art Smith about his newest restaurant, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen & Southern Shine, in Lake Buena Vista’s Disney Springs, the two meanings of taste collided. Or rather they fused like butter and flour in a good béchamel sauce.
“I wanted to taste Florida in the design,” Smith told me after I’d visited the place-inspired restaurant.
He wanted to capture Florida – the meandering rivers and lakes, shacks on waterways, Spanish moss dripping from trees, barnlike buildings, fish camps, and deep porches — so you could taste it. Food and place are entwined, he taught me. Think of eating cookies out of the oven, dining on fresh oysters by the sea, sipping a dry martini while overlooking downtown Chicago from a high rise. Place infuses taste.
The Lesson: When designing eating areas, including home kitchens, the surroundings are as important as the food. Everything from flavors to flatware needs to cohere.
IN OCTOBER –I explored the pros and cons of getting a second home. I surveyed friends with second homes, readers, real estate pros and financial experts, to get to the bottom line. Should you or shouldn’t you.
Yes, convenience (all your stuff there), decorating your way, and chance for making lasting family memories are undeniably positive, but the emotions behind getting a second home can quickly trump a good financial decision, said financial experts, who’ve witnessed the regret. That cherished getaway dream often becomes a stressful money pit reality, and good times get eclipsed by nuisances: unplanned repairs, vandals, egregious home association assessments, unwelcome squatters (from critters to family members), and “friends” who wear out their welcomes.
The Lesson: A second home is a luxury. If you can afford one, and see the home as more memory maker than money maker, then go for it. Otherwise, you’ll be better off renting that getaway.
IN NOVEMBER, I solved my identity crisis. After a lifetime of going by my middle name, which really messes up your monogram, I legally shook my first name and added my new married name. Then the freshly minted me began tattooing everything – with monograms: towels, table linens, bedding, stationery. So, when I came across “Monograms for the Home” (Gibbs Smith Publishing), by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, I studied up.
The Lesson: A monogram reflects one person. A mark that reflects a married couple is called a duogram. If the monogram features a large central initial, the last-name initial goes in the middle, so MCJ. If letters are all the same size, letters go order, MJC. In a duogram, the surname initial goes in the center, so MCD.
IN DECEMBER, I joined the half of the world population who has read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Ten Speed Press). Marie Kondo’s quirky little manual has sold six million copies in 40 languages. I wanted to see firsthand what that was about. While my mantra on saving or tossing stuff boils down to need, use, love, hers is even simpler: Does it spark joy? I applied her KonMari Method to my closet to see how the advice worked.
The Lesson: Kondo’s book taps the often-ignored power of our intuition. I needed that reminder. I think we all know what needs to go if we listen.
Thank you for going along with me on this unpredictable journey, which continues to prove that home life is home design. Here’s to living well in 2017!
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the newly released Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at marnijameson.com.