“Slightly Ransacked” might be the best way to describe the look of our house.
Some people call it “charming” or “eclectic,” but I know they’re only being kind.
Clearly, I am quite unqualified to offer serious home décor tips. With that in mind, please consider the following post to be, not so much a design philosophy, but more a coping mechanism.
The thing is, I do aspire to neat and stylish home. Just … not quite enough to do very much about it.
Take this morning, for instance. The plan was: take the dog for a brisk walk and then come back and spend an hour cleaning out my chaotic closet.
But, but, but … there were two ravens in the neighbourhood. Naturally, Geordie and I had to follow them (and their trailing posse of angry crows) up hill and down dale, thus squandering my closet-cleaning time slot.
I’m sure that not all nature lovers are as domestically disinterested as me, but just in case you do face some of the same challenges, here are few things I find work for me.
This is key. When people come over (or even when you first come home yourself) you don’t want to immediately notice the clutter. So, what you need is something rather big and spectacular to create a diversion. We have some of my enormous fern prints in the kitchen and I like to think they draw the eye to their lovely forms, rather than the sink full of dishes directly under them.
This is how the kitchen looked in its pristine state, just after the renovations were completed, about 12 years ago.
How it looks today. So much messier — but at least you can chose to focus on the ferns instead of the mess.
Crows and ravens are, of course, great attention grabbers.
The bigger the better. I have them all over my house, in every form and size. (There is only the smallest chance that this advice may be biased.)
Prince Charming crow with a sort of Eames inspired crow I bought years ago at a now-closed Vancouver shop called Nood.
One of several Hermann Edler folk art crow figures I have dotted around the house.
The judgmental expressions of Marvin and Mavis here could be interpreted as criticism of the housekeeping, but we’ll just keep that thought to ourselves …
Elevate the Clutter
You can almost make clutter seem desirable if you assemble some of it into “collections.” It implies that it’s all carefully curated, rather than a random accumulation. Old printer’s trays are great for this, with their inviting grid of little boxes, all needing to be filled. We won’t talk about the dusting, except to say that once a year is more than enough.
This printer’s tray in my studio contains many treasures.
My favourite item here is a chestnut taken from the ground below a tree that grows over Mozart’s grave in Vienna. My friend, the amazing author Lyanda Lynn Haupt (who wrote Mozart’s Starling, Crow Planet and The Urban Bestiary, sent me this precious seed. We surmise that it may contain a molecule or two of Mozart’s creativity. It came with a lovely note (on the wall below the shelf) about the story behind it and came packaged in the beautiful lavender silk box at top of the shelf.
As you probably know already, I love things with a story!
Another printer’s tray in the living room, full of yet more miscellaneous treasures, displayed with a doll by Hornby Island artist, Veronica Lynn; a smaller doll by a Kyrgyzstan craftswoman; and a bird puppet by another Hornby artist, Susan Cain. Behind the herd of inherited ebony elephants are some very beautiful raku vessels by Canadian ceramicist Mas Funo. I must find a better display spot for them as they’re gorgeous and a bit lost, what with all the elephants …
Over the years I’ve collected snow globes, old tea cups, mad-eyed ceramic terriers, and plastic flowers, to name but a few. Vestiges of these collections linger in corners of the house, overlaid with a thick layer of anything crow or bird related.
Kitchen window at dusk. Lots of birds in there (including more Hermann Edler crows). I also detect the seeds of a possible ornamental cat collection …
Vintage Japanese birds with hare porcelain churn by Vancouver ceramicist, Russell Hackney.
If you just go all-out eclectic and quirky with your home décor, it’s very freeing. There is no theme or colour scheme you need to adhere to. If you find a piece of art or a vintage treasure you love, you don’t worry for a minute whether it will fit in with the rest of the décor. At our place, we already have so much of a smozzle that one more odd item really makes no difference at all.
Top Shelf: Vintage Woodwards truck (a gift from an elderly neighbour); a remnant of the mad-eyed terrier collection; drawing by my son; vintage robot box; miniature landscape by Lois Ditchburn (Phillip’s aunt). Bottom shelf: mechanical toy; vintage silver teapots; tug boat by Vancouver artist, Mark Wilkinson; Jimi Hendrix action figures; William Shakespeare bobble head; chicken portraits by Elaine Savoie and one by me; family photos.
I have a large collection of little vases, from thimble to urn-sized, so that there’s always something to display a cutting from the garden in.
I find you can study a plant for much longer when it’s right by the sink when you’re doing the dishes. Also, it cheers up the dishwashing time.
Fern tiles over the bathroom sink, so you can think about nature while you brush your teeth …
Even though the house is usually a bit of a tip, I’m always happy to return to it.
Messy as it is, there’s no place like home. We’ve lived here for over 27 years and the whole place, clutter and all, is filled with love and memories. And stories.
Wonkily hung collection of family photos in mismatched frames. One of my favourite parts of the house!
Below is a custom-made wooden toy celebrating Edgar, Geordie and Eric the Crow. It’s a love machine, so their hearts beat in and out when you turn the handle. This is one of my most precious things, and just one of many gorgeous pieces I’ve collected by Cornish artist and toymaker, Jane Ryan.
Miniature portraits (about 2×3-inches) in painted plastic frames from Valu Village. These are our previous lovely dogs, the brother and sister team of Taz and Molly.
Current beloved pets. As I get older I find I get more and more lax about “no pets on the furniture/bed” rules.
Having made this brave defence of clutter (oops, I mean collections), I may have to write a new post in the near future. We have recently acquired a copy of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which Phillip keeps reading aloud to me. You never know. By this time next year, we may be living a simple life in a minimalist paradise.
If that fails, however, I am always comforted by the words of a Globe and Mail column I read about twenty years ago. I can’t remember the writer unfortunately, but she said something like: “the homes of the most interesting people always show signs of a recent struggle.”
A little shelf by the back door is a home for some of my nature finds.
Crow and raven cushion covers coming soon to my shop. Fully washable, just in case your pets are also allowed on the couch …